| 10.5°C Belfast

Hazel Stewart prepares new appeal over double murder conviction


Hazel Stewart, 49, is serving a minimum of 18 years in a prison in Belfast

Hazel Stewart, 49, is serving a minimum of 18 years in a prison in Belfast

Hazel Stewart, 49, is serving a minimum of 18 years in a prison in Belfast

Convicted double killer Hazel Stewart is mounting a second attempt to clear her name, it was revealed today.

The former Sunday school teacher's new legal team have sent her case to a body which examines potential miscarriages of justice.

They want the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to refer her conviction for the murder of ex-lover Colin Howell's wife Lesley back to the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, separate efforts are also being made to overturn a verdict that she killed her policeman husband Trevor Buchanan as part of the same plot.

Her lawyers intend to introduce fresh psychiatric and psychological evidence.

They also want to raise disclosure issues connected to another potential witness.

Stewart, 50, is serving a minimum 18-year jail sentence for the murders of Constable Buchanan, 32, and 31-year-old Lesley Howell.

The victims were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Londonderry in May 1991.

Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering their partners were having an affair.

They were in fact murdered before their bodies were arranged to make it look like they had taken their own lives.

Nearly two decades passed before dentist Howell, 54, suddenly confessed to both killings.

He pleaded guilty to the murders in 2010 and was ordered to serve at least 21 years behind bars.

Howell also implicated his former lover in the plot and gave evidence against her at her trial.

In March 2011 she was unanimously convicted of both killings by a jury at Coleraine Crown Court.

Earlier this year the mother-of-two failed in her first attempt to overturn the verdict that she murdered Lesley Howell.

At that stage she did not proceed with a challenge to being found guilty of killing her husband.

The Court of Appeal held there was strong evidence that she was a knowing and willing participant in the plan hatched by Howell.

But newly appointed lawyers have now formally asked the CCRC to examine her case and form a view on whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

It could take up to two years before the body reaches a decision.

In the meantime Stewart's legal team are also seeking to take her conviction for murdering Constable Buchanan back to the Court of Appeal.

She insists her challenge to that verdict was never abandoned. Nor was there ever any acceptance of guilt.

Her lawyer, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, confirmed today: "We intend to introduce fresh expert evidence of a psychiatric and psychological nature.

"The application will also touch upon outstanding disclosure issues and unresolved matters arising from the original Crown Court trial."

Mr Winters added: "This case is somewhat novel and unusual given that it involves applications to both the CCRC and Court of Appeal on two separate murder convictions."

Belfast Telegraph