Stewart found guilty of two murders

Hazel Stewart leaving Coleraine Crown Court. Mrs Stewart did not take the stand at her murder trial. PICTURE MARK JAMIESON
Hazel Stewart leaving Coleraine Crown Court. Mrs Stewart did not take the stand at her murder trial. PICTURE MARK JAMIESON
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Coleraine woman Hazel Stewart has been found guilty of double murder.

Jurors at Coleraine Crown Court decided that Stewart, 48, a mother of two children, colluded with dentist Colin Howell in murdering her police constable husband Trevor Buchanan and Howell’s wife Lesley in May 1991.

Stewart was accused of being in a joint enterprise with Howell to kill their spouses and make the victims’ deaths look like a suicide pact.

She will serve a life sentence for the killings.

The bodies of Lesley Howell, 31, and Buchanan, 32, were discovered in a fume-filled car behind a row of holiday cottages called the Twelve Apostles in Castlerock.

At the time the police believed the deaths were a double suicide prompted after revelations that the spouses were having an affair.

The investigation was reopened when Howell, 51, confessed to the murders in January 2009. He was sentenced in November 2010, then gave evidence for the prosecution during Stewart’s trial. He is now serving a 21-year sentence in Maghaberry jail after pleading guilty.

During the trial the court heard that Stewart played a part in the planning of the killings. She also disposed of evidence, including the garden hosepipe used to gas their spouses.

Stewart claimed she was “soft, weak vulnerable, and easy prey”, painting her former lover as “obsessed, calculating, controlling and very manipulative”. She said the reason she did not help her husband was because she was terrified Howell would kill her and her children.

After the verdict was read out Stewart’s daughter, Lisa, shouted out “no, it’s not fair” while her son, Andrew, broke down and wept. Stewart’s second husband, David, cried as he reached across to comfort the two children.

Stewart will be sentenced in Belfast next week.