Belfast Telegraph

Jury was right to convict, says 'Hazel Stewart film' director

By Liam Clarke

The director of a new documentary on double killer Hazel Stewart says the jury was right to convict her of murder.

A Perfect Murder, made by Belfast company DoubleBand will be shown by Channel 4 on Friday.

It looks at the one of Northern Ireland's most notorious murder cases from the viewpoint of Hazel Stewart's current husband David and her daughter Lisa. They firmly believe she is innocent and want her released early from her 18-year sentence.

But after studying the case for months, award-winning film maker Judy Kelly says she believes the jury made the right decision.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "I probably would have reached the same conclusion as the jury."

Stewart was having an affair with Colin Howell, a Coleraine dentist who she met at church, when Howell formed a plan to kill both their spouses.

She denies any prior knowledge of the plot but admits helping him dispose of piping he used to gas her policeman husband.

The murders were taken as suicide until Howell confessed in 2009 and implicated her as an accomplice. He did so after she had broken off a five-year affair with him and married David Stewart, a police officer.

Ms Kelly said: "When I made the documentary I needed to put across some of their reasoning in defence of Hazel Stewart. David seemed like a decent guy and the children seemed nice, so it is hard not to see their point of view."

But she added: "At the same time I found it really hard to marry what they were saying with the facts. I was never able to feel it was a miscarriage of justice but I was beginning to see that it might have been a steep sentence and that maybe Howell was more the driver of it than she was.

"I probably would have reached the same conclusion as the jury but I wonder if I would have imposed the same sentence if I had been the judge. It seems steep." She believes Stewart was not the leading player.

The film provides an intimate and often disturbing insight into the impact the conviction had on the lives of Trevor and Stewart's daughter Lisa McConnell.

Lisa tells how she has lost contact with her father's relatives because of her public support for the woman convicted of his murder.

"It's sad, but our loyalty lies with our mum and that's where it will stay," she says. She wishes that the murder and her mother's involvement had never come out. "I don't believe it has helped one person in the whole family circle or any of the victims," she states.

Background

Earlier this year Hazel Stewart (49) was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Leslie Howell and Trevor Buchanan. Stewart's former lover, Colin Howell, pleaded guilty to the crime last year and is serving a life sentence. In May 1991 the bodies of Mr Buchanan and Mrs Howell were discovered in a fume-filled car in Castlerock. At the time it was considered to be a double suicide. The truth emerged in January 2009 when Howell confessed to killing his wife and Stewart's husband

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