Soldier thought hitman site was online joke

Friday 13 June 2008 15.22
Sharon Collins - Denies murder conspiracy
Sharon Collins - Denies murder conspiracy

An Irish soldier has told the Ennis conspiracy to murder trial that he filled out an application form on a website called Hitman for Hire because he thought it was an internet joke.

23-year-old Brian Buckley from Finglas is giving evidence in the trial of Sharon Collins and Essam Eid.

Ms Collins denies hiring Mr Eid through the internet to kill her partner PJ Howard and his two sons.

Mr Buckley described to the Central Criminal Court that he had been on his mother's computer in 2006 looking for cheats for a computer game called Hitman when he came across a website called Hitman for Hire.

He clicked on the website and was shown an animation of a cartoon hitman - a man wearing sunglasses and holding a pistol. He said he never once considered it was real - he thought it was an internet joke.

He filled out a recruitment application form on the site 'out of curiosity and stupidity', he said. He gave a fictional list 'the length of his arm' of his weapons skills on the site and gave a false name.

He wrote on the form that he could use a handgun, rifle submachine gun, grenades, and had experience of basic booby traps and limited poison making experience. He later got a number of emails and phone calls from someone calling himself Tony Luciano, whom the prosecution allege is Essam Eid.

'Tony Luciano' said he had a job for Mr Buckley: 'Two males in Ireland, one in Spain, as soon as possible. Let us know. We will try to phone you.' Another email asked for Mr Buckley's help in getting some strong poison - it said one of them would be at Shannon and could not import it into the country. And he promised to pay.

Mr Buckley said initially he thought it was a joke and was curious to see what it was. But he became uneasy about the whole situation. He got a few phone calls from 'Tony' and fobbed him off telling him he had the wrong number.

He said he wanted to stay as far away as possible from the whole thing. He felt it was getting serious and did not want to have anything to do with it. He said in the end he did not see it as a joke but did not see it as serious either - it just seemed odd.