ITV reveal three-part James Nesbitt drama on Howell and Buchanan murders

James Nesbitt will play Colin Howell.
James Nesbitt will play Colin Howell.

The story of the real life double murder which shocked Northern Ireland will be told in a three-part ITV drama, The Secret, to be produced by Hat Trick Productions.

Acclaimed Coleraine actor James Nesbitt will play Colin Howell, a respectable former Ballymoney dentist and pillar of the community, who became a killer in partnership with a Sunday school teacher, Hazel Buchanan.

Hazel Buchanan will be played by Genevieve O’Reilly, who is known for her roles in Episodes, Banished and The Honourable Woman.

Howell and Buchanan met at their local Baptist Church in Coleraine and they embarked upon a passionate and destructive affair, which climaxed in an elaborate plot to kill both their partners, Lesley and Trevor.

Written by Bafta winning writer Stuart Urban (An Ungentlemanly Act), the drama is directed by Nick Murphy (Occupation, Prey) and produced by Jonathan Curling (Holy Cross, The Government Inspector)

The Executive Producer is Hat Trick Productions Head of Drama, Mark Redhead (Murder of Stephen Lawrence, Bloody Sunday, Case Sensitive, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Critical).

The Secret has been commissioned for ITV by Director of Drama Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea.

“The Secret is a powerful true life crime story,” said Steve. “The production team at Hat Trick led by Mark Redhead has a long held reputation for producing quality drama focusing on human frailties and tragedy.”

Executive producer Mark Redhead said: “This is the story of an audacious and wicked crime. It tells us something very surprising and revealing about the dark side of human nature.”

The drama is based on a best-selling book, by veteran reporter Deric Henderson, the former Ireland Editor of the Press Association and draws on primary source material.

Deric said: “It’s an extraordinary story, certainly the most remarkable I’ve ever covered in a long career.”

The drama will go into production in Northern Ireland in November with additional funding from Northern Ireland Screen.

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen said: “We are delighted to welcome Hat Trick back to Northern Ireland. It is good that they are returning to film an important local story with James Nesbitt in the lead role. We wish Mark and his team all the best for the shoot.”