Women jailed for murder form unlikely friendship
TWO of the most high-profile women murderers in Northern Ireland have struck up a close bond behind bars, it can be revealed.
Double-killer Hazel Stewart has developed a friendship with 'crucifix murderer' Karen Walsh as they both serve life sentences at Hydebank Prison in Belfast.
Stewart – jailed for at least 18 years – has also been filling her time in the south Belfast prison by learning to paint and trying to retain her good looks.
Fresh details of Stewart's life in prison were revealed in an article by Press Association editor Deric Henderson, who wrote a book on Stewart's sensational trial and conviction. He said the former Sunday school teacher had formed a friendship with fellow killer Walsh.
The 47-year-old, a pharmacist from Galway, used a crucifix to batter her elderly next-door neighbour in Newry, grandmother Maire Rankin (81), in a drunken rage on Christmas Day 2008. She is serving 20 years.
"Stewart – never the most academically gifted – has learned how to paint," Mr Henderson said. "She exercises in the gym most days, reads her Bible faithfully and takes delivery of a regular supply of cosmetics.
"She may have lost her liberty, but Stewart is determined to retain the looks which so impressed the men in her life."
Stewart was convicted in 2011 of murdering her husband Trevor Buchanan and her former lover's wife Lesley Howell.
The pair were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock in May 1991 and police believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering their partners were having an affair.
Two decades passed before Stewart's former lover, Colin Howell, confessed to both killings, leading to Stewart's arrest.