'I was very naive,' Hazel Stewart says of relationship with killer dentist Colin Howell
Hazel Stewart has broken her silence on the controlling nature of her former lover Colin Howell and how she believed he would kill her in the same way he murdered her husband and his wife.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from Hydebank Prison, Stewart says he is a stronger person now but at that time in her life she was "vulnerable" and "naive".
Stewart says she has tried not to "dwell" on the period in her life because "it opens up a whole can of worms and I don’t want that, I want to protect myself from that."
Stewart is serving a minimum 18-year jail sentence for murdering Mr Buchanan (32) and 31-year-old Lesley Howell, the wife of her ex-lover Colin Howell.
The victims were found together in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Derry in May 1991.
Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering their partners were having an affair.
Nearly two decades passed before dentist Howell (58) suddenly confessed to both killings.
He pleaded guilty to the murders in 2010 and was ordered to serve at least 21 years behind bars.
Howell also implicated his former lover in the plot and gave evidence against her at her trial.
In March 2011 she was unanimously convicted of both killings by a jury at Coleraine Crown Court.
Since then she has failed in a series of attempts to have the verdicts overturned.
Backed by her children and husband, the former Sunday School teacher still protests she is innocent of murder.
Stewart admits she was “naive” and said Howell held “all the power”.
“People say ‘why did you let it go on so long, why did you not leave’ and I think that was the reason. I was scared to leave him because I didn’t know what he’d do, I didn’t know what he’d do, and he had so much on me that he held all the power,” she added.
“He was very powerful in my eyes, whereas I would have been the complete opposite. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to think or behave like that, but he had all that knowledge from being a dentist.
“I wouldn’t have known that you could do that, that you could drug someone like that or that you would actually do that to someone.
“I was very naive, I was very naïve,” she told The Belfast Telegraph.
Earlier this month the Public Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute Howell in relation to the alleged rape of his former partner Stewart.