TRIAL: I wanted to drive car off edge of cliff

HAZEL Stewart was so haunted that she considered driving off the edge of a cliff, Coleraine Court heard.

The mother of two said she thought about killing herself before police came to arrest and question her about the killings 18 years earlier, the jury was told.

Last Tuesday the jury of nine men and three women heard another tape recording of a police interview with Stewart - she later remarried - in which she disclosed she wanted to kill herself because of guilt over the deaths.

She also told investigating police officers that she never planned to have a new life with Howell, 51, even though he wanted to marry her.

Stewart said she was in love with him in the early months of the relationship but as the affair developed after the killings, her feelings changed.

She said: “He was a companion in many ways but this guy was not somebody I really wanted to be with.”

Stewart, 47, was arrested by police who had been waiting for her to arrive home at Ballystrone Road.

She told the court her heart started to thump when she saw officers and, if she had known they were there before she got to the house, she might have killed herself.

“Maybe if I’d known they were there, maybe I’d have run the car over a cliff. I don’t know. I always said I would do that. Maybe it’s too late for me,” she said.

After the death of her husband, Stewart received a pension worth £200 a month as well as a children’s allowance. A £40,000 mortgage on the house was also paid off.

She completed a secretarial course and then worked for a firm for 10 years.

The jury had been told earlier she had received almost £130,000 in pensions and other benefits from the police and life assurance.

Her relationship with Howell continued on and off for another four or five years, and Stewart said she was aware she was not the first woman he met when they started to meet up and have sex in the summer of 1990.

Stewart’s two children Andrew and Lisa - who were in court on Tuesday along with Howell’s daughter Lauren - got to know him, she said.

Her husband’s death, she claimed, had been hard on the Buchanan family.

Four of Trevor’s brothers - Victor, Jackie, Raymond and Gordon - as well as his two sisters, Melva and Valerie, listened from the public gallery as Stewart spoke in her police interview - her sixth - about how her in-laws reacted after her husband was found dead.

She said they had been very good since, especially Victor and his wife Lorna. At the time of the funeral there may have been some tension, but no friction.

Stewart added: “They were very good, considering.”

Howell, she told the court, had talked about carrying out the killings. But there was nothing in it for her.

Stewart told police: “I had nothing to gain. I had nothing to gain by him doing that. I didn’t have anything to gain.

“I wasn’t very good in my marriage but I had nothing against Trevor. We had good times. There wasn’t a problem but I had nothing to gain.

“Obviously, he had other plans for himself. But it wasn’t including me.

“In one way he thought maybe I would go with him and get married. There was no intention of that. I never said I would marry him, never.”

She also told police that the relationship, after the deaths, was not natural or normal.

She said she wanted their sexual relationship to stop but Howell was frustrated and he wanted to make her more relaxed.

“It was so strained. I didn’t want him. He scared me. I didn’t want anything to do with him. That went on for a long time. I tried many times to say: ‘This isn’t going anywhere’,” she added.

It was years, she said, before she ever went near the row of houses in Castlerock, known at the Twelve Apostles, where the bodies were found.