Killer dentist Colin Howell got payout of £400,000 after death of wife
Colin Howell murdered his wife Lesley for her money, a court has been told.
Howell, whose dental practice was struggling financially at the time of the murders of Mrs Howell and his ex-lover’s husband Trevor Buchanan, received over £400,000 after his wife died, it was claimed.
Giving evidence against his former lover Hazel Stewart, who is accused of murdering her husband and Mrs Howell, the 51-year-old dentist denied that money was his motive.
“Your murderous intent toward your wife was all about the money,” Stewart’s defence barrister Paul Ramsey QC said.
“All your financial problems were resolved with the death of your wife,” he added.
Howell replied: “That is wrong. Totally wrong.”
Howell was sentenced to 21 years in prison when he pleaded guilty to double murder last year. His former lover Stewart denies murdering Mrs Howell and Mr Buchanan, whose bodies were discovered in a fume-filled car in May 1991 in what looked like a suicide pact.
When Howell pleaded guilty to murder, prosecutors said money had not been a motive.
At Coleraine Crown Court yesterday, Mr Ramsey told Howell, however: “You are quite right, the prosecution did say that, but I’m not the prosecution... it was all about the money.”
The QC told the court that Howell had received £414,000 through his dead wife’s will, life insurance, a hefty endowment payout |and money from her late father's estate.
Howell claimed that figure was a miscalculation, as he had only received £212,000.
Mr Ramsey said that Howell had asked a friend for a loan of £10,000 shortly before his wife was killed because he was having financial difficulties.
He was able to pay off the loan six months after the murder. “I paid back the money with profits from the business,” Howell said.
He admitted he had financial worries but insisted he was not on the verge of bankruptcy, claiming that his cashflow problems were the result of expected outgoings from buying a new home and business, and due to delays in the NHS paying out between £15,000 and £18,000 owed to him.
While those problems meant times were difficult, he said they were under control.
Howell added: “(Money) was not the motive behind it, it wasn't considered.”
He claimed that he was under the impression life insurance wouldn't be paid out because the death was being treated as suicide.
He told Mr Ramsey that if he was suggesting he was in it for the money, he was by consequence suggesting Stewart was too.
“This has nothing to do with Hazel,” Mr Ramsey said.
Howell answered: “But this trial is about Hazel.”
The father-of-11 also claimed that his wife had been a bad mother who he once found drunk and unconscious, lying in vomit, when she should have been looking after their young children.
He said his marital home was always messy and that he was the main carer for the children.
During cross-examination he claimed that he deliberately focused on the bad aspects in part to rationalise the killings.
“I over-emphasised those so I could justify what I was doing,” |he said.
Howell added that he thought at the time that he was a “hero” dad.
He denied that that he was deliberately drugging his wife so that he could have late-night “trysts” with Stewart.
The jury heard how Howell would leave the house in the middle of the night to have sex with Stewart when her husband Trevor Buchanan was away on police duties.
He said he was able to escape from his home unnoticed because his wife would have been sleeping heavily after taking temazepam and drinking wine.
Howell admitted that it meant his four children with Lesley — Matthew, then aged 6, Lauren (4), one-year-old Daniel and baby Jonathan, only months old — would have been left on their own.
Later Howell told the court about the meeting he had with Hazel Stewart in her car at the Barmouth outside Castlerock where they discussed the murder plan. He was sitting in the driver's seat with Hazel on the passenger side and he gave her the tablets.
Howell told the court: “At that meeting in the car Hazel was not confused about what the outcome would be. She understood the simplicity of it and what she should do.”