Killer dentist’s lover gets life sentence for murder

The ex-lover of jailed double murderer and former dentist Colin Howell receives life sentence

In the end it took a jury of nine men and three women just two and a half hours to convict Hazel Stewart and write what is hopefully the final chapter in one of most sensational trials in Northern Ireland’s recent memory.

The ex-lover of jailed double-murderer and former dentist Coin Howell received a life sentence on 2 March for her part in the killings of her husband Trevor Buchanan and Howell’s wife Lesley nearly 20 years ago.

Howell was jailed before Christmas after pleading guilty to the murders, so Stewart’s 15-day trial at Coleraine Crown Court was the first time many of the details of the case had come to light. And, although she didn’t take the stand during proceedings, Howell himself spent four days giving evidence at the trial.

In his testimony he admitted he was the “mastermind” behind the killings but insisted that Stewart had been the one to seduce him, saying: “Flies go into spiders’ webs because they think there is some food for them there and I willingly went after the bait and we got caught together in the trap.”

During cross-examination Howell also admitted to being callous, manipulative, merciless, evil and devious but insisted that Stewart was a willing participant. He said: “With the murders, I wanted it and Hazel facilitated it. We were waltzing in time.”

Outside court Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, who led the investigation, acknowledged the “sheer emotional wreckage this (case) has left behind”. Trevor Buchanan’s brother Gordon also spoke to the waiting press and said: “While there’s immense satisfaction that justice for Trevor has finally been achieved, there’s no sense of victory – no cause for celebration – as nothing can bring Trevor and Lesley back to us.”