Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Murder accused trial faces delay

Hazel Stewart and her ex-lover are accused of murdering their partners nearly 20 years ago

The trial of a dentist and his ex-lover accused of murdering their partners in Northern Ireland nearly 20 years ago has had to be delayed because of a hold-up in obtaining psychiatric reports.

At Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Hart set November 22 as the new hearing date after accusing defence lawyers in the case of "dithering".

The trial of Colin Howell, 51, and Hazel Stewart, 47, had been scheduled to start on November 1, but the court heard that new psychiatric tests had yet to be take place.

Howell is to be examined by Professor Nigel Eastman. Stewart, a mother of two, will be seen by Dr Gill Mezey, another London-based forensic psychiatrist.

Howell has already been examined by two psychiatrists, Dr Philip Joseph and Dr Helen Harbinson, but his lawyer Francis Rafferty told the hearing that Dr Eastman could not proceed with his report until after the dentist was examined again by a prison psychiatrist, Dr Ian Bownes, on October 15.

Neither of the accused appeared for Friday's review hearing. Howell of Glebe Road, Castlerock, Co Londonderry has been in custody since his arrest in January last year. Stewart, of Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, also Co Derry, has been out on bail.

They are charged with the murders of Howell's wife Lesley, 31 and Stewart's first husband, police scenes of crime officer Trevor Buchanan, 32, whose bodies were found in a car filled with exhaust fumes in Castlerock in May 1991.

At the time it was thought they died as a result of some sort of suicide pact, but police reopened the investigation after questioning the dentist.

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