Lovers 'conspired over murders', court hears

A former play school assistant in the North conspired with her dentist lover to murder her husband and his wife for their own selfish ends, her trial heard today.

A former play school assistant in the North conspired with her dentist lover to murder her husband and his wife for their own selfish ends, her trial heard today.

Hazel Stewart, 47, knowingly entered into a plan with Colin Howell that would result in the deaths by poisoning of her policeman husband Trevor Buchanan and Howell’s wife Lesley almost 20 years ago, a Crown lawyer told Coleraine Court as he set out the case against her.

“It will be clear this was a joint plan discussed in advance between Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart to kill their respective wife and husband by carbon monoxide poison for their own selfish ends,” said QC Ciaran Murphy.

Howell, 51, is currently serving a 21-year sentence after pleading guilty last year to the double murder.

The bodies of his 31-year-old wife and Pc Buchanan, 32, were discovered in a fume-filled car in the seaside town of Castlerock on Northern Ireland’s north coast in May 1991.

The deaths were originally treated by police as a suicide pact until the once-respected dentist admitted his crimes 18 years later.

Howell confessed to gassing them while they slept in their own homes before driving the bodies to the house of his wife’s late father and staging an elaborate scene to make it look as if they had taken their own lives.

His ex-lover Stewart – she has since remarried – of Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, denies the murder charges.

Today she sat impassively in the dock in a green tweed coat as Mr Murphy addressed the jury at the start of her trial.

“It is alleged that the deaths of the two victims were brought about as a result of a joint plan and agreement by this defendant and Colin Howell,” he said.

He added: “We say that Hazel Stewart knowingly entered into this agreement and assisted Colin Howell in ensuring he could safely kill her husband and afterwards they both covered up the whole thing.”

Judge Anthony Hart is presiding over a trial that is set to last four weeks.

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