Where is Colin Howell now? His difficult prison life detailed

Colin Howell

Colin Howell planned and executed the perfect murder. For two decades, people thought Lesley Clarke and Trevor Buchanan committed suicide after police found the pair in a fume-filled car in May 1991. However, Howell killed them, staged the scene, and presented a story reinforcing the suicide theory.

Howell confessed to the murders twenty years later. At Cowell’s sentencing, Judge Anthony Hart said: “These were truly heinous crimes, cold-blooded, carefully planned, and ruthlessly executed. Even when each victim stirred in their sleep, Howell did not draw back, but subdued their faint signs of consciousness.”

Author Deric Henderson detailed the murder in the book Let This Be Our Secret. The book formed the basis of the 2016 ITV series The Secret

Key Highlights

  • Colin Howell offers relationship advice to other inmates at Maghaberry Prison as he serves his life sentence. 
  • Howell might be convicted of raping his accomplice and former lover Hazel Stewart if her legal challenge prevails. 
  • Howell claimed that he became miserable after the murders, motivating him to come clean about Lesley and Trevor’s murders. 

Colin Howell has faced many hardships while serving his life sentence

Colin Howell confessed to the calculated manner he killed his wife Lesley and his lovers’ husband, Trevor Buchanan. He doused them with toxic car exhaust fumes before placing them inside a car in a small garage and leaving the engine running. 

Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan who were murdered in 1991
Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan who were murdered in 1991

Howell made it seem like Trevor and Lesley were lovers who’d made a suicide pact. However, Colin eliminated Trevor and Lesley to pave the way for his and Trevor’s wife’s relationship. Crown lawyer Kieran Murphy told the court:

“This was a meticulous and devious plan and pre-meditated in a manner that might be described as professional. The actions of the dentist were calculated, callous, manipulative, evil and wholly without mercy for two defenseless victims, one of whom was his wife and the other the loving husband of his co-accused.”

The relationship Colin killed for didn’t last long after the murders: Colin married New York native Kyle Jorgensen; Hazel Stewart married David Stewart, a senior police officer. 

Judge Hart sentenced Colin to a minimum of 21 years in prison. In 2016, reports alleged that prison authorities had moved Colin to the hospital block at the maximum security Maghaberry jail to monitor his health closely. 

The move came months after Colin collapsed behind bars. The Ulster Hospital in Dundonald treated him for dehydration caused by his refusal to eat and drink. A source told Belfast Live that Howell wasn’t on suicide watch. 

“He is currently on a new landing,” a source told the publication. “Anybody who is there would be considered vulnerable. Basically you have more numbers in terms of the staff to prisoners ratio.”

A June 2021 report by the Belfast Telegraph claimed that inmates at Maghaberry Prison consult Colin for relationship advice. The outlet also claimed that authorities rejected his request to offer dental work. 

Howell may be convicted of raping accomplice and former lover Hazel Stewart

Colin confessed to the double murder and implicated Hazel Stewart in the plot. Hazel pleaded not guilty but made confessions to authorities that convinced the court to convict her of the crimes. 

The judge pointed out that Stewart had opportunities to stop her husband’s death but decided not to save him. She also helped Colin dispose of the evidence. Judge Harte sentenced her to a minimum of 18 years. 

Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart
Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart

Stewart has failed in her attempts to appeal her conviction and sentence but hasn’t given up. She hopes that her latest appeal, based on her assertion that Colin coerced her into participating in the crimes, reduces her sentence or eliminates her conviction. 

Hazel first has to prove that Howell raped her. Colin was convicted of sexually assaulting five women, but prosecutors didn’t consider Hazel a victim of Colin’s depravity. At no point did Hazel accuse Colen of sexually assaulting her, even after Colin’s victims lodged their complaints. 

In a prison interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Hazel claimed that Colin drugged her for sex sessions without her consent. Colin admitted to drugging Hazel, but he insisted that she consented. 

“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,” Hazel said. “I was very naive.” She added:

“Even when he was taking me to the surgery and gassing me, he was experimenting on me and I knew that. How could I stop it? Most of the time I just wanted to die, I wanted it over. I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t do anything. And so, he did the things he did. He had a hold on me.”

Hazel’s legal challenge hinges on her convincing the court that Colin raped her. “If Howell was ever to be convicted of raping Hazel, then it is likely another presentation will come before the Court of Appeal,” a legal expert told Sunday World

Colin confessed because he was overcome with guilt over the murders

Colin Howell

Hazel said she feared Colin would kill her, so she pretended to be okay. She explained: “At times he was probably anxious and worried how I was coping and that maybe scared him in case I would go and say something, but I was too scared.”

The religious Colin suffered tremendously after the murders. He lost over 350,000 pounds in a sham investment and lost his son via a car accident in Russia. Colin saw the misfortunes as punishments from God.

Colin confessed his crimes to his wife and his church’s elders. The elders convinced him to open up about the murders. 

In court, Howell’s lawyer, Richard Weir, said Colin expressed regret and remorse. Weir said:

“There is a man there, not a monster, a man who allowed distorted thinking, a loss of reason, an illicit passion to completely destroy the lives of his victims and to destroy his own life.”

Weir said that Colin became isolated and deeply unhappy after the murders. He added that the crimes weighed so heavily on Colin’s conscience that he decided to come clean:

“These crimes would not have seen the light of day and been properly prosecuted by this criminal justice system had it not been for the fact that his conscience and his conscience alone troubled him over the years.”

Weir added that Colin’s confession would offer the victim’s families some peace with the knowledge that Lesley and Trevor didn’t commit suicide. “At least part of their reputation is restored and at least the family now knows the truth of these matters,” Weir said.