Killer wife Hazel Stewart jailed for 18 years
A former Sunday school teacher who murdered her policeman husband and her ex-lover's wife and then covered it up as a double suicide has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years.
Hazel Stewart, 48, from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, had already been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of plotting with dentist Colin Howell to poison his wife Lesley, 31, and her own husband, Pc Trevor Buchanan, 32, in 1991.
With 52-year-old Howell already serving 21 years after pleading guilty to the crimes last year, Judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart, at Belfast Crown Court, imposed the term his former mistress must spend behind bars before being considered for release.
Mr Hart said: "By its verdict in this case, the jury has accepted that Stewart and Howell 'were in it together', and her part in the dreadful events of the night which saw the murder of her husband and of Lesley Howell was not just that of a passive onlooker, but as an active participant, albeit to a lesser extent than Howell."
Pc Buchanan and Mrs Howell were found in a fume-filled garage in the seaside town of Castlerock in May 1991.
Police thought they had died in a bizarre suicide pact until 18 years later when lay preacher Howell, apparently wracked by his guilty conscience, confessed to elders in his church that he had murdered them and stage-managed the scene to look like they had taken their own lives.
The dentist gassed his wife as she slept in their Coleraine home with carbon monoxide fumes piped from his car before dumping her body in the boot of the vehicle and driving the 10-minute journey to the Buchanan home to do the same to the sleeping policeman.
He then took his two victims to nearby Castlerock where he left the car in the garage of his wife's late father and turned on the engine.
The jurors in Stewart's 15-day trial at Coleraine Crown Court unanimously accepted that she knew about the plan in advance and, in the case of her husband, actively facilitated his killing by ensuring he was drugged and allowing Howell into her home.
They found the mother of two guilty on two counts of murder.