Coleraine Times editor David Rankin reveals for the first time the explosive findings of consultant psychiatrist Dr Helen Harbinson, who interviewed double killer Colin Howell over a period of a year in Maghaberry Prison
The Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Helen Harbinson, believed there had been a deterioration of Colin Howell’s mental state by the time of their final interview on April 27, 2010.
His general paranoia had not abated. In fact at their third interview in June 2009 Howell had persuaded prison staff to arrange for it to be held in a storeroom in the prison hospital rather than in legal visits because he feared he was ‘being bugged’.
Dr Harbinson would not agree to this.
Prior to the final interview, Howell had given the psychiatrist a significant quantity of written material in which he quoted extensively from the Bible.
Dr Harbinson wrote in her report: “He reflected on his psychotic episode in prison.
“He believed at that time that from birth he was ‘destined to drop the keys of the Kingdom thereby handing power to Satan’ who became, as it were, God. All those with whom Mr. Howell came in contact were involved in and aware of this.
“He believed the Masons or the Knights Templar were implicated and that both his fathers in law belonged to one of those organisations. He believed he was Moses reincarnated.
“The reason for this was that Moses’ body was never found. If he did not do as Satan told him his children would be burned alive or their brains bashed out against a wall.
“He believed food and medication he was given contained meat and blood from clones of him and his children who had been killed because he refused to kill them.
“He heard a voice commanding him to kill and cook them. He believed in prison he had organs removed without anaesthetic to make clones of him to be killed.
“Reflecting on his offence behaviour he said he genuinely believed he had done something merciful in killing Hazel and Trevor. He had no concept of a good God disapproving of the horrific action he had performed. He saw death as a solution to problems. Unwanted pregnancies were terminated too. He included in his correspondence detailed biblical references to insanity, delusions, violence and self harm.”
He disclosed to Dr Harbinson that he was on a 21-day Daniel fast: “He eats only fruit and vegetables. Prior to that he had been fasting once a week as part of his spiritual recovery. Daniel in the Old Testament fasted to assist with visions and dreams.
“Mr. Howell equates fasting with self sacrifice. He said he wanted ‘to hear from God not the other voices. Daniel heard from God. He wants to be free from other influences.
“He brought with him to this interview a large quantity of detailed handwritten notes and diagrams. He reflected again on his psychosis in prison. He showed me diagrams he had drawn of the recreation hall in the prison and the hospital ward he had been in at that time.
“He believed that two prisoners were going to kill him. He believed he was in Hades. He thought one of these prisoners was Satan. He believed he had to be killed to save his children who were going to be turned into dog meat.”
Howell also intimated that his psychotic behaviour following his imprisonment was recorded on CCTV and it would be used by a prosecution psychiatrist as evidence.
Dr Harbinson reported: “When he was psychotic he thought he was to be sacrificed at 7pm. He was afraid, so jumped up and walked to the other side of the room. He was supposed to stay where the cameras in the room could see him. He believed his children were cloned and killed because he had left the vicinity of the camera.”
• Colin Howell and his then lover Hazel Buchanan (now Stewart) murdered their spouses in 1991.
The pair managed to keep the killings – deemed a double suicide at the time – a secret for almost two decades before Howell handed himself in to police in 2009.
They are currently serving life sentences for the murders, Howell a minimum 21-year term and Stewart a minimum of 18 years.