Belfast Telegraph

Hazel Stewart's battle to keep pension of man she killed on hold over legal aid row

By Alan Erwin

Convicted double killer Hazel Stewart's High Court battle over police pension benefits inherited from her murdered first husband has been put on hold.

Crimefighters are seeking an order for her to repay funds she gained following the death of Trevor Buchanan.

But a trial hearing listed for later this month was vacated yesterday amid ongoing attempts to secure legal aid for the former Sunday School teacher to defend the action.

Stewart (51) is serving a minimum 18-year jail sentence for murdering Constable Buchanan (32) and 31-year-old Lesley Howell, the wife of her ex-lover Colin Howell.

She is also now facing civil proceedings brought by the National Crime Agency. The case is understood to centre on finances which have since been tied up in her family home.

Her second husband, retired police superintendent David Stewart, has been named as a joint respondent.

There is no suggestion whatsoever of any wrongdoing by Mr Stewart.

Although a judge was due to hear the action within weeks, a dispute has emerged over Hazel Stewart's application for legal aid. Checks are carried out on the finances and earnings of anyone applying for funding, and partners they live with.

But the Legal Services Commission was said to have failed to consider her prisoner status.

In court yesterday, barrister Eugene McKenna, for Hazel Stewart, said "substantial progress" has been made but the issue remains unresolved.

"Unfortunately there will have to be a joint application to vacate the trial date," he confirmed.

Mr Justice Treacy agreed to the move on the basis that it was being made by both sides.

He listed the case for a further review next month.

The bid to recover money from Stewart comes as she continues to prepare a second attempt to clear her name.

Her legal team has sent her case to a body which examines potential miscarriages of justice.

They want the Criminal Cases Review Commission to review her case.

BACKGROUND

Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan 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 had taken their own lives. Nearly two decades passed before dentist Colin Howell (55) confessed, implicating Stewart.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph