25 October 2017
Convicted murderer Hazel Stewart has been ordered by the Court to hand over her share of her current family home which can be linked to fraudulently claimed insurance policies and police pension benefits.
Following the apparent suicide of her policeman first husband Mrs Stewart claimed a number of financial benefits including claiming on an insurance policy which allowed her to settle the mortgage then outstanding on her family home. In 2006 Mrs Stewart remarried, sold the family home and used the profit to jointly build a new property with her second husband.
In 2011, a jury in Coleraine Crown Court unanimously convicted Hazel Stewart of the murder of both her husband, Trevor Buchanan, and Lesley Howell, the wife of her then lover Colin Howell. The Court of Appeal upheld her conviction.
Her case was referred to the then Serious Organised Crime Agency by the PSNI for a civil recovery investigation that has been continued by the NCA.
In its civil recovery application, the NCA submitted that a portion of Hazel Stewart’s interest in her current property could be traced to the various fraudulent applications she made following the death of her first husband.
On 16th October 2017, Hazel Stewart, 54, agreed to settle the NCA’s civil recovery claim by handing over her majority interest in her current family home. The property will now be sold.
Clive Michel, Head of Civil Recovery and Tax at the NCA said:
“No-one who commits a serious crime should be in a position to benefit financially from it. Hazel Stewart’s claims on the insurance policy and widow’s pension were fraud, and as such we have a duty to recover these assets. Using its powers under The Proceeds of Crime Act, the NCA working with the PSNI, has ensured that upon release Hazel Stewart will no-longer be able to benefit financially from her crimes.”
PSNI’s Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, head of Serious Crime Branch, said:
“Individuals convicted of criminal offences may also be subject to civil proceedings if they have benefitted materially from their crimes. We welcome the recovery of these funds but our principal emotion today is one of sympathy for the Buchanan and Howell families and the unbearable losses they have endured with dignity amid continuing attention around the deaths of Trevor and Lesley.”