Victim’s brother speaks of relief and sadness

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SCARVA man Ray Buchanan will travel to Belfast Crown Court this Friday to see his brother Trevor’s wife sentenced for his murder 20 years ago.

Hazel Stewart was last week convicted of the murders of her husband and her then lover’s wife Lesley Howell. But while the guilty verdict recorded following a 15-day trial was a “relief”, Ray said it in no way makes up for the tragic loss of his beloved brother two decades ago.

“It’s difficult,” Ray, head of the annual Iveagh Horse Show in Banbridge, told the Leader following the trial.

“There are no real winners in that we lost our brother 20 years ago.”

In those two decades, both the Buchanan and Howell families were led to believe their loved ones had committed suicide after discovering their respective partners were having an affair.

Killer dentist Colin Howell is already serving a life sentence in prison for the double murder, having confessed to the shocking crime two years ago.

Now his former lover Hazel will face a similar sentence after a jury decided she was equally responsible for killing their partners by poisoning them with carbon monoxide fumes and then staging it to look like suicide.

Ray, who has lived in Scarva for more than 30 years, said the last three weeks had been a trying time for his family, but thanked those who have supported them throughout the ordeal.

“I was there for all bar one day of the trial,” said Mr Buchanan. “There was a lot of stress involved because at the end of the day it was a trial and we were depending on the good will of the jury. It’s a relief to know that it’s over - but there’s no real winner.

“I would like to thank people for their support.”

In a family statement outside Coleraine courthouse just minutes after Hazel Stewart was found guilty, Ray’s brother Gordon said justice had been done but that there was “no cause for celebration”.

The Police Ombudsman is due to investigate the original police inquiry carried out in 1991, following a complaint made by the Buchanan family.