Stewart found guilty

HAZEL Stewart (48) has been found guilty of murdering her policeman husband and her lover’s wife.

The former Sunday school teacher stood accused at Coleraine Crown Court of plotting with her then-lover - Ballymoney dentist Colin Howell - to poison Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell in May 1991.

Their spouses were found dead in a fume-filled car in Castlerock in what police believed was a suicide pact.

The crimes came to light only when Howell confessed to elders in his church two years ago.

Mr Justice Anthony Hart said the only sentence which he could give her was life.

The jury of nine men and three women, who deliberated for just under two-and-a-half hours, reached unanimous verdicts on both murder counts.

Stewart glanced at family members in the public gallery as the jury foreman delivered the decision.

Her daughter Lisa shouted out “No, it’s not fair” while her son Andrew broke down and wept. Stewart’s second husband David also cried as he reached out to comfort them.

On the other side of the public gallery, relatives of Mr Buchanan clasped each other. Relatives of Mrs Howell sat close by.

Judge Anthony Hart ordered Stewart to stand and told her she had been convicted of a double murder and the only punishment the court could hand down was life imprisonment.

Stewart was led from the dock toward the cells.

The judge said he would set the minimum term Stewart must serve at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast on March 11.