COLIN Howell denied having a furious row with his brother-in-law over claims that he was deliberately drugging his wife so that he could have late-night trysts with his lover Hazel Stewart.
Just after the death of her father Harry Clarke, Howell had been with his wife Lesley and her brother Chris Clarke, who alleged he was feeding tablets to his sister. It was on a night when Mrs Howell became drunk very quickly, Howell said.
But the dentist denied there had been any confrontation. He told the jury: “I did not tell him I was giving her tablets. He made that up.”
Howell confirmed to the jury how he would leave the house in the middle of the night to have sex with Stewart when her husband, Trevor Buchanan, was away on police duties.
He said Mrs Howell would have taken red wine and temazepam to help her get to sleep, claiming it was part of a pattern that had developed when he and Stewart would meet up. He said she would open the back window of her house and let him in after they first made telephone contact.
Howell admitted that it meant his four children, Matthew, then aged six, Lauren, four, one-year-old Daniel and baby Jonathan, only months old, would have been left on their own. He denied blocking their bedroom door.
Howell told the jury that he believed Mr Buchanan was a bad husband for Stewart because he had been leaving her on her own to do his police work.
But he denied he was Stewart’s hero, asking the jury: “How delusional is that?”
He described one night when Mrs Howell was out of bed when he returned home around 3am. Howell said it was dark and she was in the kitchen. When he saw her, he told the court, he started humming and went over to the sink, where he put the kettle on. He said he told Lesley he had been out for a walk and could not sleep, a story he said he invented on the spot.
Howell told the jury: “I didn’t care. I was so self-centred, so selfish.”
But he denied claims that he deliberately gave his wife the drugs, saying she took them and the wine herself and he encouraged her because it suited his purpose.
He was challenged by Paul Ramsey QC, Stewart’s defence lawyer, over claims by Margaret Topping, who said she once found her friend yawning and listless at a leisure centre.
Howell said that, as a dentist, he had access to temazepam and Mrs Howell had asked for the tablets. He said he gave her some in a bottle which contained 20 or 30, insisting she had wanted them and he had not told her to take them.
He said Mrs Howell was a state registered nurse who knew how to medicate herself. He said he gave her the temazepam, but did not force her to take them or put them into her mouth.
The judge, Mr Justice Anthony Hart, asked him: “Where you physically administering drugs to your wife?”
Howell replied: “Absolutely no.”
Howell told the court his wife’s mood could change immediately from one of anger and despair to becoming a smiling person when anybody called at the house.
He said she had learned as a child not to allow herself to cry even though she had suffered great trauma. Howell said that, since her father had been in the Royal Marines, everything had to appear ship-shape.