A dental expert is preparing a report on the administration of medication as part of the police investigation into Dr Colin Howell, the dentist accused of drugging and indecently assaulting four of his women patients, a court has heard.
A preliminary inquiry in the case against him and his ex-lover Hazel Stewart who are both charged with murdering their partners in May 1991 is also expected to go ahead on March 1, North Antrim Magistrates Court was told.
Howell (50), from Glebe Road, Castlerock, Co Derry, has been charged with drugging and indecently assaulting the four women at his clinic in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, on separate occasions over a 10-year period going back to 1998.
A crown lawyer told district judge Richard Wilson at a hearing in Coleraine yesterday that further progress had been made.
She added: “We have requested a report from a dental expert regarding medication administration.”
Howell spoke just once to confirm his name when he appeared via video link from Maghaberry Prison where he had been held since his arrest by detectives almost a year ago.
He and mother of two Stewart (46), from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, are accused of murdering Howell's wife Lesley and Stewart's husband Trevor Buchanan, an RUC scenes of crime officer, whose bodies were found in a car filled with exhaust fumes at a garage behind a row of houses in Castlerock known as The Apostles.
At the time their deaths were believed suicides, but police re-opened the inquiry at the end of January 2009 after Howell made a statement to investigating officers.
Stewart — she later remarried former police Chief Superintendent David Stewart — has been on bail since her arrest and yesterday made another brief appearance in the courtroom — standing by her husband with her back to relatives of Constable Buchanan sitting in the public gallery.
She didn't speak and left with her husband and some relatives immediately after it was confirmed by the Crown that a date for the preliminary inquiry had been fixed for March 1.
This will be a hearing where a district judge will decide if Howell and Stewart have a case to answer. Any trial in front of a judge and jury is likely to take place some time next Autumn.