TRIAL: God will forgive us - letter

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A twisted letter written by Colin Howell to Hazel Stewart after the murders of their spouses boasted that they would be forgiven by God.

For the first time we can reveal the full details of the five-page letter which the dentist gave to Derek McAuley, a member of the Baptist Church to pass onto his mistress (printed in this week’s Ballymoney and Moyle Times).

As Hazel Stewart’s trial heard, McAuley steamed open the letter and made a copy, as he had some suspicions over Howell’s motives following the deaths, thought to be suicides, in 1991.

In the letter the dentist pleads with Stewart to decide about her future with him and rubbishes reasons put forward by Coleraine Baptist Pastor John Hansford about why the pair shouldn’t be together.

Howell, who admitted during the trial that he was ‘a monster’, also talks about his wife Lesley and Stewart’s children, Lisa and Andrew.

When detectives read him excerpts of the letter at Coleraine Police Station on the evening of January 31, 2009, Howell admitted that its contents were ‘shocking’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘awful’.

He told Detective Constables Alan Devine and Anne Henry of the Major Incident Team that it was an ‘awful interpretation’ about God and love.

Urging Stewart to get her mind straight on their future, Howell her: “Don’t allow me to think there is hope if there is none. You will kill me.

“I can accept it it now if you say it, but I can’t allow myself to progress to find out later. I plead with you if with your mind you are saying no. And you must decide now about our future and not wait and see. I will not ever try and change you mind, no matter how lonely I get.”

He instructs that Stewart should read the next part of the letter only if she wants to know reasons why he disagrees with the advice given to her by Pastor Hansford.

Howell describes the Pastor as a “very clever man”, and warns Stewart that he will convince her that their marriage will be ‘a disaster’.

He said Pastor Hansford would convince her that any partnership with Howell wouldn’t work, because of her children Lisa and Andrew; her grief for husband Trevor and her family.

Howell tells Stewart that knew that Lisa didn’t like him, but eventually Lisa would need a father figure.

Cruelly Howell tells his lover that he will talk to her children about the father he took away from them.

“They will be so loved by me that difficulties (which there will be) will be overcome and sorted out. If I understand and talk to them, they are not aa reason for disaster.”

Howell admits that they both underestimated the grief they felt for their partners: “The length of time it takes to get over this will determine when we get together,” he writes

Bizarrely he tells Stewart that when they miss each other they must look at pictures of their spouses and channel their feelings on their grief.

He admits: “I miss Lesley and am so sorry that I didn’t love her enough and for all the sins I have done to her. I need time to sorrow for that before we can be together.”

In a bid to convince Stewart that they can be together without any prejudice from family members, Howell tells her that he had had long conversations with his father and his sister about their relationship, he tells her that his family would accept her ‘with a great welcome’ if she loved him.”

The letter also reveals a further plan by Howell - for the pair to move away from Coleraine.

He tells her that he should move to Portadown in time for the new school term, and says she should move to Omagh, so that their children can be ‘surrounded by the security of family”.

He then admits that he has selfish reasons for considering the move - so that Stewart’s children, Lisa and Andrew, won’t blame him for moving them away from Coleraine.

He tells Stewart: “If you say yes to me about our future we will talk a lot more about this. So don’t feel any pressure about it. There may be important reasons for staying

.”If you can without doubt that we can overcome these problems given by the Pastor then say yes to me and don’t look back.”

He advices her that if this is the case, they will meet with the Pastor and tell them their plans.

“We will be honest and open and not secretive.” He goes on to advice Stewart that they may lose friends if they are to be together, but says “we can walk down the street together proud of each other.”

Disturbingly at the end of the letter Howell gloats about the murders: “From now on we are forgiven and will be disciplined and will honour God.”

Signing off the letter, “love Colin”, he adds: “I have taken a mother from my children but God will provide for them and I only hope and pray it can be you. But only if you can accept in your mind as well and your heart.”