Shropshire Star

As Crimewatch is axed: Shropshire cases which featured in TV appeals

It has become a national institution, and has helped bring several criminals in the region to justice, but Crimewatch is being dropped by the BBC after 33 years.

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Jill Dando and Nick Ross with Supt David Hatcher and Det Con Jacqui Hames. Right: Georgia Williams.

The series led to a number of people coming forward in relation to the murder of Telford teenager Georgia Williams, and also resulted in career robber Martin Dawson being given a life sentence after raiding a Newport bank.

The series, originally presented by Nick Ross and Sue Cook in 1984, has helped solve countless crimes over the decades.

It was relaunched last month with Jeremy Vine as the host, but falling viewing numbers mean that the BBC has now decided to pull the plug.

Daytime spin-off Crimewatch Roadshow, which visits regional police forces across the country to help solve crimes, will continue.

Over the years, the show has featured numerous crimes committed in Shropshire and the surrounding areas.

In May 2013, the series put out an appeal for information following the disappearance of 17-year-old Georgia Williams from Wellington.

More than 100 people responded with potential sightings and information relating to a van connected to the investigation.

Jamie Reynolds was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Georgia Reynolds

Jamie Reynolds, 23, from Avondale Road, Wellington, admitted murdering Georgia when he appeared before Stafford Crown Court, and was given a whole-life jail sentence in December 2013.

The series also put the village of Wollerton, near Market Drayton, in the spotlight in 2012, when it carried reconstructions of two terrifying machete robberies.

At one house, the raiders cut a teenage boy and his mother, while at another pregnant Victoria Ratherham was manhandled and tied to a chair in front of her young son.

Crimewatch featured a reconstruction of a terrifying machete robbery in Wollerton, near Market Drayton, in 2012

However, despite the high-profile appeal, the crime remained unsolved a year later.

Conman Robert Taylor-Barefoot also featured on the programme in 2011, having skipped bail days before being jailed over a £237,000 scam.

Taylor-Barefoot, from Brockhurst, Shifnal, set up a business offering financial advice, but spent money he was supposed to be investing in a hedge-fund on a champagne lifestyle.

Then aged 33, he disappeared at the start of the trial, and was jailed for six-and-a-half years in his absence.

Fiona Bruce and Nick Ross fronting the programme

The following month, an appeal for information was broadcast on Crimewatch, although it would be another year before he was finally brought to justice.

The conman, who had 11 previous convictions for dishonesty, had changed his name to Sam Jeffers and fled to Cairns in Australia, where he operated another business offering advice on social-media marketing.

He told clients he had close working relationships with Google, Facebook and Twitter, and even claimed to be close friends with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

His double life was brought to an end when police stopped and breathalysed him after he was seen driving erratically in the early hours after a night out.

Officers searched his room and found his real passport under his bed. He was brought back to Britain to serve his sentence – although he was given just two months extra for absconding.

Robber Martin Dawson was caught after Crimewatch appeal

In November 2014, bank robber Martin Dawson was handed a life sentence for a terrifying armed raid on the Newport branch of the Britannia bank.

Dawson, then 51, was already serving life in prison for other robberies when he committed the crime while on the run from jail.

He was identified after CCTV footage was shown on Crimewatch of him calmly walking into the branch wearing sunglasses, and producing a realistic imitation firearm, which he pointed at a cashier.

He told the cashier to fill his bag with money, saying that he would shoot her if she did not comply.

But while Dawson – who had previously been given a life sentence for other offences – had been identified, his whereabouts remained a mystery until he was featured on the programme for a second time.

In its early years, the show was branded Crimewatch UK and was screened once a month at 9pm, with a Crimewatch Update after the news. The frequency was later reduced to once every two months, and "UK" dropped from the title.

Early days – Nick Ross presented the show for 23 years

Ross, who fronted the show for 23 years, was later joined by Jill Dando when Cook quit in 1995.

After Dando was shot dead outside her home in 1999, Ross fronted an appeal for information relating to her murder.

Fiona Bruce later appeared alongside Ross, but left the show when Ross retired in 2007.

Ross with co-presenter Jill Dando, who was tragically murdered on her doorstep

Explaining the decision to drop the programme, a BBC spokesman said: "We believe the successful Crimewatch Roadshow format in daytime is the best fit for the brand going forward and we will increase the number of episodes to make two series a year.

"We are incredibly proud of Crimewatch and the great work it has done over the years and the work Crimewatch Roadshow will continue to do, and this move will also allow us to create room for new innovative programmes in peak time on BBC One.”

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