Monday 23 April 2018

Creditors of killer dentist Colin Howell 'to get some money' from estate

Castlerock Dentist Colin Howell
Castlerock Dentist Colin Howell
Colin Howell’s house

Margaret Canning

Creditors of jailed killer dentist Colin Howell are to be repaid at least some of what they are owed after he went bankrupt seven years ago, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Howell was made bankrupt in 2011 over a £250,000 €289,230) debt to the taxman - a year after he and ex-lover Hazel Stewart were sentenced to life for the double murder in 1991 of his wife, Lesley, and Stewart's first husband, Trevor Buchanan.

And while Howell was made bankrupt following a petition by HM Revenue & Customs, other creditors have also come forward with details of what he owes them.

Claims from the families of the victims of his crimes are likely to be among the demands on his estate. As well as the families of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan, his estate could face claims from victims who were sexually assaulted at his dental practice in Ballymoney.

Howell pleaded guilty to sexual assaults on five women in 2011, following his conviction for murder in 2010.

Now a senior accountant at business advisors KPMG - tasked under insolvency law with sorting out the claims on the estate of Howell as a bankrupt - has asked any other creditors who have not yet declared themselves to come forward.

Colin Howell’s house
Colin Howell’s house

A routine notice filed by KPMG says that it intends to "declare a final dividend to the creditors of the said bankrupt" within the next four months.

And anyone who hasn't yet given their name and details of the debt has been asked to come forward.

And it's expected that the final dividend - or percentage of debts which will be repaid - will be declared at a subsequent meeting of the creditors and trustee.

KPMG refused to comment and the Department of Justice - which administers the criminal injuries compensation scheme - would not say whether claims have been made against the estate. A spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on individual cases."

Howell's estate is expected to include the proceeds of sale of his former country home in Glebe Road, above Castlerock on the north coast.

It was sold two years ago after it had been on the market for around £300,000. However, it's understood to have been sold for below the asking price.

Insolvency practitioner John Gordon of Napier & Sons said the length of time taken by the trustee in bankruptcy to settle the claims was likely to reflect the complexity of claims against it, with seven years a long period for the process.

Typically it takes two or three years for a trustee to declare a final dividend - if the bankrupt does have enough assets to be sold in order to pay one.

He added: "This is a standard notice to creditors from the trustee that he is about to issue a final dividend, and it puts any other creditors on notice."

When a dividend is paid, the debts are expunged.

But Mr Gordon added that the fact that a dividend was to be paid indicated that there was money in the estate to be paid out. "It's not in every case that there is money to be paid out."

Howell lost the NHS pension of nearly £590,000 he would have been in receipt of on retirement. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety stripped him off his financial entitlements after his sexual assault convictions.

During Hazel Stewart's trial for murder, it emerged that Howell had pursued hare-brained schemes for making money when facing financial pressures before his confession to the killings.

Howell had believed he would land £20m by ploughing his life savings into a diving project to find Japan's war gold, but ended up with only a few silver coins worth £30. The dentist invested £350,000 in the recovery dig in caves in the Philippines only to discover it was a massive scam that only recovered a few brass ammunition boxes.

He told Coleraine Crown Court in January 2011 the realisation he had been duped at the end of 2008 was the trigger which led to him confessing.

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