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Double murder trial to go ahead


Hazel Stewart

Hazel Stewart

Hazel Stewart

The double murder trial of dentist Colin Howell and his ex-lover Hazel Stewart will go ahead as planned later this month, a judge revealed.

The pair, who deny killing their respective partners in May 1991, will stand trial after a hold up in the submission of their psychiatric reports delayed proceedings.

Even though psychiatric reports arranged by defence lawyers are still to be completed, Mr Justice Hart said a jury will be sworn in at Coleraine on November 22.

Howell, 51, will undergo a new examination by Professor Nigel Eastman, a review hearing at Belfast Crown Court heard. Stewart, 47, meanwhile, was tested by another London-based psychiatrist, Dr Gill Mezey, on October 13, and Mr Justice Hart revealed that Stewart's legal team would have to submit the report by Wednesday.

After hearing Crown claims that the tight schedule might become even tighter, Mr Justice Hart warned he had no intention of putting it back further as he believes there had been enough time for the defence to resolve the outstanding issues.

He said: "The court will not simply allow the defence to dictate progress in the case because of difficulties created by professional witnesses."

The bodies of Lesley Howell, 31, and Stewart's first husband, Constable Trevor Buchanan, 32, were discovered in a car filled with exhaust fumes in a garage behind a rows of houses in Castlerock known as The Apostles, where Mrs Howell's father lived.

Howell, who has been in custody at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, since his arrest in January 2009, has already been examined by a number of other psychiatrists.

When police first investigated the deaths of Mr Buchanan and Mrs Howell, they believed they died as a result of some sort of suicide pact. But they launched a murder inquiry after interviewing Howell in Coleraine in January last year.

Neither defendants appeared in court, but Mr Buchanan's two sisters and three of his brothers sat in the public gallery.