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Hazel Stewart's bid for new appeal to be heard in autumn


Killer: Hazel Stewart

Killer: Hazel Stewart

Killer: Hazel Stewart

Convicted double killer Hazel Stewart's bid to resurrect an appeal against being found guilty of murdering her policeman husband will be heard in the autumn.

Her renewed challenge is centred on any advice from her previous legal team at the time she abandoned the original appeal.

It was confirmed yesterday that Stewart's current lawyers are ready to advance their case at a hearing listed for September.

Stewart (52) is serving a minimum 18-year jail sentence for the killings of Trevor Buchanan (32) and 31-year-old Lesley Howell, the wife of her ex-lover Colin Howell.

Both 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.

Although Howell (56) eventually pleaded guilty to the killings in 2010 and implicated Stewart in the plot, she is pressing ahead with a second attempt to clear her name.

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In January 2013 the Court of Appeal rejected her first challenge to being convicted of Lesley Howell's murder.

At the start of that hearing it was announced that the former Sunday School teacher would not be proceeding with the appeal against being found guilty of killing Constable Buchanan.

She claims, however, this was only done on the understanding that she could revive her case at a later stage.

Both Stewart and her second husband have filed statements setting out their understanding of the circumstances. She has instructed top London barrister Brendan Kelly QC to lead her case

Mr Kelly's previous high-profile clients include Mark Bridger, the man ultimately convicted of murdering Welsh schoolgirl April Jones.

Five-year-old April went missing from outside her home in Machynlleth, Powys in October 2012. Her body has never been found.

In the Court of Appeal yesterday Mr Kelly said further affidavits have been prepared as part of the case.

The three-judge panel, led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, was told the parties are ready to deal with issues around Stewart's abandonment of her original appeal at a hearing in September 23.

Stewart's lawyers are also pressing ahead with separate attempts to have the Criminal Cases Review Commission refer her conviction for killing Lesley Howell back to the Court of Appeal.

It could take up to two years, however, before it reaches a decision on that case.

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