Convicted double killer Hazel Stewart's first appeal on murder verdict abandoned
Convicted double killer Hazel Stewart's first bid to overturn a verdict that she murdered her policeman husband was formally abandoned, her new lawyers accepted yesterday.
Senior judges have now directed her previous legal team to supply information on any advice they gave her on the halting of that appeal.
Stewart (51) is serving a minimum 18-year sentence for the killings of Trevor Buchanan (32) and Lesley Howell (31), the wife of her ex-lover Colin Howell. But she is now pressing ahead with a second attempt to clear her name.
In January 2013 the Court of Appeal rejected her first challenge to being convicted of Lesley Howell's murder.
At the start of that hearing it was announced that she would not be proceeding with the appeal against being found guilty of killing Constable Buchanan.
She claims, however, this was only done on the understanding that she could resurrect her case.
Both Stewart and her second husband have filed court affidavits setting out their understanding of the circumstances.
Appeal judges had ordered transcripts from the hearing in a bid to establish for certain if one of her appeals was abandoned.
Defence barrister Eugene McKenna confirmed yesterday that correspondence at the time suggested that challenge was not being pursued. "The parties are agreed it's an indication of abandonment without qualification," he told the Court of Appeal. "I think the next step is to make inquiries of the previous legal team to establish what advice was given about the affect of the abandonment."
Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, said the decision appeared to have been taken for tactical reasons. He said the onus was now on Stewart.
Agreeing with that assessment, Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Mr Justice Treacy, told Mr McKenna: "I think the ball is in your court." The judges directed that within four weeks Stewart's previous senior counsel and solicitor are to submit affidavits dealing with points raised by her and her husband.