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Netflix’s The Secret: true story behind James Nesbitt series

The show is based on the real-life murders of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan

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Emmy Griffiths
Emmy GriffithsTV & Film Editor
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James Nesbitt's 2016 series The Secret has landed on Netflix, leading to many viewers discovering the crime series for the first time – which is based on the real-life double murder of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan. Find out more about what really happened here…

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The series is based on Let This Be Our Secret, journalist Deric Henderson's account of a double murder that took place in Castlerock, Londonderry in Northern Ireland back in 1991.

WATCH: Have you watched The Secret yet?

James plays dentist Colin Howell, who is assisted by his mistress Hazel Stewart, a Sunday school teacher, in murdering their respective spouses before making their deaths look like a suicide pact. Lesley was found wearing headphones while holding photos of her four children with Trevor in a car filled with exhaust fumes.

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James plays Colin in the series

Colin and Hazel got away with the double murder – which was ruled as suicide – for 18 years before Colin confessed the crime to the police.

Colin lost £350,000 of the £400,000 pay out from his wife's death in a get-rich-quick scheme, and struggled with the death of his son. After being arrested, he said that he thought they were a punishment. After confessing to the police, he pleaded guilty to the murders in 2010 and was sentenced to a minimum 21-year jail term, while Hazel was sentenced to 18 years.

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Hazel was sentenced to 18 years in prison

Lesley and Colin's daughter Lauren Bradford has slammed the show for "exploiting a tragedy," writing in The Guardian: "The character of my mum… is depicted 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.

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"The reality of murder is devoid of eerie music or close-ups, just devastation and sorrow: first for the murders themselves, then for a justice process that strips them of control, and finally for the unnecessary sensationalisation of events in the aftermath. Truth is replaced with 'good enough truth'; embellished and rewritten for entertainment."

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