7 high profile cases Crimewatch helped to solve

After 33 years helping solve some of the country’s most notorious crimes, the BBC announced it is pulling the plug on Crimewatch.

The show, which reconstructs unsolved crimes in an attempt to gather information from the public, has featured more than 4,000 cases, including hundreds of high profile murders.

In 2014 the show celebrated 30 years of helping the police solve crimes, and producers revealed that one in three cases ended in arrest and one in five in convictions.

The crime-solving show, recently relaunched with Jeremy Vine and Tina Daheley as hosts, is being dropped after more than three decades.

Let’s take a look back at seven high profile cases which were solved with the help of Crimewatch.

Colette Aram

Colette’s murder was the first case to be aired on the programme in 1984. She was abducted, sexually assaulted and then strangled at just 16-years-old as she walked to her boyfriend’s house in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, in 1983.

After Crimewatch did a nationwide review of cold-case murders in 2008, Paul Hutchinson was convicted, 25 years after committing the crime.

He pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court in December 2009 and was later jailed for a minimum of 25 years.

In October 2010, just eight months after being jailed for murdering Colette, he took an overdose and died after being found unconscious in his cell at Nottingham Prison.

Colette Aram (PA)
Colette Aram (PA)

James Bulger

James, two, was abducted and murdered after he went missing while out with his mother at Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside, on February 12 1993.

On February 18, Crimewatch showed CCTV footage of two 10-year-old boys leading James away by the hand.

After the show, two witnesses rang in and confirmed they had seen Robert Thompson and Jon Venables with James.

They were later convicted of his abduction and murder and sentenced to secure youth accommodation with a recommendation that they serve at least eight years.

In June 2001 they were released on life licence, with new secret identities.

James Bulger being led away by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. (BBC)
James Bulger being led away by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. (BBC)

Julie Dart and Stephanie Slater

In January 1992, 25-year-old estate agent Stephanie Slater was attacked, blindfolded and held in a makeshift coffin for eight days in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

When she was freed, the details she gave led police to suspect the crime was linked to the murder of 18-year-old call girl Julie Dart in Leeds in 1991.

In February 1992, Crimewatch broadcast a recording of the kidnapper’s voice which was recognised by Susan Oake, the ex-wife of Michael Sams who is now serving a life sentence for kidnapping Stephanie and murdering Julie.

Michael Sams (PA)
Michael Sams (PA)

Lin and Megan Russell

Lin Russell and her daughters Josie, nine, and Megan, six, were tied up and beaten with a hammer, along with their pet dog, on a lonely country lane in Chillendon, Kent in 1996 – only Josie survived.

On September 3, Crimewatch ran a reconstruction which included an e-fit of the attacker and moving footage of Josie. A year later it ran another item, this time targeted at psychiatrists and other mental health workers in the hope that they could provide vital information.

This led to the arrest of Michael Stone who was convicted and sentenced to three life sentences for the deaths of Lin and Megan. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Josie.

He has since lodged his case at the Criminal Cases Review Commission and has also told ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot, in a letter written from his high security prison, that he is ‘completely innocent’.

However, Kent Police say they are ‘not looking for anyone else in connection with the case in which Stone was convicted’.

The BBC has confirmed that Crimewatch has been axed, despite it being instrumental in solving a large number of offences over the last 33 years. (BBC)
The BBC has confirmed that Crimewatch has been axed, despite it being instrumental in solving a large number of offences over the last 33 years. (BBC)

Sarah Payne

Sarah was only eight when she disappeared after leaving her grandparents’ house near Worthing in West Sussex, on July 1, 2000 – sixteen days later her body was found.

The first Crimewatch appeal in November 2000 saw several callers name Roy Whiting, a local man who had served time for abducting a girl.

Following a second appeal on the show in January 2001, which showed a distinctive clown patterned curtain, a viewer called to say she recognised it as she had left it in a van which her ex-boyfriend had sold to Roy.

This, together with other compelling forensic evidence, led to the arrest and conviction of Roy on December 21, 2001. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is appealing against his sentence.

Sarah Payne (PA)
Sarah Payne (PA)

Rhys Jones

Rhys was only 11-years-old when he was shot in the back on his way home from football practice in Croxteth, Liverpool, on August 22 2007 by a hooded youth on a BMX bicycle.

In September that year, Crimewatch recreated his murder, Rhys’s mother also made a direct appeal to his killer’s mother to turn him in to police, which led to more than 40 calls – 12 of which named the same suspect.

On 16 December 2008, at the end of a nine-week trial in the Crown Court at Liverpool, Sean Mercer (a member of the Croxteth Crew gang) was found guilty of murder. Mercer, then aged 18 but was 16 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to life imprisonment, being ordered to serve a minimum term of 22 years.

Rhys Jones (PA)
Rhys Jones (PA)

The M25 Rapist

A string of sexual attacks on women and girls were carried out around the M25 in Kent, Surrey, London and Thames Valley between 2001 and 2002.

A viewer who saw an e-fit of the alleged attacker on Crimewatch in October 2002 recognised him and told police where they could find him.

Antoni Imiela, 50 – whose youngest victim was just 10-years-old – was eventually convicted of seven rapes, kidnap, indecent assault and attempted rape after DNA linked him to the crimes.

Imiela forced his victims to pretend they were enjoying themselves and kept items of clothing as souvenirs. He dragged them into woods – often at knifepoint.

He was told to serve a minimum 99 years.

Antoni Imiela – the M25 rapist (PA)
Antoni Imiela – the M25 rapist (PA)

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