Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Stewart appeals against conviction

Lawyers for Hazel Stewart have submitted papers applying for leave to appeal against her murder conviction

A former Sunday school teacher jailed for murdering her policeman husband and her ex-lover's wife has launched an appeal bid against her conviction.

Lawyers for Hazel Stewart, 48, submitted papers applying for leave to appeal against a jury's unanimous decision to find her guilty of killing Pc Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell on Northern Ireland's north coast almost 20 years ago.

A judge will consider whether there are sufficient grounds for allowing a full appeal hearing to take place. If the appeal proceeds it is unlikely to be heard before Christmas.

Legal sources indicated that the application for leave was received by the courts. It was submitted just ahead of the four-week deadline subsequent to her sentencing.

Stewart is in Hydebank women's prison in Belfast after being handed an 18-year minimum term following her conviction for plotting with her former lover, dentist Colin Howell, to poison his wife and her husband in May 1991.

The 32-year-old policeman and Mrs Howell, 31, were found in a fume-filled garage in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry.

Police thought they had died in a bizarre suicide pact - triggered by their spouses' infidelity - until 18 years later when lay preacher Howell, apparently wracked by guilt, confessed to elders in his church that he murdered them and stage-managed the scene to look like they had taken their own lives.

He pleaded guilty to the murders last year and is serving 21 years in prison.

The dentist gassed his wife as she slept in their Coleraine home with carbon monoxide fumes piped from his car before dumping her body in the boot of the vehicle and driving the 10-minute journey to the Buchanan home. There he was met by Stewart and went on to kill the sleeping policeman by the same method.

The jurors in Stewart's 15-day trial at Coleraine Crown Court agreed that she knew about the plan in advance and, in the case of her husband, actively facilitated his killing by ensuring he was drugged and allowing Howell into her home. They found her guilty on two counts of murder.

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