A policeman friend of murdered RUC constable Trevor Buchanan has described him as “a great family man” and adoring father and husband.
Derek Ewing said the scenes of crime officer was a model policeman and was proud of his Charnwood Park where ironically he was to meet his death at the hand of cold blooded killer Colin Howell on the night of May 1991.
Derek, a former Crime Prevention Officer, based in Coleraine, depicts Trevor’s wife Hazel - jailed for last week for the murders of her husband and wife of her lover, Lesley Howell, as conceited and distant.
Speaking about the life verdicts handed out to Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart, Derek said: “It’s right that they should pay for it.
“The Buchanans always had the faith and belief that their son would not have done what he did and now they have been indicated.”
Derek said he had never come across a more sensational case in his 32 years as a policeman.
“If you had seen something like this on Eastenders you wouldn’t believe it.
“It’s sensational in that it happened in the Coleraine area, a place that’s fairly respectable with decent people that something so terrible as this would have been visited upon them.”
Derek and Trevor struck up a friendship after Trevor had moved to Coleraine Police Station from his native Co Tyrone.
“We had something in common in that we were fellow Co Tyrone men
“I had known his antecedants, about where he had come from and I knew of at least one of his brothers who had worked in the job.”
“We swapped stories about what schools we had gone to, he was a very pleasant, decent fella and amiable too.
“The nature of his work was scenes of crime and he and I worked for the one department in Coleraine.
“If a crime happened he went to the aftermath - fingerprinting and all that sort of thing and I would be going as a Crime Prevention Officer as a follow up visit.
“As a result the two of us would have travelled together to a lot of things. For that reason alone we got on very well.
“He was a very good policeman, intelligent and fastidious, empathic. He was the sort of man who thought about people.
“The best way to describe him was ‘a gentleman’. He would not have done anything to insult anybody. He was very sociable and outgoing.”
Derek said that Trevor was completely devoted to his wife Hazel and young children Lisa and Andrew.
He was a great family man and a great man for the house. He was very proud of his family and his home, so much so that he was always footering at the house, he was always doing something, always busy.
“He always had a project. He was either painting or doing the gardening or putting up a fence or doing this, that or the other. He had great pride in his house and there was never a thing out of place.
“So he would have come to me and asked “where would you get this, or where would you get that.
“We’d have borrowed a trailer for example to go for broken flagstones to build flowerbeds. So him and I would go up the country, carting them about.
“So if he took a notion he needed something, like trying to source peat, we’d go together. If you went up past the house he’d be sweeping or cutting the grass.”
Derek said that he once turned up as Santa Claus for Trevor’s children at a local nursery as a favour to him.
“He loved his children and talked about them often. “He was immensely proud of them all and the family was central to his lifestyle. All that work he done about the house was for his family, to provide a nice environment for them. He wasn’t a drinking man and he wasn’t involved in the sort of culture a lot of us would have been involved then.
“He wouldn’t have been in the pub all the time - it’s a place that I would very rarely have seen him. He was away home doing what he had to do.
“Hazel and I never really had much interaction. I might have spoken to her. She was a woman to me who was always very distant.
“I got the distinct impression that the company [of police] would have been a bit uncouth for her. Certainly it would not have been the circle she would like to have been moving in.
“Looking back though I’d say that although I never really liked her I wouldn’t have thought for one minute that she was capable of that.
“If I was standing chatting to Trevor she would have come out and said hello and disappeared inside again. She would have appeared to been shy or introverted. She would never have engaged with you.
“She was a woman who would never really have looked you straight in the face. You’d never have been happy in her company. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable or been at ease with her.”
Derek said he and colleagues never suspected any marital trouble between Trevor and Hazel.
“It was one of those things you questioned after the event.
“He would never had discussed that sort of thing. Pride was a big thing with him. He would never say the wife was giving him a hard time or anything like that.
“I never heard him once speak in derogatory terms about his wife. Never once.
“He was man who never had a bad thing to say about anybody. He would never taken part in idle gossip. He was just a man who kept his counsel, in my opinion. He was a private man in as such that he didn’t discuss things of a personal nature. He would never have gone below the surface.”
Derek went on to recall the moment he heard that Trevor’s body had been found alongside Lesley Howell in a fume filled car in Castlerock on the morning of May 19, 1991.
“I’d been away somewhere, I think it was Donegal. I arrived home and a phone call came to the house and it was my wife talking to a friend and she came off the phone and said “You will never believe what has happened.
“And when she told me I was absolutely devastated. I couldn’t believe it.
“There was nothing up to that point that would have indicated that this was reasonable. I couldn’t grasp it.
“First of all it was even incredulous that he would even consider it [suicide]. I couldn’t believe it and I had to make another phone call to enquire, just to make sure that the facts were right.
“Afterwards, talking to a mutual friend about Trevor, he and I noticed that this pride he had in the house that he had let things go. The lawn wasn’t cut or he hadn’t been out cleaning or sweeping.
“And maybe if we had been closer in that way he maybe would have said something.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back maybe we should have seen something, but we didn’t.”
Derek insists that despite fresh questions over the original police investigation he felt the intention at the time was to be as thorough as possible
“I would say that there was a more intensive investigation than there might have been had it been a civilian case.
“When it all came out I was quite happy [with the verdict] that it was suicide. The betrayal would have hit him to the core and maybe he saw that as the only way out.
It was the perfect murder in that it was planned meticulously and the circumstances were created
“Had Colin Howell jumped off a bridge no one would have known any better.
“He is a very selfish man in that to clear his own conscience he has caused an awful lot of hurt.
“He has destroyed his own family and hurt his wife and children as well as the two Buchanan children who maybe had come to terms that their father had taken his own life.”