Adoring wife and mother killed by husband Howell

THE happy couple came back home from their honeymoon in Spain in 1983.

Wednesday, 24th November 2010, 2:32 pm

Colin Howell and his wife Lesley seemingly had their whole life ahead of them - she a young nurse and he a recently qualified dentist, both in love and both looking forward to a happy future together.

The daughter of Harry and May Clarke, Lesley and her only brother Chris, a hospital anaesthetist in Blackpool, were both born in Plymouth.

The family moved to Scotland and then to Dublin and May died in 1986.

Lesley adored her father, a former Royal Marine and regimental sergeant and company director.

Howell had met Lesley while he was studying Dentistry at Queen's University in Belfast, he having previously attended Portadown College. She had moved to Belfast at the start of 1978 to train as nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Lesley moved in with nursing friends in a house at University Street in Belfast and she began dating Colin in 1981.

Friends described her as beautiful and vivacious, intelligent, kind and thoughtful.

After they married the couple moved first to Portballintrae and then to a house in Culmore Gardens just off the Mountsandel Road in Coleraine.

Lesley would bear him four children, Matthew - who tragically fell to his death at the age of 22 in an apartment block in St Petersburg, Russia in April 2006 - Lauren, Daniel and Jonathan.

The couple were committed Christians and became very active in Coleraine Baptist Church. Howell got involved with the church's uniformed Campaigner's group for young people aged 14 and upwards and was sole leader of the Youth Fellowship.

Lesley herself led women's meetings at the church and also attended Bible readings.

They seemed the perfect church going family, Colin an ambitious and hard-working dentist and Lesley a devoted wife and mother.

Howell planned to buy a dental practice in Ballymoney and in the spring of 1990 the family moved from Mountsandel to a bigger house at Knocklayde Park off the Castlerock Road area of Coleraine.

Lesley was pregnant with their fourth child, Jonathan, that summer, but she had become increasingly worried about the family's money problems.

Then the marital idyll came crashing down when Howell admitted to having an adulterous affair with Hazel Buchanan, a mother of two and wife of an RUC constable.

The two couples had become friendly through the church and Hazel worked at Mulberry Bush nursery where the Howells' daughter, Lauren, attended.

The affair devastated Lesley, who took an overdose of tablets - more as a cry for help than a genuine suicide attempt - and she was hospitalised in Coleraine.

She turned to Pastor John Hansford and asked him to help save her marriage.

Following a meeting of Pastor Hansford and the elders it was decided that Howell would resign from all of the church's organisations and both couples should attend alternate church services, one in the morning and the other in the evening.

There was to be no contact between Howell and Hazel and all the parties involved were to be counselled by Pastor Hansford.

During the months leading up to her death Lesley was under immense strain, dealing with her husband's betrayal and raising a young family with Jonathan just a few months old.

She began drinking more frequently and taking sleeping tablets. And her world completely fell apart when her father Harry, who had bought a house at The Apostles in Castlerock, collapsed an died in the kitchen of their home while they were out on May 7, 1991.

It threw her into an even deeper depression and she was inconsolable.

During one row Lesley had suggested to Howell that it would be better off if she and Trevor Buchanan were dead - and that's when Howell began to hatch a plot to kill them - and make it look like suicide.

D uring the early hours of Sunday, May 21, 1991, Lesley and constable Buchanan were murdered and their bodies placed in Howell's seven seater Renault Savannah car in the garage at No6 The Apostles.

He kept the terrible truth of what happened the two innocent victims for 18 years until he admitted killing them in police interviews which began in January last year.

Although a broken woman Lesley Howell still hoped to patch up her marriage and planned to renew her vows.

Litttle did she know that she would die at the hands of her evil husband who was already planning his future with his mistress.