Hazel Stewart: 'Mrs Ordinary' who always wanted the best
Hazel Stewart was always dressed to kill.
She was immaculately turned out and only bought the best as she fingered the clothes rails of designer wear at some of Northern Ireland's top and most expensive fashion stores.
She was the daughter of a dairy farmer and the sixth eldest in a family of ten who lived at Gillygooley outside Omagh. They all attended Omagh Baptist Church where her father was once an elder. He died just before she was arrested.She was close to her mother and much preferred busying herself in the kitchen and tidying the house rather than working on the land. The Elkins are a liked and well-respected family. One of her brothers is a dentist.
Hazel played the piano and attended Omagh High School but she was not academically minded. Even then she was more interested in style and appearance than her maths and English. She worked in a shop for a time - it is where she first met Trevor Buchanan - and then as a stitcher in a shirt factory. They married in July 1981 and had two children.
Trevor served as an RUC officer in Beragh and Castlederg, close to the Tyrone-Donegal border at a time when the IRA bombing and shooting offensive claimed many lives, including some of his own colleagues. Three brothers were policemen as well. Victor, who was badly injured in an attack in Co. Fermanagh, Raymond and Gordon.
He lived in Omagh and was then transferred to Coleraine, a town which was relatively free of day-to-day terrorist violence, although it suffered as well.
Hazel was close to her family, especially her mother, and found it difficult to settle in an area she was not familiar with. But given their religious backgrounds -Trevor who smoked and drank in his early days and did not attend the Baptist Church until he started going out with Hazel - it was inevitable that Coleraine Baptist Church would be get two new members.
There were a lot of young, professional couples taking their seats on a Sunday morning back then, among them the confident Colin Howell, a dentist and his wife Lesley.
It was worship within a close knit and oppressive hierarchical community with little privacy and where everybody tended to know each other's business which essentially dictated a strict code of conduct among the members.
Hazel, who worked as an assistant at a children's playschool, went on to take the Sunday school but stepped back once her affair with Howell became known.
The first time they had sex she could hardly bring herself to look at him.
Howell's charm and his way with words disarmed her, first in the swimming pool in Ballymoney when they took the children swimming, and later at her home when he called to teach her new guitar chords.
Howell had other thoughts in mind of course.
She said later: "It just happened. I felt I'd wrecked my marriage. It happened to so quick. It didn't feel good".
She had a secret abortion at a clinic in London and later when the relationship resumed after they promised their partners and the counselling Pastor John Hansford, the affair was over, the church found itself at the centre of a scandal it tried to handle.
Then there were the deaths and a subsequent police investigation which, as it later turned out, was hopelessly inept and wide of the mark. The church, at the time, was deeply embarrassed and later tensions - some related to the deaths -developed between the elders and their minister.
After she left Howell, Hazel found a new man in her life, the quiet and unassuming Trevor McAuley who worked as a compositor in the local newspaper, the Coleraine Chronicle.
He was keen to marry her, but she did not want to know.
Even though he had three children of his own - he had divorced -he spent much of his income tending to the needs of her and her home.
She was high maintenance, as he soon discovered.
They were together, off and on for six years, and he was devastated when she left him for a man she met in the gym, David Stewart, a retired police chief superintendent, once a staff officer to the ex-Northern Ireland chief constable Sir Hugh Annesley.
Before they separated for good, Trevor had taken out a year's subscription for her to go to the gym as a present.
The day after Hazel was charged with the two murders, a friend told him: "Trevor, that was the best Christmas present you ever bought."
Police had to wait 45 minutes at Stewart's home before she was arrested and sentenced. She was on her way back from a dental appointment.
Had she known officers were there, she might have done a U-turn and ended her life by driving off the edge of a cliff - just as she had always threatened to do if she felt she was going to be exposed.
According to sources close to the investigation, she put down her Louis Vuitton handbag before she was driven off to be interrogated.
One man who was on the periphery of Hazel and David's circle of friends claimed that no matter how well she dressed and looked, she always had the face of a haunted woman.
He said: "She was always a little on edge and never seemed to be totally relaxed in company. It was as if there was something worrying her, concerning her. You would never really have got to know Hazel. She was very fond of asking about yourself, but there was nothing coming in the opposite direction. If you ever did ask anything of her, then the conversation moved in a different direction. Her answers would be short. She tended to be more inquisitive about you and you always got the feeling that you were not really seeing the real Hazel and that there was a very good smoke screen possibly being created.
"I think she was always waiting for the knock on the door at some stage. Obviously at the time when I'd be in her company, I didn't realise what had happened. But on reflection and remembering what she was like, her demeanour, you always got the feeling there was something waiting to happen, that there was something down the line. So I think she did carry a burden.
"David is such a lovely guy. He would be very attentive to any woman he would be with, and certainly Hazel would be the ideal woman for him to be with. Hazel was a good housekeeper, a good homemaker. She looked well and ticked a lot of the boxes. As far as intellect goes there was not the same commonality because David is an extremely intellectual person who can maintain a conversation about a lot of stuff. Anything from politics to culture.
"She didn't swear and I'm not sure she would have had a good personality. Her personality would not have been one of her greater assets. She was a two dimensional person - a good looking beautiful woman, but yet there was no great depth there."
John Hansford, who now ministers to a congregation of ex-pats in Javea, an hour north of Alicante, Spain claimed Hazel was not as innocent as she appeared.
He said in January last year: "I think Hazel schemed. Yes, I picked that up in her marriage. Trevor lacked sparkle and was not very exciting. She was looking for more. We discussed her sex life as part of the counselling and obviously she felt there was an inadequacy there. He lacked ambition.
"There are women who find themselves in that position, but didn't go around and do what she did. Hazel would have come across to me as being a victim of circumstances, particularly of Colin's dominant personality. Looking back now - and this is a personal assessment and judgment - I wonder whether that was true She was possibly more involved in it than it was initially claimed. She wasn't so much a victim of Colin's domination. Knowing the two men, Colin was the attractive, charming, outgoing, successful wealthy character...
"Trevor was Mr Ordinary, but a very nice Mr Ordinary. Hazel was Mrs Ordinary."