Belfast Telegraph

'Jimmy Nesbitt's a superb creep... roll on next week' - Twitter reacts to first installment of Howell and Stewart drama The Secret

By Jonny Bell

The long-awaited drama starring James Nesbitt as respectable dentist turned double murderer Colin Howell aired on Friday night - with many taking to Twitter to offer their thoughts.

The first in the four-part drama series about Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart who murdered their partners in 1991 was on UTV.

While there were a few to tweet criticism, in the main the reaction was good with many praising James Nesbitt for his portrayal of the good dentist and faithful Christian who would turn to murder.

The Secret tells the real-life story of how Coleraine Sunday school teacher Stewart and her lover Howell turned into murderers.

Howell and Hazel, who then went under her married name of Buchanan, became embroiled in an affair and plotted to kill their spouses, Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan.

Read more:

Howell and Stewart: Tale of passion, betrayal and murder that transfixed us all 

The Secret tells the dramatic story of how the Ballymoney dentist and lay preacher gassed his wife and Stewart's husband to make their deaths look like a suicide pact.

For almost 20 years they lied to families, police and friends until Howell confessed in 2009.

The couple each received a life sentence for their roles in the Castlerock murders.

Nesbitt appears alongside Genevieve O'Reilly, who plays Hazel.

Dublin-born actress Genevieve (39) says that when she read the script she was immediately drawn into the Stewart/Howell web of deceit and lies, and ultimately murder.

She said: "We are not working with fiction - this is the truth and there are real lives and real people involved here."

While there has been a lot of anticipation around the programme, some commentary and opinion has voiced that it is being aired too soon.

However, one of Trevor Buchanan's best friends told the Belfast Telegraph he had no issue with it.

Kevin McAuley, now a freelance photographer first met Trevor in 1986 as the police officer and his wife, Hazel, were transferred from Omagh to Coleraine.

He said: "There are many people who knew the victims and the killers - leaving aside even their families - and they may be upset that this drama is being screened.

"However, people have to live in the real world and accept that a television series has been made. I don't have any issue with this drama, but others may have a different opinion."

The drama is based on the book, Let This Be Our Secret, by Deric Henderson, the former Ireland editor of the Press Association.

The first episode airs tonight (Friday April 29) at 9pm.

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