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ITV denies claim Howell and Stewart drama The Secret is insensitive

By Angela Rainey

Published 04/05/2016

James Nesbitt in The Secret
James Nesbitt in The Secret

ITV has defended itself against criticism from the families of double murderers Hazel Stewart and Colin Howell that it should have been more sensitive in its dramatisation of The Secret.

Lauren Bradford's mother Lesley Howell was murdered by her father and his lover Hazel Stewart along with Stewart's then husband Trevor Buchanan in a staged 'suicide pact' in 1991.

She accused the production company that created the four-part series, which stars James Nesbitt, of having a "disrespect for the victims and disregard for accuracy" and for "embellishing" the content. Mrs Bradford claimed her mother was inaccurately portrayed for the sake of entertainment.

She said: "Regardless of how well-researched true crime is, dramatic shortcuts are made: information provided by those involved is used selectively, or ignored, and an embellished account is broadcast that is in places unrecognisable to the families. One of the most painful ways this occurs in The Secret is in the character of my mum, who is depicted as no more than a downtrodden housewife. It fails to capture her ambition and drive, her wicked sense of humour, her thoughtfulness and warmth."

Mrs Bradford accused ITV of insensitivity by constantly referring to the murders as a "story".

She added: "By calling it a story, they trivialise the reality of these events and dehumanise the impact it has on those involved."

A spokesman for Hat Trick said: "We totally respect Lauren's views and we certainly did not set out to cause any additional hurt to the families.

"ITV has a long history of broadcasting factual dramas, dealing with real issues and events. It is valid to portray real events in dramatised form, to provide a fresh insight to the public on those events."

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