Writer and Author

Tag: Essam Eid (Page 4 of 4)

The Deadline Approaches…

No, nothing to do with Sharon Collins or Essam Eid – the only deadlines I’m worried about this weekend is the one for filing Income Tax.

I’m not a violent person but after sitting for the past few hours staring at the dreaded Form 11 I want to visit all kinds of biblical plagues on the Revenue, and the Department of Finance too while I’m at it.  There are so many pages…and so many numbers…and so many notes!

I’m a writer – I deal with words – numbers make my head hurt.  I would happily give the Revenue a third of my wages (well maybe not a third) if only they would write their forms in plain English!  Until I had actually looked at the damn thing I was pretty confident that filing my first tax return would be no problem at all, but now three hours later I’m feeling like the school dunce and it’s still not filled in.

I know I should get an accountant.  Getting an accountant would be the sensible, sane thing to do, given my numerically challenged status.  But that would be way too sensible.  I decided over the summer that I would file at least one lot of returns myself.  So I could understand in future how it’s done.  Well I take it back!  I don’t want to file anymore.  And after Tuesday’s Budget they’ve only gone and made it even more complicated.  Income levies indeed! (Not even getting into the whole 2009 Budget thing here).

At this stage my brain is well and truly boggled and my frustration levels are sky high.  It doesn’t help that all my self employed colleagues have been telling me how simple the whole process is.  Or that I’m struggling with a form that doesn’t even have my name on it.

Because this is the other thing that irritates me about the Tax Man.  Ever since I went self employed I have become someone with whom he will not talk.  I have become a chattel of my (PAYE) husband’s and no longer merit a letter or any form of correspondence.

There is actually a reason for this.  It’s not just random meanness, unfortunately.  Myself and the husband, you see, are jointly assessed.  And the husband is the principal earner.  When part of the joint income is self assessed, it’s supposed to be the principal earner who fills out the forms.  It’s that assumption that irritates me.  I was the one who filled out the forms to become self assessed.  They took my PPS number to do it.  Then they wrote back to the husband and told him I was now self assessed.

This was never the case when I also had a PAYE job.  I was deemed important enough to be sent my own tax forms in their own envelopes.  Even though we were still self assessed.  Now that I have more paper work to do and horrible confusing forms to fill out, I don’t even warrant a letter.  They even tried to tell me I needed the husband’s permission to use the Revenue online service…though that’s been cleared up now.

I’ll eventually get my head around the form, and I will be sad so hand over the money but hand it over I will.  I just don’t understand why just because I’m self-assessed one of us has to cease to exist.  I get the principal earner idea but I’m talking stationary here.  All I want is the letters addressed to me.  Rather than having to locate them in the husband’s rather chaotic filing system.

It’s all very frustrating and annoying and is enough to make you want to be a tax exile!  I bet then they’d use my name!

It’s Been A Long Week!

And it’s finally the weekend.  While there are many things I could muse on tonight, talking a little bit more about Sharon Collins and Essam Eid maybe or journalism or something fearfully erudite about life, the universe and everything, it’s been a bloody long week and I don’t feel like it.

Tonight is a night to sit back with a nice glass of wine and laugh…and so that the neighbours – or the husband don’t have be carted off in a straight jacket there had better be something to laugh about.

So I’d like to share a couple of my favourite comedy sketches…and if you like them please go and buy the dvds they no doubt came from, I’m long enough in this job to realise the importance of copyright!

First up, and with immediate apologies to my very nice publishers (see my links on that one) but in memory of every PFO (the first word is “please”, the second anglo saxon and the third a preposition!) I’ve received over the years, one from the team behind Black Books.  If you’ve never seen the show, it’s written by one half of the team who wrote Father Ted and is equally brilliant though there’s no priests in this one.

Ah piss midget – that’s up there with twathandle (seen scrawled on a postbox in Drimnagh).  Next up, the inimitable Dave Allen…duelling funerals!

Finally, this just makes me laugh every time!

Well, I hope at least one of those amuses you.  Enjoy…

Some are More Equal than Others

On Wednesday Sharon Collins and Essam Eid, the Clare housewife who tried to hire a hitman over the Internet and the Las Vegas poker dealer who conned her out of her money, were in court again to find out when they would face sentence.  As usual the photographers were out in force looking for a shot for the next day’s papers and as usual they came away empty handed.

There are always photographers down at the courts.  Along with those of us who write up the trials for the newspapers and broadcast media there are two agencies who cover the photographs on a daily basis.  Every person accused of a crime and every major witness will have their photo taken from outside the Court gates so that the many column inches will have their illustrations.

There’s a agreed procedure.  The snappers take up their positions outside the gates, photography not being allowed within the grounds of the court buildings.  Anyone taking the stand runs the gauntlet every morning and evening as well as coming too and from lunch time.  It’s not a pretty job.  People accused of a crime are not usually in the mood to have their picture taken but it’s the way of it and so it continues on the daily basis.

Unless it’s a high profile trial and there’s been a verdict.  While those whose case was not deemed interesting enough to hit the headlines are always photographed being led away in handcuffs, the same is not true of those whose trial and subsequent conviction has caused a press frenzy.

The likes of Joe O’Reilly, Brian Kearney or Sharon Collins are unlikely to appear on the front page being led across the judge’s yard at the back of the building with their hands shackled in front of them.

When a high profile felon appears before the judge they suddenly gain secret agent-like levels of stealth.  Instead of being led across the yard to the prison van in full view of the side gate of the Four Courts the prison services start a game of cat and mouse with the increasingly frustrated snappers.  There is an uncharacteristic ducking and diving and the prison van will draw up in a shielded corner beside the courts’ canteen away from any prying but excluded lens.

Now when I say high profile trials I mean those that cover the kind of violent middle class crime we have seen several examples of over the past year or so.  We’re talking the kind of conviction where the tabloids take great interest in what the guilty party’s first meal in gaol was or whether their lover visited them or not.  The kind of conviction where the accused’s state of mind when the prison door clangs shut behind them is of lip licking importance.

These are the cases where the prisoner suddenly has a right to privacy as they are led away to their cell.  Unless the snappers can grab a hurried shot of them through the window of the prison van the photo used on the front page will be file.

OK these prisoners are special cases simply because the public appetite has already been whetted by screeds and screeds of purple prose; the one’s that the likes of me write books about as the dust is settling.  But the photographs I’m talking about are the standard shots from a criminal trial.

Surely all prisoners have the same rights by law?  Either none should have their moment of shame snapped for posterity or all should be led past for their deserved close up.  Isn’t it just pandering to the celebrity status by avoiding this simple shot?

Sharon Collins is unlikely to be snapped in handcuffs, if he’s lucky her often ignored co-accused will receive the same treatment.  But the Las Vegas poker dealer never really had the requisite glamour for the Irish press so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s allowed to join this hallowed group.

It would be easy to think that to get the full consideration of your privacy, you must be convicted of killing, or plotting to kill, your nearest and dearest, preferably while living a comfortable life and taking an attractive family photograph.

The people who are given this special treatment have usually been convicted of horrendous, calculated crimes.  They are often arrogant to begin with and convinced of their own ability to evade the law.  Yet when a jury finds them guilty the same law they have shown so much contempt from protects them like celebrity bodyguards outside a glitzy nightclub, from being shown being led away to pay for their crime.

Someone who lives to regret killing in a moment of rage, or as the almost inevitable climax to a marginalised life, or because their mental illness made them take an unimaginable step are not given the same respect.  It really does seem that some are more equal than others.

The Date is Set

The finishing line is finally in sight.  Sharon Collins and Essam Eid will be sentenced on Monday November 3rd, four weeks away.  So know we know when the end begins and the story finds it’s conclusion (until the appeal comes around of course).

Court 1 was full this morning, the confusion over whether today was to be the actual sentence or not ensured the press pack gathered and the tension built just in case the information was wrong and they were going to sneak in a sentence under everyone’s unprepared noses. We heard how both the Courts Services and the Department of Justice had seen to it that Sharon was psycholigically assessed.  When her defence team stand to speak in her favour they will have plenty of material to pick from all due to this confusion they were keen to point out.

But to some relief it turned out the law is more civilised than that.  Eid’s legal team had not quite gathered all the medical reports they were looking for so it was only a couple of minutes business while a date in four weeks’ time was found.

Both of them were sitting in their old seats.  Eid smiling at the prison guards up near the judge, while Sharon waited for her boys in the alcove under the stairs in the reception area.  While she waited she chatted earnestly to a prison guard, her hands fluttering underlining her points as her eyes flicked towards any figure passing towards the Round Hall.

After three months in prison her hair is longer now and she no longer has the groomed look she wore throughout the trial.  A prison diet has added pounds to the skinny frame she once used heavy duty obesity medication to maintain.  Weeks of worry and misery inside had deepened the lines on her face and darkened the shadows under her eyes.

Eventually one of her son’s turned up.  David, the younger of her two boys, 22 years of nervous energy sitting beside his mother sharing a moment of rare semi privacy.  As always during the trial he took his seat before his mother, insulating her from her co-accused.

Today they were relegated to the back row of the benches that serve as a home to the accused when they are on trial.  The press had spilled into her usual perch, staking their claim now she was a convicted felon who didn’t need to be stepped around.

So it’ll be November before everyone gathers again.  The first Monday is when it all kicks off.  In a way it’s nice to get the break but it would be nice to draw a line under this book and give it an ending.  Still four weeks isn’t that long.

Back to Work

The Courts are back at work today and tomorrow is the first list in the Central Criminal Court so it’s back to the day job.  It’s always a little like going back to school once the Michaelmas term starts – well actually it’s exactly like going back to school apart from the lack of lessons and the fact that I don’t spend my summers playing on the streets these days.

So tomorrow it’s back to the grindstone and a different murder, after three months immersed in the intricacies of Ms Collins and Mr Eid.  Of course, their story isn’t over yet.  We’ve still got the sentence to come with all the excitement that will bring (from a journalistic point of view that is).  They were due to be sentenced on Wednesday but it looks like things won’t happen quite that quickly.  The appearance on Wednesday will just be a nod and a wink and the real fun will be deferred until a later date.  As far as the book is concerned that means it ain’t over until it’s over.   in lieu of a fat lady we’ll just have to await a tune from Mr Justice Roderick Murphy.

So until the date is decided for us to gather in Court 2 again and find out how long it’ll be before Sharon Collins can send her own book off to publishers it’s back to normality.

I cover murders all the time, it’s one of the main areas the news agency I work for covers.  Every  now and then there is a trial that is elevated to circus proportions by the press and public.  The kind of trial that ticks all the boxes to sell newspapers.  In the last few years there’s been a run of high profile cases – Joe O’Reilly, Brian Kearney, Anton Mulder, John O’Brien.  These trials tend to be the ones that centre on sex or money so Sharon Collins fitted the bill even without the added curiosity of her being a woman.

Despite the number of trials like this in recent times they aren’t the standard case to come towards the Central Criminal Court.  The trials that usually come up are sad, sordid affairs, a moment of violence that may never be repeated or an unhappy chain of events that were waiting in some way to happen.  Most trials go almost unnoticed, certain ones almost guaranteed to sink into obscurity.

We’ve got so used to murder these days that trials will be graded on their story worthiness.  A domestic tragedy scores well, if the wife was a tragic mother, preferably blond and passably good looking, or the husband rich enough and preferably having an affair.  On the other hand, a row between drunken young men is brushed off almost completely.

I know why this happens but it does seem as if some human lives are being ranked as better than others simply because of who killed them and how they died.  Each murder trial or attempted murder or even conspiracy to murder is a personal tragedy for someone. Lives are wrecked no matter what the circumstances.  It always seemed sad that some stories will never be told.

Ah well, there’s work to be done before tomorrow’s list; notebooks and pens to dig out after their two month’s break.  There’s little time for philosophising once the work’s begun so I’m just making the most of the calm before the frenzy of the new term.

Deep breath, back straight and off I go…back to work at last.

What’s in a Name?

I’m not with Shakespeare on this one, a name is everything when it’s the first thing people see on the skinny spine of your book.  The one thing in bold enough letters to stand out amongst it’s neighbours.  A title can be the first hook that makes someone pull the book out of the shelf and open it to read on.

According to the Internet I seem to have two titles for my book.  When it’s published my story of Sharon Collins and Essam Eid will go by the name The Devil in the Red Dress but that hasn’t always been the way.  For most of it’s gestation it went by the working title Lying Eyes, a reference to the email address Sharon used to correspond with her online “hitman”.  The Devil title came later once the book was more fully formed.  It also comes from the screeds of emails sent between Sharon and the ridiculously chatty “Tony Luciano”.

That’s the title that will be on the cover of the book and is listed on my publishers website and on Amazon (I still get a kick out of being able to look myself up on Amazon but that’s just totally by the by).  But the other title’s still out there.  It’s still in the page title of the Amazon listing and there’s a load of Norwegian sites that are listing the old title (never thought there’d be a market for Irish true crime in Norway, you learn something new every day).

It’s a minor thing but it just brings home how much stuff lingers around in cyber space after you’ve finished with it.  We live in a world now where all the detritus of our lives can find it’s way into the public arena via the web.  Throw away comments and affiliations made in college now have a half life that lingers for anyone with access to a search engine to find.

In the course of writing the book I’ve been so aware of what can linger on line and what can be lost.  The Internet has changed the practices of journalism to such an extent.  We can do so much from the comfort of our desks without even having to pick up a phone these days.  Sharon Collins would have done well to remember how much things linger in cyber space.  The bulk of the case against her was the scraps left behind from a life online, emails recovered from the hard drives of computers she’d had access to, an email account that wasn’t nearly as anonymous as she had thought.

Following in her footsteps this summer I was able to look at web pages she had visited, that had been mentioned in her trial, as they had looked when she had visited them.  Some of the websites are now long since defunct.  Hitmanforhire.net itself was taken down once people started coming out of the woodwork with tales of Tony Luciano’s approaches.  But thanks to the wonders of the Internet you can travel back in time and look as web pages as they used to look.  OK so it’s not magic, but it’s still reasonably cool, except when the thing hanging around is a discarded title.  Ah well, as long as Devil in the Red Dress makes it’s own impression…

Getting Started…I Hope

Well the blog should be up and running now.  Any more technical glitches will just have to wait until I get home.  I know that once we set foot back in Ireland it’ll be back to madness.  The Courts are back on October 6th so I’m back in the day job.  Sharon Collins and Essam Eid will be putting in an appearance on the 8th and that’s when the circus will really get started.

There have always been high profile cases through the Irish courts but since Joe O’Reilly was sentenced in July 2007 there has been one after the other.  Anton Mulder, Brian Kearney, John O’Brien all came before the Collins, Eid trial and all can still sell papers today months after their various convictions and acquittals.  We have moved without noticing it into a time where criminal trials are hyped almost as much as Hollywood films in the Irish media.  I should know.  To a certain extent my job depends on it!

Collins and Eid is a special case though – and I’m not just saying that because I’ve written a book on it.  The fact that no one died and proceedings had more than a tinge of farce to them meant that this was less of a guilty pleasure than the family tragedies that normally hit the headlines.  That’s not to say that people weren’t hurt as a result of these proceedings, it’s simply that we didn’t have to listen to the post mortems of their grief in quite the same way.

There’s also been a delayed conclusion.  With a murder trial there is only one possible sentence on conviction.  As soon as that verdict is handed down whoever’s in the dock knows they are about to start a life sentence and an appeal will be formally refused.  With conspiracy to murder there is a need for a separate sentencing as no fixed penalty has been set out.  So we will all gather on October 8th and wait with Collins and Eid to hear their fate and there will be headlines and TV programmes and books and some people will wonder publicly whether the whole things has perhaps all got a bit too much.

But in the meantime, I’m on holiday.  When I was a student in Bordeaux I always daydreamed of returning one day to work on a book.  Now as I sit by the window in our rented apartment gazing out of the window onto all the old yellow stone leaving it to the very last moment before I get ready to go out to dinner with the husband I’m conscious of how close I came to that.  The book may have actually been written in Dublin but I still don’t have an end for it, and won’t until that sentence.  So I’m technically still writing it.  Looking back over this post though, the sun’s playing havoc with my syntax and sprouting flourishes in every clause that probably shouldn’t even be there.

There’s a church here called St Pierre, not far from our apartment.  It’s a quiet little church, all vaulted ceilings and candles.  To the right of the door there’s a statue of a saint I’d never heard of – Ste Expedite.  The statue is of a very pretty Roman legionary holding a cross that says Hodie, the Latin for hello and stamping on a crow that’s cawing Cras meaning tomorrow.  He’s big in Chile and New Orleans apparently.  He’s also the patron saint of procrastinators, and computer hackers.

I discovered all this when I googled him after we’d wandered in to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.  There’s also some doubt about whether he actually existed or whether he was simply some random bones that had been labelled expedis, basically First Class Post, when they were shipped out to some French speaking nuns for cataloguing.  But Rome decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Ste Expedite seems a very appropriate saint for this current endeavour.  I’ve certainly done my fair share of procrastinating and I like the idea he may or may not have existed, rather like Sharon Collins’ alibi, Maria Marconi.  There’s even computer hackers in there as well.

Well I’ve rambled enough.  There’s an evening going on out there that I’m ignoring and the husband is looking a little irritated.  I should probably try to focus on actually having a holiday before there’s no more time for procrastination.

Hello world!

I’m always reading that writers should have a blog, somewhere where they can maintain their presence on the Web and hopefully embed their names into the brains of the unsuspecting book buying public.  I’ve hovered around the edges of cyberspace for a few years now, dipping an anonymous toe in the water and failing miserably to get any attention whatsoever.  Now I actually have a book on the horizon and I’m not just one of those annoying people who tells all and sundry about the opus they have stuffed under the bed, I thought maybe it was time to try and do things properly.  I can’t promise I’ll never raise the opus under the bed again but for the next few months I actually have a real, proper actual book to publicise so I’d better focus.

You’ll see in the bottom right hand corner a rather fetching book jacket.  That’s mine.  It’ll be out before Christmas and (shameless plug warning) that pretty little JPEG links through to Amazon – just in case you feel the urge…

By the way, the book is about a trial that recently hit the headlines in Ireland and around the world.  It was pretty quirky as conspiracy to murder trials go…a Co Clare housewife who saw red when her millionaire boyfriend wouldn’t marry her and hired a hit man over the Internet to kill him and his two sons.  The only problem was that the hit man she picked was a particularly inept Egyptian poker dealer who had a slight problem with following through.

To cut a long story short (and it is a very long story) the poker dealer turned up at the sons’ house and offered them a chance to buy themselves out of the hit.  He demanded €100,000, they called the gardai.  Once the investigation started it discovered that the poker dealer and his girlfriend had tried the exact same scam in California a couple of weeks before they touched down in Ireland.

The trial went on for eight long weeks this summer but the most extraordinary thing about it was the correspondence between the hitman and the housewife.  She called herself Lying Eyes, while the Nevada side went by Tony Luciano.  In July Sharon Collins was found guilty of both conspiring to kill P.J., Robert and Niall Howard but also soliciting someone to kill them.  The poker dealer, Essam Eid, was found guilty of extortion.  They’ll both be sentenced in October.

Anyway that’s quite enough plugging.  There’s plenty of time for that later, this is just the practice!

It’s going to take a while to really get this blog up and running so I suppose this is just a taster while I get on with messing around with themes and widgets and extra pages.  Once I’ve got that sorted I’ll settle down to trying to make this something other than just another author blog…although to be honest that’s exactly what it is.

If you’re visiting now, come back in a week or so, I promise the site won’t look quite so bare.  And I promise next time there won’t be quite so much hard sell!

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