A man and a woman have gone on trial at the Central Criminal Court charged with conspiring to murder the woman's former partner and his two sons.

45-year-old Sharon Collins from Clare and 52-year-old Essam Eid, a poker dealer with an address in Las Vegas, deny conspiring to murder Ennis businessman PJ Howard and his sons Robert and Niall between 1 August and 26 September 2006.

Ms Collins also denies hiring Mr Eid to kill the men. Mr Eid denies demanding €100,000 from Robert Howard to cancel the contract and also denies breaking into the family business and stealing a number of items including two computers.

Prosecuting counsel Tom O'Connell told the jury that PJ Howard was a businessman who was involved in the property business. He got together with Sharon Collins in 1998 and she moved in to his home shortly afterwards. She also worked in his business.

He was separated from his wife and when she died in 2003, the jury was told that Sharon Collins became very anxious to marry him. However, the court heard, Mr Howard did not want to get married as he was concerned it would complicate inheritance issues. His sons Niall and Robert worked in the family business.

The court was told Ms Collins was very much concerned with inheritance. A marriage had been arranged between the two in Rome in 2005. Although they went ahead with a ceremony pledging themselves to each other that year, they did not get married.

However, the court heard Ms Collins paid more than $1,000 US dollars to obtain a proxy marriage certificate under Mexican law via the internet without Mr Howard's knowledge.

The prosecution alleges she then set up a Yahoo email address called lyingeyes98. Through this, the prosecution says she contacted Mr Eid who was offering a 'hitman for hire' service under the name Tony Luciano.

The State says she agreed a contract with Mr Eid to kill Mr Howard and his sons and sent him €15,000 in cash through Fed Ex on August 15 2006.

The prosecution alleges she intended to use the fake marriage certificate to claim inheritance rights after Mr Howard and his sons were dead.

The court heard Mr Eid demanded €100,000 from Robert Howard to cancel the hits. He was arrested on 27 September in Ennis after Mr Howard alerted gardaí and gardaí mounted a surveillance operation.