‘I WILL SLIT MY WRISTS’

“IF I see them (the police) coming to get me, then I will slit my wrists.”

The words killer dentist Colin Howell alleged his former lover Hazel Stewart said when he told her of a plan to fake the suicides of their spouses.

The trial of Hazel Stewart for the double murder of her first husband Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell, the wife of her former lover Colin Howell, continued at Coleraine Crown Court today (Monday).

As Hazel Stewart sat in the extreme corner of the dock, her former lover Howell was brought into the packed court room through the same dock - just feet away from each other -to take his place in the witness box.

No glances were exchanged between the two as Howell gave evidence about the chain of events which resulted in the murders in 1991 of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell.

In his evidence, Howell outlined how:

* His affair with Stewart began under the cover of taking their children to swimming lessons;

* Stewart told him she would love him “until she was grey and old”;

* He later accompanied Stewart to London for an abortion;

* He outlined his plan to kill their spouses during a secret meeting in a car at the Bar Mouth;

* He gave Stewart his mother’s sedative tablets with which to drug her husband Trevor.

Dressed in a light grey suit and wearing a wedding ring, Howell said that he had confessed to the killings because he had been “overwhelmed by his conscience”.

He broke down when, at the beginning of his evidence, with voice faltering, he gave the names of his then family members including his son Matthew who died in an accident in Russia in April 2006.

He said that it was Matthew’s death which made him confess to the double murders so that the families of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan would know that they had not committed suicide.

Coleraine Crown Court heard Howell outline how he met Hazel Stewart through their membership of Coleraine Baptist Church.

Their relationship began when he met her at swimming lessons at Ballymoney Leisure Centre for their children and she asked him to teach her the front crawl as she was impressed by his swimming.

Howell admitted that he was “physically attracted” to Stewart who later asked Howell to teach her the guitar.

Howell also recounted an incident at the swimming lessons when he had admitted to Stewart that he was not having innocent thoughts about her.

“She said ‘I’m not so innocent myself’ and then she swam away,” Howell told the court.

He said that the guitar lessons were used as a cover to begin their affair and that on their third meeting, the relationship become a sexual one.

He also described how Stewart had become pregnant around the autumn of 1990.

“She said that Trevor’s condom had burst and she wasn’t sure if it was his baby or mine,” Howell told the court.

“My children have blonde hair and blue eyes and Trevor had dark hair and dark eyes so if the baby turned out to have blonde hair and blue eyes, the game was up.

“That was a critical moment,” Howell said, before outlining how he accompanied Stewart to Ealing in London to have an abortion.

Both he and Stewart left notes for their respective partners on the bathroom mirrors telling them that they needed some space and that they would return in a few days, and not to worry,

He then went on to explain that when their affair was eventually discovered and he confessed to his wife Lesley, she took an overdose of paracetamol and temazepam and had to have her stomach pumped in Coleraine Hospital.

Counselling for both couples was organised by Pastor John Hansford of Coleraine Baptist Church. Howell said that he felt that counselling was not working for him but that he had committed to giving his marriage a chance and didn’t see Stewart for three or four months during that time.

However he said that he needed to hear from Stewart herself whether counselling was in fact working for the Buchanans and when he phoned her it was obvious she had been “bluffing” about her marriage getting back on track.

Howell said that hearing from Stewart was “like taking a breath of fresh air for the first time in four months.”

The court heard that the couple began to meet again in secret - once at the car park at Camus and then again at the Bar Mouth.

They met there after the death of Lesley Howell’s father at the beginning of May 1991.

It was during this meeting that Howell outlined to Hazel Stewart his plan to kill their spouses.

Continued on Page 17