Court rejects double killer appeal
Published 21/01/2013 | 03:12
A former Sunday school teacher's bid to overturn her convictions for murdering her policeman husband and the wife of her ex-lover has ended in failure.
Hazel Stewart's appeal against her guilty verdict for the murder of nurse Lesley Howell was refused by the Court of Appeal in Belfast only hours after her legal team publicly revealed she was dropping her challenge in respect of Constable Trevor Buchanan's death.
The mother-of-two showed no emotion as she watched on inside the packed courtroom as Lord Justice Malachy Higgins - sitting with two other judges - dismissed the appeal over Mrs Howell's killing, insisting: "There is no reason to doubt the safety of this conviction."
The 49-year-old one-time playgroup assistant from Coleraine, Co Londonderry was found guilty of both crimes at a high-profile trial in the town two years ago.
Mrs Howell's husband Colin Howell, a once respected dentist and lay preacher with whom Stewart had been having an affair, had already pleaded guilty to the May 1991 murders.
The lovers plotted together to kill their respective spouses and cover it up as a bizarre suicide pact.
They had escaped justice for two decades until Howell, apparently wracked by guilt, confessed to elders in his church.
Constable Buchanan, 32, and Mrs Howell, a 31-year-old award-winning nurse and mother of four, were found dead in a car filled with carbon monoxide fumes in a garage behind a row of houses known as the Twelve Apostles in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Londonderry.
Howell and Stewart resumed their affair weeks after the deaths, only to split up acrimoniously five years later.
Stewart's lawyers had originally sought to challenge both convictions but at the outset of the latest hearing her barrister Jim Gallagher QC informed the three judges that she was no longer contesting the guilty verdict over her husband's murder.