Belfast Telegraph

Kyle Jorgensen's decision to remain silent about Colin Howell's murders was to perpetuate a terrible, terrible wrong

by lindy mcdowell

"Let this be our secret ..." The words that Colin Howell used to Hazel Stewart after he and she had jointly murdered their respective spouses. It is a line so central to the story of their base, callous cover-up of that heinous crime, little wonder it was chosen by author and journalist Deric Henderson as the title of his best-selling book about the killings.

For the secret compounded the crime.

The murders of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan in May 1991 were brutal, gruesome, heartless in themselves.

But the cover-up, after that demonic twist of staging the deaths to make it seem as if Lesley and Trevor had taken their own lives, heaped immeasurable hurt upon the families left behind.

For years and years and years, Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart kept their horrific secret, and in time Kyle Jorgensen helped them keep it too.

Howell unburdened himself to the American just over a year after he'd married her in 1997.

His confessional thunderbolt was delivered amid of the domestic humdrum of tea-time.

He'd just finished his meal. She was feeding their baby son Erik.

Their other children, including those he'd had with Lesley, were outside.

Ms Jorgensen (47) described herself as "freaked out and scared" by what her new husband had just confessed, but he urged her to take a deep breath. To think of the children.

It must have been a very deep breath. It was almost 12 years before she told anyone.

In later police interviews Kyle claimed that in the immediate aftermath of her husband's shattering revelation she had spoken to friends in the Barn Christian Fellowship, the church outside Ballymoney to which she and Howell both belonged.

"What if Colin has done something?" she says she asked one man.

He reportedly replied: "I don't want to hear it. It's before the Cross..."

Before the Cross. A convenient get-out clause?

In fairness, you can entirely understand how, in the hours after Kyle Jorgensen first learned of her husband's vile secret, she would have faced a desperate dilemma.

To go to the police, she would have told herself, would rip apart her family and condemn to prison the man she presumably was, at that time, deeply in love with.

But to remain silent was to perpetuate a terrible, terrible wrong.

To add years to the living sentence of Lesley's children and Trevor Buchanan's family.

In her heart Kyle Jorgensen, committed Christian that she claimed to be, would surely have known that the right thing to do was to go to the police.

She didn't.

Instead, for more than a decade, she continued to keep quiet about what her murderer husband had confessed.

A supposedly godly woman had entered a particularly ungodly pact.

Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart have rightly been condemned not just for the monstrous crimes they committed but for their steel-hard, ice-hearted ability to hold their terrible secret.

In this respect, Kyle Jorgensen is no better than either of them.

She implies she did it for her children.

But in the long run she didn't save them from the truth and the repercussions.

And apart from the morality of it all, you have to wonder just how easy did this woman sleep in her bed at night, knowing that the man slumbering beside her was a wife killer who'd dispatched his first spouse with glacial ease when she became an inconvenience amid his plans for a new life with Hazel.

Ms Jorgensen finally came clean 12 long years down the line after Howell confessed to an affair and lost all his money.

Even then she didn't go to the police. She contacted church elders.

What made her finally snap?

Was it the textbook case of a woman scorned? Or more precisely, just ignored.

She'd griped to police that Howell seemed to be more engrossed in business matters than in his marriage.

Even at the end, Kyle Jorgensen seems motivated primarily by self-interest than by any desire to do the right thing.

Many eyebrows will surely be raised by that police decision not to proceed with a case against her.

For in extending the pain and grief endured by the family of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell she was surely as culpable as the man whose secret she kept down those many years.

The PPS cites insufficient evidence but Ms Jorgensen's own words in police interviews seem pretty damning.

You just have to wonder what sort of message the law seems to be sending to all those others who connive in the cover-up of crime. That to do so is really no big deal?

That where even savage murder is concerned, you too can let it be your secret?

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph