Dentist 'may have admitted murders'
A dentist in Northern Ireland has revealed he would have owned up to the murders of his wife and his former lover's husband if police had challenged him when the bodies were discovered 20 years ago.
Colin Howell feared he was going to be found out because of a two-and-a-half-hour time lapse between gassing each of his victims with carbon monoxide fumes in their homes. He then drove off with the bodies in the boot of his car and stage-managed the deaths to make them look like suicide - and also fool detectives.
No suspicions were raised by the police after the bodies of Howell's wife Lesley and Trevor Buchanan were discovered in a car in a garage at Castlerock, Co Londonderry, in May 1991.
Howell, who is serving 21 years in Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, after pleading guilty to the murders, said: "Had I been confronted by police about this, I do believe that I may well have confessed to the murders at the time. If I had thought or been given any indication that the police suspected me I may have admitted the murders then. As it was, I wasn't pressed by them, and as time went by I got myself more and more together."
Howell made his claims in a statement to investigators from Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson's office. They were called in to probe the failures of the first police inquiry which allowed the dentist and his lover Hazel Stewart to get away with murder for 18 years.
Howell, 52, gassed his wife as she slept at his home in Coleraine before driving to the opposite side of town with her body in the boot to murder Mr Buchanan in the same way - hosing the fumes from his car as he slept in bed. The young policeman fought for his life, leaving Howell with a bump on his head for three of four days - but he was never asked by police how he got it.
Howell, who studied anatomy for a year as part of his studies at Queen's University, Belfast, left Mrs Howell, 31, a mother of four, in the boot of the car, lying beside family photographs and wearing earphones linked to a cassette. Howell inserted her favourite tape before fleeing the scene and cycling home.
Howell told the Ombudsman's investigators he was never fingerprinted and his home was never forensically examined. He was never questioned about why he asked church friends to check out a house at The Apostles behind which the bodies were discovered by two members of Coleraine Baptist Church, one of them an off-duty detective, David Green.
He was never questioned over claims allegedly reported by a couple of fellow church-goers that he tried to electrocute his wife as she was having a bath. He said he was never questioned about his money problems at the time, or claims he was administering drugs to Mrs Howell.
He confessed 12 years ago to the murders to his second wife, Lyle, an American divorcee who came to Northern Ireland to study Irish history and whom he met after his relationship with Mrs Stewart ended. She had two children from her first marriage and she went on to have another five with Howell, four boys and a girl. Months after Howell was charged she returned with the children to the United States and is now living in Florida.