TRIAL: Dentist unfazed by the murders

Murdering his wife and lover’s husband did not bother Colin Howell and he acted as if it was just any other day, his former mistress told police.

Hazel Stewart, who claimed the killer dentist was a “creep” who held her in a grip of fear, said the deaths of his wife Lesley and her husband Pc Trevor Buchanan had the opposite effect on her.

She told officers: “My life stopped that day.”

Stewart was responding to interrogation over why she engaged in a five-year relationship with Howell after the murders if she had been against his murder plan.

“I was in fear, I was in fear of my own life, I was in fear of him, he scared me, I didn’t like it,” she said in a police interview tape played to her double murder trial at Coleraine Crown Court.

“I wanted it to finish, I saw him out and about and he was like something that was hyper. It was, you know, it’s just as if something what he had done didn’t seem to bother him.

“He just seemed to be as if it was another day.”

But in the interview Stewart conducted with police on January 31, 2009, two days after her arrest, Detective Sergeant Geoff Ferris challenged her explanation.

“The difficulty we have and difficulty other people might have in listening to this here: early in the relationship your husband was murdered and you continue with the person who was actively involved in that murder in a relationship with him for at least a period of five years?” he asked.

The mother of two responded: “He would not let me go, you don’t understand what he’s like. I tried many times to get away from it, to get out of it, to get away.

“I did not like the way he behaved, the way he was, I did not like it, he was controlling.”

The detective, who accused her of telling “untruths”, again pressed Stewart on her claim she was not part of Howell’s plan to kill his wife and her husband in May 1991.

If she was not, the officer argued, why had she not done anything to stop it or report it subsequently?

“You had ample opportunity to hit this on the head certainly prior to the murders and certainly that night and the next day,” he said.

Stewart has admitted Howell talked about the plan to her before the killings. But she denied he went into any detail.

“(He was) testing the waters with me maybe,” she suggested.

She said if she had gone to police then it would have been her word against his.

Det Sergt Ferris outlined in graphic detail what Howell claimed had unfolded inside Stewart’s bedroom as he struggled with her husband while gassing him with carbon monoxide pumped from his car.

“He (Howell) will describe during this struggle on the floor that Trevor sits up and Trevor and Colin face each other and Trevor’s eyes are open.

“Alive, going through his last breaths, and he (Howell) says that Trevor takes three or four gasps and collapses.”

Stewart, who claims Howell told her to wait in the spare bedroom, responded: “I didn’t know I just thought I heard something like a noise or a bang.”

She also said she did not remember telling one of her initial police interviews that she knew something was going to happen when Howell phoned, insisting she was not aware of his murderous intent that night.

Mr Ferris claimed she had difficulty remembering because she was not telling the truth.

“We’re not talking about an ordinary day in your life, Hazel,” he added.