The Secret: True story, true romance, true horror

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The Secret: True story, true romance, true horror

April 30, 2016 - 17:28
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Only two things stood in the way of lay preacher Colin Howell and Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan’s unholy romance… their partners. So they killed them.

The Secret

Only two things stood in the way of lay preacher Colin Howell and Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan’s unholy romance… their partners. So they killed them.

Based on the true story of an illicit affair that led to double murder, ITV’s The Secret chronicles a devout dentist’s descent into evil. A chilling tale told in painstaking detail, the fact that it actually happened makes this four-part series spellbinding.

Desperate to dispense with his inconvenient wife and his lover’s policeman husband, Baptist Bible basher Howell generously suggested: “What if we could help them? End their suffering humanely.” How kind. Nice guy.

The haunting first episode didn’t get to the pivotal point where this upstanding pillar of the community turned into a homicidal maniac. But as he ruthlessly pursued a rancid relationship under the pious pretence of Christian fellowship, his poisonous personality emerged.

Those who feared that James Nesbitt’s portrayal of this callous creep would glamorise a sordid saga of depravity need not have worried. Excusing his relentlessly heartless behaviour as “God’s will”, horrible Howell comes across as the worst kind of religious hypocrite. Which is exactly what he was. And, as he languishes behind bars, probably still is.

Unfolding against the backdrop of quiet respectability in the Northern Irish town of Coleraine, the breath-taking level of deception makes your flesh crawl…

Assuring the gullible pastor he would never cheat on his wife Lesley, saintly Howell defiantly protested: “I’m a faithful husband and a committed Christian. Lesley is about to bear us a fourth child. I give you my word nothing inappropriate has happened with Hazel.” He was lying.

But then, as bad luck would have it, he was found out. D’oh. Barely skipping a beat, the man with a diabolical plan swiftly fessed up and insisted: “I’ve admitted my sins. I love my family. I love the church. This will never happen again.” He was lying.

As his passionate trysts with mother of two Hazel continued apace, he promised her: “God will guide us.” Translation: Her husband Trevor’s days were numbered.

Incredibly, when he discovered that long-suffering Lesley had banked her dad’s dying gift of £212,000, Howell snarled: “This is not how a Christian wife should behave.” He promptly had his father-in-law’s house valued. Translation: Lesley’s days were numbered.

Fine understated performances from Nesbitt and his co-star Genevieve O’Reilly as church-going frauds who deluded themselves they had the Lord’s blessing. There are no heroes here. Just sinister villains and innocent victims.

What makes this powerful drama so uniquely watchable is that we know how it pans out. After making it look as if Lesley and Trevor took their own lives in an exhaust-fume suicide pact, control freak Colin and his ever-willing accomplice Hazel got away with it.

“Let this be our secret,” said conniving Col. And for nearly 20 years it was. But deep in the dastardly dentist's psychopathic soul lurked a guilty conscience.  And in the end, tortured by his wicked crimes, he told the truth. And got a life sentence for his troubles. Ditto Hazel.

A happy ending that we’ll work our way towards over the next three must-see instalments. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be an uncomfortable journey.

There are 7 Comments

Nige Smith's picture

Dark undertones are at work in this sinister take of lovers turning against God and the church and into each other's arms. Great performances from the cast. I know the story but it still drew me in.

A happy church does not always gave a happy congregation!


Kevin O'Sullivan's picture

Religious hypocrisy is at the centre of this story. Howell hid behind his piety... but he was a murdering monster.

Nige Smith's picture

I should have put give instead of gave, but you know what I mean.
Spot on it was religious hypocrisy where the moral surely preaching one thing and then doing the complete opposite. I think the go forth and multiply went a bit too far!!!!! Yes a monster who was cold calculated and devious.

Kevin O'Sullivan's picture

Submitted by Kevin O'Sullivan on Sat, 14/05/2016 - 07:57

by Louise G

When Colin Howell claims to all and sundry they Gof is looking down on him, he is bang on. How else would the demon dentist with a deeply unattractive bowl-cut manage to join up with so many hot women?
But leaving aside horrid Howell's remarkable ability to punch above his weight, tonight was the third instalment of ITV's real life drama, which frankly leaves me hiding behind the sofa.
Howell and Hazel Stewart try to set up home together, only they find it more difficult than they thought. Hardly surprising given they killed their partners so they could be an item - not that remorse was a problem. Oh no. "I felt bad about the trouble we had caused them," exclaimed Howell, before jumping into Hazel's martial bed with with her.
But the honeymoon period didn't last long. During a dirty stay in a hotel, horny Howell was left gutted after Hazel refused to do the deed. Instead they relocated to Colin's dentist chair where Hazel was treated to some pre-shag gas and air to get her in the mood. Love's young dream doesn't last much longer, after creepy Colin turns up at Hazel's house as she arrives home from a date, she dumps him. He shouts back: "This isn't finished - and it never will be." Indeed, as he and Hazel currently rot in their cells, serving life sentences.
Five years after the killings, Colin finds love again, this time with an American beauty named Kyle Jorgensen. The smitten pair marry and have a son named Finn. However, one afternoon, as Kyle sits with the newborn napping on her lap and the couple's older kids laugh in the background, Howell confesses he killed Trevor and Lesley. "I thought it was what God wanted me to do," Howell insisted. His missus bought it and they lived happily ever after. Colin possibly more so as he see him behaving like a total pervert with one of his patients, and pinch the bottom of one of his nursing staff.
Things begin to unravel for Colin, however. His son Matthew kills himself while at university, leaving him devastated.
The closing scenes see Colin begging God for forgiveness as he enters the sea.
ITV's gripping series finished next Friday. I will be watching from behind my sofa.

Kevin O'Sullivan's picture

Excellent review. Thanks Louise, you caught the creepiness of it to perfection. You'd never believe this weird and unwonderful story if it wasn't true.

Kevin O'Sullivan's picture

by LouiseG

I've loved James Nesbitt since the Cold Feet days. Back when he had hair, a lot of it. He also played charming, funny, slightly inept Adam who was left heartbroken when his wife died.
However, his portrayal of the evil Colin Howell has impressed me so, so, so much more.
The deadly dentist pulled off two of the most perfect murders of all time, until God got the better of him and he decided to confess. Much to the huge surprise  of his former mistress Hazel.
Tonight I was gripped as Colin confessed to the killings, wracked with guilt, he lost the plot in from of his new wife and two of his pals from the church. He admitted he was a pervert who sexually assaulted a patient while she was knocked out. He also told how he had committed a huge piece of fraud, taking money from his clients and fibbing over scam to recover gold hidden by the Japanese.
Wife Kyle was remarkably calm when he made his full confession - but then he did tell her years before and the foolish cow stayed with him.
But if Howell was going to go down, then so was Hazel. In fact, he stitched her up a treat from start to finish.
While Colin was determined to see her facing up to her sins, Hazel's new husband deluded Dave refused to believe he had married a totally callous bitch. As she was bailed he told her she was the "most pure person" he had ever met. I dread to think what his enemies are like.
As he and Hazel's children held hands on the beach before her trial, Dosy Dave prayed to God that Hazel was seen as the "innocent victim."
Absolutely no bloody chance. Not once Colin agreed to give evidence at the trial.
Trying to insist she was controlled, Howell well and truly made sure the jury found her guilty - like him.
As Hazel's daughter wailed in court as her mother was jailed, Colin looked rather pleased with himself.
As should Nesbitt, who deserves armfuls of awards for his terrific acting. He was a joy to watch throughout - even if at times it was from behind my sofa.