Thursday 21 November 2019

Jury out in trial of killer dentist's lover

The jury in the trial of a former Sunday school teacher accused of murdering her husband and her lover's wife has retired to consider the verdict.

Hazel Stewart, 48, from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, denies murdering Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell in May 1991 in a joint enterprise with her then lover Colin Howell.

After judge Anthony Hart concluded his direction at Coleraine Crown Court, the jury of nine men and three women retired to commence their deliberations.

Mr Buchanan, a 32-year-old policeman, and Mrs Howell, 31, were found dead in a car filled with carbon monoxide fumes in a garage behind a row of houses known as the Twelve Apostles in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry.

At first, police thought they had died in some sort of suicide pact because of the distress over their spouses' affair.

It was only when dentist Howell, 51, first confessed to his church elders and then police in January 2009 that he had murdered them that Stewart was arrested by investigating detectives.

Howell, a father of ten from Glebe Road, Castlerock, is serving a 21-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to the murders.

He first gassed his wife as she slept on the sofa of their home in Coleraine.

He then drove her body to the far side of the town, where he murdered Pc Buchanan by the same method before taking the two bodies away to stage-manage the suicide.

Mr Justice Hart said: "The prosecution say that when you consider not just what Howell says but what Stewart admitted to the police during those interviews there can be no doubt they were in it together."

But he outlined the defence's case that they were not in a joint enterprise and it was not a plan.

He told the jury: "The defendant has not given evidence at this trial to undermine, contradict or explain the evidence put before you by the prosecution. You may draw such inferences as appear proper from her failure to do so."

The judge said a question the jury had to consider was why did she not intervene to stop the killing of her husband.

He recalled how defence counsel Paul Ramsey QC questioned whether she could have done anything more against the ruthless Colin Howell, intent upon murder, without endangering herself and her children when he arrived at her home to kill Mr Buchanan.

But he added: "Perhaps the most important question is why did not she simply lock the door against him?

"Did she do everything or as much as she could have done to prevent both murders or at least the murder of her husband?"

He asked: "Why did she not tell someone beforehand what she was planning on the night Howell came to her house and committed this murder? Why did she not wake her husband, keep the door closed, scream the house down, run to a neighbour to raise the alarm and get help?

"Those questions and others that may occur to you are relevant."

PA Media

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