Mum loses murder appeal for killing husband, lover's wife
Published 22/01/2013 | 05:00
A FORMER Sunday school teacher has failed to overturn high-profile convictions for murdering her policeman husband and the wife of her ex-lover.
Hazel Stewart (49) lost her appeal against the conviction for the murder of nurse Lesley Howell in Belfast Court of Appeal just hours after her legal team revealed she was dropping her challenge in respect of the death of her husband, PC Trevor Buchanan.
The mother-of-two showed no emotion yesterday as she heard Lord Justice Malachy Higgins dismiss her appeal, saying: "There is no reason to doubt the safety of this conviction."
Stewart, formerly of Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, was sentenced to 18 years for the murders. She can still appeal the length of that sentence.
Mrs Howell's husband Colin Howell, a once respected dentist and lay preacher with whom Stewart had been having an affair, had already pleaded guilty to the May 1991 murders.
The lovers plotted together to kill their respective spouses and cover it up as a bizarre suicide pact. They escaped justice for two decades until Howell, apparently wracked by guilt, confessed the killings to elders in his church.
Mr Buchanan (32) and Mrs Howell, a 31-year-old mother of four, were found dead in a car filled with exhaust fumes in a garage in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry.
The dentist had first gassed his wife as she slept on the sofa of their house in Coleraine using a hosepipe connected to his car.
He later murdered Mr Buchanan in his home by the same method.
Stewart was waiting for him there and prosecutors contended she played an active role by letting him in, destroying evidence and drugging her husband beforehand.
The dentist then drove to nearby Castlerock and staged the scene.
Howell and Stewart resumed their affair weeks after the deaths, only to split up acrimoniously five years later.
Stewart's barrister Jim Gallagher insisted Stewart had not committed any guilty act in the death of Lesley Howell and claimed she was unaware it had happened until Howell arrived at her house with the body in the car.
Mr Gallagher argued that while the prosecution had characterised the crimes as a joint enterprise carried out by both lovers, Stewart had never agreed to the plan.
Stewart, dressed in a dark coat, listened intently throughout as current husband David Stewart and her children Andrew and Lisa sat close by in the public gallery.
Brothers and sisters of PC Buchanan and Colin and Lesley Howell's daughter Lauren Bradford were also in court.