| 7.9°C Dublin

Hitman planned to use Ricin: Witness

A recipe for the deadly poison Ricin, found on the internet, was used by Essam Eid and his partner Teresa Engle as part of his hitman plans, it was claimed today.

An American woman, Teresa Engle, today told the Central Criminal Court that Mr Eid had planned to use Ricin to poison Robert and Niall Howard.

Mr Eid, an Egyptian poker dealer with a Las Vegas address, is accused of conspiring to murder Clare businessman PJ Howard, his sons Robert and Niall, and attempting to extort money from Robert Howard.

PJ Howard’s former partner, Sharon Collins, is accused of soliciting Mr Eid for the hits. She denies the charge.

Dressed in a grey jersey jumper, black trousers and with her curly hair pinned back, Ms Engle told how she first got to know Mr Eid in 2003 or 2004 when she was working in a casino in Detroit, Michigan.

Claiming that Mr Eid had planned to use Ricin to carry out two of the killings, she said: “He had gotten the recipe on the internet.

“The ingredients,” she said, included “castor beans, acitone and something else I don’t remember.”

She added: “I think we boiled the beans, took the skins off, blended it with acitone and something else. We put it through a filter and it dried out to be a powder.”

Ms Engle, who confirmed that she had received immunity from prosecution, testified that she and Essam had been involved in the manufacture of Ricin and had worn masks and gloves. The resulting powder was put “in a contact lens case”.

In her seat opposite the jury box, the accused, Sharon Collins, was flanked by her two sons.

She occasionally whispered to her sons while writing notes on yellow Post-its.

Nearby, Essam Eid sat forward and listened intently to the action in the witness box.

Teresa Engle told a packed courtroom how she had arrived in Ireland at the end of August 2006 where she met a friend of hers, Ashraf Gharbeiah.

“I was here to meet Ash. He was supposed to kill PJ, and, em, no, the two sons, Robert and Niall,” she said, appearing confused.

However, she said Mr Gharbeiah decided that he could not carry out the killings and he left Ireland immediately. Ms Engle then told how she flew to Fuengirola in Spain where she was “supposed to look around, get some info for Essam”.

The keys to Mr Howard’s apartment, she said, “were left for me at the hotel. They were in an envelope with my name on them”.

She told the court: “I had directions from an email from Sharon.”

When she returned to America, she said that “he [Essam] was furious because the plan hadn’t been done, obviously. Then he started working on getting a visa to come to Ireland to do it himself.”

Questioned by prosecutor Tom O’Connell, Ms Engle said that Essam Eid had set up the website hitmanforhire.com in February or March 2006. By all accounts, it was a popular site for web-surfers.

“There were several people that contacted us to look for work, to be part of it,” she said.

“Anyone from Ireland?” asked Mr O’Connell.

“Yes,” came the answer.

Ms Engle testified that Sharon Collins had sent a down payment of €15,000, which arrived in a package. Sharon called Eid about the contract “several times” and he called her back several times.

After the package of cash arrived, Essam Eid began making plans to “get it done” she said. When asked how it was to be done, she said that Mr Howard’s to sons were to be poisoned.

She and Ashram walked around Ennis and were given directions by Sharon Collins how to find the business office of Mr Howard.

Ashram and that point was planning to use different medications that could be mixed up and put into an alcoholic drink which would bring on a heart attack to the victim and they had bought some “wine and liquor” in a shop in Ennis.

But Ashram later decided that his plan was “not doable” and he left Ireland the next day.

She said she remained in Ireland a few days and then travelled to Spain to Fuengirola where PJ Howard had an apartment.

She stayed in the hotel and a key to the apartment was left in an envelope for her at the hotel.

She had received directions in an email from Sharon about the location of the apartment which was only three or four blocks away from the hotel.

She sat at a café to observe the area and to see if she could see PJ Howard and Sharon.

Although she had the key, she could not bring herself to go into the apartment. She later became ill and returned to America.

The following month, she returned to Ireland with Eid and they travelled to Ennis with ricin poison which they had made from a recipe on the internet.