Belfast Telegraph

Stewart jury told to keep open mind

A jury which will decide whether a former Sunday school teacher is guilty of a double murder must keep an open mind, a judge has said.

Defence barrister Paul Ramsey QC warned against a miscarriage of justice as the trial of Hazel Stewart, 48, accused of killing her husband and her lover's wife, drew to an end.

The jury of nine men and three women at Coleraine Crown Court are due to consider their verdict on Wednesday.

Mr Justice Anthony Hart said: "Don't arrive with your minds made up already. I am sure you won't do that."

Prosecutors have insisted the killings of the pair was a joint enterprise executed by dentist Colin Howell and Stewart to rid themselves of their respective partners for them to be together.

The judge stressed that the legal definition of a joint enterprise between Stewart and Howell did not mean that Stewart had to commit the murders, only that she was part of the plan to carry them out.

Stewart, from Ballystrone Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, who has denied the two murders, sat impassively in the dock.

Her husband, Pc Trevor Buchanan, 32, and Lesley Howell, 31, the wife of her lover, were found dead in a car filled with carbon monoxide fumes in a garage behind a row of houses known as the Twelve Apostles in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry, in May 1991.

At first, police thought they had died in some sort of suicide pact because of the distress over their spouses' affair.

It was only when Howell, 51, first confessed to his church elders and then police in January 2009 that he had murdered them that Stewart was arrested by investigating detectives.

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