An innocent actor who played a prime suspect in an unsolved Crimewatch murder case 21 years ago has now been DNA tested himself – after locals fingered HIM as the killer.
Steve Watson, 53, answered a BBC advert for someone to play a man wanted for the murder of mother-of-two Julie Pacey in 1994.
Tragic nursery school worker Julie was strangled and sexually assaulted and found dead in the bathroom of her home in Grantham, Lincs., by her horrified 14-year-old daughter.
A Crimewatch reconstruction shortly after her death featured a distinctive tall man in a blue boiler suit who police wanted to trace.
The ‘villain’ was played by Steve, then aged 31, who lived 15 miles away from the murder scene and bore an uncanny resemblance to the police sketch of the wanted man.
Steve said he was abused by confused locals who mistook him for the killer after the BBC programme was first shown.
But the original appeal was re-shown on Crimewatch last month after a breakthrough in the cold case with Steve’s part being replayed.
Two local people then rang police independently naming HIM as the killer – and a detective knocked on his door in Newark, Notts.
The officer took a DNA sample from him as a ‘potential suspect’ inside his home – and have yet to eliminate him from the investigation four weeks later.
Dad-of-three Steve said: “As soon as I saw it back on TV I was filled with dread that I might be mistaken for him again.
“I got a call from my daughter saying ‘dad there’s a police officer at the door for you’ and my heart just sank.
“I asked the officer if I was a suspect and he said everybody was until they were ruled out.
“I haven’t heard anything yet – I guess I’m still a murder suspect.
“Yes I can see the laugh in it, but the serious side is there. If you’re going to do a reconstruction in a murder case, then be prepared for whatever comes.
“Until my DNA results are cleared I’m still in the frame.”
Steve was working in the entertainment section of a recruitment agency when he played the part of the wanted man, earning £690 for the two-day job.
He said he looked so much like the suspect that two witnesses also taking part in the filming were overcome with emotion when they saw him.
And when he visited the police station in costume with the TV crew one officer even attempted to apprehend him by mistake.
He recalled: “You weren’t supposed to see my face but it was on screen for about two seconds.
“I had people ringing me up asking me ‘what have you done?’
“People stopped me in the street saying ‘you’re that murderer’, or ‘you’re the one that got that poor girl’.”
DNA evidence from the scene was re-analysed this year and a full profile has now been obtained with advanced technology.
The case featured again on Crimewatch in July – and an officer went to see Steve two weeks later asking for his DNA.
He said: “Of course I agreed to do it because they are only doing what they had to do.
“I told him though ‘You know I played the guy in the reconstruction though, don’t you?’
“He said he didn’t, but that he was there because two people had rang in with my name.
“What annoys me is the BBC didn’t notify me about showing it again.
“There is no excuse. They could have found me – the agency they used still exists.”
Lincolnshire Police said they had more than 100 phone calls – including one which named Steve – after the repeated appeal.
Detective Inspector Helen Evans said: “I made an appeal for names to be put forward so that we can eliminate them from the enquiry.
“The name of the gentleman who it later turned out was an actor in the reconstruction was passed to us and was information that, of course, we had to investigate for obvious reasons.
“He explained he had been involved in the original filming and we discussed the purposes of our visit with him and that we hoped he understood why we are duty-bound to follow up the information that had come in.
“His name was not one that had already been given to us in the context of him being involved in the filming and it was explained that an update would be given in due course when it becomes available.”
She added: “We would be remiss not to thoroughly investigate every solid piece of information that has come in and decide whether or not it is relevant to the enquiry.”
The BBC said: “The reconstruction used in the re-appeal was filmed in 1994 and, while we always try to contact actors involved when reconstructions are re-used, unfortunately this actor’s details were not listed in our records.
“We understand he has not been arrested and is not a suspect in the enquiry, and hope the re-appeal can assist the police in finding Julie Pacey’s murderer.”