Murder accused dentist charged with sex offences

A dentist accused of murdering his wife and his lover's policeman husband is facing new charges of indecent assault on some of his women patients, it was revealed today.

A dentist accused of murdering his wife and his lover's policeman husband is facing new charges of indecent assault on some of his women patients, it was revealed today.

Dr Colin Howell will undergo a second criminal trial on 17 allegations of indecent assault on six women over a 10-year period. He is accused of assaulting one of them six times, and another four times.

Howell (aged 51) from Glebe Road, Castlerock, Co Derry had previously been charged with drugging and indecently assaulting four women, but those eight holding charges which included claims that he unlawfully applied or administered a stupefying or overpowering drug have now been withdrawn.

Instead, the 17 indecent assault charges were put to him when he stood in the dock today with his hands clasped at a brief preliminary inquiry hearing at North Antrim Magistrates' Court in Coleraine, Co Derry.

The identities of the six women were banned from publication after district judge Richard Wilson agreed to a request by a representative from the Public Prosecution Service for reporting restrictions to be applied in respect of the names.

Howell and his former lover, mother of two Hazel Stewart (aged 50) from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, are due to go on trial before a jury later this year charged with the murders of their partners who were found dead in a garage in the seaside town of Castlerock in May 1991.

Mother of four Lesley Howell (aged 30) and Mrs Stewart's first husband, scenes of crime officer Pc Trevor Buchanan (aged 31) were thought to have died in a suicide pact, poisoned by carbon monoxide fumes.

Their bodies were discovered in a car which had been parked in a garage behind the home of Mrs Howell's late father Harry, who had collapsed and died just days earlier.

Howell and Pc Buchanan's wife had been having an affair at the time.

Mrs Howell, a former nurse, was lying in the boot, with family photographs beside her. She had been wearing a personal stereo headset listening to gospel music. Pc Buchanan was in the front driver's seat.

Police launched a murder investigation in January last year after questioning Howell, who ran an dental implant surgery in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, where the indecent assaults are alleged to have taken place on various dates between March 1998 and December 2008.

Apart from his first two alleged victims, a third woman claimed she was assaulted three times, a fourth two times, and two more women on one occasion.

The double murder trial is expected to take place later this year, possibly after Hallowe'en. Both have pleaded not guilty. Mrs Stewart, who is now married to former police chief superintendent David Stewart, once a staff officer to the former Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable Hugh Annesley, is on bail.

But as part of the court conditions which allow her to live at home she had to surrender her passport and report daily to police in Coleraine.

Howell has been in custody at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, since the time of his arrest and will face a separate trial for the indecent assault charges.

Wearing denim jeans and a light striped shirt over a white vest, he spoke to confirm that he understood the charges.

When asked by a court official if he had anything to say in response, or if he wanted to call witnesses or make statements he replied: "Not at this stage."

His lawyer, Francis Rafferty, told the court that he had read the papers in the case.

There had been a number of statements which he said contained hearsay evidence and he would be making an application in respect of that later. However, a prima facie case was conceded at this stage.

Howell was led back to the cells after being told he would appear next at a court in Antrim in September.

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