TRIAL: Baptist Church “deeply shocked and appalled” by murders

THE current pastor of Coleraine Baptist Church says that no lasting damage has been caused to the church by its handling of the Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart scandal back in 1991.

Pastor Trevor Watson joined the Coleraine church two years ago.

However last week he declined to talk about the mood in the church at the time of Howell’s confession to police in 2009.

But the church leader was prepared to respond on behalf of the current congregation.

Pastor Watson said the church was in “good shape” and there was “no question of any lasting damage or anything like that”.

“I can only speak for the current membership of the church but I think it’s fair to say no one could have seen this coming.

“I think the church responded with honesty and sincerity as the situation presented itself.

“It dealt with it as a church.”

Coleraine Baptist Church released a statement expressing sympathy to all those affected by the double murder.

The statement said: “As a church fellowship we would like to express our sincere Christian sympathy to all those who have been bereaved.

“We are deeply shocked and appalled at what has now been established as the truth of what happened almost 20 years ago.

“At the time of the deaths of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell they, along with their respective spouses, Hazel and Colin, were members of Coleraine Baptist Church.

“The then pastor had previously become aware of an extra-marital relationship between Colin and Hazel and had been engaged in a counselling process with both couples.

“Following the deaths of Trevor and Lesley, despite assurances to the contrary, it was discovered that the relationship between Colin and Hazel was still continuing.

“In the exercise of church discipline both Colin and Hazel were removed from membership and subsequently stopped attending the church.

“We have fully co-operated with both the original and the recent police investigations.

“As a church fellowship we continue to pray for God’s grace in the lives of those affected by this terrible tragedy.

At the time the affair was discovered the respective families were asked to attend different services or sit at different parts of the church.

But the counselling of the couples failed - leaving Colin Howell and Hazel Buchahan to continue their affair which ended in the double murder of their partners.