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Howell and Stewart: Tale of passion, betrayal and murder that transfixed us all

Published 20/04/2016

Colin Howell
Colin Howell
Hazel Stewart

James Nesbitt will feature in the dramatisation of a double murder that has enthralled the entire country since it came to light.

He will play killer dentist Colin Howell who along with his lover, Sunday school teacher Hazel Stewart (then Buchanan), killed his own wife Lesley (31) and Stewart's policeman husband Trevor Buchanan (32), by gassing them with exhaust fumes in 1991.

The pair then set up a scene to convince police their two spouses were having an affair and died in a suicide pact.

They were found in a fume-filled car with the engine running in the scenic Co Antrim village of Castlerock with police fooled by the scene until Howell walked into a police station and confessed in 2010 - 19 years after the murders were committed.

This was despite the affair between the pair being common knowledge in their church, with both confessing and pledging to end it and being given counselling.

Hazel even went off to London for a secret abortion after becoming pregnant by Howell. He was described as narcissistic, arrogant and determined, but it was his two great vices that eventually proved to be his undoing - sex and greed.

He only owned up to his crimes to his church and then the police after he lost every penny when he had all his savings plundered on a hare-brained venture to find gold in the Philippines.

Farmer's daughter Hazel went on to marry another policeman, retired chief inspector Dave Stewart, after dumping yet another lover in the wake of ending her affair with Howell.

Described as "high maintenance", she is said to have favoured Louis Vuitton bags and high fashion.

Both killers are now serving life sentences, with father of 10 Howell also convicted of a series of sexual assaults on women he drugged in his dentist's chair. He is serving a minimum of 21 years, with Hazel sentenced to 18 years.

Howell's American wife Kyle Jorgensen left him to his fate once he confessed and took their children to the US, wanting nothing more to do with him.

The case transfixed Northern Ireland and made headlines around the world with its ingredients of passion, religious fervour, betrayal and ultimately cold-blooded murder of two people Stewart and Howell saw as obstacles to their own happiness.

Nesbitt's portrayal of the notorious 'driller killer' is hotly anticipated by audiences given his previous acclaimed dramatic roles in programmes such as Bloody Sunday, thriller The Missing and Troubles-related film Five Minutes of Heaven.

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