TRIAL: CELL MATES

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KILLERS Hazel Stewart and Colin Howell will be in cells just feet apart at Belfast Crown Court this Friday.

Mother of two Stewart (48) will be brought by prison van from the female wing of Hydebank Wood Young Offenders’ Centre in the south of the city for the tariff.

Howell - who is 52 today - will arrive at Laganside from Maghaberry Prison outside Lisburn - for confiscating proceedings in connection with financial matters.

The father of ten benefited to the tune of £414,000 through Lesley’s will, life insurance and endowment policies, according to evidence heard at Hazel Stewart’s dramatic trial in Coleraine.

This Friday will be final time that the former lovers, who plotted to kill their partners so that they could be together, will be in the same building.

A jury at Coleraine Crown Court took just two-and-a-half hours to decide that the former Sunday school teacher had joined with cosmetic Howell in a plot to her policeman husband Trevor and Howell’s wife Lesley in May 1991.

Before passing sentence Judge Anthony Hart will take into account victim impact reports concerning both the Buchanan and Howell families.

A source close to Colin Howell said that he had expressed surprise that Stewart may receive a similar sentence to the 21 years he is currently serving for the killings.

The source told The Coleraine Times: “He is content and satisfied that he has told the whole story.

“However he has expressed surprise that if Hazel got the same kind of sentence he has that he would be a free man before her because of time served in custody.

“He has accepted her joint tole in that the moment she left her garage door open that night at her house she was as guilty of murder as he was because she let the murder weapon into the house.

“He is satisfied that he gave as much detail about what happened as he could.

“He feels no sense of victory about Hazel’s verdict.

“He has accepted his part on the murder, this has now come to an end and he just wants to get on with things.”

Members of Stewart’s family visited her in prison last week bringing with them a suitcase of belongs.

Custody staff reported hearing the mother of two mutter that she had “made her peace with God” as she settled into her first few days in prison.

Meanwhile the publishers of a book on the 1991 killings are already aiming at selling the rights to the grisly true story to a major movie studio.