Major deals have been signed for a book on the Colin Howell/ Hazel Stewart murder case which is said by one of the publishers involved to contain "jaw-dropping revelations". Last week lawyers for Hazel Stewart, who has just begun an 18-year sentence, launched an appeal against her conviction.
The book -- which will be the first on the murder and trial that attracted enormous attention -- is titled Let This Be Our Secret: The Colin Howell/Hazel Stewart Murder Case. Written by Deric Henderson, head of the Press Association in Ireland, it's being described by editors as a "riveting account of one of the biggest murder cases ever, featuring infidelity, laughing gas and a confession 20 years after the event".
No figures have been divulged but substantial sums of money were involved in the deal as publishers competed for the book. Penguin Ireland has bought UK and world rights and Gill & Macmillan has bought the Irish rights.
The case fascinated people across Ireland, the UK and also attracted media interest further afield. Both publishers intend to bring out the book by the end of this summer.
Penguin Ireland Managing Director Michael McLoughlin said last week: "Deric Henderson, as the PA man in Ireland and based in Belfast, has been all over this story since day one and has had access to people connected with both families who have spoken to nobody else to date. He has spoken to people who were not involved in the murder trial but who knew either Colin, Hazel or their murdered spouses. We expect this book will throw new light on the motivation of both Howell and Stewart for the murders. It is a riveting read with jaw-dropping revelations."
Publishing director Fergal Tobin acquired the Irish rights for the book for Gill & Macmillan. Let This Be Our Secret will give a complete retelling of the notorious case as well as bringing in new material.
"This is an extraordinary story. It has just about every ingredient you could want. We are delighted to be its originating publisher," Toibin said.
The story began in 1991 when Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan were found dead in a car full of exhaust fumes in Castlerock.
Almost 18 years later, with the incident having been recorded as suicide, former dentist and Lesley's husband Colin Howell pleaded guilty to the murders.
Last month month Hazel Stewart -- Buchanan's wife and Howell's ex-lover -- was also found guilty of the double killing and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 18 years to be served.
Howell and Stewart covered up the murders, even when they split up five years later and subsequently married other people. Following his confession to his church elders two years ago, Baptist lay-preacher Howell said Stewart had also been involved in plotting the murders.
Among the bizarre details to emerge over the case is that part of their sexual affair was conducted in his dentist's chair, where Howell would drug Stewart with laughing gas as she said it eased her feelings of guilt.
Michael McLoughlin of Penguin added: "The case has caught the public imagination, not just here but in the UK. We felt it is such an unusual case and the fact that not the whole story has come out yet makes it even more interesting."