Hazel Stewart told police she wished she was dead when they questioned her about the murders of her husband and her ex-lover’s wife, a court heard today.
She said: “I was so scared and I have lived every day of my life since that happened wanting to die. I’d rather be dead than go through this for the sake of my children.”
At one stage today, her daughter Lisa, a nurse sitting in the public gallery beside her brother Andrew, dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief as Coleraine Crown Court fell silent while a jury of nine men and three women listened to the first of 15 taped interviews which Stewart, 47, gave to investigating officers.
The interview was after she was arrested for the murders of her husband Trevor, 32, and Mrs Lesley Howell, 31, who were thought to have died in suicide pact on the north coast of Northern Ireland 18 years earlier.
Detectives reopened the inquiry after Stewart’s then lover, dentist Colin Howell, 51, stunned his church elders by confessing to murdering the two and later when he was questioned by police claimed that Stewart was part of the plan which they covered up and then kept secret since the time of the deaths in May 1991.
Howell, a father of 10, from Glebe Road, Castlerock, is serving a 21-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to the two murders at Belfast Crown Court last November.
Last week, he spent four days in the witness box testifying against his former lover. Howell claimed he gave her tablets to sedate her policeman husband, Pc Trevor Buchanan, before gassing him with carbon monoxide fumes as he slept in his bed – the same way in which he murdered his wife earlier at their home on the other side of Coleraine.
He then drove the two bodies to the neighbouring seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry, where he stage-managed the apparent suicide, and then fooled police into believing they had taken their own lives because they were so depressed about his affair with Hazel.
Stewart, who years later married a ex-police chief superintendent David Stewart, was first questioned by two detectives, Sergeant Geoff Ferris and Pc Nicola Mallon, members of the PSNI’s major investigation team based at Maydown, Derry.
Her solicitor Stephen Ewing sat with her in an interview room at Coleraine Police Station. It was just coming up to 19.40 hours on January 29, 2009, when the interrogation started.
The police told her the offence for which she was arrested could not be more serious and said if she needed a drink, felt unwell or wanted something to eat they would try and facilitate her.