Date Published: 28-Apr-2011
After a quarter of a century in the financial sector – and at the age of 52 – Michael Duke went to Hollywood.
If ever there was a poster boy for embarking on a career sea change it is the quietly spoken Mr Duke, who has lived in Galway for 15 years having spent half his life in Japan and the other half in the US and UK.
So how does a financier and Harvard business graduate end up a film producer?
It’s a story that’s almost worthy of a screenplay itself and begins with a court case that gripped the nation.
The trial of housewife Sharon Collins and Essam Eid, an Egyptian poker dealer, read more like the plot of a Coen Brothers fantasy than something out of the Central Criminal Court.
In 2008, the Ennis mother-of-two was convicted of soliciting Eid to murder her partner, property tycoon PJ Howard, and his two sons Niall and Robert, in order to become the beneficiary of an estate said to be worth €60m.
After her lover ignored her pleas to wed after eight years together, Collins secured a fake marriage licence online.
Then from an email address and using the alias ‘Lying Eyes’, she contacted Los Vegas-based Eid on the website he had set up, www.hitmanforhire.net. He posed as mafioso Tony Luciano.
For a fee of $90,000, a plan was hatched for the three to be poisoned to death by spiking their drinks with ricin. Enough of the substance to kill 100,000 people was later discovered in a contact lens case in Eid’s cell in Limerick Prison.
But the plot went awry when instead of going through with the poisoning, Eid contacted Robert Howard and offered him a chance to buy his family out of the contract killing for €100,000. Eid showed him photos of himself and his family and had driving directions to their homes.
Instead of giving into blackmail, Robert told the gardaí. Eid, his wife Teresa Engle – who carried the ricin through Shannon Airport – and Sharon Collins were all arrested.
PJ Howard spent €250,000 trying to stand up Collin’s alibi. She claimed she was the victim of blackmail by Maria Marconi, to whom she had revealed details of her private life in an online writing course. The Ennis businessman has vowed to resume their relationship on her release next year.
The story was so fantastical that prosecution barrister Úna Ní Raifeartaigh felt it necessary to remind the jury this was not entertainment. Eid used to joke that he wanted Al Pacino to play him in a screen version of his story.
Michael was agog.
He had never done anything with the film business before but felt compelled to sit down and write a screenplay based on the eight-week trial.
He was also in the middle of a hiatus with his career.
The son of American parents, he was raised in Japan after his father was posted there as a diplomat.
“I used to think in Japanese, I’d always add numbers in Japanese. It wasn’t till my 20s I changed to thinking in English. I have certain Japanese trait. I nod my head a lot – even if I don’t agree with something. If I’m referring to myself I touch my nose which they do in Japan instead of touching the chest,” explains Michael.
He studied political science at the University of Florida and
completed courses in management at Harvard University and Harvard Business School. He also studied comparative culture in Tokyo and Los Angeles.
He went on to work in global finance as an investment banker and financial software executive with financial service institutions, venture capital firms, technology service providers and consulting companies.
He was working in investment banking in London when ‘black Monday’ hit in 1987 – a crash he believes was nowhere near as bad as the current fiscal crisis.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Judge adjourns Connemara assault case
Date Published: 08-May-2013
A date will be set next October for the trial of a 52-year old Connemara man, who is charged with assaulting traditional Irish musician Noel Hill five years ago.
Michael Folan from Teach Mór, Lettermullen, is charged with intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to Noel Hill at Tí Padraig Mairtín Beag in Leitir Mór, on St Stephen’s Day, 2008.
The matter had been listed for trial on several occasions before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in the intervening period.
It was referred to the High Court in Dublin last year for judicial review after Michael Folan said he wanted his trial heard ‘as Gaeilge’and that a bi-lingual jury be made available to hear the case.
At Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory McCabe adjourned the case for mention to October when it’s expected a date will be set for trial.
Bank of Ireland Galway Shopping Centre branch to close
Date Published: 10-May-2013
Bank of Ireland’s branch at Galway Shopping Centre on the Headford Road is to close in July.
The branch is to merge into the BOI outlet at Galway Industrial Estate in Mervue.
Galway Bay fm news reports the 14 staff impacted are to be offered redeployment and there will be no job losses.
Galway RNLI rescues three people stranded on Hare Island
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Galway RNLI Lifeboat has come to the rescue of three students who got stranded on Hare Island after getting caught in the tide off Ballyloughan Beach.
The two girls and boy, in their late teens had gone for a walk and were spotted waving from the island by a local resident who contacted the emergency Services and Galway Lifeboat.
Conditions at the time (4pm) were very changeable with heavy showers.
Three members of the Lifeboat shore crew were working in the vicinity of the station at the time and launched the boat in six minutes.
The three students were picked up safely and brought back to the Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks where they were warmed up and given tea and did not require medical attention.