herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Murder accused lied to police that husband beat her, court is told

TRIAL: Mum and killer lover 'gave bogus statements' after spouses' deaths

Murder accused Hazel Stewart and her lover Colin Howell accused their partners of beating them in bogus statements they gave to police following their spouses' deaths, Antrim Crown Court court has heard.

The lovers claimed they were both victims of domestic violence in the false accounts they provided detectives in the days after the funerals of their spouses Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan, the court was told.

Antrim Crown Court heard Stewart has already admitted to police that she and Howell concocted alibis to make officers believe her husband and his wife had taken their own lives, when in actual fact they were murdered.

But as the full transcripts of those original statements were read out at the mother-of-two's double murder trial in Coleraine, it emerged they also told the police they had been beaten by their partners. Both claimed they struck them in anger over their infidelity.

The statements were read out by the officer who led the original police investigation, Jack Hutchinson, then a detective inspector in the RUC.

The court was told earlier that Colin Howell dropped an electrical cable into the water as his wife took a bath at the height of a crisis in their marriage. Lesley Howell told a friend about the incident at their home in Coleraine, Co Derry, jurors were told.

Margaret Topping revealed how her close friend told her how Howell dropped the cable into the bath water and she suffered an electrical shock, but she said she was all right.

Laughing

Mrs Topping said: "She told me almost laughing. She said it was so awful he could not have meant it. But she told me so that I would know."

Police, she said, were later told about what happened in the bathroom, as well as other issues which Mrs Topping said had raised her suspicions after Mrs Howell was found dead in a car. She said Mrs Howell told her that her husband had been administering drugs to her.

Mrs Howell ( 31), a mother-of- four, and RUC Constable Trevor Buchanan (32), the husband of Howell's then lover Hazel Stewart were found dead in a car in Castlerock, Co Derry, in May 1991.

At the time it was thought they died as a result of a suicide pact, but Howell was jailed for 21 years last December after he admitted murdering the pair by gassing them with carbon monoxide fumes.

The case continues.

hnews@herald.ie

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