Killer dentist Colin Howell not to be charged with alleged sex offences against ex-lover Hazel Stewart
Killer dentist Colin Howell is not to be charged with any sexual offences against his ex-lover Hazel Stewart, it was revealed on Monday.
he Public Prosecution Service took the decision after reviewing claims that he sedated and subjected her to serious assaults.
It represents a blow for any attempt by 58-year-old Stewart to mount a fresh appeal over her own conviction for double murder.
Her lawyers confirmed they are seeking an immediate review of the decision.
The former Sunday School teacher is serving at least 18 behind bars for her role in killing her police officer husband and Howell’s wife.
The bodies of Lesley Howell, 31, and Constable Trevor Buchanan, 32, were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Derry in May 1991.
Police originally believed they had died in a suicide pact after discovering their partners were having an affair.
Nearly two decades passed before Howell, 61, suddenly confessed to both murders.
He pleaded guilty in 2010 and was given a minimum 21-year sentence. He implicated Stewart in the plot and went on to give evidence against her at her trial.
Howell is also serving a separate sentence for sexually assaulting five female patients while they were under sedation at his dental surgery in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.
He committed those offences over a 10-year period from 1998 and 2008.
In April 2018 detectives questioned him about further alleged historical sexual assaults and sent a file to the PPS.
Stewart’s lawyers later confirmed she was the complainant and had waived her right to anonymity.
Since being convicted she has failed in a series of attempts to have the verdicts overturned.
If Howell had been charged and ultimately found guilty of sexually assaulting her, it could have opened up a potential new ground of appeal, based on claims that she was at all times under his control.
Instead, however, a decision has been taken not to prosecute.
In a letter to Stewart’s legal representatives, the PPS said it has concluded there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction.
Her solicitor, Kevin Winters, confirmed she is contesting the reasons for the no prosecution direction.
“Firstly, she rejects absolutely the suggestion made by Howell that she consented to sedation for the purposes of sexual activity,” he said.
“Secondly she asserts that at all times she has been consistent in her allegations made to police.”
Mr Winters added: “Our client is concerned that the decision not to prosecute may have been motivated to block any future application by her to challenge her double murder conviction.
“We have asked the PPS to review this decision immediately and expect to receive confirmation details on the Review process as soon as possible.”
In a statement the PPS confirmed
By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Higher death risk found if COVID-19 causes changes to heart
A new study may help identify which COVID-19 patients with signs of heart injury are at higher risk for death. Doctors looked at 305 hospitalized patients with elevated levels of troponin, a protein released when the heart has been injured. They reported on Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that among these patients, the increased risk for death was statistically significant only when changes in the heart’s size, shape, structure, and function were seen during an echocardiogram. Death rates were 5.2% in patients without troponin in their blood, 18.6% when troponin was high but hearts looked normal, and 31.7% in those with high troponin plus so-called heart remodeling. When other risk factors were considered, high troponin was only tied to death in patients who also had cardiac remodeling. COVID-19 patients with high troponin should undergo echocardiography “to guide further diagnostic testing and treatment strategies,” coauthor Dr. Gennaro Giustino of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City told Reuters. “Patients with a bad echo need much closer follow-up and more aggressive treatments,” said Dr. Carl Lavie of Ochsner Health in New Orleans, who coauthored an editorial on the study. (https://bit.ly/34swrQb; https://bit.ly/3dVHch2)
COVID-19 may be top cause of death among young adults in some U.S. regions
In some areas of the United States during COVID-19 outbreaks, the new coronavirus likely became the leading cause of death among adults aged 25-44, researchers say. Using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they analyzed deaths from any cause in that age group from March through July, along with drug overdose deaths during the same period in 2018, the most recent year for which data are available. In three of 10 regions of the country, as identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, deaths exceeded 2018 unintentional opioid overdose deaths during at least one month of the pandemic, researchers reported on Sunday on medRxiv, ahead of peer review. They were Region 2 (New York, New Jersey), Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas), and Region 9 (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada). It is not clear which states account for the most deaths in each region, coauthor Dr. Jeremy Faust of Harvard Medical School in Boston told Reuters. But data not included in the paper suggests that in New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana more people aged 20 to 39 “were dying of COVID-19 than opioids usually kills during the same time frame there,” he said. “Usually, opioids are the leading cause of death in these demographics all over