Northern Ireland

Colin Howell will not face trial for alleged rape of Hazel Stewart

Double Killer Colin Howell
Double Killer Colin Howell

DOUBLE killer Colin Howell will not face trial in connection with the alleged rape of his co-accused Hazel Stewart.

Howell had been investigated over an allegation that he drugged and sexually assaulted his former lover during their time together.

A solicitor representing the ex-Sunday school teacher has said they will be asking for a review of the decision not to prosecute.

In August The Irish News reported that Howell had been questioned by specialist officers and a file sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Stewart (58), who is serving an 18-year jail term for her role in assisting in the murders of the pair’s former partners, had been spoken to by specialist officers and given her account of the alleged abuse.

Howell, who is serving at least 22 years for the murder of his former wife and the then husband of Hazel Stewart, was questioned in 2018.

The bodies of Lesley Howell (31) and Constable Trevor Buchanan (32) were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Derry in May 1991.

Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact and nearly two decades passed before Colin Howell confessed to the murders.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 and implicated Stewart in the plot and gave evidence against her at her trial.

Howell is also serving a separate sentence for sexually assaulting five female patients while they were under sedation at his dental surgery in Ballymoney.

While the allegation of a sexual assault on Stewart was known at the time and featured in The Secret, journalist Deric Henderson’s book later adapted into a TV series about the double murder, it was never raised in her defence.

ITV agreed not to re-run the series, starring actor James Nesbitt, until any legal process linked to the allegations was concluded.

Howell (61) was taken from Maghaberry Prison in 2018 and questioned by detectives from the PSNI public protection unit.

Stewart claims she was in a coercively abusive relationship with the dentist who manipulated and sexually abused her during their time together.

But in a letter to her yesterday, the PPS said it had "concluded that the evidence available is insufficient to afford a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction of the suspect in respect of any offence".

It said: "The suspect accepts that he sedated you with your agreement and that sexual activity occurred but he claims you were always conscious so that you were capable of consent and that you were consenting at all times".

Kevin Winters of KRW Law, who represents Mrs Stewart, said: "The PPS indicated two reasons declining prosecution, both of which are contested by our client

"Firstly, she rejects absolutely the suggestion made by Howell that she consented to sedation for the purposes of sexual activity.

"Secondly, she asserts that at all times she has been consistent in her allegations made to police.

"We have asked the PPS to review this decision immediately and expect to receive confirmation details on the review process as soon as possible."