Wednesday 22 February 2017

No theatrics or drama as Howell changes plea at the last minute

Deborah McAleese

Published 18/05/2011 | 05:00

AFTER the theatrics he had brought to the trial of his ex-lover and murder accomplice Hazel Stewart, the sex abuse case against double killer Colin Howell was anticipated to be filled with high drama.

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But it was a subdued Howell who sat in the dock at Antrim Crown Court this week accused of indecently assaulting six of his female patients.

On Monday he watched intently as each of the 12 jury members were sworn in to hear the case against him. But nobody on the jury seemed that curious about him, barely giving the notorious killer dentist a second glance.

The court had been told that the case was expected to last for two weeks, but it was all over before it even began yesterday when Howell changed his plea to guilty at the last minute.

Howell was a renowned cosmetic dentist living in Coleraine when he indecently assaulted a number of his female patients after he had drugged them.

He began sexually abusing the patients in 1998, around seven years after he and Stewart had murdered his wife Lesley and Stewart's husband Trevor Buchanan.

Howell realised he could abuse his patients without their knowledge after experimenting on Stewart who he would sometimes drug before sex.

The abuse, which continued over a 10-year period, only came to light after Howell confessed to police in 2009 to the murders of Mrs Howell and Mr Buchanan.

For almost two decades the authorities had believed the story that Howell and Stewart had concocted, that their spouses had taken their own lives in a suicide pact after discovering their affair.

Gassed

The horrible reality was that Howell had gassed his wife and Mr Buchanan as they slept by using a specially adapted hose attached to his car exhaust.

Yesterday his sex abuse victims wept with relief when Howell admitted to the court that he had indecently assaulted them.

The only time he spoke yesterday was to say "guilty" and "I'm sorry" when each charge was read to him. He then shuffled passively out of the dock with the prison guards.

The low-key court appearance was a far cry from Howell's last appearance in the dock.

Just three months ago Howell revelled in the spotlight when he spent several days in court giving evidence against his ex-lover Stewart when she stood trial for murdering his wife and her husband.

During that trial Howell spent hours in the witness box answering questions with sermon-like answers and quoting lengthy passages from the Bible.

He enjoyed bragging about his intelligence, saying he was ashamed he had misused his "ability of ingenuity and intelligence in the wrong way".

He also boasted about his attractiveness to women, telling a psychiatrist he was a "small god who needed to be worshiped by women".

This time around, by pleading guilty, he did not have the opportunity to once again enjoy centre stage. Perhaps this is why he appeared so subdued.

Irish Independent

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