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Murder-charge dentist admits sex attacks on patients


Colin Howell

Colin Howell

Colin Howell

A dentist accused of murdering his wife and his ex-lover's husband pleaded guilty today to indecently assaulting three women patients at his surgery.

Colin Howell, 51, admitted the charges when he appeared before Judge David Smyth QC at Antrim Crown Court, in Northern Ireland.

But he denied accusations of indecently assaulting three other women at his dental implant clinic in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

Howell, of Glebe Road, Castlerock, Co Londonderry, and his ex-lover Hazel Stewart, 47, of Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, Co Derry, are due to stand trial next month charged with the murders of their respective partners, who were found dead in a car filled with exhaust fumes in May 1991.

Father-of-10 Howell admitted assaulting the three patients on various dates between July and December 2008, just weeks before he was arrested by officers investigating the deaths of his wife Lesley, 31, and Mrs Stewart's first husband, police officer Trevor Buchanan, 32.

At the time their bodies were found in a car parked in a garage behind the home of Mrs Howell's late father, detectives believed they had died as a result of a suicide pact.

But after questioning Howell and his former lover in January last year, they launched a murder investigation.

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Howell, dressed in a light grey suit, shirt and striped tie, stood to attention with his hands clasped with prison officers on either side of him, as he admitted the sex charges.

At one stage during his arraignment, when all the charges were read out by a court official, he consulted with his solicitor Adrian Harvey.

He pleaded guilty to three charges, but denied 14 others, mostly involving three other women. They include six allegations against one of the women.

An earlier court hearing banned identification of any of his alleged victims, who attended his clinic at Queen Street, Ballymoney. Some of the charges go as far back as March 1998.

The murder trial is due to begin on November 22, possibly in Coleraine, but the indecent assault charges against Howell will he heard by a separate court.

Howell's lawyer, Richard Weir QC, told Judge Smyth today that he was not in a position to take the case any further because other matters had yet to be dealt with.

Crown prosecutor Neil Connor QC said progress in the case, in terms of fixing a trial date for the indecent assault charges, could be assessed again on December 15.

Howell has been in custody at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, since his arrest, but his co-accused, mother-of-two Stewart - she re-married former police chief superintendent David Stewart - has been on bail. She had to surrender her passport and report daily to police in Coleraine.

Mrs Howell, a mother of four, and Pc Buchanan were found dead in the car parked behind a row of houses in Castlerock, known as the Apostles.

Mrs Howell's father, retired company director Harry Clarke, who lived at number 6, collapsed and died at his daughter's home in Coleraine, just days earlier.

Howell was also questioned about his death.

Howell also remarried, but his American-born wife Kyle has left Northern Ireland and returned to the US with the couple's five children. She is seeking a divorce.

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