Colin Howell: 'A charming, controlled psychopath'
Published 02/03/2011 | 14:50
It was a crime like no other. It was perfect - well, almost. He fooled the police, his family and Baptist Church friends, and but for his guilty conscience he would have got away with it.
Colin Howell the fantasist. Colin Howell the sociopath. Colin Howell who could manipulate, deceive and control.
He took risks, but only if they were calculated, he claimed. He was delusional.
Maybe he was a charming, controlled psychopath, as described by a man who got to know the dark side of Howell long before he held the Bible in his right hand, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a theatrical and unforgettable appearance in the witness box at Coleraine Crown Court.
Howell suffered from a personality disorder and there might have been evidence of some mental disturbance after his dramatic confession of murder, first to his church elders and then the police. Bad, but not mad, was how the psychiatrists assessed him.
He was narcissistic, he was arrogant and determined, but it was two great vices that eventually proved to be his undoing - sex and greed.
Howell lost everything - his business, his wife and children.
He was so broke by the time his world fell apart that staff at his dental surgery in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, found an IOU note belonging to him in the petty cash box.
He lost every penny he possessed when he had his wallet emptied on a venture to find gold in the Philippines.
He was warned not to get involved but it was typical Howell - blustering on, listening to no one.
He had enough set aside to keep him and his extended family reasonably comfortable for the rest of his days, but if this project came off he believed he could be in line to make as much as £8 million.
It was, of course, an obvious scam in which only idiots and mugs got involved, but the man in Manila who set it up relieved him of £353,000, some of which Howell had provisionally set aside to pay off two large tax bills.
So much for the born-again evangelist who preached the word of God, mainly on the north Antrim coast, and who travelled widely doing what he believed was the Lord's work, giving his time and finances by donating money to build orphanages and carry out free dental work among the poor and destitute in India and Romania.
Howell was a man with a mission in life. He was reared in a God-fearing family, the only one of five children to go through university, who once dreamed of becoming an overseas missionary.
He was a self-made man going places, and while he might not have been the great dentist he claimed to be - according to colleagues who sometimes despaired at his overbearing attitude - then at least he was going in the right direction, or so he thought.
He played golf, five-a-side soccer and squash. He cycled. He jogged. He was highly competitive and always wanted to win, no matter the challenge. He played guitar and supported Manchester United.
But Howell was always a tormented and restless soul, probably because, however hard he tried, he failed to block out the memory of that terrible night all those years before.
Weeks after he murdered his wife Lesley and Trevor Buchanan, his son Daniel wept loudly when he pointed towards a framed photograph of his mother on the wall of their home at Knocklayde Park, Coleraine.
The tears and the anguish of the two-year-old affected him deeply.