Tuesday 28 February 2017

Killer asked church member to pass on love letter, court hears

Deborah McAleese

KILLER dentist Colin Howell asked a fellow church member to forward a love letter to Hazel Stewart on the day of his wife's funeral, a murder trial heard yesterday.

In the letter, Howell said he had taken a mother from his children, but that he believed "God will provide for them".

He also pleaded with Ms Stewart to continue the relationship after they both had time to grieve the deaths of their partners.

Ms Stewart (47) denies murdering her husband Trevor Buchanan and Howell's wife Lesley in May 1991. Their bodies were found in a fume-filled car in Castlerock, Co Derry, in an apparent suicide pact.

Howell (51) has already pleaded guilty to the charges and was jailed for 21 years.

At Coleraine Crown Court yesterday, Derek McAuley, an acquaintance of Howell's and fellow member of Coleraine Baptist Church, said that on the day of the funerals, the dentist gave him a letter in a sealed envelope and asked him to deliver it to Ms Stewart.

Mr McAuley said before the letter was passed to Ms Stewart, he steamed the envelope open, photocopied its contents and showed it to John Hansford, the pastor at Coleraine Baptist Church. He later put the letter away in a wallet and forgot about it, until his memory was jogged by a police officer who interviewed him after Howell's arrest in January 2009.

In the six-page letter, read to the court, Howell asked Ms Stewart if it was true that she believed it was best that they never got together again.

"If it is true, ring me and say it's true. Don't allow me to have hope if there is none, you will kill me," he wrote.

"I plead with you, if with your mind you're saying no and you must destroy our future, I will not try to change your mind no matter how lonely I get. The pastor told me he will do everything in his power to stop us getting together. He is a very clever man and capable of convincing you our marriage would be a disaster."

Howell then mentioned Ms Stewart's two children Lisa and Andrew. "They will be so loved by me that the difficulties, which there will be, will be overcome," he wrote.He said that they both must take time to grieve for their partners as he thinks they had "underestimated this response in our hearts".

Sins

"During this time we must not see or talk to each other. When we miss each other we must look at their things and photographs and concentrate on our grief. I miss Lesley and am sorry for all the sins I have done to her. I must grieve for that. Once it is gone we can give ourselves to each other."

Howell added: "You will lose many friends, but we can walk down the street together proud of each other. We won't lose all our friends if we take our time.

"I have taken a mother from her children. But God will provide for them. I hope and pray it will be you. Love Colin."

The trial also heard that Ms Stewart and Howell accused their partners of beating them in bogus statements they gave to police following their deaths. Both claimed they struck them in anger over their infidelity.

"Trevor would have hit me and I would have hit him in return," Ms Stewart told officers. "I received bruising to my face, arms and legs."

Howell told officers his wife Lesley attacked him when he told her about the affair eight months before her death.

"It manifested itself in fierce verbal and physical abuse directed towards me," he said.

But the dentist insisted he hadn't retaliated. "I never hit Lesley, it was always one-sided," he said.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News