The Secret a ratings winner but Howell and Stewart victims' families distraught
The makers of ITV drama The Secret are facing a backlash from relatives of the real-life victims Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan who said the families have been left distraught for a second time.
Stuart Buchanan, a nephew of policeman victim Trevor, said: "The families are traumatised again by this 'drama'."
He hit out at the TV series, which tells the story of the affair between Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart in Coleraine and recreates their savage 1991 murders of their betrayed spouses.
Lauren Bradford, daughter of murdered nurse Lesley, backed Stuart's comments.
The first episode of the four-parter starring Genevieve O'Reilly and Jimmy Nesbitt pulled in 4.3m viewers across the UK.
In NI there were 384,000 viewers, which was 60% of the audience, according to UTV.
A short time after the start of the prime time show on Friday Stuart took to social media to urge viewers to think of the victims as they watched. He tweeted: "Behind 'entertainment' of The Secret are two innocent victims & those who loved them. Remembering them all tonight."
The post was retweeted by Lauren, whose dentist father Howell murdered her mum Lesley. Lauren added: "Thank you Stuart."
Journalist Deric Henderson, author of the book Let This Be Our Secret, upon which the TV series is based, also came under fire from Stuart, who branded the decision to air the show "insensitive, if not callous". At a preview screening of The Secret, Mr Henderson told the Belfast Telegraph's sister paper Sunday Life: "To watch it on the screen, there's no point in saying otherwise, it will be very difficult for these people (the families). They're not going to thank us.
"The production team were very sensitive to the feelings of the families, and notwithstanding those awful scenes, they did take onboard those feelings."
In a tweet Mr Henderson added that "families will find parts very difficult". Stuart responded on Twitter, saying: "Acknowledging impact on families yet proceeding - insensitive, if not callous. Families traumatised again by this 'drama'."
He later said he was not in a position to comment on behalf of the wider Buchanan family.
The bodies of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock in May 1991.
It was treated as a double suicide until Howell confessed years later that he and Stewart had murdered them.