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


investigation into the double murder of Lesley Howell and Trevor


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


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


detectives, the key investigators were of Detective Inspector Jack


Hodgkinson and his boss, retired superintendent Hamilton Histon, and


discovered evidence of a flawed and compromise investigation. We have


followed this case since Colin Howell convinced that he and his


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


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


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


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


police investigators to unveil a shocking catalogue of failings at


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


crime scenes who exposed significant flaws in the original


investigation. There were so many loose ends and discrepancies that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


will, Colin and Lesley, were receiving Christian counselling for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


murder investigation was never launched. But the state pathologist


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


explained by her body being actually pulled into the position


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


properly investigated. Only one item was taken away to be


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


appear on camera, but we have reconstructed his interviews with


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


believed they got disorientated with the carbon monoxide poisoning.


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


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


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


Lesley and Cheddar were definitely not in a relationship. Police


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


Powell and diesel Buchanan were never murder suspects, were never


fingerprinted and applauds and holds were not examine. The police


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


concerns about DNA and forensics, he was particularly worried about


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


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


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


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


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


were never interviewed under caution. The man who discovered the


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


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


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


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


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


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


the woman followed shortly afterwards. They work quite short


autopsies. More disturbingly, there are


allegations that Trevor had injuries on his face that were not


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


on his face and the Police Ombudsman has photographs showing


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


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


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


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


that would raise some concerns. pathologist in question insists


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


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


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


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


photograph was taken from a distance. But the apparent


discrepancies have been latched onto by the police. The senior


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


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


pathologist. If the alleged injuries have been put to the


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


dimension to the investigation. Jack Hutchison likewise puts the


blame on the pathologist. So when explaining bet failure to


investigate the deaths properly, police criticised the pathologist,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


years later the letter has become one of the most controversial


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


just took it that he drove Les League Two committing suicide


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the investigation when in 1991 the police disregarded this series of


specific allegations that the deaths were suspicious. One of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


police at the time because his handwritten notes were found in


Jack Hutchison's own paperwork. Consistencies will also been


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


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


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


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


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


actually detail times and dates of several meetings he had with


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


injury on Colin Howell and the possibility that he was trucking


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


also notes another meeting with senior detectives about the suicide


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


But the detectives investigating the deaths seem to have had their


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


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


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


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


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


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


police have nagging doubts? Witnesses came to them with


alarming allegations about Colin how well and David Green says he


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


any suspicions they may have had came too late after crucial


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


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


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


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


concerns? Sometimes investigating officers get into an entrance


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


were told because we believed that a thorough investigation had been


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


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


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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