Northern Ireland

Hazel Stewart: Double killer 'fails in final legal bid' to overturn murder conviction

Hazel Stewart Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Hazel Stewart was convicted in 2011 of the murders of her policeman husband and her lover's wife

Hazel Stewart, who murdered her husband and her ex-lover's wife, has failed in a final legal bid to overturn one of her two murder convictions.

The former Sunday School teacher from Coleraine, County Londonderry, was jailed in 2011 for the double murder she helped to commit 20 years earlier.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates miscarriage of justice claims, has refused to refer her case to the Court of Appeal.

It exhausts options to reopen the case.

'Suicide pact'

Stewart was at the centre of a high-profile murder trial after Colin Howell - the dentist with whom she once had an extra-martial affair - confessed to police that they had conspired to kill both of their spouses.

The victims were Stewart's 32-year-old husband, Trevor Buchanan, who was a police officer, and Howell's 31-year-old wife, Leslie.

Their bodies were found together in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, County Londonderry, in May 1991.

For almost two decades, police believed they died in a suicide pact after discovering their spouses were having an affair.

However, the case became a murder investigation in 2009 when Howell contacted police and confessed to both murders.

He pleaded guilty the following year and was jailed for at least 21 years.

Howell told police Stewart took part in the murder plot and gave evidence against her during her trial.

Final determination

In March 2011 Stewart was convicted of both murders and was later ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years in prison.

She has since mounted a series of attempts to overturn the verdicts.

In January 2013, her appeal against her conviction for murdering Mrs Howell was dismissed and she abandoned her challenge to being found guilty of killing her first husband.

However, her lawyers applied to the CCRC in an attempt to have the conviction for murdering Mrs Howell referred back to the Court of Appeal.

But after studying her case, the body refused and made a final determination that Stewart's application should be closed.

She can only make a fresh request if new evidence emerges.

Stewart's solicitor, Kevin Winters, confirmed the case was not being referred back at this stage, but did not rule out future legal action.

"We are considering the CCRC's ruling and we are currently engaging with the PSNI on matters of a sensitive nature which require further investigation and may result in a further application to the Court of Appeal," he said.

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