Victims' relatives angered by Howell and Stewart TV drama

Hazel Buchanan (Genevieve O'Reilly) and Colin Howell (James Nesbitt) are portrayed in The Secret

RELATIVES of murder victims Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell took to social media to express their distaste for The Secret as it was being broadcast.

The TV dramatisation of the chilling story of one of the north's most shocking murder cases began on ITV on Friday night.

Fifteen minutes into the first episode starring James Nesbitt as killer dentist Colin Howell, Trevor's nephew Stuart Buchanan tweeted pictures of the deceased pair with the message: "Behind 'entertainment' of #thesecret are two innocent victims & those who loved them. Remembering them all tonight."

Lauren Bradford, whose mother Lesley was murdered by her father and his lover Hazel Stewart along with Stewart's husband Trevor Buchanan in a staged 'suicide pact' killing in 1991, replied: "Thank you Stuart."

Mr Buchanan had also made his negative feelings towards the series clear prior to transmission.

Journalist Deric Henderson, who penned the book Let This Be Our Secret which the TV drama is based on, had tweeted that he realised that "families will find parts very difficult".

Mr Buchanan responded: "Acknowledging impact on families yet proceeding – insensitive, if not callous. Families traumatised again by this 'drama'."

The tweet was 'liked' by Mrs Bradford, who has previously spoken of her empathy for Trevor Buchanan's children Andrew and Lisa.

Their mother Hazel Stewart is currently serving a minimum 18-year sentence for her part in the killings and cover-up, which only came to light after Colin Howell confessed to the double murder in Co Derry 2009.

He received a 21-year sentence for the crimes.

While the ITV programme reportedly attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers across the north on Friday evening, audience reaction has been mixed.

Commenting on The Irish News Facebook page, one viewer expressed his sympathies for relatives of Howell and Stewart's victims.

"Perhaps a little thought might be afforded to the families of the victims of these evil people, tonight the awful tragedy which they had possibly dealt with and grieved over was once again revisited upon them."

However, another poster argued that the murderers' crimes deserved wider exposure.

"Not in poor taste showing the deceitful people who thought they had got the right to cover it up with their church," she wrote.

When contacted yesterday, neither Lauren Bradford nor Stuart Buchanan had anything to add to their comments.

"My tweet, which has been widely quoted, was a public but personal response," said Mr Buchanan.

"Buchanan family will not be making any official comment. We've nothing further to add nor am I in any place to comment on behalf of the wider Buchanan family."

Mrs Bradford said: "I don't wish to make comment at this time."

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