Monday 22 January 2018

Investigation into ITV’s 'The Secret' as killer’s daughter alleges invasion of privacy

Genevieve O’Reilly and James Nesbitt in The Secret
Genevieve O’Reilly and James Nesbitt in The Secret
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

An investigation has been ordered into ITV drama series The Secret by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The probe reportedly comes in the wake of allegations of invasion of privacy from Lauren Bradford, the daughter of the real-life convicted killer Colin Howell, portrayed by James Nesbitt in the series.

The Secret is based on the true story of Northern Irish dentist Howell who, with the help of his lover Hazel Stewart, killed their respective wife and husband, Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan, in Derry in 1991.

The dead couple were believed to have died in a suicide pact after they were found in a garage in a car full of fumes.

However, Howell confessed to the crime in 2009, and revealed that Stewart had also been involved.

The Secret has been receiving rave reviews from viewers and critics, but Bradford alleges that her right to privacy has been breached by ITV and the production company who, she says, did not consult with her prior to giving the series the green light.

The issue was raised by Bradford's local MP Louise Haigh at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will talk to the Culture Secretary to investigate the drama.

Bradford, who wrote an emotional article about her experience for The Guardian newspaper last month, had approached Haigh to address the issue.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One on Thursday, Haigh said, "It was completely against her wishes.  She made it very clear to ITV and the production company as soon as she found out.

"She found out the programme was going ahead from Twitter, which I think is the height of disrespect. 

"She tells me that she gave them some factual information and gave them perspective which she really feels was ignored and dismissed.  She now feels the portrayal, particularly of her mother, is very unfair and very demeaning to her."

In her piece for The Guardian, Louise wrote, "In the midst of trying to come to terms with the imminent release of the drama, our family endured the PR and social media build-up with sleepless nights and tearful days, while those responsible were being congratulated for a “brilliant” production.

"We have been left trembling in the wake of it. The insensitivity of this intrusion is in direct proportion to the trauma that it causes."

Lauren took particular issue with the portrayal of her late mother in the drama as "no more than a down-trodden housewife".

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

According to Haigh, Lauren is hoping that by tackling the issue she might change the situation for other families who might find themselves in a similar position in future.

"ITV have argued to me that any requirement to get her consent would be a restriction on their free speech, but I think there needs to be a proper debate now about where their free speech can end and her right to privacy should be protected," said Haigh.

She added that victims should have a "proper role in the decision to air and the development of accounts of their own life."

In a statement, ITV said, "ITV has a proud record of broadcasting award-winning factual dramas based on or representing real events or people.

"The scripts for The Secret were based on an exhaustively researched book by a highly respected journalist as well as extensive additional research and the documented court cases which have been widely reported in the meida."

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