Saturday 21 April 2018

Murder pact spun in dark web of sex and betrayal

Hazel Stewart's evil secret, kept for so long, could not survive her ex-lover's confession, writes Maeve Sheehan

Hazel Stewart. Photo: PA
Hazel Stewart. Photo: PA

IN a swimming pool full of screaming children, Colin Howell brushed his hand along Hazel Stewart's stomach and unleashed a charge of sexual energy. He apologised, before confessing that his thoughts about her weren't entirely "innocent". "Well, I'm not that innocent myself," she replied and swam away.

So began the murderous connection between the upwardly mobile dentist and the farmer's daughter, who defied their fundamentalist Baptist church to embark on an affair that ended in double murder. Their romance was characterised by a heady mix of temptation, lust, guilt and greed. Their faith was so entrenched they required drugs before sex to ease the guilt yet they planned, in minute detail, the perfect murder to get rid of their respective spouses.

The crime was not detected for almost 20 years and only then because conscience -- or revenge -- got the better of Howell and he confessed. Howell, 51, is serving life in prison since he pleaded guilty last November to murdering his wife, Lesley, 31, and Trevor Buchanan, 32. Hazel Stewart, 48, was convicted of their double murder at Coleraine Crown Court last Wednesday, thanks to her former lover whose testimony helped nail her to the crime.

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