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The Secret: Howell and Stewart TV drama adds to agony, says daughter of killer dentist


Lauren Bradford

Lauren Bradford

Lesley Howell

Lesley Howell

Colin Howell

Colin Howell


Lauren Bradford

The daughter of notorious double killer Colin Howell has hit out at how society's morbid fascination with murder can lead to media exploitation that traumatises victims for a second time.

In an article for The Guardian online, Lauren Bradford wrote that we live in a society in which "someone can write a book or film a drama to make money from someone else's life and be applauded for it".

She said her family was devastated first by the murders carried out by her Co Antrim father, then again by ITV drama The Secret that serialised his crimes.

Ms Bradford wrote that she endured "sleepless nights and tearful days" before The Secret was first broadcast on Friday. Her family had opposed the making of the four-part ITV serialisation.

Ms Bradford's mother Lesley Howell was murdered by her father Colin and his lover Hazel Stewart in 1991.

Ms Bradford criticised The Secret's portrayal of her mum, "who is depicted as no more than a downtrodden housewife".

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"It fails to capture her ambition and drive, her wicked sense of humour, her thoughtfulness and warmth," she wrote.

She added that "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".

The two killers also murdered Hazel's husband Trevor Buchanan, before making the deaths appear to be suicide. The bodies of the policeman and Lesley were found in a fume-filled garage in Castlerock, Co Derry.

A police investigation concluded the pair had committed suicide. That remained the official story until Howell confessed his crimes in 2009.

Ms Bradford's message was supported by Stuart Buchanan, a nephew of Trevor. He tweeted that her article was a "poignant reflection by inspiring Lauren Bradford on impact of The Secret on families. Worth a read".

No one from ITV was available to comment.

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