Lovers said partners beat them
Hazel Stewart and Colin Howell accused their partners of beating them in bogus statements they gave to police following their deaths, a court heard today.
The lovers claimed they were both victims of domestic violence in the false accounts they provided detectives in the days after the funerals of their spouses Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan, the court was told.
Antrim Crown Court heard Stewart has already admitted to police that she and Howell concocted alibis to make officers believe that her husband and his wife had taken their own lives, when in actual fact they were murdered.
But as the full transcripts of those original statements were read out at the mother-of-two's double murder trial in Coleraine, it emerged they also told the police they had been beaten by their partners.
Both claimed they struck them in anger over their infidelity.
"Trevor would have hit me and I would have hit him in return," Stewart told officers at the time.
"I never received medical attention as such but I received bruising to my face, arms and legs."
Howell, who has pleaded guilty to the double murder, 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.
Howell told detectives his wife hit him on two further occasions in the weeks prior to her apparent suicide, as her mental state deteriorated in the wake of her father's death.
The statements were read out by the officer who led the original police investigation into the deaths, Jack Hutchinson, then a detective inspector in the RUC.
Both outlined the version of events Howell and Stewart had allegedly agreed on in the wake of the killings.
- That their partners had been struggling for months to come to terms with their affair.
- That they had ended their sexual relationship in October 1990 and had only met by chance and phoned each other occasionally in the months since.
- That on the night of the deaths, Mr Buchanan had come round to confront Howell in front of Mrs Howell at their house, prompting a physical altercation between the men, before Mrs Howell later called at the Buchanans to talk to Mr Buchanan while Hazel was in bed upstairs.
Howell even went into detail about what Mr Buchanan had said to him in this made-up encounter.
"When he saw me he referred to my sexual relationship with Hazel in strong language, asking me if I had enjoyed it," he told officers.
Both Howell and Stewart then claimed to have woken up the following morning to have found their partners gone.