Killer dentist Colin Howell injected his lover with drugs to knock her out while they had sex and once feared he had overdosed her, a court heard today.
Hazel Stewart wanted to be unconscious during intercourse so she would not experience any Christian guilt, another former boyfriend of the mother-of-two told her double murder trial.
Trevor McAuley said Stewart had also warned him to steer clear of Howell, then her ex, because he had no idea “what he is capable of”.
Stewart is accused of killing her husband Trevor Buchanan and Howell’s wife Lesley in May 1991 and making police believe it was a suicide pact.
Her then lover Howell has already pleaded guilty to poisoning their spouses and leaving their bodies in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock to make it appear they had taken their own lives.
The third day of the trial in Coleraine Crown Court also heard that in the period before the murders, Howell gave his wife sleeping tablets to knock her out so he could meet Stewart to carry on their affair.
Mr McAuley, who started seeing Stewart five years after the deaths and as her relationship with Howell was ending, told the jury she had told him that when she was involved with Howell he would come round to her house with drugs in a “floppy needle”.
“He would administer this drug to her and she would pass out and she would really know nothing about it until the morning when she woke,” he said.
“On one occasion he almost overdid it and gave her too much and he was actually concerned if he was going to get her to come round.”
Asked by Crown lawyer Neil Connor why Howell gave her the sedatives, Mr McAuley replied: “So he could enjoy sexual gratification with her without her feeling guilt of it while he was able to have pleasure.”
Under cross examination, Mr McAuley indicated the guilt Stewart claimed to have experienced was in relation to her Christianity.
Wearing a black jacket, Stewart, who denies the charges, sat impassively in the dock as Mr McAuley told the jury she had once asked if he thought her late husband Trevor was in heaven, even though he had committed suicide.
“On one occasion when we had gone for a walk and on the way back Hazel asked what my views were, because Trevor had taken his own life, did I think he was going to be in heaven or did I not?” he recounted.
“I answered her that I wasn’t a judge to decide that someone went to heaven or not. All I knew was that the Bible said no-one had the right to take a life other than God.
“Hazel’s answer to that was she believed Trevor was in heaven.”
Mr McAuley, who said Stewart had “expensive tastes” and was “difficult to keep”, also alleged that Howell stalked them in the early part of their relationship.
He said he would be often sitting in a car outside Stewart’s home and would speed off, sometimes in reverse gear, when he saw them arriving home together.
On another occasion he said Stewart had gone to the back of the house to find Howell “standing like a statue” at the end of the garden at around midnight.
“I was quite angry about it,” said Mr McAuley. “I wanted to go out and see him but Hazel didn’t want me to go out.”
He added: “Hazel told me at the time not to approach him because I didn’t know what he was capable of.”
Mr McAuley said his relationship with Stewart ended in July 2004 and less than six months later he heard she was engaged to David Stewart, now her husband, who looked on from the public gallery today.
The trial also heard that Howell went for a game of squash in the days after he killed his wife and Trevor Buchanan, and that Stewart showed no emotion when told their bodies had been found.
The reactions of the lovers on hearing their respective spouses had died in the apparent suicide pact were recounted by the wife of their church pastor.
While Stewart denies the double murder charge she has admitted to police she was aware of the plan 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 the garage in 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 went to a 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 Howell of the deaths.
At the time he told police: “He showed little or no emotion – I felt he was holding something back.”
Today Mr Hansford also disclosed that less than two months before Howell murdered Trevor Buchanan, Howell 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.
He added: “They then embraced.”
The pastor said Stewart, during counselling, had told him that Trevor Buchanan was not very “exciting” and “lacked ambition” and the marriage wasn’t all she had hoped it would be.
Mr Hansford said that Lesley Howell had started drinking more as she struggled to cope with her marital problems and the sudden death of her father – only two weeks before she was killed.
He said tablets Howell had given her to help her sleep also enabled him to see Stewart behind her back, when he would meet up with her having left the house on the pretence of going for a jog.
“The tablets to help her sleep allowed him to go running in the forest to carry on the affair,” he said.
The trial also heard from Lesley Howell’s brother, Christopher Clarke, who stayed with the couple in the days after the death of their father.
On one evening he noticed that his sister had become very drunk after only a couple of glasses of wine and when he asked Howell about it he said it was because he was giving her tablets.
“I remonstrated with him about the safety of combining sedatives with alcohol,” he said.
Mr Clarke said that after Lesley Howell’s death the £28,000 estate of his late father was divided 50/50 between he and Howell.
He also expressed his surprise that his sister had £212,000 in cash in her will - a sum that went to Howell.
Howell’s school and university friend Dr Marshall Reilly also took the stand and said he had lent the dentist £10,000 to set up his new practice.
He said he didn’t expect to see the money again when Lesley Howell died, and was surprised six months after her death when Howell paid him back.
“He told me one of the consequences was the life insurance had come in and he was now able to pay me back,” he said.