TRIAL: Stewart weeps abput ‘telling lies’

HAZEL Stewart wept as detectives accused her of changing her story about the murders of her policeman husband and her lover’s wife, her trial in Coleraine Crown Court has heard.

The mother of two sobbed as a senior officer claimed she was backtracking and adding things to her account in a bid to mask her alleged involvement in the May 1991 killings of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell.

On the tenth day of her trial police tapes of interviews with Stewart two years ago were played to the jury.

During the 11th of 15 tapes, Detective Sergeant Geoff Ferris put it to Stewart that she was lying to police.

In her first interview two days earlier, she had appeared to indicate she felt something was going to happen to her husband when Howell phoned in the middle of the night.

But she went on to deny that in later recordings, claiming she thought the dentist was just calling round to see her.

“Why would you say that in one interview and then basically turn it round full circle?” Mr Ferris challenged.

Stewart said she had not remembered what she said in the first interview.

The detective replied: “It’s difficult to remember when you’re telling untruths Hazel.”

He accused her of trying to twist the truth.

The former Sunday School teacher could then be heard crying on the tapes.

“I’m not here to twist it,” she insisted.

Det Sergt Ferris then put it to Stewart that when Howell called her it was to confirm that their joint plan to murder had begun and that he had already killed his wife.

“In the first tape your comments suggested you knew something was happening,” he said.

“We put to it you that the plan was up and running (when she got the call) that Lesley had been killed and Colin was on his way to murder Trevor.”

Stewart again denied the claim: “No,” she said repeatedly.

The 47-year-old mother of two denies being part of a joint enterprise to murder Mrs Howell, 31, and Pc Buchanan, 32. Her former lover

With her second husband David Stewart and her two children Andrew and Lisa sitting yards away in the public gallery, Stewart, wearing a blue and white shirt and her trademark plum coat, sat in the dock with reading glasses on. She stared at transcripts of her interviews as they were played to a packed, yet hushed, courtroom.

On the other side of the dock two of Howell’s children, Lauren and Daniel, sat close to relatives of Pc Buchanan.

In the seventh interview played to the court, Det Sergt Ferris said Howell’s actions on the night made no sense if she was not part of his plan.

The officer asked Stewart why her lover would come round, with the body of his wife in the boot, knowing that a policeman who had a gun was in the house.

He said: “It doesn’t make sense that somebody arrives up with somebody they’ve just murdered in the boot of a car and starts making, doing things in relation to a hose pipe, knowing in normal circumstances a person could just walk out of a room and say ‘what do you think’s going on here?’, and I’m sure Trevor was no wimp of a man that couldn’t have stood up for himself.”

The detective said if that happened, surely there was a chance Howell would have got his “head blown off”.

During that interview, he also challenged Stewart as to why she did not mention that her husband had ingested a sedative when asked if there was any reason why he would not have been able to get up.

“Why did you not tell us about Trevor taking a tablet in an earlier interview?” he asked.

Stewart denied the question was asked to her directly.

He then put an allegation to her: “Did you give Trevor any drug, tablet or whatever that evening?”

She said her husband had taken a sleeping tablet, but insisted he took it himself.

At another juncture, the officer urged Stewart not to lie to authorities, with a stark reminder of the offences she was being questioned for.

“What I’m saying to you Hazel is it’s a serious matter, you’re not in here for stealing a cheque out of work,” he said.

“Or a burglary or a theft, a shoplifting case, you’re in here for the most serious of offences under the law in this country, okay? And it ain’t going to go away.”

Stewart said she thought about killing herself before police came to arrest and question her about the killings.

The jury of nine men and three women heard a recording of a police interview with Stewart in which she disclosed she wanted to kill herself because of guilt over the deaths.

She also told investigating police officers that she never planned to have a new life with Howell, 51, even though he wanted to marry her.