Belfast Telegraph

Hazel Stewart a ‘wreck’ as she leaves cell to watch jail show

By Deborah McAleese

Double killer Hazel Stewart left her cell on Monday to attend a play in her prison chapel.

A prison source said the 48-year-old, who is awaiting sentencing for murdering her husband and her ex-lover’s wife, was a “wreckage” when she emerged from her cell in the women’s prison at Hydebank on Monday.

She joined a group of fellow women prisoners to watch a |play by local playwright Dan |Gordon. The Boat Factory, part drama, part documentary, plots out the development of the |shipyard in Belfast, as well as charting the social history of the shipyard workers.

Stewart has barely ventured from her cell since her conviction last week for double murder.

In a bid to help lift her spirits, the devout Christian was encouraged by prison staff to attend |the play.

“That woman [Stewart] was a piece of wreckage from what I saw of her,” a prison source told the Belfast Telegraph.

Earlier in the day a number of male young offenders also housed at Hydebank attended a performance of the play.

Playwright Dan Gordon said: “I do the play for whoever is available to attend in the prison. I do not know who was in attendance on Monday.”

Stewart is due to be sentenced next week for the murder of her husband Trevor Buchanan and mother-of-four Lesley Howell, the wife of her former lover, killer dentist Colin Howell.

Stewart and Howell plotted to murder their spouses in May 1991 by gassing them with carbon monoxide. They then covered the deaths up as joint suicide.

The mother-of-two is due to appear before Belfast Crown Court on Friday when her legal team will make submissions to the judge on her behalf in a bid for a more lenient sentence.

Judge Mr Justice Hart will |listen to arguments from both defence and Crown prosecution barristers before making his |decision next Wednesday on the minimum life sentence term to |be imposed.

Howell is currently serving a 21-year jail term after he pleaded guilty to the murders last year. His sentence was reduced by seven years as credit for admitting the murders.

Stewart denied she murdered her police constable husband and Mrs Howell. She told police during interview however that she was aware of the murder plot.

She also told detectives she had encouraged her husband to take a sedative and that she had destroyed evidence by cutting up and burning the hose used by Howell to gas Mr Buchanan and Mrs Howell.

A jury at her 15 day trial decided that her level of involvement constituted murder.

Following Stewart’s conviction last week the officer in charge of the double murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, left a bouquet of flowers and an RUC crest at Mr Buchanan’s grave on behalf of the murder investigation team. A card attached to the flowers said: “In memory of Trevor, a fellow police officer and innocent victim.”

Mr Murray also left a bunch of flowers on the grave of Mrs Howell.

Background

Set in July 1947, The Boat Factory by Dan Gordon is a part drama, part documentary play that plots the development of the shipyard in Belfast, as well as charting the social history of shipyard workers. It is the story of |16-year-old Davy Gordon — Dan’s father — following his brothers into Harland and Wolff as an apprentice.

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