Collins wanted to inherit fortune so found assassin online and paid a €15,000 deposit
Former Las Vegas blackjack dealer Essam Eid – who was hired online by Sharon Collins to kill her partner PJ Howard and his two sons – died as a result of health difficulties associated with ongoing heart problems.
His wife confirmed her husband’s death to the Sunday World this week.
“He died five months ago, on the 1st of July,” she told this newspaper.
Prior to his death, the 65-year-old had told of ongoing health difficulties associated with his heart.
“I had an operation on my heart in Ireland,” he told our reporter.
“I need to check on my pace-maker that was put in.”
Eid had also spoken with pride of the two children born to him in Egypt, sharing photographs of the twins on Facebook with our reporter.
“We are nothing without our kids,” he said, speaking of his new life in his native country.
“I have a nice house and big farms.”
Eid’s efforts to build a new low-key life for himself and his family in Africa came after his involvement in the ‘Lying Eyes’ murder contract led to him serving separate jail sentences in Ireland and in the US, where he was convicted of involvement in a similar plot.
Eid gave only one interview ever about his involvement in the plot to murder multi-millionaire businessman PJ Howard and his sons Niall and Robert which, had it been successful, would have seen Ennis woman Sharon Collins inherit her husband’s €60 million estate.
Collins contacted Eid via the ‘hitmanforhire’ website, choosing as her pseudonym the title of the Eagles hit ‘Lying Eyes’ – a song about a woman who chooses money over love.
She proposed that Eid arrange for the two sons to have a fatal accident and that the hitman then kill the Mr Howard himself, in what would be designed to look like a grief-stricken suicide.
Collins paid €15,000 as a deposit for the contract, but the plot blew up in her face in September 2006 when Eid decided to blackmail the family — demanding €150,000 to cancel the assassination.
Robert Howard alerted police and Eid was caught in a surveillance operation which led to the discovery of Collins as the plot’s financier.
After his release from prison in Ireland in 2011, Eid was returned to the US, where he was given a 33-month jail term for his part in an almost identical scam.
In Eid’s interview with our reporter in 2015, he was unapologetic about his involvement in the Lying Eyes plot — saying his only regret was his decision to renege on the contract as this led to his discovery and arrest.
“I regret not doing the job … I wish I’d done it,” he said.
He said he believed his decision to pull out of the plot resulted in him spending eight years in jail for demanding money with menaces and handling stolen property — five years in Ireland and three years in the US.
Eid said that after he arrived in Ireland he went to a hotel where a male accomplice decided to change the plan and, instead of murdering Howard, the pair decided they would try to extort €100,000 from him to call off the hit.
Eid was arrested as he prepared to meet Robert Howard.
“I went to pick up the car and the police arrested me there,” he said.
The poker dealer— who called himself Tony Luciano — claimed that before this trip to Ireland he was not aware of the hitman for hire website used by Collins to hire a hitman.
He claimed a female associate in the US had set up the website using his debit card.
And that when this woman told him about the contract, he offered: “I’ll take the shot, I’ll do it myself.”
In the US, Eid’s movements brought him to the attention of the FBI after a 23-year-old woman contacted the law enforcement agency saying a price had been put on her head through the same ‘hitmanforhire’ website used by Collins to hire Eid to kill the Howards.
The woman, Ann Royston, said she was the approached by Eid who offered her the chance to cancel the hit for $20,000.
A search of Eid’s home in Las Vegas found five guns, traces of the toxin ricin, and instructions on how to manufacture it.
Sharon Collins — who was sentenced to six years in 2008 for soliciting Eid to kill her partner and his sons — denied having ordered the triple murder through the hitmanforhire website.
In a series of incredible claims, that were rejected by the trial jury, she said the €15,000 she sent as a down payment for the murders had been a payment to prevent a derogatory email she wrote about PJ Howard being sent to him.
She claimed that the emails sent from the ‘Lying Eyes’ account to ‘hitmanforhire’ contained information that had been cobbled together from emails she had sent to another person.
Of her claims, Eid told our reporter: “She is a liar.
“The money she paid, where else did it come from, and how did we have all that information?” he asked.
PJ Howard stood by Collins’ side throughout the scandal.
During the trial, he took the stand to defend the woman accused of conspiring to murder him and his sons and concluded his evidence by giving Ms Collins a kiss.
Eid branded Howard’s actions as “stupid”.
“Everybody testified that this lady hired these people to kill this guy. He is so stupid, tell me how he can then walk up and give her a kiss?,” he said.
He said his greatest regret was “not going through with the job”.
“If I had done the job I would not have ended up in jail. I know that myself,” he said.
“I came to Ireland to kill people, but I had changed my mind. I still get blamed for something I did not do. Now I wish I’d done the job,” he added.
During the sensational trial, the court heard that 2FM’s Gerry Ryan radio show had received emails from Sharon Collins’ account where it was alleged her partner “used prostitutes and transvestites regularly”.
Ryan appeared as a witness and told the court he could not remember the emails.
The Sunday World previously revealed how Sharon Collins had begun a new life working as a dog-walker in Belfast following her release from prison after serving three and a half years.
After our expose, she appealed publicly for ‘a second chance.’
Eid’s response to her appeal was characteristically uncompromising of a man who was unapologetic about his own role in the bizarre case.
“Second chances are for people who admit what they have done,” he said.
“Sharon never admitted what she did, so for her there should be no second chance.”