‘If you look at the murders — I wanted it and Hazel facilitated it. So we were both waltzing in time’
— Colin Howell at the trial of Hazel Stewart
May 1991. The location: a quiet, picturesque seaside town. The scene: two bodies in a car filled with carbon monoxide. Police officer Trevor Buchanan and nurse Lesley Howell have apparently taken their own lives, unable to live with the pain of their spouses’ affair with each other.
The adulterous pair — Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan and dentist Colin Howell — had met in the local Baptist Church. Following the apparent double-suicide, they continue their affair secretly before both later remarrying.
A series of disasters in Howell’s life — the death of his eldest son, massive losses in an investment scam and the revelation that he has been sexually assaulting female patients — lead to him declaring that he is a fraud and a godless man. He tells the elders of his Church that he and Hazel Stewart conspired together to murder their spouses nearly two decades earlier.
What follows the dramatic confession are two of the most sensational murder investigations ever seen in Ireland, leading to both Howell’s conviction for murder in December 2010, and Stewart’s in March 2011 — despite her protestations of innocence.
‘If I was controlling in one area, Hazel was controlling in another area. It was a dance between control and manipulation’ — Colin Howell at the trial of Hazel Stewart
In Let This Be Our Secret, distinguished journalist Deric Henderson gives the definitive account of one of the most extraordinary murder cases to hit these islands for decades.
Deric Henderson is the former Ireland Editor of the Press Association, the national news agency for the UK and Ireland. He worked as a journalist in his home town of Omagh, Co Tyrone, London, but mostly Belfast for more than 40 years. He was named Northern Ireland Journalist of the Year in 2010 and in 2014 was awarded the MBE for services to journalism. He shares his time between Belfast and the North Coast and is married to Clare. They have two sons, Deric Jnr and Edward.