“YOU are a monster.”
That was the description given to Colin Howell by Hazel Stewart’s defence team on day eight of her trial for double murder.
Coleraine Crown Court heard Paul Ramsey QC challenge Howell’s version of events surrounding the murders in 1991 of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell.
He put it to Howell, who was in the witness box for the fourth day in succession, that Hazel Stewart was not part of any murder plan but that Howell had acted “on the spur of the moment” in carrying out the killings.
“You lied to Lesley, you lied to Pastor Hansford, you embraced Trevor Buchanan and asked for his forgiveness weeks before you murdered him, you lied to police, you lied to Kyle, you lied to the doctors at Maghaberry,” said Mr Ramsey.
“And I would suggest that you have lied about what the accused did.
“And you elevated what she did to one of join enterprise.
“You are a monster.”
Howell replied: “I was a monster and I was a killer but I’m not any longer.”
During the five hours of questioning, Hazel Stewart’s defence team argued that Colin Howell had been “panicked” into killing his wife Lesley as he believed she was leaving him.
Mr Ramsey put it to Howell that his motive for killing his wife was money.
“You were under finanical pressure at the time. She [Lesley] was a spendthrift according to you. She had just come into money because her father had passed away and she had told friends that the money was not for Colin and was for her and the kids.
“You were fearful that she would go to Scotland,” argued Mr Ramsey.
Howell disagreed saying: “I had no inkling that she was going to run away from me.”
The defence argued that there was no definite plan and that there had been an urgency about Howell on the day of the murders.
“It was now or never. That’s because you were worried about her getting off and you not getting near the money?” challenged Mr Ramsey.
“No,” replied Howell.
“The ultimate plan was that Trevor and Lesley would be killed. For one to be killed was not the plan.”
Mr Ramsey put it to Howell that since Lesley’s father had died suddenly and she had died 12 days later, he would be the main beneficiary.
“You wanted the money and the bonus was that it allowed you and Hazel to be together.”
“No,” said Howell.
“Money was never the motive. It was my obsession with Hazel.”
Mr Ramsey then went through a sequence of events during the day of the murders of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan.
He listed incidents which, he said, illustrated the “spontaneous” nature of the actions.
He challenged Howell’s version of events saying:
* He couldn’t have been sure where Lesley Howell would fall asleep that night - either on the sofa or in the marital bed, thereby making for great uncertainty.
* Howell changed the location for where the bodies would be found at the last minute.
* Howell had frantically tried to contact Hazel Stewart that day - not the actions of someone who was confident in their plan.
* Howell left family photographs around Lesley’s dead body but left them facing the wrong way.
* There was never any discussion about what to do if Andrew and Lisa Buchanan woke up while their father was being murdered.
* Howell unexpectedly reversed over and crushed something on the laneway while reversing into the Buchanan’s garage and was annoyed with Hazel for being so unprepared.
“Because there was no plan,” said Mr Ramsey.
“You were a force of nature that night. You were unstoppable.
“Nothing and nobody was going to stop you once you got into the Buchanan’s house.”
Howell replied: “No one other than Trevor would have wanted to stop me.
“I was not going to experience any conflict.”
Mr Ramsey also quoted a lengthy excerpt from Howell’s confession to police in June 2009 where he asked to add something to his statement.
He said that May 18th, 1991, was the day when he made the decision to go ahead with the killings.
He described the act as “quite spontaneous” and said he “didn’t see any other way out”.
He said there as a “large element of surprise” when he turned up at the Buchanan house.
However, holding a copy of the passage up to the jury, Howell described the passage as “two pages of non-stop ramble.”
He said that he had been trying to “manipulate and deceive the legal system” and had been “trying to achieve my own ends”.