Belfast Telegraph

Killer dentist Colin Howell : Failed hunt for Japan's war gold triggered my confession

Colin Howell was accused of being a “monster” who murdered his wife simply for money.

Howell is said to have benefited from his wife’s death to the tune of several hundred thousand pounds.

Defence lawyer Paul Ramsey yesterday again pushed the idea that Mr Howell committed the murders for financial gain.

“You’re wrong about that, my motive was not the money,” Howell said in response.

Howell, who said he only made £212,000 out of Lesley's death, insisted love was his and Ms Stewart's motive.

It emerged that Howell had believed he would land £20m by ploughing his life savings into a diving project to find Japan's war gold, but ended up with only a few silver coins worth £30, the trial of his lover heard.

The dentist invested £350,000 in the recovery dig in caves in the Philippines only to discover it was a massive scam that only recovered a few brass ammunition boxes.

He told Coleraine Crown Court the realisation he had been duped at the end of 2008 was the trigger which led to him confessing.

“I made a decision in that moment that I wanted to confess to those murders,” he said.

Howell had been persuaded to get involved in the ill-fated venture by a fellow Baptist and the man who presented him with the ammunition boxes containing the near worthless contents when he flew to Manila was a Christian.

“I looked at him and said ‘you're lying, you're a fraud’, and as soon as I said that it reflected back on me and I knew I was a fraud too,” he said.

Since the end of World War Two, tales have abounded that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, buried a multimillion pound hoard of gold bullion in bunkers in the Philippines.

The legend has prompted countless treasure hunts, but none have struck the jackpot.

Mr Ramsey QC, Hazel Stewart's defence barrister, speculated that Howell would not have admitted to the murders had his ship come in.

“If those ammunition boxes were packed to the gunnels with Yamamoto's gold, would you have gone to the police?” he said.

The lawyer, who claimed the murders were motivated by money and not his desire to be with Stewart, suggested his confession was also linked to his finances.

“The reason you went to police was because you had no money left,” he said.

Howell said it was not the loss of his savings, but the deception by someone who claimed to be a Christian believer that made him unburden his secret. “My conscience that had been buried deep in my own bunker covered with concrete suddenly exploded,” he said.

In the last line of this marathon 12-hour cross-examination, Mr Ramsey declared: “I put it to you that you are a monster, Mr Howell.”

The father-of-11, who two years ago admitted to the May 1991 murders, which were at the time believed to be suicides, ended his time in the witness box as he began it, with a profession of repentance.

“I was a monster and I was a killer, but I'm not any longer and that's part of my confession,” he said calmly.

Belfast Telegraph

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