Belfast Telegraph

No action over silence on murders

The ex-wife of dentist Colin Howell who told police she kept his double murder secret for over a decade is not to be prosecuted.

Kyle Jorgensen, 47, an American, was told by her husband how he gassed his first wife Lesley and his then lover's policeman husband before persuading her not to inform the authorities for the sake of their children's future.

She has been under police investigation since Howell's arrest in January 2009.

He first admitted the 1991 murders to her at the couple's home outside Castlerock, Co Derry, in the summer of 1998. He was on the verge of handing himself over to the police, but they eventually agreed to stay quiet.

It was Ms Jorgensen however who eventually forced him to confess everything to detectives after Howell was swindled out of all his money, including the family's life savings.

The Public Prosecution Service in Belfast confirmed today she would be facing no charges.

A spokesperson said: "The decision was taken not to prosecute in this case because there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction."

She returned to Florida with their five children and filed for divorce when Howell was jailed for 21 years for murdering Lesley and Constable Trevor Buchanan in May 1991 when he staged managed the deaths to make it look like a suicide pact.

Hazel Stewart, 51, his lover at the time, was jailed for a minimum 18 years for her part in the deaths and the role in covering them up. She has already failed in a High Court bid to appeal against her conviction for the murder of Mrs Howell, but is planning a fresh legal move in an attempt to clear her name.

A new legal team, headed up by the Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters, has asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to examine the case and form a view on whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

Ms Jorgensen was interviewed by detectives at her home as well as in Derry and Limavady in the days following the arrests of her husband and Stewart who was detained at the home she shared with her second husband, David Stewart, a retired RUC chief superintendent.

It was then that Ms Jorgensen admitted Howell had told her in August or September, 1998 what he had done. She was feeding their first child Erik in the lounge of their house outside Castlerock. Howell's four children to Lesley, 31, and her two from a failed marriage in Colorado were out with friends at the time.

They had just finished dinner and Howell told her there was something he wanted to say.

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 as part of an planned cover-up.

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 had come to live in Portstewart and study Irish at the University of Ulster. She met Howell in December 1996 - not long after Stewart ended her relationship with the dentist - and married him in May the following year.

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

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

She told one church friend, who was clearly unaware Howell had murdered: "What if Colin has 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, needs to be organised. 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, as well as 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 set aside 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 really good dad. He was a good husband, but he wasn't obviously. He would talk constantly about his business going under, to the point where it really upset me. I thought: 'You haven't asked me once how I'm doing. He never asked. He never once said: 'How are you. I'm so sorry.' It was all about his business and things falling apart, much more so than the marital end. He was worried about bankruptcy. Do we get a second mortgage on the house? Do I have to sign papers?

"I went to see a lawyer. He (Howell) wanted me to sign a couple of Isas over to him. Usually I would just sign, but this time I said: 'No' You could talk to him and he would not look you in the eye, and be like: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah'. He'd be biting his nails......he thought about talking his life; just ending it all now."

Ms Jorgensen added: "We were always begging him at different times to get to the bottom of it. I felt like I was getting a punch in the gut....I knew I was the one who was beginning to make decisions....It's like seeing a completely different person in the same skin."

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph