Northern Ireland

Murder accused Stewart 'freaked out' over laughing gas

Hazel Stewart denies the murders of her husband Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell in 1991
Image caption Hazel Stewart denies the murders of her husband Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell in 1991

Hazel Stewart "went crazy" when she feared her former lover gave her too much laughing gas before sex on his dentist's chair, a court has heard.

Mrs Stewart, 47, denies murdering her husband, Trevor Buchanan, 32, and her former lover Colin Howell's wife, Leslie, 31, in May 1991.

In police tapes played at her Coleraine trial, she said she wanted to jump out of a window after the gas incident.

"I knew what he was trying to do and I freaked out," she said.

Mrs Stewart said she could remember Colin Howell, 51, a former dentist, trying to have sex with her while she was under sedation.

Trevor Buchanan and Leslie Howell were originally thought to have died in a suicide pact on the north coast of Northern Ireland.

Detectives reopened the inquiry 18 years after the deaths, when Howell stunned his church elders by confessing to murdering the pair.

Later, when he was questioned by police, he claimed that Hazel Stewart was part of the plan which they had covered up and then kept secret since the time of the murders in May 1991.

Howell, a father of 10, from Glebe Road, Castlerock, is serving a 21-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to the two murders at Belfast Crown Court last November.

Face mask

He has already told his former mistress's trial at Coleraine Crown Court that he administered drugs through a face mask at his surgery, and once by needle at her home, prior to intercourse with Mrs Stewart because she struggled with guilt after the deaths of his wife and her husband.

He claimed the incident in which she took a panic attack was because of a bad reaction to the sedatives, not because he overdosed her.

In the tape, Mrs Stewart said she was not sure if Howell definitely had sex with her while she was semi-conscious, but that he certainly tried.

"I just felt why would he knock me out and not do something," on the taped police interview.

Mrs Stewart said she initially agreed to being drugged - she said it helped deal with her guilt - but said she became more uneasy with it as it continued.

"I still feel I was cornered into that, pressured into that," she said.

On the one occasion he administered drugs with a needle, she was knocked out completely and did not remember much of the evening.

She said Howell kept asking her did she remember anything. Mrs Stewart said the incident in his practice when she "went crazy" was the last time she and Howell experimented with sedatives.

The dentist has admitted three counts of indecently assaulting patients under sedative at his practice.

A police detective asked Mrs Stewart was she aware of him using the technique on his patients.

"No," she said, but added: "I always wondered why he asked the question, 'What do you remember?'

"I did wonder did he do this to anybody else."

The trial continues