For over 25 years, the BBC’s Crimewatch has been striking fear into the heart of Britain’s most wanted criminals. As a direct result of it’s reconstructions and audience appeals, 57 murderers, 53 rapists, 18 paedophiles and sex offenders have been caught. It has featured many of the UK’s major crimes from the past two decades. This article looks at five cases that it has helped to solve.
Eight-year old Sarah Payne was murdered in July 2000. A Crimewatch appeal in 2001 led to a crucial breakthrough. A woman called the programme after recognising a curtain that she had left in her ex-boyfriend’s van. He had sold the van to Roy Whiting. It was the call that the police were waiting for, proving that Sarah had been in Whiting’s van. In December 2001, Whiting was sentenced to life imprisonment. In June 1996, Lin Russell was walking home with her two daughters, Josie and Megan, when they were brutally attacked. Lin and Megan died. Josie was seriously injured, but survived. Crimewatch aired two appeals. The second appeal was aimed at mental health professionals and one caller provided crucial information leading to the arrest of Michael Stone. He was found guilty of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison. The murder of two-year old Jamie Bulger in February 1993 sickened the nation. Just a few days after the toddler’s body was found in Liverpool, Crimewatch showed CCTV footage of two boys leading the youngster away from the shopping centre where he disappeared. As a direct result, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were identified. They were convicted of Jamie’s murder in November 1993. In 2001, they were given new identities and released on life licence.
Estate agent Stephanie Slater was kidnapped in Nottinghamshire in January 1992 and held captive for eight days. A Crimewatch appeal included a voice recording of the suspect and information about his car. A woman recognised the voice of her ex-husband, Michael Sams and knew that the car mentioned was his. He was arrested and convicted, not only of the kidnapping of Stephanie Slater, but also for the murder of Leeds' teenager, Julie Dart in 1991. In May 1996, 21-year old Stephen Cameron was involved in a road rage incident with the driver of a Land Rover Discovery in Kent. The driver got out and stabbed Stephen to death in front of his fiancée. A week after the attack, a Crimewatch appeal elicited a crucial call. Carl Simcox regularly valeted a similar car belonging to Kenneth Noye. Shortly before the murder, he had seen a six-inch knife in the driver’s door. Noye was jailed for life in 2000.