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Hazel Stewart kept her evil secret but in the small hours is she really not haunted by her own conscience?

By LindyMcDowell

Published 27/04/2016

Hazel Stewart
Hazel Stewart
Colin Howell

It says something about the acting skills of Jimmy Nesbitt that this most genial of men manages to convincingly transform himself into the coldest-hearted of killers for the upcoming TV series, The Secret. The four-part drama tells the story of dentist Colin Howell and his murderous affair with the equally evil Hazel Stewart.

Affable Mr Nesbitt is not what springs to mind when you think of 'Driller Killer'.

For no matter how many times you read or hear about Howell and Hazel and their heartless, calculated slaughter of their respective partners, theirs is a story that continues to chill the heart.

How could they? How could they have carried out such monstrous killings? How could they then live with themselves and with their awful shared secret?

Stewart would have us believe that she was blameless in all this - that she was somehow pressured into it. Her subsequent behaviour would suggest otherwise.

No quivering innocent, Hazel. The woman who coolly tidied up after her husband's murder was and is, icier than a polar plume. The idea of a mother especially, facing day in, day out - without any hint of remorse or guilt - the daughter and son whose father she had helped so mercilessly to dispatch is beyond comprehension.

Tellingly in the end, it was Howell not Hazel who finally cracked and went to the police. Why he did so - who knows?

One suggestion is that financial disaster and the death of his son led to some sort of meltdown. Howell was a supposedly religious man. Did he interpret all this as some sort of judgment? Was his confession about attempting to atone for his crime before what he would see as the inevitable confrontation at the pearly gates?

Many years previously he had also confessed to his American wife Kyle Jorgensen. She too, inexcusably, kept that terrible secret. Again - how could she?

Remorse is not a subject that gets much attention in our world today where everybody has an out-clause when it comes to culpability.

"It wasn't my fault". "I had no choice". "He made me do it".

Even in Northern Ireland remorse isn't something we talk about a lot. Yet the bloody history of this place would suggest there are plenty of people out there (former combatants as we're now encouraged to call them) who hold plenty of black secrets still. Most of us when we look back on our lives and past behaviour will have the odd episode of contrition and shame over something we regret doing or saying. None of us is perfect.

But really, truly heinous crime ... how do you live with that? I'm not talking just about the main players here - the Howells and the Hazels - but about those who keep to themselves what is officially termed "information which may be of use to the police".

How do you live with the knowledge that such information you are holding to yourself could be the key to bringing a killer to justice?

To take just one infamous example - the murder of Lisa Dorrian. It's widely believed that there are people - among them, shamefully women - who still keep the terrible secrets that could unlock that case and provide some solace for Lisa's family. Is it sexist to make the point that it seems worse that women should keep such appalling secrets? I don't think so.

These are women who will have progressed themselves through the natural milestones in their lives that were denied Lisa. Settling down with a partner. The joy of holding their own child in their arms, maybe. The sorrow of watching a beloved mother die.

At such moments you would think - anyone with a heart would think - that the haunting image of that young woman robbed of her future would flit through their mind. The thought of Lisa's mother who died without ever knowing what happened to her beautiful, beloved girl.

There is no outward sign that they are moved in any way. Like consummate actors they play the role of innocents. But when you cover up for killers you are anything but.

Who knows whether in the wee small hours anybody who misguidedly shields murderers is haunted by their own conscience?

You do have to wonder though ...

How could they not be?

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