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.