Belfast Telegraph

Hazel Stewart still won't accept guilt

BY ALAN ERWIN

Convicted double killer Hazel Stewart is mounting a second attempt to clear her name.

The former Sunday school teacher's new legal team has sent her case to a body which examines potential miscarriages of justice.

They want the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to refer her conviction for the murder of ex-lover Colin Howell's wife Lesley back to the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, separate efforts are also being made to overturn a verdict that she killed her policeman husband Trevor Buchanan as part of the same plot.

Her lawyers intend to introduce fresh psychiatric and psychological evidence.

They also want to raise disclosure issues connected to another potential witness.

Stewart (50), is serving a minimum 18-year jail sentence for the murders of Constable Buchanan (32) and Lesley Howell (31).

The victims were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Londonderry in May 1991.

Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering their partners were having an affair.

They were in fact murdered before their bodies were arranged to make it look like they took their own lives.

Nearly two decades passed before dentist Howell, who was then 54, suddenly confessed to both killings.

He pleaded guilty to the murders in 2010 and was ordered to serve at least 21 years behind bars.

Howell also implicated his former lover in the plot and gave evidence against her at her trial.

In March 2011 she was unanimously convicted by a Coleraine Crown Court jury of both killings.

Earlier this year the mother-of-two failed in her first attempt to overturn the verdict that she murdered Lesley Howell.

At that stage she did not proceed with a challenge to being found guilty of killing her husband.

The Court of Appeal held there was strong evidence that she was a knowing and willing participant in Howell's plan.

But new lawyers have now formally asked the CCRC to examine her case and form a view on whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

It could take up to two years before the body reaches a decision.

In the meantime Stewart's legal team are also seeking to take her conviction for murdering Constable Buchanan back to the Court of Appeal.

She insists her challenge to that verdict was never abandoned.

Nor was there any acceptance of guilt.

Her lawyer, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, confirmed yesterday: "We intend to introduce fresh expert evidence of a psychiatric and psychological nature.

"The application will also touch upon outstanding disclosure issues and unresolved matters arising from the original Crown Court trial."

Mr Winters added: "This case is somewhat novel and unusual given that it involves applications to both the CCRC and Court of Appeal on two separate murder convictions."

PROFILE

Hazel Stewart (50) is in Hydebank serving an 18-year sentence for the murders of her husband Constable Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell. Lesley was the wife of Hazel's then lover Colin Howell who is also in prison.

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