Dentist's 'devious' double murder
A dentist murdered his wife and his lover's policeman husband by poisoning them with car exhaust fumes as they slept in their homes, a court heard today.
Colin Howell then drove off with their bodies in the boot of his car and fooled investigating police by stage-managing a scene to make it look as if they had died in a suicide pact, Belfast Crown Court was told.
He kept the secret for almost 20 years before eventually confessing to detectives after losing more than £350,000 (€415,000) in a bid to find missing gold in the Philippines - a project which turned out to be a scam.
Howell, 51, first killed his wife Lesley and later Constable Trevor Buchanan at their homes in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, in May 1991 when he attached part of a baby's feeding bottle to a garden hose to poison them with carbon monoxide fumes as they slept.
He ran the hose from a car and killed them after they both fought for their lives.
Mrs Howell cried out for her son Matthew when she woke up and realised her life was in peril, the court heard.
Later Howell was involved in a desperate struggle when he gassed Constable Buchanan at his house.
At one stage Howell feared he himself would be overcome by the toxic fumes.
Details of the double murder were revealed for the first time today at a pre-sentence hearing for Howell, who has pleaded guilty to the murders.
The court heard the two bodies were discovered in Mrs Howell's car in a garage behind a house once owned by her father, who had collapsed and died just days earlier.
Crown lawyer Kieran Murphy told Mr Justice Anthony Hart: "This was a meticulous and devious plan and pre-meditated in a manner that might be described as professional."
Howell, of Glebe Road, Castlerock, Co Londonderry, has already been sentenced to life imprisonment after admitting the two murders. He will be told on Friday the minimum term he will have to serve.
His former lover, mother-of-two Hazel Stewart, who remarried after Constable Buchanan's death, has pleaded not guilty and her trial, which is due to begin in early February, is expected to last up to a month.