Warning over delay at murder trial
A Crown lawyer and legal representatives for dentist Colin Howell and his ex-lover Hazel Stewart have been warned by a judge that there could be no further delays to the start of their 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 Londonderry is to be examined by Professor Nigel Eastman.
The psychiatrist, also from London, is planning to spend a full day with the dentist at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, according Adrian Harvey, Howell's 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 last year. He has already 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, acting on behalf of the Public Prosecution Service. Crown lawyer Neil Connor said there could be some element of delay. But at Friday;s case review hearing, Judge Hart said he was not prepared to accept any further hold-ups. Howell and Stewart were committed last April.
Howell and Stewart have been accused of murdering the dentist's wife Lesley, 31, an ex-nurse and Stewart's first husband, RUC scenes-of-crime officer Trevor Buchanan, 32, whose bodies were found in a car filled with exhaust fumes in Castlerock around lunchtime on Sunday May 19 1991. At first police treated the deaths as some sort of suicide pact, but then launched a murder inquiry in January 2009 after questioning Howell and Stewart.
The bodies were discovered in a garage by members of Coleraine Baptist Church in a garage behind a row of houses known as The Apostles, Castlerock where Mrs Howell's father, retired businessman Harry Clarke had lived at number six. He collapsed and died at Howell's then home at Knocklayde Park, Coleraine, just days earlier. The dentist was also questioned by detectives about his death.
Howell is also facing indecent assault charges against six women at his dental implant surgery in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, 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.