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The Secret Howell and Stewart drama to continue on ITV despite backlash

Campaigner Travers joins in criticism of chilling show

By Allan Preston

Published 13/05/2016

Scenes from episode three of the controversial drama The Secret
Scenes from episode three of the controversial drama The Secret
Scenes from episode three of the controversial drama The Secret
Scenes from episode three of the controversial drama The Secret

ITV is preparing to broadcast the third episode of true life crime drama The Secret tonight despite massive controversy and new criticism from a high-profile victims campaigner.

The TV series starring Co Antrim actor James Nesbitt depicts in chilling detail the 1991 murders of policeman Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell, the spouses of Ballymoney dentist Colin Howell and his lover Hazel Stewart.

The series has been condemned by the daughter of Howell, Lauren Bradford, who said society's morbid fascination with murder can lead to media exploitation that traumatises victims for a second time.

Her complaint has led ITV to unprecedented scrutiny and even an intervention by the Prime Minister.

The series has also been criticised by Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA in 1984.

"I wonder how many of us are better off for watching it?" she asked on Facebook.

"All I know is that the families aren't. I have watched the past two weeks and yes probably will watch the following two.

"However, if I don't see them it wouldn't make a difference to me - the families, however, will still be hurting. A documentary with family input may have been a better way to go".

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister responded to a Commons question from Ms Bradford's MP, Louise Haigh, about the hurt the programme was causing the victims' families.

The Labour MP suggested that "victims' voices should have a far greater role" over whether programmes based on real-life events should be made.

Mr Cameron replied: "I remember my time working in the TV industry that there are occasions where these decisions are made that can cause a huge amount of hurt to families.

"I will discuss this case with the Culture Secretary (John Whittingdale) and bring it to his attention and see... if there is anything more that can be done."

Following the furore, ITV insist they have acted responsibly.

"The programme makers informed the families of the production, and gave them the opportunity to see the series prior to broadcast. We have never suggested that they approved or authorised the drama," said ITV.

"We do believe we have conducted the making of this series responsibly, in seeking to minimise distress to family members, in so far as we were able to do so, given the subject matter."

Belfast Telegraph

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