PART TWO | 

How demon dentist Colin Howell made double-murder look like suicide before shock confession

For almost five years after the supposed suicides of their scorned spouses, Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan continued to see one another.

Kyle Howell with killer husband Colin Howell

Hazel Stewart on a night out

Lesley was wearing headphones

Undated handout photo issued by Police Service of Northern Ireland of Trevor Buchanan© PA

Sunday World

Just before 9am on Sunday, May 19, 1991, Colin Howell called Jim Flanagan, one of the church elders, and asked him if he would help him look for his wife Lesley.

He said that she had driven off during the night and he believed she was with Trevor Buchanan.

Jim called over to the house where Colin sat holding his six-month-old baby as the three older children played happily.

He passed Jim a note that he said he had found when Lesley left. It read: “Dear Colin, I’m just trying to go to sleep now, how long I don’t know. Thank you for your help over the past few days and for the good times in our marriage.

“I don’t know what to say to you because I don’t know how I feel, but I have seen that life goes on after a few weeks of pain, and, let’s face it Colin, I am nothing in comparison to what you lost in the one you loved a while back. If I wake up in the morning, just let this be our secret. All my love, Lesley.”

He asked Jim if he would check Lesley’s father’s house at the 12 Apostles to see if she was there, but Jim returned within a short time and said he didn’t see any sign of them.

Colin called Jim at around 12.30pm, and asked him to check the 12 Apostles once more and said he would give him the keys. Jim asked police officer David Green to come with him.

They arrived at the 12 Apostles at approximately 1.20pm and unlocked the house to check inside.

Lesley was wearing headphones

While Constable Green was looking around the bedrooms, Jim went to check the garage at the back of the house.

When he lifted the door, he saw the Howells’ Renault 21 estate car had been reversed in, and barely visible over the steering wheel he saw Trevor Buchanan slumped in the front seat.

Jim called out for Constable Green and the officer ran in to check Trevor’s pulse. It was then he saw Lesley Howell, laid out on her back in the boot, wearing her headphones.

They were both dead.

Officers were called out to the scene of what they were told appeared to be a double suicide. There was a strong smell of exhaust fumes, and the key was in the on position in the ignition.

Trevor was slumped down in the driver’s seat, his right hand was resting on the steering wheel, and one leg had almost folded beneath him in the footwell while the other was positioned out of the car.

Next to Lesley’s body lay three framed photographs, one picture was of Lesley and her mother, another was of Lesley, her brother and their father, and the third was a photograph of Lesley and Colin.

There were no photos of her four children. A layer of soot covered the boot, explained by the hosepipe of a vacuum cleaner that was next to Lesley’s head and connected to the exhaust.

LIFE GOES ON

For almost five years after the supposed suicides of their scorned spouses, Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan continued to see one another.

But Hazel’s Christian guilt meant that Colin could only have sex with her after he had sedated her with drugs from his dental surgery.

Eventually Hazel tried to move on, with a man she had dated 20 years earlier in her teens, Trevor McAuley.

Hazel cheated on McAuley too, meeting her future husband, former Chief Superintendent with the RUC, David Stewart, at the gym McAuley paid for her to attend.

Hazel and David got married in the summer of 2005.

Colin Howell had moved on with his life too.

At a Christian singles night hosted in his own home in December, 1996, he met Kyle Jorgenson (30), an American expat who had moved from New York with her two young children after escaping a turbulent marriage.

They were married in 1997, and had a baby the following year. Over the next ten years they had three more children.

When Colin’s oldest son, Matthew, accidentally fell to his death during a university placement in St Petersburg as part of his placement for his undergraduate language course at St Andrews, Colin felt it was God’s punishment.

THE CONFESSION

On the morning of January 29, 2009, Kyle phoned the church elders and asked them to come to their house on Glebe Road.

The church elders knew they were called to hear another confession from Colin Howell they had heard many before — he had been unfaithful a number of times throughout his marriage to Kyle.

But the confession did not end there.

Colin admitted that he had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds on a scam, and he owed a lot of money to patients and the revenue.

He said that he had committed a sin when he allowed his first wife Lesley to have three abortions before they were married, and he had also been with Hazel when she’d had an abortion during their affair.

Colin spoke about how he had molested patients while they were under sedation between 1998 and 2008, and that he just could not help himself when it came to his sexual urges.

Finally, at the urging of his wife who recited biblical verses as they sat at the table with the stunned church elders, Colin Howell confessed his deadliest sin.

He had killed Lesley and Trevor, and he had made it look like a double suicide.

THE MURDERS

The police were called once Colin had told the elders everything, and he was taken to Coleraine police station where he finally revealed the truth about the death of his wife and his mistress’s husband in May 1991.

He told them he had not committed the crime on his own, either. On May 14 1991, Colin and Hazel met up and he told her he had a way to get rid of their spouses so they could be together.

He didn’t go into much detail but he said it would look like a suicide and all she needed to do was to make sure Trevor was sedated, to open the garage for him and move Trevor’s car out of the way, and to cover for him afterwards.

He needed to ensure Trevor wouldn’t wake uphe was an RUC officer with a firearm.

He handed her a packet of temazepam and told her to crush them up and hide them in Trevor’s food on the night of his plan.

Undated handout photo issued by Police Service of Northern Ireland of Trevor Buchanan© PA

Colin had everything ready, while he had been setting up his son’s birthday gift — a slide — in the garage, he cut a baby bottle and adapted it to fit snugly over the exhaust pipe of the car.

When Lesley was sleeping on the couch that night, he connected a hosepipe to the bottle and led it into the living room.

With his wife in a deep sleep under the duvet, he placed the hosepipe next to her face and went into the garage to turn on the ignition of the car.

Colin made sure the hosepipe stayed beneath the duvet and stood outside the living room, watching through the partially opened door to make sure it did not fall.

As the exhaust fumes were funnelled into Lesley’s face she began to stir.

Colin was afraid she would wake up so he took a deep breath and rushed into the room to pull the bedcover over her head. As he did, Lesley cried out for Matthew, their eldest son.

Colin dressed Lesley’s lifeless body before carrying her into the garage and placing her in the boot of the car. He recoiled the hosepipe and detached the baby bottle from the exhaust before putting them in the car too.

A white sheet was draped across Lesley’s corpse before Colin threw a bike on top of her.

Methodically executing his plan, he made a split second decision to take Lesley’s cassette player and three photographs with him.

At around 1am, he phoned Hazel, hung up before the first ring, and waited for her to call back.

When she did, he told her he was finished with Lesley, and he was on his way.

Colin got out of the car and walked towards Hazel. He opened the boot and removed the hose and bottle as he gestured to the sheet and said: “There’s Lesley.”

He asked Hazel if Trevor was definitely asleep, she confirmed that he was, so Colin attached the bottle and hose to the exhaust and walked through the kitchen towards the bedroom.

He walked into Hazel and Trevor’s bedroom, and placed the hose next to Trevor’s head before returning to the garage and turning on the car as he had done before.

Hazel Stewart on a night out

As Colin dragged Trevor’s body to the garage he told Hazel everything would be fine, he passed her the hosepipe and bottle and told her to cut them up and burn them in the fire before she cleaned up the bedroom.

Colin took the bike out of the boot of the car and lifted Trevor’s body on top of Lesley before he covered it with a sheet and put the bike back on top of them both.

He drove to the 12 Apostles, reversing the car into Lesley’s father’s garage. After pulling on a pair of surgical gloves, he opened the boot and pulled Trevor to the driver’s side of the car.

With one of Trevor’s legs still sitting out of the car, Colin returned to the boot and removed the sheet from Lesley’s body. He carefully arranged the framed photographs around her before placing her headphones over her ears.

Colin went through the process with clinical precision, attaching a vacuum hose to the exhaust and feeding it into the boot before closing it over to keep it in place.

With Lesley’s favourite gospel music playing through her headphones, he threw the sheets into a black bag and with the gloves and sheet in the bag he jogged on to the beach and picked up the pace as he returned to where he had left the bike.

From there he cycled at speed until he got home where he burned the evidence and phoned Hazel to tell her everything went smoothly.

AFTERMATH

When she was eventually arrested, Hazel said of Colin: “He controlled me. He decided and he planned this. I want to say sorry to Trevor’s family. My guilt was horrendous, my shame.

“I hated him. He was capable of doing everything. I was scared for my children.

“I don’t know if it was love or fear. He had control over me. It was like I was his little robot.”

Colin Howell was charged with two counts of murder on February 3, 2009 and that December he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 21 years.

Hazel Stewart was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 18 years for her role in the murders.

Colin Howell is said to be a model inmate in Maghaberry high-security prison in Co Antrim. He was granted temporary release in 2018 to attend his father’s funeral, and was said to have been writing a children’s book of fables.


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