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Judge hits out at delays in dentist Colin Howell murder trial

Published 09/10/2010

Colin Howell
Colin Howell

A Crown lawyer and legal representatives for dentist Colin Howell and ex-lover Hazel Stewart have been warned by a judge that there can be no further delays to the start of a double murder trial.

It is due to begin on November 22, but the pair, who have been accused of killing their respective partners in May 1991, have still to undergo further psychiatric tests.

Mother-of-two Stewart (47), from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry is to be examined next Wednesday by Dr Gill Mezey, a London-based forensic psychiatrist, her solicitor Stephen Ewing told Belfast Crown Court.

Mr Justice Hart heard that her report should be ready no later than November 8, the same day that Howell (51), from Glebe Road, Castlerock, Co Derry, is to be examined by Prof Nigel Eastman.

The psychiatrist hopes to spend a full day with Howell at Maghaberry jail, said Adrian Harvey, his solicitor. His report should be ready on November 12.

Howell, a father-of-10, has been in custody at the jail since his arrest in January 2009. He has been examined by psychiatrists Dr Philip Joseph and Dr Helen Harbinson whose report, the court heard, runs to more than 50 pages.

Once the new reports are ready, they will be studied by Fred Brown, a psychiatrist, for the Public Prosecution Service. Crown lawyer Neil Connor said there could be some element of delay.

But at yesterday's case review hearing, Judge Hart said he was not prepared to accept any further hold-ups. Howell and Stewart were committed last April.

He said: “This case has already been put back and I do not intend to put it back any further. Everyone will have to work to the timetable the court has set.”

Judge Hart added: “The prosecution know the date of the trial and have to get on with it. The prosecution has to be ready to work inside the timetable.”

The case was scheduled to go before a jury on November 1, but was delayed until additional psychiatric reports were compiled.

The judge, who is to review progress again on November 5, also heard a number of applications would be made in respect of business documents belonging to Howell which the Crown was seeking for evidence in the case.

Howell is also facing indecent assault charges against six women at his dental surgery in Ballymoney on various dates over a 10-year period until the month before his arrest. He has admitted to charges against three of the patients, but denied accusations involving the other three.

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