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Dramatic finale of controversial ITV series The Secret wins praise online

Published 20/05/2016

A scene from the controversial ITV drama The Secret
A scene from the controversial ITV drama The Secret

The controversial dramatisation of the events around Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart's murder of their spouses in Coleraine has attracted glowing praise on Twitter.

In the final instalment of the series - which has divided opinion - Howell made his dramatic confession that he had not only murdered his first wife Lesley and lover's husband Trevor Buchanan, but that he had molested some of his patients.

Actor James Nesbitt - who plays Howell - was particularly praised for his interpretation of the north coast dentist, while actress Geraldine O'Reilly also impressed playing Hazel Stewart.

The final episode showed Howell's desperate attempts to secure investors for a scheme to find allegedly hidden gold in South America before he was confronted by members of his Baptist church. It then showed his shocking confession, and also Stewart's arrest and the subsequent court cases.

It appeared to impress viewers across the UK, with Claire Davis tweeting from Bath in England: "Fantastic acting from James Nesbitt on The Secret @ITV chilling true story of love murder and religion".

Stuart McHale agreed "brilliant performance from James Nesbitt and a great show from #itv".

James McEneaney tweeted: "Brilliant final episode of #TheSecret - incredible performance by James Nesbitt, but equally chilling and moving", and Roy Lynch tweeted: "The Secret has been a fantastic drama. Incredible that it’s a true story. Well done to @ITV  and James Nesbitt".

Viewers had reacted with outrage and horror last week as the third episode portrayed the inquest into the murders inter-cut with graphic sex scenes between the two killers, played by James Nesbitt and Genevieve O'Reilly.

ITV has been criticised by some of the relatives of Howell and Stewart.

Howell's daughter Lauren Bradford, who now lives in Sheffield, has become a vocal critic of the TV drama.

Writing in The Guardian, she said: "Behind the high viewing figures, whether for fiction or the coverage of real crimes, there are people living with murder bereavement on a daily basis.

"An intrusive media experience can often compound this original trauma.

"If deemed 'a good enough story', private grief then becomes public property."

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