Getting Away with Murder Spotlight


Getting Away with Murder

Mandy McAuley re-examines the original police investigation into the double murder of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan 20 years ago.


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Next week, the Police Ombudsman will deliver a report on the police

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investigation into the double murder of Lesley Howell and Trevor

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Buchanan. The report is expected to be highly critical of the original

:00:16.:00:21.

police investigation. Tonight, we examine the role of two A former

:00:21.:00:26.

detectives, the key investigators were of Detective Inspector Jack

:00:26.:00:31.

Hodgkinson and his boss, retired superintendent Hamilton Histon, and

:00:31.:00:36.

discovered evidence of a flawed and compromise investigation. We have

:00:36.:00:39.

followed this case since Colin Howell convinced that he and his

:00:39.:00:43.

lover, these are Buchanan, had murdered his wife and her husband

:00:43.:00:48.

in 1991. Colin Howell would like people to believe he committed the

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perfect crime, a double murder that filled the authorities and those

:00:53.:00:58.

closest to him. But tonight, we turn the spotlight on the original

:00:58.:01:01.

police investigators to unveil a shocking catalogue of failings at

:01:01.:01:11.
:01:11.:01:36.

Over the past two years, we have spoken to scores of people close to

:01:36.:01:40.

this case, and we have amassed a large body of Pibroch work, and

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what is now clear is that, from the very moment officers arrived at the

:01:45.:01:49.

scene in Castlerock, they failed to carry out basic procedures that

:01:49.:01:53.

would have alerted them to foul play. Tonight, we are the words of

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a former policeman, who said he told police of his suspicions at

:01:58.:02:02.

the time. I spoke to the investigators on more than one

:02:02.:02:08.

occasion and expressed the fact that I was very suspicious. A bit,

:02:08.:02:11.

area this year at Hazel Stewart's murder trial, Jack Richardson said

:02:11.:02:16.

under oath, I have no recollection of any concerns. People felt bad

:02:16.:02:21.

but nobody raised any concerns. And we hear from a leading expert on

:02:21.:02:25.

crime scenes who exposed significant flaws in the original

:02:25.:02:29.

investigation. There were so many loose ends and discrepancies that

:02:29.:02:36.

deal only way to get to the bottom of this is to do a formal criminal

:02:36.:02:46.
:02:46.:02:52.

investigation or have a public On the morning of the murders in

:02:52.:02:56.

May 1991, the bodies of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan were

:02:56.:03:00.

found in a garage behind a row of cottages at Castlerock. Those

:03:00.:03:04.

called to the scene assumed it was suicide. Even the most basic

:03:04.:03:07.

inquiries would have revealed to police that all was not as it

:03:07.:03:13.

seemed. In spring 1991, Colin Howell was playing the role of the

:03:13.:03:17.

repentant sinner. He had been caught out, having an affair with

:03:17.:03:21.

his will Buchanan, Trevor's wife. To have it was absolutely

:03:21.:03:31.

devastated. He gave the impression to me of loving his will, and the

:03:31.:03:36.

absolute devastation he felt was etched on his face. The couple

:03:37.:03:40.

promise to end the relationship and the two couples, Trevor and his

:03:40.:03:45.

will, Colin and Lesley, were receiving Christian counselling for

:03:45.:03:49.

her pasta at call rain batters just. Unbeknown to the passing and their

:03:49.:03:55.

spouses, : and Hazel were continuing their affair. Colin told

:03:55.:04:01.

a continuous beam of lies from the beginning. Lesley told her best

:04:01.:04:08.

friend, Beth Middleton, about the decline of her marriage, how her

:04:08.:04:12.

husband Doctor replied so that he could stick -- slip out there to

:04:12.:04:19.

see Hazel, for sex. He had been giving her extra tablets, so that

:04:19.:04:24.

she could not wake up, so that he could sneak out at night. She was

:04:24.:04:30.

very upset about that. She said I am not annoyed about him leaving at

:04:30.:04:35.

night, but I was unconscious, I was slipping, and if there had been a

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fire or anything, the children, they would have perished. Lesley

:04:41.:04:44.

confided to a small group of friends about Colin hill's has

:04:44.:04:50.

increasingly suspicious behaviour. -- Colin Howell. She said, a couple

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of times, that Colin is not all that he seems. Look back night she

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received a phone call from Wisley. She wanted to talk about an

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incident that had frightened her. She told me that she had been in

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the bath, and she was listening to a two recorder which was at the

:05:09.:05:16.

side of the bath. : with the data recorder and a live cable DUP into

:05:16.:05:22.

the bath, sending an electric pulse shooting up harmed. She said, how

:05:22.:05:25.

could it have fallen into the bath, when he was coming away from the

:05:25.:05:34.

baton? -- from the bathroom? She said I wanted to tell you in case

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anything happens to me. Just six week later, Colin Howell rang to

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say that the bodies have been discovered, and she said that her

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first instinctive reaction was to lash out, assuming that he was

:05:47.:05:57.
:05:57.:06:01.

somehow to blame. I heard that she was dead, and I shouted out, what

:06:01.:06:09.

have you done, what have you done? And he said, no, it was suicide.

:06:09.:06:14.

The fact, Colin Howell had staged an apparent double suicide at the

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Castle Rock Cottage. He had Pashtun the love that plan to poison Lesley

:06:19.:06:24.

and Trevor with gas, and with his or Buchanan, he put the plan into

:06:24.:06:33.

action. -- Hazel Buchanan. Colin Howell directed into look at the

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apostles cottages, the places where he had left the bodies. A I went

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round the back of the house, went to the garage, and it was a

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beautiful morning. I shaded my eyes, and I looked down. So you nothing

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in the garage, he drove back to Colin Howell's house. Undeterred,

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Colin Howell sent Jim Flanagan, another judge member, to the

:06:58.:07:02.

cottage. Then, Colin Howell showed him a supposed suicide note from

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Lesley. Colin Howell also explained a bruise on his head, saying he had

:07:07.:07:12.

bought with Trevor, the previous evening. Two years later, Jim

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Flanagan was sitting in church, when a call came through from Colin

:07:15.:07:20.

Howell, directing him to the Twelve Apostles cottages again. This time,

:07:20.:07:27.

he took off-duty policeman, David green, with him. I think I froze.

:07:28.:07:31.

The cost to see Trevor in the front seat, he had been dead for some

:07:31.:07:37.

time. -- because two Celsius Gerber. I looked at the back of the car,

:07:37.:07:42.

the boot, and Lesley was lying there. I will never forget what I

:07:42.:07:49.

thought was a smile on her face. Adding, obviously, we decided we

:07:49.:07:55.

had to go and contact the police. Which we did, from inside the house.

:07:55.:08:00.

Minutes later, a police car was dispatched to the scene. Spotlight

:08:00.:08:05.

understands that the incident had been reported as a double suicide.

:08:05.:08:12.

The fact that police had assumed they were dealing with suicide,

:08:12.:08:15.

Vincent they arrived at the scene is crucial to understanding why a

:08:16.:08:20.

murder investigation was never launched. But the state pathologist

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has worked on hundreds of homicide cases. She has looked at

:08:24.:08:27.

photographs of the scene, and says there are many reasons, including

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the position of the bodies, to have regarded the death as suspicious

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from the outset. It is a suicide pact, and the intent to go together,

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and that means being physically close. Usually the bodies are side

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by side. The first thing I would have thought would have been

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unusual. The female who is in the book of the car, how she is lying,

:08:53.:08:58.

it would be difficult to know how she had got into that posture. That

:08:59.:09:03.

would immediately concern me. I would be wondering if that could be

:09:04.:09:07.

explained by her body being actually pulled into the position

:09:07.:09:12.

in which she was found. He is sitting in the front driver's seat.

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He doesn't particularly look as if he was sitting there in a relaxed,

:09:18.:09:24.

seated position and was overcome by fumes. A former assistant head of

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CID who has led over 20 murder inquiries, has studied our findings

:09:29.:09:33.

at various stages. He says it is hard to believe, given the highly

:09:33.:09:37.

unusual position of the bodies, that a pathologist was not called

:09:37.:09:43.

to the scene. A I would want a pathologist at the scene. I would

:09:43.:09:47.

want to do just taking every 15 minutes to get a cooling pattern,

:09:47.:09:52.

and of the evidence comes out that they were killed at different times,

:09:52.:09:55.

then the cooling pattern would be different for old, which would show

:09:55.:09:59.

that the deaths did not happen at the same time. Trevor Buchanan was

:09:59.:10:03.

the scenes of crime officer. He would have known exactly how to

:10:03.:10:09.

kill himself, if that have been his intention. Yet the supposed suicide

:10:09.:10:13.

was shoddy to stop Trevor's leg was sticking out of the door. There was

:10:13.:10:16.

carrying fumes into the car was loose, and it had been partly

:10:16.:10:21.

crushed by the lid of the Brit. Add the gap under the door of the

:10:21.:10:26.

garage would have allowed the exhaust fumes to escape. You should

:10:26.:10:31.

reconstruct it with the loose pipe, the carbon monoxide fumes, and then

:10:31.:10:35.

test how long it takes for enough fumes to get into the garage, to

:10:35.:10:39.

cause loss of life. In this case there was no be construction. The

:10:39.:10:44.

car was not seeking a way for further examination. Police arrived

:10:44.:10:50.

at the garage at 1:45pm. By late afternoon, the scene was clear.

:10:50.:10:54.

have got 24 hours, before you remove anything from the scene.

:10:54.:10:58.

Once you move the scene, you can never reconstruct it in the same

:10:58.:11:03.

way. Not only did the police clear the scene too quickly, it was not

:11:03.:11:07.

properly investigated. Only one item was taken away to be

:11:08.:11:11.

investigated. Colin Howell was allowed to return to the scene,

:11:11.:11:16.

days later, to retrieve the car, and sell it. We have seen a

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statement that the cream of St -- scene-of-crime officer told the

:11:20.:11:25.

police that when the deaths were investigated as murder, in 2009.

:11:25.:11:35.
:11:35.:11:38.

So, how could the police have got it so wrong? Why did they not carry

:11:38.:11:44.

out basic tests at the scene? Did they really think that two people

:11:44.:11:47.

not in a relationship would forge a bizarre suicide pact, or could it

:11:47.:11:54.

be that they were wrongly assuming that Lesley and Trevor was like

:11:54.:11:58.

having an affair? That is given support by former detective, David

:11:58.:12:03.

Green. We have spoken to David green many times in the course of

:12:03.:12:07.

this investigation and examined his nose in detail. He did not wish to

:12:07.:12:12.

appear on camera, but we have reconstructed his interviews with

:12:12.:12:18.

police in 2009 in which he explains his original notes. We had been

:12:18.:12:23.

thinking that they were the people that had been having the affair.

:12:23.:12:33.
:12:33.:12:38.

The scenes of crime officer If there was a belief that Trevor

:12:38.:12:43.

and Lesley were having an affair, routine forensic tests could have

:12:43.:12:51.

dismissed it. Why had the police not fingerprinted the wine glass?

:12:51.:12:58.

If there had been no fingerprints on it then it was off, because they

:12:58.:13:02.

were not wearing gloves. Derek Macaulay said he sat in on a police

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interview. He said that Jack Richardson seemed to have made his

:13:05.:13:12.

mind up about the cause of death. When I spoke to Jack Hutchison, he

:13:12.:13:17.

seemed convinced it was suicide. I found it strange that Trevor was an

:13:17.:13:22.

affront and Lesley was in the back. And I put that to Jack, and Jack

:13:22.:13:32.
:13:32.:13:33.

Hutchings and said, he felt that the trigger change his mind. He

:13:33.:13:37.

believed they got disorientated with the carbon monoxide poisoning.

:13:37.:13:41.

Jack Hutchison's belief in the suicide theory was not shaking

:13:41.:13:45.

evening he would believe it was Colin and his will who were having

:13:45.:13:50.

a sexual affair, and not Lesley and Trevor. He said in his nose that

:13:50.:13:53.

Lesley and Cheddar were definitely not in a relationship. Police

:13:53.:13:58.

should now have been trying to ask difficult questions, but Colin

:13:58.:14:03.

Powell and diesel Buchanan were never murder suspects, were never

:14:03.:14:05.

fingerprinted and applauds and holds were not examine. The police

:14:05.:14:12.

did not even check their Alawites for the night of the murder. Pass

:14:12.:14:22.
:14:22.:14:30.

Had alarm bells been or bringing and detectives had searched for the

:14:30.:14:34.

homes of Lesley Ann Trevor, they would have found that the hosepipe

:14:34.:14:41.

used in the murder had been burned. One of the detectives was uneasy

:14:41.:14:45.

from the outset. He was not stationed in Coleraine, but he

:14:45.:14:48.

would spend the next two years trying to crack the case in his

:14:48.:14:53.

spare time. I had a strong gut feeling that there was something

:14:53.:15:03.
:15:03.:15:05.

that was not right. I have to say, through the years, the thought that

:15:05.:15:12.

this guy was involved never left me. Howell told the ombudsman that he

:15:12.:15:17.

panicked that he would be caught out by forensics. As well as

:15:17.:15:22.

concerns about DNA and forensics, he was particularly worried about

:15:22.:15:26.

the bomb on his head he got during this final struggle with Trevor. He

:15:26.:15:30.

said in the immediate period after the murders, I was in a state of

:15:30.:15:36.

shock and considered myself to be vulnerable. As such, had I thought

:15:36.:15:41.

of being given any indication police suspected me, I may have

:15:41.:15:46.

admitted the murders then. He need not have worried. Colin and Hazel

:15:46.:15:51.

were never interviewed under caution. The man who discovered the

:15:51.:15:59.

bodies was not interviewed until along time afterwards. It was 4th

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May 1992 when I was asked to go to the police station. A year later?

:16:04.:16:12.

Yes, more or less. If the right questions were not been asked from

:16:12.:16:16.

the start, concerns are also being raised about the autopsies carried

:16:16.:16:26.
:16:26.:16:29.

out when the bodies were discovered. The autopsy of Trevett took place

:16:30.:16:37.

at 815 -- the autopsy of Trevor took place at 8:15am. The one on

:16:37.:16:43.

the woman followed shortly afterwards. They work quite short

:16:43.:16:47.

autopsies. More disturbingly, there are

:16:47.:16:51.

allegations that Trevor had injuries on his face that were not

:16:51.:16:56.

recorded in the autopsy. His family say they remember seeing injuries

:16:56.:17:03.

on his face and the Police Ombudsman has photographs showing

:17:03.:17:10.

injuries around the mouth and nose. We asked the pathologist had such

:17:10.:17:18.

injuries been present, would foul play had been success -- have been

:17:18.:17:24.

suspected? It is always suggestible a potentially, there had been an

:17:24.:17:30.

assault. And in the case of what we are assuming, a double suicide,

:17:30.:17:36.

that would raise some concerns. pathologist in question insists

:17:37.:17:41.

that had there been injuries to trap her's hair and face, he would

:17:41.:17:51.
:17:51.:17:51.

have noted then in his report. -- Trevor's hair and face. But when he

:17:51.:17:57.

saw the photographs, he did see an area of darkness to the right of

:17:57.:18:02.

Trevor's mouth. However, he said he did not see bruising and the

:18:02.:18:09.

photograph was taken from a distance. But the apparent

:18:09.:18:13.

discrepancies have been latched onto by the police. The senior

:18:13.:18:18.

investigating officer on duty that weekend says he was not informed of

:18:18.:18:22.

their injuries and lays the blame for any oversight firmly with the

:18:22.:18:28.

pathologist. If the alleged injuries have been put to the

:18:28.:18:34.

notice of the police on 19th May 1991, this would have added a new

:18:34.:18:43.

dimension to the investigation. Jack Hutchison likewise puts the

:18:43.:18:53.
:18:53.:18:53.

blame on the pathologist. So when explaining bet failure to

:18:53.:18:57.

investigate the deaths properly, police criticised the pathologist,

:18:57.:19:02.

but they reserve some of their greatest criticism for a man they

:19:02.:19:06.

believe withheld a vital piece of evidence. A piece of evidence had

:19:06.:19:10.

they known about it at the time they say would have changed the

:19:10.:19:15.

course of the investigation. On 21st May 1991, Lesley Ann Trevor

:19:15.:19:20.

were buried on the same day and from the same church. I remember

:19:20.:19:28.

the ceremony. I remember watching Colin brink in the children. He

:19:28.:19:33.

lifted Matthew up to kiss the coffin. It was heartbreaking.

:19:33.:19:37.

earlier that day, Colin Howell have written a long letter to Hazel

:19:37.:19:45.

Buchanan and asked Derek McAuley to pass it to hedging the service. 20

:19:45.:19:49.

years later the letter has become one of the most controversial

:19:49.:19:55.

pieces of evidence in this case. Police claimed it was deliberately

:19:56.:20:05.

withheld from them by some members of Coleraine Baptist Church. Derek

:20:05.:20:10.

McAuley steamed open the letter and kept a copy. He also passed a copy

:20:10.:20:19.

to be passed up. -- to the pastor. In the last paragraph he appears to

:20:19.:20:24.

confess. He says I have taken a mother from her children, but God

:20:24.:20:32.

will provide for them. But at the time, it was interpreted that those

:20:32.:20:37.

were the words of a man who had driven his wife took suicide.

:20:37.:20:42.

just took it that he drove Les League Two committing suicide

:20:42.:20:52.
:20:52.:20:54.

because of the way he treated her. -- he drove Lesley to committing

:20:55.:21:01.

suicide. But why did he keep a copy? I don't know why I did. Maybe

:21:01.:21:11.
:21:11.:21:14.

I thought it was because I thought if the other copy was mislaid,

:21:14.:21:23.

there would be another one. I put it away and it wasn't the same

:21:23.:21:27.

place for 18 years. But John Hansford deny seen the letter and

:21:27.:21:31.

Scylla couple of years ago. A I was aware that the letter was passed

:21:31.:21:38.

from Colin to Hazel at the funeral service. -- I was. At his own

:21:38.:21:43.

wife's funeral. I was not aware of the content what the weather.

:21:44.:21:53.
:21:54.:21:56.

sad that letter was not revealed at the time. -- what so were there.

:21:56.:22:02.

put the letter in his hand. He sat in his front room and read it.

:22:02.:22:09.

watched him read it? I sat beside him. 150 %. But Pastor John

:22:09.:22:15.

Hansford says that Derek McAuley is mistaken. He says he was shown the

:22:15.:22:25.
:22:25.:22:33.

So it is now a matter of dispute between John Hansford and Derek

:22:33.:22:38.

McAuley over whether the past to read the letter at that time. But

:22:38.:22:43.

why didn't Derek McAuley give the letter to the police? He says it is

:22:43.:22:47.

because he gave it to the pastor and also he thought it referred to

:22:47.:22:51.

suicide and not murder. If the police have done their job properly

:22:52.:22:59.

and interviewed us 18 years ago, they would have got him. From what

:22:59.:23:06.

we hear now, and there was enough evidence for them to be suspicious,

:23:06.:23:16.
:23:16.:23:36.

they knew it was not suicide. But why would a letter whose

:23:37.:23:41.

meaning at the time was less than clear have altered the course of

:23:41.:23:45.

the investigation when in 1991 the police disregarded this series of

:23:45.:23:48.

specific allegations that the deaths were suspicious. One of

:23:48.:23:53.

those who told the police of her suspicions was one of Lesley's

:23:53.:23:59.

friends. She has testified under oath that she told detectives, whom

:23:59.:24:05.

she later named as Hutchison and Houston, about the Bath incident

:24:05.:24:12.

and fears that Colin was drugging Lesley. He tried to put a cable

:24:12.:24:20.

into the bath. If he got the letter, he would have investigated it as a

:24:20.:24:28.

murder case. But he had a witness which is more important than a

:24:28.:24:32.

letter. It is beyond belief. A what is clear is that a number of people

:24:32.:24:35.

did a police at the time they were worried about the nature of the

:24:35.:24:42.

deaths. We note that Pastor John Hansford relayed his concerns to

:24:42.:24:46.

police at the time because his handwritten notes were found in

:24:46.:24:56.
:24:56.:24:58.

Jack Hutchison's own paperwork. Consistencies will also been

:24:58.:25:05.

outlined. There was fake Grieve, clearing out Lesley's effects.

:25:05.:25:11.

Helping to push out the car in Castlerock when it was been

:25:11.:25:15.

collected. I can't imagine I would want to do that if my wife had been

:25:15.:25:22.

found dead. Also, how did you get the injury to his head? Did you

:25:22.:25:29.

tell detectives Hutchison this? did. But the nose go further. They

:25:29.:25:33.

actually detail times and dates of several meetings he had with

:25:33.:25:41.

Hutchison and Houston. On 20th May he asked them to look again at an

:25:41.:25:44.

injury on Colin Howell and the possibility that he was trucking

:25:44.:25:49.

Lesley. Mr Houston has no recollection of this request. Green

:25:49.:25:54.

also notes another meeting with senior detectives about the suicide

:25:55.:25:59.

note and its contents. David Green's version of events seemed to

:25:59.:26:05.

be supported by Jack Hutchison's and paperwork, which we have seen.

:26:05.:26:10.

If we place the notes side-by-side with green's action plan, there are

:26:10.:26:17.

obvious parallels. Green says, Lesley asked reverent if he thought

:26:17.:26:22.

Colin was tried to kill her? Hutchison rights, do you think

:26:22.:26:28.

Colin is tried to kill me? Green says, or phone call from Colin to

:26:28.:26:38.
:26:38.:26:42.

Hazel before police a right. -- are rife -- arrive. Hamilton Houston

:26:42.:26:45.

has told Spotlight that if David Green had genuine concerns, he

:26:45.:26:51.

should have put them forward in writing to his superiors in 1991.

:26:51.:26:55.

But the detectives investigating the deaths seem to have had their

:26:55.:26:59.

own suspicions. We know they went back to Hazel Buchanan to ask it

:26:59.:27:04.

Colin had been violent towards her. Colin claims that Jack Hutchison

:27:04.:27:09.

came to his house, showed him the hosepipe and raised the prospect of

:27:09.:27:19.
:27:19.:27:20.

murder St, Colin, you would need to be clever to get away with murder.

:27:20.:27:26.

The alleged suicide note was sent for further tests in 1993, more

:27:26.:27:31.

than a year after be inquest report to the deaths and suicides. So did

:27:31.:27:36.

police have nagging doubts? Witnesses came to them with

:27:36.:27:40.

alarming allegations about Colin how well and David Green says he

:27:40.:27:45.

was alerting them to holes in the suicide story. It is possible that

:27:45.:27:48.

any suspicions they may have had came too late after crucial

:27:48.:27:52.

forensic evidence had been cleared from the scene. But if that was the

:27:52.:27:57.

case, why did they not collect the evidence they had an take

:27:57.:28:01.

statements from those people who suspected foul play? And ultimately,

:28:01.:28:06.

why did Jack Hutchison say he had no recollection of people raising

:28:06.:28:11.

concerns? Sometimes investigating officers get into an entrance

:28:11.:28:15.

position where they have made a decision on a case and everything

:28:15.:28:20.

else does not fit, so they ignore it. It is clever later on when they

:28:20.:28:29.

are interviewed to say they have no recollection. For the families of

:28:29.:28:32.

Trevor Buchanan and Lesley how well, these latest revelations mean they

:28:32.:28:38.

have had to relive the grief and horror of their loved ones's deaths

:28:38.:28:44.

for a second time. We knew Trevor was not the sort to take his own

:28:44.:28:49.

life. He was absolutely besotted with his wife and his children and

:28:50.:28:59.
:29:00.:29:01.

he was also a man of very deep faith. We never accepted that

:29:01.:29:05.

Trevor took his own life, and certainly not with the other person

:29:05.:29:14.

present. There was nowhere to go with it. We fully accepted what we

:29:14.:29:20.

were told because we believed that a thorough investigation had been

:29:20.:29:25.

made by the police. A police family themselves, it was the Buchanan's

:29:25.:29:30.

who lodged the complaint with the ombudsman, prompting the inquiry.

:29:30.:29:37.

Ahead of an Ombudsman report, Mandy McAuley re-examines the original police investigation into the double murder of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan, dismissed as a bizarre suicide pact for two decades.


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