A former Sunday school teacher has today been found guilty of murdering her policeman husband and her lover’s wife.
Hazel Stewart (aged 48) stood accused at Coleraine Crown Court of plotting with her then-lover – dentist Colin Howell – to poison Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell in May 1991 so they could be together.
Their spouses were found dead in a fume-filled car in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry, in what police believed was a suicide pact.
The crimes came to light only when Howell confessed to elders in his church two years ago.
Mr Justice Anthony Hart said the only sentence which he could give her was life.
The jury of nine men and three women, who deliberated for just less than two-and-a-half hours, reached unanimous verdicts on both murder counts.
Stewart breathed heavily and glanced at family members in the public gallery as the jury foreman delivered the decision.
Her daughter Lisa shouted out: “No, it’s not fair” while her son Andrew broke down and wept.
Stewart’s second husband David also cried as he reached across to comfort the two children.
On the other side of the public gallery, relatives of Mr Buchanan clasped each other quietly. Relatives of Mrs Howell sat close by.
Judge Anthony Hart ordered Stewart to stand up and told her she had been convicted of a double murder and the only punishment the court could hand down was life imprisonment.
He then told prison staff: “Take her away.”
Stewart was led from the dock toward the cells.
The judge said her husband and two children would be allowed to see her before she was transported to prison.
The judge said he would set the minimum term Stewart must serve at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast on March 11.