Belfast Telegraph

Double killer Howell makes Bible for the blind

By Joanne Sweeney

One of Northern Ireland's most notorious killers has been spending his time behind bars translating the Bible so it can be read by the blind.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Colin Howell has been employed for three hours every day in Maghaberry Prison creating a special Braille version of the Bible which has been donated to a local church.

For Howell, who is serving a life sentence, it is a long way from his days as a highly paid dentist.

The case of Colin Howell and his lover Hazel Stewart horrified people across the province. Howell pleaded guilty to killing his wife Lesley and Stewart's husband Trevor Buchanan in November 2010, while Stewart was later convicted of both murders.

Howell admitted that he gassed his wife in their marital home before travelling to the Buchanan home where he gassed his lover's husband while he slept before putting their bodies into a car in his late father-in-law's garage to make it look like a suicide pact.

The Belfast Telegraph travelled to Maghaberry Prison to visit Howell and a number of other life-sentence prisoners who have been working on the Braille Bible. It is the first time such a project has been undertaken in Northern Ireland.

It was also revealed that the inmates may soon be providing books in Braille for blind and visually impaired children in Malawi.

The Bible translation – all 66 separate bound copies containing all the New and Old Testament books – were yesterday presented to a group from Maghaberry Elim Pentecostal Church.

The Braille Unit's members – half of whom have been fully trained in reading the written language for blind and partially sighted people – work for more than three hours each day, either typing the words or binding books.

Regarded as a desirable job in the Maghaberry prison system for its transferable skills achieved, the unit also prepares Braille music scores, school textbooks in German, French and maths, and novels for private customers.

Looking fit and healthy, well-groomed and casually dressed, Howell seemed proud of the Braille Unit's achievements.

The father-of-10 had been a lay preacher and member of a Baptist church before he and his co-accused Hazel Stewart conspired to kill their respective spouses.

It took the unit eight months of work to produce the Braille bibles.

For congregation member David Cunningham, who accepted the books on behalf of the church along with church Pastor Brian Madden, this will be his first time to 'read' the Bible.

"These books mean that I can now feel like any other member of the congregation as I could only ever listen to audio Bible recordings. I should be able to do a reading in church now as well."

His pastor praised the team-work and dedication of the inmates involved in the production of the books and thanked them for their "incredible skills".

"This is a good news story coming from the prison for once and this work is a real credit to the guys," said Pastor Madden.

"I think we all feel very blessed," he said after the Bible was presented to the church by Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister.

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