TRIAL: Would have told truth

HAZEL Stewart admitted that she would have told the truth about the deaths of her husband Trevor and wife of her former lover had she been pushed to do so.

On day nine of the trial at Coleraine Crown Court, the mother of two from Coleraine listened from the dock as the jury heard her police interviews, taken 18 years after the murders of her former husband, Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell.

After the 1991 murders Stewart told interviewing officers that Howell had instructed her what to say to police and others when asked about her husband’s death.

She told police that “if someone had pushed me I would’ve told the truth.”

During the first interview conducted at Coleraine PSNI station on January 29, 2009, Stewart said that Howell had told her about his plan to kill their partners and she was ‘shocked’.

“I didn’t want to see anything,” she told police. “He said this is what he was going to do. I didn’t think he would carry it out.

Stewart admitted during interview that she maybe should have done something to stop Howell, but added “I was scared for the children.”

Later in the interviews, Stewart said: “He was adamant that that’s what he wanted. I was scared if I say something against this he will kill me...I said nothing. I felt at times this isn’t right.

“He would always have brought it up. It was what he wanted, he wouldn’t divorce Lesley.”

Stewart claimed during her interviews that she felt controlled by Howell.

“You have to understand that person, unless you know him, he has a grip on you, psychologically and mentally. He can work his way, he is very good at it.”

She told officers during interview that she couldn’t recall Howell’s exact words on the night of the murders when he arrived at her home. “He had to move quickly. I was scared, I didn’t see her [Lesley] and didn’t want to, I couldn’t cope.”

When asked by officers what was happening in the bedroom her husband was sleeping in, Stewart said she had “no idea”. But she remembered looking out from the bedroom she was in, to the hallway, where she saw her husband lying on the hall floor: “ I didn’t want to see it. It was hard seeing Trevor lying there,” she admitted. “I was so scared the children would come out of the rooms”

Stewart said that she was told by Howell to cut up the pipe he used to connect to his car exhaust and burn it. ”I lied to protect my children and myself. I was scared of him.

“A lot of people tried to warn me off him [Colin], maybe I didn’t see that, I saw a charming side.

When asked about the funeral of her husband during the interviews, Stewart admitted that she had to ‘act shocked’. She said she was living a lie and could get out of it

“To live with something like this is desperate. Everyday you just want your life to end.”

She said that her children Andrew and Lisa and current husband, David Stewart didn’t know what had happened, “For every day to live like that, the joy of life had left me.”

Stewart said that after Trevor’s murder she didn’t want to marry again to bring her problems on to someone else.

She said that she never gave David Stewart ‘an opening’ to ask anything about Trevor Buchanan. “I had to control it, it eats you,” she told officers.

Court heard that Stewart admitted that until the police interviews, she had told no one, except for her husband, David about having an abortion during her adulterous relationship with Howell.

The jury heard that the procedure, carried out during a trip to Ealing in London. had been organised by Howell, and that Stewart wasn’t sure who the father of the baby was.

She told police: “I had nothing to do with it. I left a note on the bathroom cabinet. Colin picked me up, he had it organised. I didn’t know where I was going.”

She went to say that she was scared in case the baby was Howell’s: “he would have said it wasn’t Trevor’s and it would have caused a whole hoo-ha.”

Stewart said that Howell was annoyed that she was allowed back into Coleraine Baptist Church after their relationship had ended and he wasn’t.

When asked about her involvement with the church at the time of the interviews, Stewart said that she and her husband, David were attending Portstewart Baptist Church, but were not members.

She told how they attended a home group on a Wednesday night, and when asked if she was a practicing Christian, she replied: “Yes, I’m a born again Christian.”

Speaking about the eventual break of the relationship with Howell, Stewart admitted that it was she who ended things and that she couldn’t see herself with him.

She said that she saw her relationship with a new boyfriend, Trevor McAuley as a way out, but said that she didn’t feel anything for him.

Earlier, Crown barrister, Ciaran Murphy, read an agreed statement of fact surrounding how Stewart had benefited financially from Trevor’s murder.

He said she had received police payments, a Police widows Pension, a Friends Provident endowment policy totalling £129,329.85.

Court had heard she had been receiving payments up to 2007.