My wife was afraid -- she knew I'd kill her, dentist tells murder trial
The wife of killer dentist Colin Howell lived in fear for her life from the moment he dangled an electric cable above her as she bathed, the double-murder trial of his ex-lover heard yesterday.
Six weeks after the incident -- which happened during a blazing row at their home in Coleraine, Co Derry, in April 1991 -- the one-time Christian preacher gassed his wife Lesley to death before doing the same to Trevor Buchanan, the policeman husband of his mistress, Hazel Stewart.
Giving evidence against Ms Stewart yesterday for the third day, Howell told a packed Coleraine Crown Court that he considered dropping the cable into the water and admitted the incident put thoughts of murder in his mind.
But he denied he had actually administered a shock -- something his wife later claimed to friends -- and suggested she had made this up because she was scared about what he may do in the future.
"Lesley saw something in me at that moment -- that I could kill her -- and she was right about that," he said calmly.
Howell (51) has already confessed to the murders that Ms Stewart now stands accused of.
The 47-year-old mother of two, from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, Co Derry, denies she was part of a joint enterprise with Howell to kill their spouses.
She sat impassively in the dock, dressed in a plum coat, as Howell delivered testimony against her on a second day of cross-examination.
Her lawyer, Paul Ramsey, characterised the incident in the bathroom as a failed murder bid and stressed it happened weeks before Howell mentioned to Ms Stewart of his plot to kill his wife and her husband.
On the seventh day of Ms Stewart's trial, Howell also claimed that his wife had been a bad mother who he once found drunk and unconscious, lying in vomit, when she should have been looking after their four children.
The lawyer questioned the purpose of raising such negative points about his late wife, especially when he professed a desire to bring closure and comfort to her relatives.
"All these statements about her show that even today, in 2011, show you don't love her, that you never loved your wife and in fact you hated your wife," he said.
Howell, who had admitted he didn't love his wife, claimed that he deliberately focused on the bad aspects in part to rationalise the killings to himself.
Again attempting to explain his mental process before the killings, Howell said he had to hate in order to kill.
"When you kill someone you have to hate them, and I hated Trevor and Lesley, wrongly," he said.
But later in the afternoon, following a 10-minute adjournment, Howell returned to the witness box to tell the jury he made a mistake.
When he referred to his hate for Trevor, what he meant to say was that he had "embraced Hazel's hatred of Trevor".
The trial continues.