Friday 16 November 2018

'Howell carried Trevor's body from the boot and heaved it on to the driver's seat . . .'

The killer dentist's porn-inspired fantasies were acted out with Hazel

Colin Howell drove the Renault towards the village of Castlerock, some four-and-a-half miles away. In the boot, beside his bicycle, lay the two lifeless bodies of his wife Lesely and his lover's husband Trevor.

He passed over the level crossing of the Coleraine-Londonderry railway line, which skirts a stretch of Castlerock golf links. He pulled in by the side of Barmouth Road, lifted out the bicycle and hid it in a grass verge.

Now he needed to find a credible venue for the staging of the double suicide. The thought occurred to him that the beach at Castlerock might be a good place. But then he changed his mind.

Daybreak was approaching fast and he feared he might meet people out for early-morning walks.

So he turned the car and kept driving, through the village, up a steep hill and then on to the row of tiny cottages, The Apostles, sitting high above the town.

He went round to the back of the houses and to a garage at the rear of Number 6, which had been the home of Harry Clarke, Lesley's recently deceased father.

Once he had pushed open the up-and-over door of Harry's garage, he reversed in, leaving just enough room to enable him to open the boot. He carried Trevor's body from the boot and down the side of the car, heaving it on to the driver's seat.

Howell's next task was to get Lesley's body into position. He laid her out on her back and tried to fit her bare feet into a pair of white training shoes. Howell had noticed some days previously that an old Hoover vacuum hose had been lying in the car boot for weeks. He had known it would come in handy.

He pushed one end into the exhaust pipe and placed the other just inches away from Lesley's head. He had a slight panic when he first turned on the ignition without firing up the engine -- he had forgotten to open the driver's side window, which would enable him to get out of the car, since the door was now blocked by Trevor's body.

Once he had opened the window fully, he switched the car engine on properly. He then climbed on to the roof and slid down over the bonnet.

Howell took one final look at the scene as he closed the garage door. He made the first part of his escape on foot. By the time he jogged down the steep hill of Tunnel Brae, jumped on to the sand and turned right, he had the beach at Castlerock to himself.

Eventually, he made his way back to Barmouth Road, where he had left his bicycle. Soon he was on his way again, peddling frantically towards Coleraine.

It might have been around 5am or 5.30am by the time he got home. He checked that the children were still asleep and then he called Hazel. He asked if she'd done as instructed: "Have you cleaned up? Have you burned the hosepipe?" Hazel assured him she had.

He then briefed her on what she was to tell the police later that day, once the bodies were found: "You have to say that you heard Lesley and Trevor speaking in the early hours of the morning . . ."

But there was one more detail which needed his attention: one which would help convince everyone that the deaths had been suicides.

Not long beforehand, when Howell had been rummaging through some old papers, he had found a note Lesley had written after her father, Harry, died, when her spirits had been very low.

It read: "Dear Colin, I'm just trying to go to sleep now, [for] how long I don't know. Thank you for your help over the past few days and for the good times in our marriage. I don't know what to say to you because I don't know how I feel, but I have seen that life goes on after a few weeks of pain, and, let's face it Colin, I am nothing in comparison to what you lost in the one you loved a while back. If I wake up in the morning, just let this be our secret. Lesley."

Maybe she had had second thoughts about the note. Yet something which appeared so clearly to reflect a depressive and suicidal state of mind was too good to pass up as a handy extra 'prop' when it came to nailing the next part of his plan: to convince everyone that the deaths had been suicide.

The note was perfect. Howell set it down on the kitchen floor. And waited.

Turn the page for another extract

Howell began reading top-shelf magazines as a student in Belfast. Pornography -- particularly the online variety-- later became a serious problem for him. The fact that this type of sexual gratification was considered immoral within the strict Christian code of ethics he prided himself on living by, made his torment all the more agonising.

Just months after he married Lesley and while they were holidaying in Fuengirola, Spain, he produced a porn mag, insisting his wife act out a sexual fantasy with him. Other times, he tried to spice up their sex life by hiring porn movies but Lesley was never comfortable with it.

Years later, there was a weekend in the Lake District with Hazel. They booked separate rooms -- due to Hazel's guilt about the murders, they had agreed not to have full sex.

But Howell charmed his way into her bed, opening a porn magazine and proceeding to pleasure them both. Afterwards Hazel was filled with self-loathing for breaking her self-imposed vow of celibacy.

Though tempted, Howell never used prostitutes -- he was afraid of catching an infection.

It was when the internet became part of his working life that his addiction really took hold. Soon he availed of any opportunity to log on to X-rated websites and masturbate.

Before he confided in anyone else about his growing problem, Howell found himself, along with some church elders of The Barn Fellowship -- a small independent local church of which Howell was a member -- offering to help another member who was struggling with his own sexual difficulties.

Harry Burke's particular weakness was downloading pornographic images of young children. By some strange quirk of fate, many years later, after his confession to the murders and his subsequent incarceration in Maghaberry prison, Howell would find himself sharing a cell with Burke, by then a convicted paedophile several times over.

Howell had known Burke since 1992. He was one of the dentist's patients and they played football, went clay pigeon shooting and once went on a fishing trip together.

Some years later, Burke went to South America to help with an organisation called Youth with a Mission, working with street children in Bolivia. Nobody knew of his secret proclivities then, not even the local woman he met and went on to marry, before bringing her back to Northern Ireland, where they would have four children of their own.

His sordid compulsion to download as well as make indecent child images never left him, however. Eventually his Spanish-speaking wife discovered the dark side of her husband.

With Burke's marriage now in crisis, the elders of the Fellowship became privy to the fact that one of their members had a serious problem. Howell and a few others in the church started to counsel him, even taking him to a one-day conference on addiction in Belfast.

Howell, of course, found the day particularly enlightening, given his own compulsions. Later, however, the elders found they had no choice but to call in the police. Burke was subsequently charged with downloading illegal images of children, and has been in and out of prison several times.

Imagine the look of disbelief on Howell's face then, in early 2009, when Burke put his head around the door of his cell in Maghaberry Prison, where the dentist was being held after his arrest.

They even found themselves having to share a cell for few days. Burke was back in custody, facing new charges of breaching a sexual offences order, having allegedly sent an indecent message from his mobile phone.

Howell was suffering extreme paranoia at the time and believed that Burke had been sent to spy on him.

Howell had also confided in trusted members of The Barn Fellowship, as his obsession with porn became ever more powerful. Married to second wife Kyle, his online compulsion was causing serious problems in his life.

Howell restricted himself to 'soft' adult pornography -- information he later volunteered during police interviews: "Anything I looked at was no worse than me buying a top shelf magazine in any garage or petrol station ... I never got into fetishes like rubber or sadomasochism.

"Two men or two women with sex toys -- that would have been the worst I would have looked at. I would have used a keyword like 'secretary' ..."

He promised Kyle he would stop but couldn't, and so confided in some church elders.

Two good friends, who breakfasted and prayed with him every Thursday, tried to help, suggesting a method which had the approval of Christian-based organisations in the United States. And so he signed up to a software company specialising in 'accountability' and filtering programmes which monitor the sexual content of web pages.

Covenant Eyes was founded in 2000 by Ronald DeHaas in the US. After installing the software, Howell chose an 'accountability partner' -- a church friend -- who could monitor the web pages Howell looked at. The partner would be alerted weekly by email and provided with a detailed report of the sites the dentist visited.

Each website address would appear with a rating-- from 'e' (Everyone) to 'hm' (Highly Mature) -- denoting anything containing nudity, erotica or pornography. If anything unsuitable appeared, the partner's task was to phone Howell to discuss the lapses.

Howell had the programme on his laptop for four years. Sometimes he could go for up to three months, maybe six, without looking at anything out of bounds, but the self-imposed ban was never indefinite.

The rest of the time, even the 'buddy' system didn't stop him from accessing pornography at least once a week -- he simply used his office computer which didn't have the software installed on it.

Finally, in mid-2008, he had Convenant Eyes removed from his laptop.

Irish Independent

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