Stewart appeals against murder conviction

A former Sunday school teacher jailed for murdering her policeman husband and her ex-lover's wife has launched an appeal bid against her conviction.

Lawyers for Hazel Stewart, 48, submitted papers applying for leave to appeal against a jury's unanimous decision to find her guilty of killing Pc Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell on Northern Ireland's north coast almost 20 years ago.



A judge will consider whether there are sufficient grounds for allowing a full appeal hearing to take place. If the appeal proceeds it is unlikely to be heard before Christmas.



Legal sources indicated that the application for leave was received by the courts. It was submitted just ahead of the four-week deadline subsequent to her sentencing.



Stewart is in Hydebank women's prison in Belfast after being handed an 18-year minimum term following her conviction for plotting with her former lover, dentist Colin Howell, to poison his wife and her husband in May 1991.



The 32-year-old policeman and Mrs Howell, 31, were found in a fume-filled garage in the seaside town of Castlerock, Co Derry.



Police thought they had died in a bizarre suicide pact - triggered by their spouses' infidelity - until 18 years later when lay preacher Howell, apparently wracked by guilt, confessed to elders in his church that he murdered them and stage-managed the scene to look like they had taken their own lives.



He pleaded guilty to the murders last year and is serving 21 years in prison.



The dentist gassed his wife as she slept in their Coleraine home with carbon monoxide fumes piped from his car before dumping her body in the boot of the vehicle and driving the 10-minute journey to the Buchanan home. There he was met by Stewart and went on to kill the sleeping policeman by the same method.



He then took his two victims to nearby Castlerock where he left the car in the garage of his wife's late father and turned on the engine.



The jurors in Stewart's 15-day trial at Coleraine Crown Court agreed that she knew about the plan in advance and, in the case of her husband, actively facilitated his killing by ensuring he was drugged and allowing Howell into her home. They found her guilty on two counts of murder.



The mother of two did not take the stand during her trial, while Howell appeared as a Crown witness against her in four days of compelling testimony.



Since her conviction Stewart's two children Andrew and Lisa have insisted their mother did not murder their father. Her second husband David Stewart, a retired senior police officer, has also stood by her.



Setting the minimum term Stewart must spend behind bars earlier this month, judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart said she had shown little remorse for her dreadful crimes.



The judge claimed her tearful expressions of regret to police after her arrest in January 2009 - interviews that were played during her trial - were more about the situation she faced than sorrow for what she did.



"It is noteworthy that throughout her police interviews she said far more about the effect of these events on herself, her children and her present husband than she did about the effects of the murders on all the others whose lives have been ended and blighted by these events," he said.



"I consider that she has expressed little real remorse for what she did, rather the sorrow and regret which she expressed to the police was largely because of the situation in which she found herself, and not for the events in which she played her part."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power