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DUP's Campbell tries to distance party from killer dentist 'murder tour' call

By Laura Abernethy

Published 14/06/2016

Colin Howell
Colin Howell

A DUP MP has rejected a suggestion from a party councillor that the former home of double murderer Colin Howell could be turned into a tourist attraction.

Last week, former Mayor of Coleraine Sam Cole said that locations made famous by The Secret, a recent ITV dramatisation, Howell's Coleraine home where he confessed to two murders, and the Castlerock cottages where two bodies were found, could become a 'murder tour'.

The Secret told the story of Howell and then-lover Stewart who are both serving life sentences for the 1991 murders of their spouses, Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell, in Coleraine.

At the time police believed they died in a suicide pact in a garage in Castlerock.

The truth was secret until 2009 when Howell, a dentist and former lay preacher, confessed to church elders and police that he and Stewart had killed both and set up a suicide scenario.

Mr Cole's controversial comments sparked outrage last week. Now his party have distanced themselves from the suggestions.

Gregory Campbell said the suggestions do not have his support as East Londonderry MP, nor have they the support of DUP Assembly or Causeway Coast and Glens Council groups.

He said: "The murder of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell to some people may be just another TV drama, but we would do well to remember that these were real-life events which robbed families of two dearly loved people."

The families said The Secret, broadcast last month, had re-traumatised them.

Howell's daughter Lauren Bradford accused the makers of The Secret of exploiting their tragedy for entertainment.

"The murder-bereaved do not deserve to have their voices ignored and their stories trivialised," she said at the time.

Mr Campbell added that the pain of the families is "still raw and no one should seek to exacerbate that. The paramount consideration in this has to be the families at the centre of this awful crime. I want to reassure them that we are conscious of this. We will not support anything which would exploit the murders. I hope this can offer some comfort and reassurance to the families."

UUP councillor Richard Holmes said he was "still reeling from the suggestion".

He said: "The victims' families were traumatised by the recent TV series and questions were raised in the House of Commons to the Prime Minister.

"Castlerock is a beautiful coastal town and its association with the Howell/Stewart murders is totally unwanted.

"Individuals may seek out these spots for whatever their own macabre reasons are, but to suggest we look at this as a tourist attraction is unbelievable.

"These were sickening acts of murder and it is staggering to think that anyone, never mind a councillor, would be seeing a moneymaking opportunity."

Mr Cole last week said that it was "logical" to suggest it could be a tourist attraction.

"I would be very sympathetic towards the victims, it is still very raw for them, but the TV series went ahead and there is now a lot of public interest. We are where we are and it has to be taken into account that there is a big public interest in this."

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