Howell questioning on sex assault claim postponed

Colin Howell is serving a minimum 21 years in jail for a double murder
Colin Howell is serving a minimum 21 years in jail for a double murder

Plans to question convicted double killer Colin Howell about a new allegation of serious sexual assault were postponed at the last minute, his lawyer has confirmed.

The 58-year-old former dentist was set to be brought from jail for interview at a Belfast police station in connection with a complaint relating to an historical incident.

His solicitor, Adrian Harvey, said he only discovered the arrangements had been put back when he arrived at the cells in the Laganside Courts complex, expecting to meet Howell.

Although no explanation has been given for the delay, questioning is still due to take place at a later date.

Mr Harvey added: “My client and I have been aware of this allegation since October 2016 and are anxious to have the matter dealt with as soon as possible.”

Howell is currently serving a minimum of 21 years in jail for the murders of his wife and former lover Hazell Stewart’s police officer husband.

The bodies of Lesley Howell, 31, and Constable Trevor Buchanan, 32, were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Derry in May 1991.

Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering their partners were having an affair.

Nearly two decades passed before Howell suddenly confessed to both killings.

He pleaded guilty to the murders in 2010, implicated Stewart in the plot and went on to give evidence against her at her trial.

In March 2011 she was unanimously convicted of both murders and ordered to serve at least 18 years behind bars.

Since then the former Sunday School teacher has failed in a series of attempts to have the verdicts overturned.

Howell is also serving a five and a half year sentence for sexually assaulting five female patients while they were under sedation at his dental surgery in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

He committed those offences over a 10-year period from 1998 and 2008.

Earlier this week he was informed that police planned to interview him on Wednesday about the new sexual assault allegation.

Arrangements were put in place to have him transported from Maghaberry Prison to the cells at Laganside Courts.

It was never intended that he would appear publicly in the dock. Instead, he was to be transferred directly to nearby Musgrave Street police station for interview.

Mr Harvey said: “I was expecting Mr Howell to be produced this morning at Laganside and brought over for questioning in relation to a further historical allegation.

“But on approaching staff in the cells I was advised that his production had been cancelled by the PSNI at the last minute.

“I have been speaking with police who have confirmed that his production will be arranged for a later date.”