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PJ: 'Why I've spent €200k trying to clear Lying Eyes' name'

LYING Eyes Sharon Collins' target has paid nearly €200,000 to private investigators to gather fresh evidence for her appeal.

Mayo business man PJ Howard, who last week made an impassioned plea for Collins not to be jailed, has said that she would have to have been "mentally retarded" to create the murder plot presented in court.

"I can assure you Sharon is not. She has a high IQ. I don't believe she sent those emails," said the property investor worth €60m.

And he says that his dying wish would be for her name to be cleared.

Mr Howard alleges that the scheme was an elaborate set-up led by the hitman-for-hire's wife Teresa Engle and involved Maria Marconi, an online writing tutor who Collins claimed used private information to set her up.

Last week, Collins was sentenced to six years behind bars for hiring would-be hitman Essam Eid to have PJ and his two sons murdered.

Part of the reason PJ is convinced of her innocence is that the evidence against her, including the series of Lying Eyes emails, was "too perfect", he told The Sunday Times.

"I have been in business buying property a long time, and I have never seen a deal run through 100pc without any problems," he said.

"These fellas had a run like Jesus. They said to me they had never seen so much evidence against a person in their lives, yet they didn't find it unusual."

He highlighted the ricin found in Eid's jail cell as exactly the type of lucky break that seemed just too lucky, considering it was there for seven months.

"Surely somebody would have noticed this contact-lens case before that," he said, adding, "If you take the ricin out of this, there is a serious doubt about the whole case. Why do all this investigation over a couple of emails?

"There is something in Ireland that could finish this case," he said. "I will continue to look for [evidence] and I will find it eventually."

Despite the findings of the court case, Howard believes that Engle, Eid and Marconi plotted to extort money from him and to set up Collins.

"If I wasn't involved in this myself I would believe the justice system, but people have been given all the facts," he said.

"If I believed for one minute that Sharon did what gardai say she did, I would run a mile from her.

"But from the moment our offices were broken into, and we heard of the American connection, Sharon told me it might be connected to Maria Marconi. Her story hasn't changed one iota since."

In denying that he has been fooled by the "devil in the red dress", Howard explained that he had "pushed her hard as to the truth".


"I have spoken to her strongly about this story at various times, and we have had serious words about it, but at no stage has she ever changed her story."

In an effort to build a new defence, Howard has even commissioned an artist's impression of Maria Marconi, in spite of the fact the Collins trial heard she was a "fictitious character".

Unless Collins is cleared during her appeal next year, Howard says he will be dead by the time she leaves prison.

He suffered a heart attack in 2000 and says: "I don't think I'll be alive by the time Sharon serves her full sentence. I'm past my sell-by-date already. I want to set things right before I go. I wouldn't live in Ireland with Sharon but, if she'd have me, we would live somewhere away from everybody."