I'm so sorry, says killer dentist in letter from prison
ColiN Howell, the dentist lover of Hazel Stewart, and the man who murdered his wife and ex-lover's husband then covered it up as suicide apologised for killing two innocent and honourable people as verdicts delivered at the original inquest were overturned.
Howell (52) who concealed the murders of Lesley Howell and policeman Trevor Buchanan for almost 20 years before confessing to elders in his church, told a coroner in Belfast that he wished he could turn back time.
The former lay preacher and Mr Buchanan's widow Hazel Stewart (48) are now serving life terms for the double murder in Coleraine in 1991.
At the start of a new inquest into the deaths, a letter Howell wrote from his prison cell in Maghaberry high security jail was read to the court.
"I wish I could turn back time but I cannot, and I am helpless to offer up any good thing except for my acts of remorse and the hope of healing for my victims who have been so deeply impacted and wounded by me," he stated.
"I am so sorry."
The bodies of Mrs Howell (31) and Mr Buchanan (32) were found in a car in a fume-filled garage in the seaside town of Castlerock. The dentist had staged the scene after poisoning the pair with gas piped from his car exhaust as they slept in their own homes in nearby Coleraine. Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey re-registered the deaths as carbon monoxide poisoning by homicide after a short hearing attended by relatives of both victims.
During the inquest a police officer confirmed that close friends of the deceased had expressed concerns that the deaths were suspicious to police at the time of the original investigation. Mr Buchanan and Mrs Stewart's two children Andrew and Lisa were both in court sitting alongside the murderess's second husband, retired senior police officer David Stewart.
On the other side of the public gallery were Lesley and Colin Howell's daughter Lauren Bradford and brothers and sisters of Mr Buchanan.
They sat in silence as Howell's letter was read out.
"My journey of truth and remorse continues today by the confessions I have made, resulting in a life sentence for the murders of these innocent and honorable people," the dentist wrote.
Last year Howell pleaded guilty to the crimes and was handed a minimum 21-year term.
Stewart contested the charges during a high-profile murder trial earlier this year but a jury ultimately found her guilty on both counts. She is serving an 18-year minimum life term in Hydebank women's prison in south Belfast.