A jury of nine men and three women has been sworn in for the trial of killer dentist Colin Howell’s ex-lover who is accused of murdering her husband and Howell’s wife 20 years ago.
Hazel Stewart (47) arrived at Coleraine courthouse yesterday morning supported by |her son and daughter from her first marriage to the man she |allegedly killed.
Stewart is charged with murdering her first husband, RUC officer Trevor Buchanan, and Colin Howell’s wife Lesley Howell in May 1991.
Howell has pleaded guilty to the murders and is currently |serving a life sentence. Stewart has pleaded not guilty.
Judge Mr Justice Harte told the jury that Howell was a successful dentist at the time of the murders with practices in Coleraine, Ballymoney and Bangor. He was also involved with a counselling service called Family Spectrum and a charity called Acts of Faith.
The judge said that Howell and his first wife Lesley, a mother-of-four, were members of Coleraine Baptist Church and so were Stewart and Mr Buchanan.
Mr Justice Harte said that some members of the church at the time, including former pastor John Hansford and his wife Elizabeth, will be called to give evidence in the case.
At least 25 witnesses, including church members and friends of Stewart, were called into the small courtroom yesterday to identify themselves to the jury.
Howell (52), who is serving |a life sentence at Maghaberry Prison for double-murder, is also due to be called to testify as a prosecution witness.
Stewart’s trial was due to begin late last year, but was delayed |to allow the defence to study |a “lengthy statement” made to police by Howell.
Yesterday Stewart only spoke to answer “yes” when asked to confirm her name and if she was ready for her trial to begin.
She watched the jury carefully as each member was sworn in. Her second husband, retired police officer David Stewart, appeared to nod reassuringly at her.
Stewart was told that she would be granted continuing bail on the basis that she arrived promptly for her trial each morning.
The bodies of Mr Buchanan and Mrs Howell were discovered in a car in Castlerock in May 1991. It was thought they had died as a result of a suicide pact. Police reopened the case in January 2009 after interviewing Howell.