Northern Ireland news

The Secret: Only ten complaints made to ITV

ITV has received just a 'very small number of complaints' over their four part drama The Secret. Picture from ITV
Gareth McKeown

ONLY ten complaints have been made to ITV about controversial drama The Secret.

The broadcaster has also confirmed that the final two episodes of the four-part series will be shown as scheduled, starting tonight.

There had been some calls for the remaining parts to be pulled, with those critical of the dramatisation including Ann Travers, the sister of an IRA murder victim.

Based on a book by journalist Deric Henderson, The Secret tells the real-life story of Coleraine dentist Colin Howell's affair with Hazel Stewart, then Buchanan, which led them to murder their spouses and make it look like suicide.

The pair were finally convicted of the murders two decades later in 2010 and 2011.

In what may raise eyebrows in some quarters, including the north coast where the events took place, ITV has revealed that the controversial drama has not attracted many complaints.

"ITV has received a very small number of complaints about the series which is no more than any other drama," the spokeswoman said.

"The remaining two episodes of The Secret will be screened as scheduled and the series will feature as planned on catch up services."

Ms Travers, whose schoolteacher sister Mary (22) was shot dead by the IRA as she left Mass in south Belfast in 1984, has said dramatising the deaths of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan was "the wrong thing to do".

She suggested the story would have been better told as a documentary, with input from the victim's families.

"Perhaps they would then have had that to show their own children in the years to come," she told U105 radio.

Although she has watched both episodes of the four-part drama, Ms Travers said after reading a piece in The Guardian written by Lesley Howell's 'traumatised' daughter Lauren Bradford it brought her back to her own heartache.

"The ink is barely dry on the court documents and here we have a dramatisation of their lives. I wonder if we have all become a bit desensitised. Should we be putting ourselves in victims shoes? How would we feel?" she said.

"Until you have been through that you can't understand the trauma of going through it and the heartbreak."

On Wednesday concerns were raised on behalf of Lauren Bradford by Labour MP Louise Haigh during Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons.

David Cameron said he would discuss the programme with Culture Secretary John Whittingdale to see if there is anything "more that can be done" in similar cases.

The third and penultimate episode of the drama starring James Nesbitt and Genevieve O'Reilly will be broadcast tonight at 9pm on UTV.

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