Killer dentist's lover knew of murder plot
A mother accused of murdering her husband and her ex-lover's wife admitted to detectives she was aware what was going to happen before they were killed, a court has heard.
Hazel Stewart, 47, told police she also got rid of vital evidence after dentist Colin Howell first killed his wife Lesley before driving across Coleraine, Co Derry, with her body in the boot to murder her policeman husband, Pc Trevor Buchanan, the jury was told.
As well as cutting up and burning the garden hosepipe which was used to gas them while they slept, she washed and replaced bed covers in the room where he was poisoned, opened the window to get rid of carbon monoxide fumes and got clothes which Howell used to dress her husband before driving him off in a car with his dead wife.
On Day 11 of her trial at Coleraine Crown Court where she has pleaded not guilty to the two murders in May 1991, a jury heard more tape recordings of interviews Stewart gave to investigating officers when she finally admitted her part in a plan, devised by Howell, to murder the pair. She insisted, however, she wanted no part of it.
Police thought they died in a suicide pact, but re-opened the investigation in January 2009 after Howell, 51, a dentist, admitted that he gassed them and then fooled police into believing they had taken their own lives.
The jury of nine men and three women also heard that Stewart, a mother-of-two from Ballystrone Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, encouraged her husband to take a sleeping tablet on the night of the murders.
She denied giving him the drug, but admitted that sedating him was also part of Howell's plan. She was having an affair with him at the time.
Howell is serving a 21-year jail sentence after he admitted his guilt last year.
In interviews with police when she was arrested 18 years after the bodies were found in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry, Stewart - she later re-married - protested her innocence by claiming that even though she knew in the hours before what Howell had plotted to do, she wanted no part of it.
But she also said: "It could have been stopped."