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'People are already taking selfies at former property of killer Colin Howell'

by angela rainey

Published 09/06/2016

Living locally: Stephanie Holmes
Living locally: Stephanie Holmes
Mary Doherty
Locals: James and Evelyn Hall
A scene from 'The Secret'

THERE'S been a mixed reaction from residents in the sleepy coastal town of Castlerock over the potential of "murder tourists" retracing Colin Howell's deadly trail.

Residents in the close-knit town say they thought the phenomenon of tourists flocking to see where the bodies of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan were left staged as a joint suicide pact is not a new one.

One resident who has been living in a home close to The Apostles Cottages since 1969 said last week alone he spotted a number of people pulling up outside No6, where the bodies were left in a fume-filled car, to take photos.

"There were a couple of women in their late 20s and early 30s that pulled up the other night," he said. "I was standing watching them and the next thing they pulled out their phones and started taking selfies with the property in the background.

"They are not the first. There have been a number of people doing since it was all on TV recently, but I imagine that once it all dies down, people will no longer be interested in it."

Howell's former neighbour Stephanie Holmes (49) who owns Moorbrook Lodge, a trout fishery, caravan park and B&B on Glebe Road, right next to the killer's former home says the tours could potentially boost local trade.

"He built his house in 1996 the same year as me and I moved in a few months after him," she said. "Really people started coming in 2010 when it all kicked off with his court case.

"You would see people driving up or past his house just to take a look.

"It was mainly just people who took an interest in the trial, but potentially it could be good for local business to run tours.

"Local businesses here rely on tourists to visit for trade. The business during weekdays for my coffee shop is generally from local people then tourists who bring their tents or caravans here to camp or fish.

"I think anything that encourages people to come to the area is a good idea, though whether they would be allowed access to Howell's house is another issue."

Howell's extensive four bedroom house which includes a large lake with two islands, wooden jetty and large paddock is currently on the market "for a song" at £300,000. Neighbours say he paid twice that to build it.

Residents to the other side, Pam and Ronnie McIntyre, have lived in their property since 2001.

Mrs McIntyre says she found the idea of murder tourism "macabre".

"We did not really know them (the Howells)," she said.

"But I think the idea is macabre and of course, the murder took place in his Coleraine home not here. Plus this road is very narrow with five foot cowslip so it would be dangerous to try and bring buses here."

Retired couple Evelyn (60) and James Hall (66) who were visiting from Ballymena said they didn't believe the idea would be viable.

Mr Hall said: "I don't believe many people would come here to see such things. I don't think such sites would be the main attraction - it's a beautiful area but it's not exactly The Quiet Man."

Dog walker Mary Doherty (63) said she didn't find the idea gruesome as there was nothing to see and believed that some may be interested in taking a tour because it is based on a true story. "People can make their own minds up," she added.

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