Failing to prosecute Colin Howell's ex-wife Kyle Jorgensen will set a precedent for withholding information cases: MLA
The decision not to prosecute the estranged wife of killer dentist Colin Howell who kept his double murder secret for more than 10 years has been branded "surprising and concerning" by MLA Jim Allister.
His comments come as the Public Prosecution Service confirmed that Kyle Jorgensen would not face the courts despite knowing about the murders since 1998.
Hazel Stewart (51), his lover at the time of the murders, was jailed for a minimum of 18 years for her part in the deaths and her role in covering them up.
Howell was jailed for 21 years.
Jorgensen, a 47-year-old American, was told by her then husband how he gassed his first wife Lesley and his then lover's policeman husband Trevor Buchanan seven years earlier.
Lesley was 31, while Trevor Buchanan was 32. An inquest at the time found that according to medical evidence both died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The coroner said Lesley was depressed on discovering her husband was having an affair and the depression worsened after the death of her father on May 7 – 12 days before she died.
But Howell convinced Ms Jorgensen not to tell the authorities the truth for the sake of their children's future.
The PPS says they are not pursuing the case against Ms Jorgensen as there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
She has been under police investigation since Howell's arrest in January 2009. But a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast said: "The decision was taken not to prosecute in this case because there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction."
MLA for North Antrim Jim Allister, a qualified barrister, said the move was "surprising and concerning". "Obviously it wouldn't have undone what was done but it would have brought a sense of justice to the bereaved families 10 years sooner – that's what it would have achieved," he said.
"She seemed to have made a conscious decision to hold back from telling the police from what she knew." Mr Allister added: "I struggle a bit to understand why they are deciding on the basis that they were unlikely to obtain a successful prosecution."
"If you don't prosecute somebody who on the face of it withheld information about a double murder what circumstances would they (the PPS) proceed? They need to give much more explanation as to why they are taking this stance."
He also said the decision could set a precedent for not prosecuting in other cases of withholding information.
This, Mr Allister said includes that of Gerry Adams for withholding information about his convicted paedophile brother, Liam.
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said the victims families would be distressed by the move.
"This must certainly add to the grief and trauma and concern for the families of the victims," he said.
"The important element of the criminal justice system is when decisions like this are made that the victim is at the centre of those decisions and they get clear and adeqate explanations."