DID THEY KILL THEIR CHEATING PARTNERS? Hazel Stewart: Broke Down in Court Murder Charge: Dentist Colin Howell Dead: Trevor Buchanan in Tears: Hazel Stewart Held by Husband David outside Court Murder Charge: Dentist Colin Howell

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Byline: Alan Sherry

A LOVERS' suicide pact from 18 years ago has sensationally turned into a double murder case.

The partners of both victims appeared in court yesterday charged with killing them.

Dentist's wife Lesley Howell, 30, and RUC officer Trevor Buchanan, 31, died in a fume-filled car in Co. Derry in May 1991. A pipe led from the exhaust to the car and the devoted mother died clutching pictures of her children.

Mrs Howell was in the back seat and father-of-two Mr Buchanan, an RUC scenes-of-crime officer, was found in the front. Despite some suspicions at the time, police believed the pair had decided to kill themselves.

But yesterday, their former partners, 50-year-old Dr Colin Howell and Mrs Hazel Stewart, 45, were dramatically brought to a Derry court where they were charged separately with the murders.

It is understood that Howell - a devout Christian - volunteered himself to police who then arrested him and Stewart on Friday night.

Officers may be looking at the possibility that Mr Buchanan and Mrs Howell, who worked in her husband's surgery, were poisoned. Forensic officers carried out a search at Dr Howell's dental surgery in Ballymoney yesterday. A note in the window told patients that the surgery was closed but it would 'reopen as soon as possible', and said appointments would be rescheduled. It added: 'We are shocked and saddened by the events of the last few days and apologise to our patients for any inconvenience.'

Both Howell and Stewart remarried different partners after the deaths, he to an American woman and she to police superintendent David Stewart, who is now retired. Howell, a fatherof ten of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, was remanded in custody until next Monday, but Stewart was granted bail of [pounds sterling] 1 5, 000 ( AC16,590), even though police fear she may take her own life if she is released. …