Police investigating the double murder of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell in Castlerock almost 20 years ago are now probing the sudden death of a young Carrickfergus woman, it has been revealed.
The body of mum-of-two Alexandra Hickman-Smith (27) was found at her caravan in Castlerock last November, but at the time her death was not treated as suspicious.
She owned a caravan at the same site where top dentist Colin Howell had been staying after leaving his luxury home in the seaside town last year.
Along with co-accused Hazel Stewart, Mr Howell has been charged with the murder of his former wife Lesley and Mrs Stewart’s former husband Trevor.
Mr Buchanan (32) and Mrs Howell (31) were found dead in a car in a garage in Castlerock in 1991 in what was believed at the time to have been a suicide pact.
Last month their spouses Mrs Stewart and Mr Howell — who were having an affair at the time — were charged with their murders.
Ms Hickman-Smith's family were initially told she had died from diabetes.
However, it has emerged that they were informed by police last week that her death was being re-examined as part of the ongoing investigation into the deaths of Mrs Howell and Mr Buchanan.
Ms Hickman-Smith’s father told the Sunday Life newspaper that he was shocked that police would be probing his daughter’s death.
“We are just hoping and praying police don’t tell us down the line my daughter’s death was caused by foul play,” said Norman McGookin. “If we were told that it would be just awful.”
A police spokesman confirmed that Ms Hickman-Smith’s death was being re-investigated by murder squad detectives.
“The police investigation in this case is focused on the murders of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell,” he said.
“But a number of lines of inquiry are being conducted into a range of other issues and events.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further on the inquiries at this time.
“Police have a duty to ensure, in the interests of justice and completeness, every potential line of inquiry is examined.”
Ms Hickman-Smith’s death is the fourth case to be re-opened after it recently emerged police were investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Colin Howell’s father-in-law Henry Clarke.
The retired company director died from what is believed to have been a heart attack less than two weeks before his daughter and Mr Buchanan’s bodies were discovered in a car in a fume-filled garage at the rear of a Castlerock holiday home which he owned.
Howell has also been charged with drugging and indecently assaulting women, and detectives are planning to write to more than 200 of his former patients asking if they can assist with the investigation.