DOUBLE murderer Colin Howell felt “haunted” and thought death followed him everywhere, according to church colleagues who first heard him confess to the murders.
Church elders Willie Patterson, Graham Stirling and Andrew Brown - members of the Barn Fellowship - were called to Howell’s home at Glebe Road, Castlerock on the morning of January 29, 2009.
Howell’s second wife, Kyle, was in the kitchen and all four assumed that he was about to divulge details of an extra-marital affair that he had.
But none of them could believe the bombshell he was about to deliver - that he had murdered his wife Lesley and the policeman husband of his former lover, Trevor Buchanan and staged it as a double suicide in Castlerock in May 1991.
In the month before Howell’s confessions he had confided in sessions with the elders about his cosmetic dental business being in financial crisis and feeling deep guilt about deaths all around him.
Howell felt God was punishing him and he could no longer go on living a lie.
Willie Patterson, in a statement to police in October 2009 said: “He mentioned a number of people, he said that he felt death followed him about and that he was an influence...the main one being his oldest boy Matt who died in an accidental fall in Russia. I went with Colin to retrieve Matt’s remains from St Petersburg.”
The dentist told police that when he was killing Lesley on the sofa of their living room - he poisoned her with carbon monoxide poisoning and held a duvet over her head - that she had called out Matthew’s name with virtually her last breath. He said that had “haunted” him for many years.
Expanding on Howell’s feelings of guilt and morbidity, Patterson told police: “He also referred to the death of a young man in our Fellowship called Adam Pollock who drowned at the White Rocks about four or five years ago, September 2004. Matt was a good friend of Adam.
“He mentioned a guy called Fritz Hoffman, who’s a missionary in Romania, an American...and Colin had been out there and done free dental work for him and for people there they were trying to help as services there are very bad.
“Fritz Hoffman died sometime ago as a result of a dental abcess, now Colin wasn’t there but the fact it was a dental abscess linked back to himself and he thought ‘this is me, this finger has been put on me’ again to the point where he felt ‘I’m responsible, these deaths follow me.
“Robert Dunlop, the biker, he felt responsible for. Robert Dunlop carried an advertising logo on his helmet for Causeway Dental Implant Clinic. Colin had talked to Robert Dunlop very shortly before he died in a race I think and he felt he somehow he was carrying his logo on his head and that jinxed him him some way.”
Howell also felt guilt over the death of church elder Jim Flanagan’s daughter Heather who had also died. Jim Flanagan was one of two men who had discovered the bodies of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan in the fume filled car in Castlerock.
Willie Patterson told police: “So [Howell] linked all these deaths, each one tying them into his own life with some sense of guilt for them all.”
From mid December 2008 when Howell had returned from the Philippines facing financial ruin and emotional breakdown his Fellowship friends had feared for his wellbeing and felt he might even commit suicide.
He described Howell’s account of losing £353,000 in a Japanese gold bullion scam in the Philippines as “crazy, crazy stuff, we could hardly believe this”.
Patterson added: “He told me when he got home [from the Philippines] he was in torment..He told me that she had asked him how it had gone in the Philippines. He told her how he’d seen himself there, how he seen himself there as a fraud and started to confess to her.
“So all this tied in to understand the exact process he had [gone] through. You couldn’t believe the story. I mean it’s just stranger than fiction, but the truth.”