Investigation Discovery’s ‘Deadly Women: Beauty and the Beastly’ follows the double murder of Lesley Howell, 31, and Trevor Buchanan, 32, in a garage in Castlerock, County Londonderry, in May 1991. The case was solved nearly three decades after significant discrepancies were found in the initial investigation and a surprising twist. If you’re intrigued and want to know the killers’ identities and whereabouts, we’ve your back. Let’s start then, shall we?
How Did Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan Die?
Hailing from Omagh in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, Hazel Stewart, a former Sunday School teacher, married Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Constable Trevor Buchanan in July 1981 in their local Baptist Church. Their marriage resulted in the birth of two children, Andrew and Lisa. According to the show, the family shifted to Coleraine in 1986 and resided in the upper-middle-class Charnwood Park estate. Dentist Colin Howell of Portadown, Northern Ireland, married his first wife, Lesley Clarke Howell, in July 1983.
The couple were members of their local Coleraine Baptist church and had four children together. The lives of the two couples intersected when Hazel met Colin while taking swimming lessons in Ballymoney Leisure Centre, organized by the Evangelical sect of which they were both members. As per the show, they engaged in a passionate extramarital affair but confessed to their respective spouses after being caught red-handed by a prying member of their church at their secret rendezvous at Castleroe Forest Park on Kilrea Road.
The episode chronicled how the RUC Constable, Trevor, was “absolutely gutted” after learning about his wife’s sordid affair. In contrast, Lesley tried to take her life by overdosing on her husband’s secret stash of prescription-only Temazepam sleeping tablets. At that time, she had just given birth to their fourth child. However, neither Lesley nor Trevor wanted to end their respective marriages and tried to save them by attending church-based counseling sessions.
Hence, it was a shock when Trevor and Lesley’s bodies were discovered on May 19, 1991, in the garage of the latter’s father, Harry Clarke’s picturesque cottage terrace, ‘The Twelve Apostles,’ in Castlerock, County Londonderry. While Lesley was found in the boot of her car, a Renault 21, with her headphones on, Trevor’s body lay slumped in the front seat with the driver’s door open. His right hand was resting on the steering wheel, one leg had almost folded beneath him in the footwell, and the other was positioned out of the car.
The officers noted a strong smell of exhaust fumes inside the vehicle and found the key was in the on position in the ignition. In addition, a hosepipe was connected to the car exhaust, with the other end lying beside Lesly’s head. There were three pictures by Lesley showing her with her husband, parents, and sibling. Not just that, a layer of soot covered the car’s boot, and the official cause of death was ruled asphyxiation. Despite protests from the friends and families of the victims, the coroner and the investigators ruled the deaths as suicide.
Who Killed Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan?
The episode described how Colin had called a senior church member, Jim Flanagan, around 9:00 AM on May 19, 1991, and reported his wife, Lesley, was missing. He allegedly suspected his wife was with Hazel’s erstwhile husband, Trevor, and asked the latter to check his father-in-law’s property for them. After failing to find anyone the first time, Jim returned with a police officer, David Green, and checked the cottage thoroughly to find the victims in the garage at around 1:20 PM.
Colin showed the officers the alleged suicide note left behind by his wife, an excerpt from it reading – “Dear Colin, I’m just trying to go to sleep now, how long I don’t know.” Besides, he cited how Lesley had been suicidal after discovering his infidelity, painting her as an alcoholic, self-medicating, unfit mother. He claimed she could not handle the death of her father, who passed away around 11 days earlier. Colin’s calculative ruse worked, as the investigators discarded potential evidence and ruled the manner of deaths as suicide.
According to the show, Colin and Hazel had planned the double murder of their spouses as the only means to carry on their sordid affair and for financial gains. They had continued their fling even after supposedly reconciling with their respective spouses following the church-based counseling sessions. Court testimonials showed how Hazel had gotten pregnant during the affair and resorted to aborting the child at a private clinic in London, with Howard arranging the entire thing. It was at this point they hatched a plan to kill their spouses.
In the late hours of May 18, 1991, Colin attached part of his baby’s feeding bottle to a garden hose and gassed a sleeping Lesley with carbon monoxide from their car’s exhaust. When she woke up in the middle of the process, he pulled a duvet over her head and pushed the hose into her face, holding it there until she died. Meanwhile, Hazel drugged Trevor with powerful Lorazepam tranquilizers before Colin arrived and killed him, using the same process he used with Lesley. He drove the two bodies to Lesley’s father’s cottage and arranged the scene to make it seem like a double suicide pact.
After the investigators and the coroner corroborated their theory, Colin and Hazel gained substantially from the deaths of their heavily insured spouses. One of the attorneys on the show claimed that Lesley’s husband gained an estimate of £414,000 from her will, life insurance, and an endowment from her late father’s estate. The murderers continued their affair for some months, but Colin, a devoutly religious man, resorted to sedating Hazel with drugs before having sex with her to get away from his guilt.
Eventually, Colin and Hazel moved on, married other people, and continued their lives. But retribution was around the corner. After Colin lost a lot of money in dodgy investment deals in the Philippines and his son in a tragic accidental death in Russia, he started to feel guilty about his beliefs and conscience. On January 29, 2009, his second wife, Kyle Jorgenson, whom he married in 1997, called the church’s senior members to their home.
Where Are Hazel Stewart and Colin Howell Now?
A guilt-ridden Colin confessed that he had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds on a scam and owed a lot of money to patients and the revenue. He also admitted to molesting patients while they were under sedation between 1998 and 2008. He also disclosed how he had murdered his former wife, Lesley, and Trevor with the help of Hazel. After nearly three decades, Colin and Hazel were arrested and charged with murder. The former pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 21 years in December 2010.
Colin was later convicted of carrying out a string of sexual assaults against women patients in his Coleraine dental practice and sentenced to five and a half years in prison for sexual assault. The 63-year-old is serving his sentence in HMP Maghaberry and was granted temporary release in 2018 to attend his father’s funeral. Coleraine Crown Court gave Hazel an 18-year life sentence in March 2011. As per news reports, she appealed against her conviction in 2021, asserting that she was a victim of repeated rape by her manipulating former lover, Colin.
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