Double murderer Colin Howell went for a game of squash in the days after he killed his wife and his lover’s husband – and his mistress showed no emotion when told their bodies had been found, a court in the North heard today.
The reactions of the dentist and Hazel Stewart on hearing their respective spouses Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan had died in an apparent suicide pact were recounted by the wife of their church pastor on the third day of Stewart’s murder trial in Coleraine Crown Court.
Howell has already pleaded guilty to poisoning his wife and Mr Buchanan in May 1991 and making it look as though they had taken their own lives.
While Stewart denies the double murder charge she has admitted to police she was aware of the plot and was in the house when Howell killed her husband.
Elizabeth Hansford, wife of John Hansford, who was then pastor at Coleraine Baptist church, was the first to break the news to Stewart that the bodies had been found in a fume-filled garage in the seaside town of Castlerock.
“There was no shock expressed, she didn’t seem to give any emotional response at all,” she said.
“She seemed emotionless, that’s probably the best way to put it.”
Mrs Hansford said she also found it odd that Howell had played sport and gone to the fish and chip shop in the days between his wife’s death and her funeral.
“There’s nothing wrong with playing sport or eating fish and chips but it just seemed to me a bit callous,” she told the jury.
Her husband John Hansford, who had provided relationship counselling to both married couples when Howell and Stewart’s affair was discovered, was the first to tell the Colin Howell of the deaths.
At the time he told police: “He showed little or no emotion – I felt he was holding something back.”
Mr Hansford also disclosed that less than two months before Howell murdered Mr Buchanan he had asked his lover’s husband for forgiveness during a meeting in the pastor’s study.
“He offered his sincere apologies for what he had done and sought his forgiveness,” he said when he took the stand today.
He added: “They then embraced.”