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Tag: Essam Eid (Page 2 of 4)

A Postponement & A Refusal

So Essam Eid will not be going to his daughter’s graduation.  The three judge Court of Criminal Appeal today refused his bid to have his six year sentence reduced to allow him to be present when his daughter Aya graduates from college in Chicago in May.  Instead he’ll have to wait until March next year to get out of jail.

Despite the valiant attempts of his barrister David Sutton SC to paint him as a buffoon, an “eccentric middle aged man” who had played the part of the hitman in the trial that went “from the souks of Cairo to the gaming halls of Las Vegas, via the Queens Hotel in Ennis”, the judges could not see past the fact that Eid had demanded a considerable amount of money with significant menaces.

Eid may have been one of the most incompetent criminals to pass through the Central Criminal Court in recent years, with a record of being caught on the two occasions he tried to break the law, but when he demanded €100,000 from Robert Howard to drop a hit on the lives of Robert, his brother Niall and his father PJ, Robert believed the threat was genuine.  The brothers were undoubtedly shaken by their ordeal and their Victim Impact Statement spoke of continuing feelings of fear. 

Eid never came across as anything other than a rather charismatic joker during his trial.  even after his appeal was turned down today he still went back to his cell laughing with the garda that led him out of the court in handcuffs.  He’ll go back to his poker school in Limerick prison, apparently he’s been teaching everyone to play poker but the former Las Vegas dealer is still too good for them.

There might be an edge of steel behind that jocular persona perhaps, certainly his former paramour Teresa Engle told a psychologist ahead of her trial in the States that he was a Machiavellian sex fiend who kept her trapped in the house, apart from the odd trip to Ennis to shake down the Howards.   Mind you, the sex slave aspect of their relationship went unnoticed by both Eid’s other wife Lisa and Aya, both of whom were living in the house at the time, although Lisa did agree there had been the odd threesome.  By all accounts the 54-year-old had lived a very complicated romantic life before he ran into trouble.

We were reminded today how much Eid had lost by his involvement in the whole hitmanforhire.us set up.  He had lost his house in Las Vegas, his boat, the bright yellow sports car he sent email pictures of to Sharon Collins, the Devil in the Red Dress.  He had also lost the love and companionship of every one of his women.  Certainly Teresa’s back with her ex-husband Todd, who even gave her a character reference when she stood trial for her involvement in the other shake down she and Eid carried out.

The so-called Royston affair featured large over the past two days.  This was the case in Los Angeles a few weeks before the events in Ennis.  Lauren Roysten was the woman who Marissa Marks had hired Eid and Engle to bump off to free up her ex boyfriend.  The similarities between the two cases are striking.  Both Marissa Marks and Sharon Collins approached the hitmanforhire website looking for an answer to their problems.  And both times Eid decided to shake down not the women who had something to lose if their murderous intent was revealed but the innocent parties who, predictably went straight to the cops.

Until the ill fated website Eid had a clean record, he wouldn’t have got the job in the Bellaggio casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip without one.  We were told today that there was a matter in Canada but we were not told what it was and it was not taken into account for the purposes of today’s appeal.

I’ve always enjoyed the saga of Essam Eid but it was indicative of the general attitudes towards the case that once we were told that the fate Sharon Collins’ appeal would not be announced until the new term after Easter, there was a mass exodus as quite a few of the hacks who had turned up for the appeal went to file what they had and ignored Eid.

As I said yesterday it’s been odd going back to a story I know so well.  When I wrote Devil in the Red Dress I was totally immersed in the story but so much has happened since it’s taken a bit of dredging to find the finer points of the case.  Anyway, the book is available in good bookshops and on Amazon if you want to read the whole thing.  There’s the whole story there, as well as all the emails between Lyingeyes and Hire_hitman, otherwise known as Tony Luciano as well as the people who filled out the website’s application form.  OK plug over for the time being.  Links to all the websites mentioned in the trial are on the right and there’s also the potted story of the trial in the The Story of the Book tab.

A Blast From the Past

November 2008 seems like a lifetime ago.  Back then I had only just started this blog and was preparing for my book Devil in the Red Dress to come out.  Since May 22 I had been eating, sleeping and breathing the story of Sharon Collins and her hitman for hire, Essam Eid first during an eight week trial and then as I picked over the six notebooks of notes as I wrote my book.  Then at the start of November Sharon and Eid were both sentenced to six years in jail and less than a fortnight later my book came out.

Today was the first time seeing the two of them again since that November day.  Both of them are appealing and today marked the start of that appeal.  The courtroom was different, even the building was different but seeing all the main players again in the flesh brought it all flooding back.

Both Sharon and Eid looked well.  She came into the courtroom shortly before 11 o’clock, wearing the familiar black trouser suit and white blouse combination she had worn throughout her trial.  She had lost weight since her sentencing and her hair was longer, twisted up into a loose French twist, her face framed in with a wispy fringe.  She was looking very groomed, with far more makeup than she had worn during the trial, we were speculating whether she had been making use of the many trainee beauticians in the women’s Dochas prison where she’s spent the last year.  She looked younger than her 46 years and very small and vulnerable.

Her elder son Gary had come to support her, he was the only one who was there for her today.  There was no sign of her beloved PJ, the man she was convicted of conspiring to kill and of soliciting Eid to kill for her.  His sons Niall and Robert were also absent, although that’s perhaps unsurprising since they obviously found the trial itself extremely wearing.  Also missing was her younger son David, a constant presence during her trial, or the boy’s father Noel. 

When his mother entered the court Gary immediately went over to her and sat beside her in the dock to exchange a few words and give her a hug.  But mother and son only had a couple of tender moments to share before the doors to the cell area opened again and her co-accused Essam Eid made his entrance.

He cut a dashing figure today.  Gone was the casual look he had sported throughout the trial, instead he was wearing a sharp dark grey suit with a snazzy red and black tie.  His hair as well had grown in jail and was greyer than it had been.  The moustache he now wore on his upper lip was pure grey.  He looked far more imposing than he had before, graver than the smiling joker who had watched the evidence mount against him with amusement, one of those observing him remarked on his “statesman-like” appearance.

The legal teams were all back in force with one noted exception.  Sharon’s senior counsel was no longer Paul O’Higgins.  This time she went with the eminent Mr Brendan Grehan, one of the countries top defence barristers.

When the three judges had taken their seat Tom O’Connell SC stood up on behalf of the DPP to make a rather surprising announcement.  He told the court that the DPP could not stand over Collins’ three convictions for conspiring to kill PJ, Robert and Niall Howard.  The problem was that the jury had failed to convict Eid, the person named on the charge as the other half of the conspiracy.  They had failed to reach a decision on the charges but the net result was that he was not convicted.  If he hadn’t conspired then logically she couldn’t have conspired with him.  The convictions were therefore “simply unsustainable” in the view of the verdict.

Eid’s counsel David Sutton SC stood up to announce that his client would not after all be appealing his conviction on charges of handling stolen goods and of extorting €100,000 from Robert Howard.  However, he would be appealing the length of his sentence.  His appeal has been put back until tomorrow to allow the three judge panel time to consider the issue of sentencing.  Eid and his legal team quietly left the court and the stage was now clear for Brendan Grehan to set the stage for Sharon’s appeal.

She will be appealing on four separate grounds, Mr Grehan informed the court.  Firstly that one of the defence witnesses, a Mr John Keating, had been erroneously treated as an alibi witness by both the defence and the judge in his summing up.  Consequently his credibility had been attacked on the witness stand and this had the knock on effect of forcing Sharon to take the stand to fight her corner.  Mr Keating had testified that he had been with her on the morning of August 16th, when she was supposed to have sent the first email to the hitmanforhire.us website to hire the services of the mysterious Tony Luciano.

The second ground on which Collins is hoping to get the soliciting charges quashed is that the judges charge did not sufficiently explain the charge of soliciting to the jury.  Mr Grehan said today that the soliciting charges had always been there as a fall back for the prosecution, the whole thrust of their case had been centred around the conspiracy charges.  He said that, given the jury’s verdict on the conspiracy charges it was unclear how they had approached the matter of soliciting.

Junior counsel Michael Bowman will handle the other two grounds.  Today he explained the third ground, that key prosecution witness Teresa Engle should never have taken the stand at all.  In the early days of the trial there was a week of heated debate over whether or not Ms Engle, Eid’s partner in crime and second “wife”, should take the stand.  Today Mr Bowman explained that Ms Engle’s evidence had not made up part of the book of evidence.  The defence had only been given her statements on May 8th 2008, less than two weeks before the trial was due to start.  She had only made a further statement on the cooking of the lethal toxin ricin in the kitchen of the house she shared with Eid and his other wife Lisa at Camden Cove in Las Vegas.  He said that the prosecution had not disclosed the information about Ms Engle sufficiently.

Mr Bowman said that Ms Engle should never have taken the stand.  He also said that given the weight of evidence that had gone to prove Ms Collins was behind the lyingeyes98 Yahoo email address that had corresponded with Tony Luciano, the same weight of evidence had not been available to prove that Essam Eid was behind Tony Luciano.  He said that because the FBI had not provided a similar forensic examination of the computers they had seized from the Camden Cove house, it was impossible to prove that Eid had been the one using the address.  He pointed out that the date of birth given in setting up the account was that of Teresa Engle not Eid and that there was evidence that suggested she had been accessing email addresses for Eid, Tony Luciano and hitmanforhire. 

Tom O’Connell objected that the defence had not raised the issue of the computers in the original trial and had simply been looking for Teresa Engle’s statements.

The fourth ground for appeal will be dealt with tomorrow, before the prosecution have their day on things.  It will concern the ricin evidence itself.  The defence complained during the trial that they were not able to independently test the samples taken from a contact lens case found in Eid’s cell at Limerick prison on the word of Ms Engle.

It’s fascinating hearing all these details again.  I’ve worked on so many other trials in the mean time that the details of this, even after writing Devil, had faded somewhat.  Today brought them right back.  The issue of the ricin is an interesting one.  I devoted a chapter of Devil to it and noted that it was strange that the FBI didn’t get more excited about the finding of a food mixer used in it’s production and still stained in a thick white silt of the stuff.  When a man was found with a couple of vials of home made ricin in a motel room in Vegas the authorites were all over it and the Justice Department even noted how pure the stuff had been in their press release.  There was nothing like that in the case of the search of the Eid home.

The suggestion that Engle could have been behind Tony Luciano is also an interesting one.  It was vaguely alluded to during the trial but the tone of the flirty emails that went between the lyingeyes98 account and Tony Luciano always seemed to fit Eid better.  Luciano also sent Lyingeyes several photos showing Eid.  one in his prized yellow sports car and another with his daughter Aya.

It’s been interesting to revisit this case.  It was always one of the most bizarre and it’s not disappointing on a revisit.

The Devil in the Red Dress Due Back in Court

On Thursday this week I’ll be back in court for the first time since the Eamonn Lillis trial came to a close.  It’ll be a different court, Criminal Appeal not the Central, but the name on the list is another headlines grabber.

Sharon Collins was convicted at the end of 2008 of conspiring to murder her partner, millionaire property tycoon PJ Howard, and his two adult sons.  She might have been successful if she had looked somewhere other than the Internet for her hitman, but as it turned out she ended up with hapless Las Vegas Poker dealer Essam Eid.

Sharon had no idea that Eid wasn’t what he said though and entered into a flirty correspondence with him, plotting all the gruesome details of the triple death.  Eid had set up a website – you can see the archived page by clicking on the link at the right of this page – but he wasn’t very good at following through.

In September 2006, when the hit was supposed to go down, he arrived in Ennis, Co. Clare with his girlfriend / wife (depending on who you talk to) Theresa Engle.  But instead of carrying out a hit they engaged in a bit of extortion instead.  Eid turned up on the doorstep of Howard’s sons house and told them what was going on, then with a devastating failure to understand the fundamentals of the con, he offered people who had nothing to lose by going to the cops, an offer he thought they couldn’t refuse.  To cut a long story short, they refused the offer and went to the cops. 

The rest, they say, is history.  The story is the plot of my book Devil in the Red Dress, so actually you can read all this is more detail by clicking on The Story Behind the Book at the top of the page.  It’s going to be very interesting to see my cast again. I got to be on nodding terms and even chatting terms with both Collins and Eid over the course of the mammoth eight week trial in the Summer of 2008.  I’ve not seen a trial like it before or since and then when I researched the book I realised the story was even more interesting than what we’d read of in court.

We don’t know what grounds either of them are appealing on but I will bet the events in a court room on the other side of the Atlantic at least get a nod.  You see, only weeks before Eid arrived in Co. Clare, he had done the exact same thing in LA and his love interest Theresa Engle arrived back in the states to face those charges not long before her former lover was sentenced to six years in jail here.  She was sentenced to eight months in jail, which she duly served and is apparently now back with her former husband who was even good enough to act as a character witness for her when she faced trial.

Here in Ireland the twisted story that was the love life of Essam Eid and his two wives was very much an after thought but researching the case I found it absolutely fascinating.  There are also some extraordinary parallels with the kinky goings on that Sharon described to the Gerry Ryan show when she wrote to them complaining about her relationship.

It’s been a while since I’ve covered this story but I will be back on Thursday for old time’s sake.  I’ll be blogging here and I’m sure updating on Twitter as proceedings go on.  It’s been a busy year so far so it’ll be nice to step back onto familiar ground once more.  I’ve never come across a case that reads so much like a Cohen brothers film and it was a fun one to write.  If you’re interested in the whole story, it’s all in Devil emails, letters and all  At the risk of a shameless self plug, it is definitely worth a read.

No Sign of an Appeal from Lillis

As of close of business yesterday Eamonn Lillis had not lodged any appeal of his sentence or his conviction for manslaughter.  This made the papers today because we’ve all become so used to seeing high profile appeals in murder and manslaughter cases.  Finn Colclough’s appeal yesterday for example or the upcoming appeal of Sharon Collins and Essam Eid, the subjects of my book Devil in the Red Dress. 

It was expected that Lillis would appeal, especially since his counsel Brendan Grehan SC, had asked for the jury to be discharged after they had been charged by Mr Justice Barry White.  Appeals of convictions can only be taken on a legal matter since the jury’s decision cannot be questioned.  Close of business day marked the latest time he could apply for an automatic appeal hearing.  That doesn’t rule out an eventual appeal, it simply means it will be a lot harder to do so as he will first need to apply for leave to appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeal.

It’ll be interesting to see whether or not there is an eventual appeal.  If not then Lillis will have the distinction of being one of the very few high profile convicts not to have appealed his sentence or conviction after pleading his innocence throughout his trial.  It’s the usual codicil after a high profile trial.

I could understand why he wouldn’t appeal though.  Throughout the trial he was extremely steadfast about his intention to shield his daughter from as much further stress as possible.  Of course we shall never know exactly why an appeal isn’t taken, and at this stage one still might be, but it is an interesting addendum to what has been a fascinating trial.

Appeal Date Set for the Devil in the Red Dress and her Hitman for Hire

It’s been a while in coming but the date has finally been set for Sharon Collins’ and Essam Eid’s appeal.  The pair will find out whether they are to serve out the remainder of the six year sentences they received at the end of their 2008 trial in March next year.  The two appeals will be heard on the same day and the whole procedure is expected to take two days.

If you’re not familiar with the case you can find out all the gory details here.  That’s right, it’s the one I wrote the book about…that’s Sharon Collins herself on the cover on the right.  The pair at the centre of one of the most bizarre trials to come before the Irish courts years were convicted after a six week trial last summer. 

She’s a Co Clare housewife who decided to shop for more than groceries online.  He’s a former Las Vegas poker dealer who had decided to branch out into the “hitman” business.  Needless to say it didn’t end well, although at least the plotting came to naught and no one was killed.  In the end Sharon was sentenced to six years for conspiring to kill PJ, Robert and Niall Howard.  Eid was also sentenced to six years for trying to extort €100,000 from Robert Howard and also for handling items stolen from the Howard family business.

He had already served almost two years in jail after his arrest in September 2006 so will be the first of the two to finish their sentence.  However he will have to face additional charges when he returns to the States.  His former “wife” Teresa Engle has already served 8 months for her part in a similar scam to the one they tried to pull in Clare, that the pair attempted to pull of in California shortly before their trip to Ireland.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

A More Fictional Kind of Murder

Today I realised one of my characters has to die.  It’s a surprising realisation to come to, so late in the editing process but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  It’s a sad conclusion to come to though, as this character is one of the few who’s survived since the earliest incarnation of this story.  There’s even a picture of him, drawn by a family friend, an illustrator, on the back of the earliest draft of the germ of an idea back when I was only 11 or so.

All the characters feel as real as distant friends.  I know their likes and dislikes, their moods, their faults.  In the early days of planning I would pick out their favourite music, favourite books, favourite films.  It was the same process as new friends or lovers go through…except that I was providing both answer and question.  It sounds nuts, certifiable maybe, but I don’t know any other way of getting to know a character as if they are real.  When it works then, once the story starts rolling, it can feel as if the characters take control and guide what direction a scene takes.  Those are the days when the writing really flows.

But the axe has to be swung.  It works for the plot, gives other characters more passion and is generally a good idea.  I’ll miss this one but the time has come so now I’m going to have to play at murder.

The problem with the day job is that murder is something I’m rather familiar with.  I’ve sat next to quite a few people who’ve killed, over the past couple of years, even spoken to a couple.  As I prepare for my fictional murder a wealth of details present themselves.  Do I use blunt object trauma? Strangulation? A weapon – knife, axe, slash hook?

It sounds callous, ghoulish even, but when you spend a lot of time listening to evidence in murder trials it can be difficult not to sift through the details like a connoisseur looking for the juiciest chunks.  You become desensitised to the horror of forensic details.  As a journalist you look at evidence in terms of the hook that will snare your reader down past the first paragraph.  As a writer you look at the details, the relics of someone’s life and death as components to be filed away for future reference.

So now I’m planning my own murder from the pick n’ mix of details, real and fictional.  It’s impossible to think of a knife attack without memories of dozens of post mortem accounts, the length of the blade, the angle of thrust, the difference in slicing or stabbing gestures.

If poisoning is the option do I go with historical methods – take inspiration from the Borgias perhaps – or do I tread a more familiar path – look into the poisons mentioned in the emails between the Devil in the Red Dress herself, Sharon Collins, and her Internet “hitman” Essam Eid?

I’m fond of this particular character.  It’s a long and interesting association.  I want the death to be a fitting one…the sacrifice will make a better book.  I’ll plan the murder carefully so that it satisfies both the journalist in me and the storyteller.  And then I’ll raise a glass to the fallen character and get on with the rest of the book.

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Devil in the Red Dress Steps Out Into the World

My book, Devil in the Red Dress is now officially available in the UK.  It’s the first time it’s been available outside Ireland and I’m interested to see how the story will translate somewhere that hasn’t been so familiar with the whole Lying Eyes, Tony Luciano affair.

One of the reasons I was attracted to writing the book was the fact that the story reads like a thriller and could have happened anywhere.  Even the barristers made references to the Coen Brothers and film noir.  To be honest you simply don’t get cases like this cropping up in Ireland and it was simply too good a tale to pass by.

I was aware while I was covering the trial and later researching the book over last summer that the story had gone truly global.  I did a lot of research on line (fittingly enough) and every time I searched people involved in the story I got hits from further and further afield.  Even doing a search now you can find accounts from the Telegraph, The Guardian and the Daily Record in the UK and CNN in the States. I’m not surprised particularly, it is a great story.

What did amaze me though was how far the coverage extended, there’s coverage from Spain, Hungary and even Vietnam. Now my Spanish, Hungarian and Vietnamese aren’t great, so I’m not sure what spin they were taking but it’s the first time I’ve covered a story that has become such an international talking point.

When you work in a country the size of Ireland it’s easy to get caught up in the local aspect of news…there’s frequently little else but the odd time, when a story arrives with a truly international dimension, that spans from the west of Ireland to the casinos of Las Vegas with a pitstop in Spain, it’s difficult not to get excited.

A lot of the Irish press focused once again on the local angle, the fact that the scheming femme fatale behind the internet plot to kill her millionaire boyfriend was a County Clare housewife from an old Ennis family.  Certainly this is a case that has gone down in Clare legend and it’ll be a long time before it’s forgotten in Ireland as a whole.

But there is another side to the story.  The so-called hitman Sharon Collins hired to do her dirty work was an Egyptian poker dealer in Las Vegas.  His story and his conquests had travelled through Ohio, Michigan & Illinois.  Much of the plotting took place while Sharon was staying with her partner PJ Howard at his apartment in Feungirola in Malaga.  This was a dimension that lifted things out of the parochial into the international.

I was fascinated by the international dimension and explored the American angle in far more detail the majority of my colleagues.  I’m not saying clever me, simply that this was the bit of the story that interested me.  It’s not often the bright lights of Vegas shine on an Irish court case after all.

It remains to be seen how my account of the whole twisted mess does on it’s first foray abroad but I wish it well.  It’s a story that should reach a wider audience.  But we’ll just have to wait and see.

A Collins in the News Again…

When Sharon Collins decided to hire Essam Eid to kill her partner PJ Howard and his sons Robert and Niall she ensured that anyone connected with the case would become a honey pot for the Irish media for months, if not years, afterwards.

Sharon herself can guarantee the column inches for merely catching a cold while the intensely private Howard family have complained that they can no longer conduct their property business in Ennis, Co Clare without being constantly aware of prying eyes and smutty jokes.

Well today Lying Eyes effect can be seen again.  Sharon’s former husband, Noel, the father of her two sons and a familiar face to anyone who attended her trial, has appeared in Dublin Circuit Civil Court in an employment law scuffle.

It appears that Noel, when working as a security company manager, had allowed a security manager to sleep on the job and had got the sack as a result.  The full story is here.

It’s the kind of story that runs through the courts all the time without comment.  What makes it suddenly news is Mr Collins proximity to the notorious Devil in the Red Dress.  I can’t help feel sorry for the man.  All he did was stand by the mother of his children and give support to his sons, now he will be in the deflected spotlight for a very long time to come.

That’s the thing with high profile trials…the story keeps running long after the verdict has been announced.  For all those connected with the Ennis femme fatale this means that their lives are now flagged on the paparazzi antenna.  They might not have done anything but they too will pay some of the price.  That’s just the way things are – but that’s unlikely to be of any comfort to Noel Collins as he suddenly steps into the limelight.

A little bit of housekeeping…

I’ll post properly later on but I wanted to post the interview I did for Devil in the Red Dress on John Cooke’s show on Clare FM back at the beginning of December that I was ranting about yesterday.  I was totally befuddled with a cold at the time and then got overtaken by the festive mayhem and since New Years I’ve been confounded at every turn by gaps in my knowledge of all things Internet.

I’ve been trying to upload it for days now, ever since we had the post festive clear out, and yesterday it had me driven to distraction but finally everything is talking to everything else and we’re cooking with gas.

For the record the combination that worked the charm was Total Recorder for the encoding (I bought it ages ago for recording streamed radio interviews but stupidly didn’t realise it’s also quite a nifty MP3 encoder) then a fair amount of fumbling with WordPress 2.7’s new interface and working out which plug ins were messing the whole this up (never did work out exactly which I will post when I find out).

I also used Cool Edit Pro to top and tail it.  I’m not going to link to that since it’s a really old programme I’ve had ever since I used to work in radio many years ago and it’s not even supposed to work with XP.  The programme was bought by Adobe and now costs lots.  I like it though.  It works for me and I;m familiar with the interface and can use it to top and tail and normalize with no hassle.

Anyway back to the interview. It’s not a great recording, the husband thoughfully did it for me from home but I had all the sound recording software with me on my laptop so a rather precarious network of Y cables linking the computer to my Zoom,  not the most elegant set up but it’s audible.

I sound rather like a cross between a frog and Marlene Dietrich due to the cold but I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves.

Enough procrastinating… here it is…

 


 

After a Flurry of Activity…

The last couple of weeks have been absolutely nuts.  It’s only three weeks ago today that Sharon Collins and Essam Eid were sentenced.  A week after that I was working on the final edit of Devil in the Red Dress and a week and a half later we were celebrating the launch.

It’s only now that I can take time to take stock and suddenly I realise that apart from anything else I haven’t written a single Christmas card!  Tomorrow the first interviews start, first of all it’s out to East Coast Radio in Bray, Co Wicklow for a half hour chat, then on Wednesday it’s over to Phanton FM.  It’s still a bit weird being the interviewee rather than interviewer but I’m beginning to get used to it.

It seems that this is a subject it’s going to take people a long time to get tired of talking about – Sharon Collins managed to get herself into the papers again over the weekend by lodging her appeal through her solicitor.  That’ll be another circus when the time eventually comes around.

As I start looking forward to the interviews I’m suddenly having to think about what’s in the book.  You get to the stage in the last days of writing and editing where you couldn’t see the wood for the trees if you tried…it just becomes all trees and details.  Now I’m thinking about how to sell the story and it’s a whole different ball game.

I’m also thinking again about making a trailer but more of that in a few days.

I’ve written often here about the fact that I think that this is very much a defining trial of our time.  With the elements of sex, celebrity and excess, not to mention the Internet it has everything that seems to make our generation tick.

It fascinates me that I could find out so much about the lives of people I had never met, who live thousands of miles away.  Their past addresses, criminal records, school friends.  Trying to find out about people here in Ireland is a different matter entirely.

For Sharon Collins and Essam Eid the attitude was that whatever you wanted, be it a false marriage, a hitman or a deadly toxin, you could find it in a few clicks of the mouse online.  But there were many points during the trial where the short comings of Ireland’s access to the World Wide Web became all too clear.

When we heard about Sharon’s attempts to contact “Tony Luciano” from her home in Ballybeg House outside Ennis, for example there was always the mention of the appallingly slow dial-up speeds in the house.  Now this wasn’t a case from some time in antiquity, this was 2006 and her partner, PJ Howard was the head of a €60 million property business.  The problem was that broadband was simply not available.

So the most technologically advanced murder conspiracy plot this country has almost certainly ever seen was conducted at dial up speeds or in stolen moments during the working day.  The situation with broadband is a little better here in 2008 and broadband might have reached much further into the heart of Ireland but still there’s a lot further to go with the amount of information available online.

Whether you’re talking about government departments or the judiciary, the information available is general at best.  There are one or two exceptions but even they are firmly rooted in paperwork.  I recently filed my taxes using the Irish Revenues online service ROS.

It was a great service but in order to register I had to go through three different registration procedures, two of which required a secure password to be sent to me by traditional post.  Just to contrast this, I could access court documents in America with a password sent to me in a matter of hours through their secure server.

Collins and Eid might be pretty bad examples of how to use this incredible resource we have access to nowadays (see The Story Behind the Book for more details) but surely it’s time Ireland started making full use of the facilities available to them.  There are Irish companies who use the Internet well but they are still in the minority.

I’ve learnt a lot about what’s possible and what’s fantasy while researching Devil in the Red Dress.  I was surprised by how much possibility the Internet opens up, as a journalist I take Google for granted but there’s a lot more out there.

I’m very excited about the possibilities with the global village you get glimpses of with the Net but the antics of Collins and Eid only go to show that there are still plenty of dark corners out there were dodgy people lurk…and some are more successfully dodgy than others!

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