DOUBLE-killer Ballymoney dentist Colin Howell - who once counted Jordan's Royal family among his high-profile patients - is spending his days as an orderly in a hospital wing in prison.

In our exclusive expose today, the 51-year-old father-of-ten is described as being "content" behind bars.

A source close to the notorious killer also rubbishes reports that he is on suicide watch.

Instead, Howell is making the most of his minimum 21-year jail term at Magaberry Prison, having admitted first killing his wife Lesley, 31 and later RUC Constable Trevor Buchanan, 32, at their homes in Coleraine, in May 1991 when he attached part of a baby's feeding bottle to a garden hose to poison them with carbon monoxide fumes as they slept.

It was initially thought that they had died in an apparent suicide pact, their bodies found in a car at Cliff Terrace, Castlerock.

Mrs Howell, born in Plymouth and a former award winning nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, was callously killed on their son Daniel's second birthday.

In sentencing Howell last December, Mr Justice Anthony Hart said he had carried out "truly heinous crimes", describing "the cold blooded, carefully planned and ruthlessly executed double murder" of two people who stood in his way of his "adulterous desire to be with his former mistress Hazel Buchanan."

"Each murder was carried out when the victim was asleep and thus entirely defenceless," the judge said.

However Howell has no trouble sleeping at night since he pleaded guilty to the murders which made headlines around the world.

Responding to claims that Howell is considered by prison authorities as a danger to himself, a well-placed source told this newspaper: "That's absolute rubbish.

"Under the circumstances he is doing as well as can be expected.

"He is an orderly in the hospital wing and shares his cell with two others.

"He's content. He's doing creative writing courses and has access to educational resources and all sorts of things. He is keeping active."

Portadown-born Howell — who had surgeries in Ballymoney and Bangor — charged thousands of pounds for dental implants and treated patients from all over Ireland, Europe and the USA.

He also lectured at Queen's University, where he had graduated in Dentistry and in the Middle East and was at the top of his profession before admitting to the murders.

He had kept his dark secret for almost 20 years before eventually confessing to detectives after losing 353,000 in a bid to find missing gold in the Philippines - a project which turned out to be a scam.

Far from being abandoned by family and friends, the former lay-preacher gets twice-weekly visits to keep his spirits up.

"He gets The (London] Times delivered and does the Times Crossword every day. He's a very intelligent man.

"Twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday he gets prison visits from his daughter Lauren, the only one of his children who visits him and his sisters Pauline and Maud.

"He's also been visited by his brothers Gordon and Jim and dad Sam who is now 85.

"He also gets ecclesiastic visits each month by members of the Barn Fellowship.

"People from the church have come back into his life and have told him he has done the right thing by confessing to the murders and clearing his conscience.

"He has become more settled after his sentencing and is looking forward. His father is now 85 and he believes he too will live for a few years yet.

"When he is released he plans to try and restore relations with his children. Whether he can do that very much remains to be seen."

His former lover, mother-of-two Hazel Stewart, 47, from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, later remarried former police Chief Superintendent David Stewart, once a staff officer to ex-Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley

Stewart, 47, goes on trial in Coleraine next Monday accused of both murders and will be defended by Paul Ramsey QC.

Members of the crown prosecution team visited Howell in prison last Thursday to review his 43 page statement which he made to them before Christmas.

The statement describes his intimate relationship with Stewart before, during and after the murders.

It now opens the possibility of Howell giving evidence against Stewart who has protested her innocence since her shock arrest in January 2009.