Double killer Colin Howell said today that he hopes the victims of his crimes can forgive him for what he did.
Appearing as a witness in the double murder trial of his ex-lover Hazel Stewart, the disgraced dentist said it would be selfish to seek forgiveness from all those hurt when he poisoned his wife Lesley and Stewart’s husband Trevor Buchanan in May 1991.
But with bereaved relatives sitting only feet away from him in the witness box of a packed Coleraine Crown Court, Howell claimed it would help their own healing process to forgive him.
“I would not ask for their forgiveness as that would be selfish,” he said quietly.
“If anyone chooses to forgive me then that would be a good thing.”
He added: “I don’t think people can truly be healed until they forgive.”
Howell, a professed devout Christian who admitted to the double murder two years ago, was explaining to Stewart’s defence lawyer why he had chosen to give evidence against her.
Stewart, 47, from Ballystrone Road, Coleraine, denies she was part of a joint enterprise with Howell to kill their respective spouses and make it look like a suicide pact.
She sat with her head down as her one-time lover, whose marriage proposal she turned down four years after the murders, began giving evidence on his second day in the witness box.
Members of the public had arrived at the courthouse two hours ahead of the start of proceedings in the hope of seeing his cross examination – most were left disappointed as the gallery was packed to capacity with relatives.
In response to Paul Ramsey QC’s opening question, Howell, who was transported from Maghaberry high security prison in Co Antrim, said he decided to take the stand to help the victims obtain closure.
“I set myself up to be a punch bag today for all I did,” he said.
“I am here under great personal shame, I brought disgrace on myself and many other people.”
Howell, dressed in the same grey suit that has marked all his appearances in court, said his confession had opened a wound that needed to be healed.
“I dealt with myself first (by confessing) and I then knew I had opened a wound that other people thought was closed,” he said.
“That was opened by me telling the truth. When a wound is opened a lot of people bleed.”
He added: “Two years after my admission to police and arrest we have come to a point when I believe there are still obstacles in the way of the most important people healing, that’s the victims.”
The bodies of Mrs Howell, 31, and Mr Buchanan, 32, were found in a fume-filled garage in the seaside town of Castlerock near Coleraine.