21 years for murder dentist Howell

CASTLEROCK dentist Colin Howell will serve at least 21 years in jail for murdering his wife and the husband of his former lover.

Mr Justice Hart, sitting today in Antrim Crown Court sitting at Belfast, set the minimum term of imprisonment to be served by Colin Howell for the murders in 1991 of his wife, Lesley Howell and of Trevor Buchanan, the husband of his then lover and now co-defendant, Hazel Stewart (formerly Hazel Buchanan).

At the outset Mr Justice Hart clarified that Mrs Stewart has pleaded not guilty to both counts of murder and is currently awaiting trial on those charges.

Mr Justice Hart considered that it was not necessary to await the outcome of the trial of Mrs Stewart before proceeding to fix the minimum term which Mr Howell must serve before he can be considered for release by the Parole Commissioners as his admissions clearly set out his role.

Mr Justice Hart said: "These were truly heinous crimes, constituting as they did the cold blooded, carefully planned and ruthlessly executed double murder of two people who Howell saw as standing in the way of his adulterous desire to be with Hazel Buchanan.

"Each murder was carried out when the victim was asleep and thus entirely defenceless. Even when they stirred in their sleep Howell did not draw back and spare their lives, but physically subdued their faint signs of approaching consciousness, thereby ensuring their deaths."

The judge added that as a consequence two innocent people were murdered, and six children deprived of the love of their mother or their father.

In determining the mitigating factors, the judge considered psychiatric reports prepared on behalf of Mr Howell.

Mr Justice Hart concluded that Mr Howell was an intelligent man who knew exactly what he was doing throughout.

The judge considered that the only mitigating factor in the case was Mr Howell's confession and his willingness to give evidence for the prosecution.

Taking account of Mr Howell's confession to the police, as he is required to do by statute, and that he has volunteered to give evidence against his co-defendant Mrs Stewart, the judge found that he had accepted his guilt and given practical expression to his remorse.

He fixed the minimum term that Mr Howell must serve in full before he is eligible to be considered for release as 21 years. This will include the time spent in custody on remand.