Belfast Telegraph

Kyle Jorgensen kept Colin Howell's dark secret for 10 years... but cracked when he admitted affair

by deric henderson

Kyle Jorgensen kept her murderous husband's terrible secret from the world for more than a decade.

Colin Howell told the glamorous American of his double killing in 1998, at a time when he was on the verge of handing himself over to the police.

He revealed how he had gassed his first wife Lesley and his then lover's policeman husband, and made it look like a suicide pact.

But the Castlerock, Co Londonderry, couple eventually agreed to stay quiet – for the sake of their five children. In 2009, however, Ms Jorgensen had a change of heart after Howell admitted to an affair and that he had been swindled out of all his money and she forced him to confess to detectives.

She returned to Florida with their children and filed for divorce when Howell was jailed for 21 years for murdering Lesley and Constable Trevor Buchanan in May 1991.

Hazel Stewart (51), his lover at the time, was jailed for a minimum 18 years for her role in the deaths and cover-up. In the days after the killer couple's arrests, Ms Jorgensen told detectives Howell had confessed to her in the lounge of their house outside Castlerock.

After dinner, he revealed how he used a garden hose, connected to the exhaust of his Renault car, to gas Lesley with carbon monoxide fumes as she slept at their home in Coleraine. He then drove across the town to murder Mr Buchanan (32) by the same method while Hazel waited outside the couple's bedroom before burning the hose.

Howell then placed the two bodies in the boot, drove to Castlerock and left them in a garage with the engine still running to fool investigating police into believing the pair had taken their own lives.

Howell begged Ms Jorgensen not to say a word to anyone. She claimed he told her: "Just take a deep breath, take a deep breath. It's waited seven years. You can wait one more day. We need to sort the children."

Ms Jorgensen told police how she contacted her family in America and spoke with friends in the Barn Christian Fellowship, the church outside Ballymoney, Co Antrim which they belonged to.

She met Howell in December 1996 and married him in May 1997.

It was August or September 1998 when admitting to having an affair with another woman, he first confessed to the murders.

Even though she was distressed she did not disclose exactly what her husband had admitted.

She asked one church friend, who was clearly unaware Howell had murdered, for advice about what to do if Howell had "done something".

The man replied dismissively: "I don't want to hear it. It's before the cross... you shouldn't tell on other people before that time in their life.'

"I think he was just being very gracious to the situation and probably not realising... He meant that all the sin you have before you came to the Lord. You don't need to revisit that. You're forgiven."

Ms Jorgensen told police: "I was so freaked out and scared. I felt trapped. I was here alone in Ireland. Everybody was telling me: 'It's before the cross.' He told me to be patient. It was seven years and he needs to take care of the children. I was just shaking. I was so scared that night and he said: 'No. You just calm down. just calm down. It's important that I look after the children'.

"He left for work the next day, and that's when I started making phone calls and trying to find out.. I didn't even know what to do."

Almost 12 years later however it was Ms Jorgensen who called in the church elders, and then asked for the police after he admitted renewing an affair following the tragic death of his eldest son Matthew.

He had also confessed to abusing women patients while they were heavily sedated at his clinic in Ballymoney, and losing £350,000 – money he invested in a madcap scheme to find hidden gold in the Philippines, and which included savings for the children's education.

Ms Jorgensen ordered him out of their home before Christmas 2008 and then confronted him in the kitchen in January the following year after he returned from leaving the children at school.

Cradling their youngest child and weeping, she told him: "The truth will set you free. There's grace.There is grace. The Lord is giving you another chance. If you love your life, you won't lose it.

Howell sat in silence for a time and then insisted: "I can't, I can't..."

It was then that she telephoned the church elders to come to the house at Glebe Road in the hills above Castlerock. One of them took notes as Howell, who had just cancelled his appointments for the next two days, eventually told them what he had done all those years ago.

Ms Jorgensen, who was born in New York, told the police: "He was a good husband, but he wasn't obviously. He would talk constantly about his business going under. I thought: 'You haven't asked me once how I'm doing'."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph