‘Murder tourists will flock here’

Double killer Colin Howell.
Double killer Colin Howell.

The house where double killer Colin Howell confessed to the now infamous ‘Castlerock murders’ could become a macabre tourist attraction, according to a former Coleraine Mayor.

Speaking at a recent planning committee meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, alderman Sam Cole suggested that the dentist’s former Glebe Road home could become a destination for “murder tourists”.

Alderman Sam Cole believes tourists will be fascinated by the Castlerock killings.

Alderman Sam Cole believes tourists will be fascinated by the Castlerock killings.

At the meeting, planners turned down an application for a dwelling and garage on a site between 50 and 62 Glebe Road, Castlerock on the grounds that the plans were contrary to Planning Policy 21, ‘New Dwellings in Existing Clusters’, which states that the cluster is not associated with a focal point.

Alderman Cole disagreed with the planning department, describing the decision as “harsh” and suggested that Moorbrook Lodge Trout Fishery at 46 Glebe Road was an excellent focal point which was close to the proposed dwelling.

The DUP man said that following the success of the recent four-part series of “The Secret” the house where, in January 2009, dentist Colin Howell confessed to the murders of his nurse wife Lesley and Trevor Buchanan, the RUC husband of his lover Hazel, could become “a focal point for tourism”.

No other councillors commented on Alderman Cole’s suggestion and members voted to back the Planners decision to refuse the application.

Castlerock, where the bodies of Trevor Buchanan, and Lesley Howell were found in 1991.  Paul Faith/PA Wire

Castlerock, where the bodies of Trevor Buchanan, and Lesley Howell were found in 1991. Paul Faith/PA Wire

However speaking to the Times after the meeting, alderman Cole stressed that “a lot of interest had been generated by ‘The Secret’ to the local area”.

He continued: “The Secret attracted four-and-a-half million viewers. And rightly or wrongly people are interested in that kind of thing.

“I have been frequently asked by locals and tourists where the house is that Howell made his confession and where the ‘Twelve Apostles” is where the bodies were found. Unfortunately people want to see it.

“Local Game of Thrones locations have become worldwide attractions following the success of the programme. This too could become a future focal point for tourism as people want to see where it all happened.”

Alderman Cole admitted that he had eagerly watched last month’s ITV drama about the 1991 murders and that it was “hard to grasp” how lovers Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart had got away with their crimes for almost 20 years.

It was the morning of 29th January 2009 when Colin Howell confessed to his second wife Kyle and elders of the church that he had murdered first wife Lesley, 31, and Trevor Buchanan, 32, in Coleraine on May 18-19, 1991 - his son Daniel’s second birthday.

He gassed them to death by monoxide poisining and then transported the bodies to a garage at Cliff Terrace in Castlerock - an area known locally as the Twelve Apostles - to stage their deaths as a bizarre suicide pact.

Hazel Stewart, convicted of the murders under the law of ‘joint enterprise’, was sentenced to 18 years and, since 2011, has launched three unsuccessful appeals. Howell is serving life in Maghaberry Prison.

The Secret, adapted from the book written by former PA journalist Deric Henderson, starred James Nesbitt as Howell with Dubliner Genevieve O’Reilly playing Hazel.

‘Murder tourism’, as it is known, is big business - particularly in America, where fans of the macabre have flocked to see the Milwaukee haunts of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and Lizzie Borden’s house in Fall River, Massachusetts, where the double axe murder of her father and stepmother occurred in 1892.

In the UK serial killers Fred and Rose West’s home at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester drew many visitors as did the Fulham home of murdered television presenter Jill Dando.