Hazel Stewart's double murder conviction appeal date is set

Hazel Stewart Hazel Stewart was convicted of murdering her her husband and the wife of her ex-lover

Double killer Hazel Stewart's bid to overturn her conviction for murdering her husband and ex-lover's wife will be heard in January, judges have ruled.

The former Sunday School teacher was jailed last year for plotting the murders with ex-dentist, Colin Howell.

Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell were killed in County Londonderry in 1991.

Stewart, 49, has undergone psychiatric examinations and psychological assessments as part of her attempt to overturn her conviction.

The mother of two was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years, which she is currently serving at Hydebank Prison in Belfast.

The medical experts' findings have been submitted to defence lawyers and were discussed with Stewart at the jail.

Fresh evidence

Barrister Mark Reel told the Court of Appeal in Belfast: "We have received the reports and we have consulted with the appellant in relation to them.

"The appellant has raised some factual matters in relation to the reports which the appellant feels are important and need to be clarified and resolved."

Stewart's legal team are still considering whether to seek to have fresh evidence admitted in their challenge.

The bodies of 32-year-old Mr Buchanan, and Mrs Howell, 31, were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock in May 1991.

Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering that their partners were having an affair.

They were, in fact, murdered before their bodies were arranged to make it look like they had taken their own lives.

It took nearly two decades for the truth to emerge when Howell, 52, suddenly confessed to both killings.

He pleaded guilty to the murders in 2010 and is serving a minimum of 21 years in prison.

Howell also implicated his former lover in the plot and gave evidence against her at her trial.

Drugged

In March last year, a jury at Coleraine Crown Court found Stewart guilty on two counts of murder.

During the trial the prosecution alleged she knew about the plan in advance and actively facilitated her husband's killing by ensuring he was drugged and allowing Colin Howell into her home.

She also disposed of evidence including the hose pipe used to gas their spouses, it was claimed.

After being updated on Friday, Northern Ireland's most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, said a date for hearing the appeal should be fixed.

He was told by Mr Reel that the case should last "about a day".

Sir Declan confirmed to the barrister: "We will list it for Monday January 21."

Stewart's lawyers were given another month to decide whether to seek to bring in new evidence.

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