Berkshire

How a cold-blooded executioner finally faced justice

David Watkins with his elder son Stephen Image copyright Police handout
Image caption David Watkins was murdered in January 1993

David Watkins was ordered to his knees and told to remove his glasses before he was shot in the back of the head. More than a quarter of a century later, Andrew Everson has been convicted of the killing - but how did the police finally win justice for Mr Watkins' family?

Everson, 54, faced the consequences of his awful crime when he was given a life sentence on Thursday.

He had been acquitted at a trial in 1994, but in 2012 Thames Valley Police's major crime review team, led by principal investigator Peter Beirne, decided to revisit the case.

Fresh evidence emerged that showed 30-year-old Mr Watkins "must have been" in Everson's car on the night he was murdered in a rural area just outside Reading, and Everson was tried for a second time.

Both trials heard how Everson had lured Mr Watkins to the remote location on the pretence of doing a drug deal, before killing him with a shotgun. Neighbours living in nearby cottages heard the fatal shot on the evening of 14 January 1993.

Image copyright TVP
Image caption New evidence revealed there was a "close match" between fibres on Mr Watkins' clothes with some found in Mr Everson's car, the court heard

Jurors in the latest trial were told further scientific tests revealed a "close match" between fibres on Mr Watkins' clothing and fibres in the upholstery of Everson's Peugeot 309.

Mr Beirne said in the 1993 investigation the origin of fibres "was not known", but new analysis provided "extremely strong evidence" to show the father of two had been in the defendant's car hours before his death.

"There was a slight improvement in technology, but more it was a new way of interpreting what the evidence was that was there," Mr Beirne explained.

The investigator said particles of gunshot residue found within Everson's car "proved he had lied in his initial trial" - although Mr Beirne admitted that the tests on the particles "could have been done at the time".

Image caption Principal investigator Peter Beirne, who leads Thames Valley Police's major crime review team, reopened the case in 2012

"It was an unusual case because normally with cold cases, DNA is the new evidence that you get, we use those advancements," he added.

"It was unusual inasmuch that it was fibre evidence that was the key to the reinvestigation."

The legal principle that prevented people being tried for the same crime twice, known as "double jeopardy", was scrapped under certain circumstances in England and Wales in 2005.

The Court of Appeal can now quash an acquittal and order a retrial when "new and compelling" evidence is produced.

Senior advocate Alan Blake said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was able to demonstrate to the Court of Appeal such evidence existed "in the form of forensic material discovered during the reinvestigation of the case".

Mr Blake, who was one of the prosecutors in the retrial, added that the new findings "crucially led to Everson admitting to allegations he had previously denied, including accepting having dealt drugs with the victim an hour before he was killed".

Image copyright TVP
Image caption David Watkins was found dead in Searles Farm Lane in Pingewood in January 1993

During the fresh trial at Reading Crown Court, prosecutor John Price QC said faced with the police's new evidence after being rearrested in 2015, Everson "completely changed his account of where he was and what he was doing" on the night of the shooting.

Police said in 1993 Everson had denied Mr Watkins had ever been in his car and said he had not seen him on the night he was killed.

Mr Price told jurors the defendant also admitted buying a shotgun in 1992, a fact he had denied at the previous trial.

The weapon used to kill Mr Watkins has never been found, although prosecutors suggested the shotgun Everson purchased "was the most likely candidate for the murder weapon".

Image caption Police searching for evidence in the aftermath of the murder

The court heard that Mr Watkins, who supplied cannabis on a "commercial basis", had gone to meet Everson to make a substantial purchase of the drug.

After Mr Watkins' death, Everson, who was living in Crowthorne in Berkshire at the time, was found in possession of £3,500, some of which had his victim's fingerprints on it.

Sentencing Everson to a minimum term of 27 years for the "execution-style" shooting, Mr Justice Nicol told him: "You now face the consequences of that crime.

"Your finances were in dire straits. You probably had no cannabis. But you did want David's money and you did have a shotgun."

The judge told the court how Mr Watkins' glasses had been removed before he was made to kneel on the ground and shot in the back of the head.

"In those final moments he must have known what was about to happen and been terrified," Mr Justice Nicol added.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Andrew Everson will not be eligible for release from prison until the 2030s

As the judge discussed Everson's minimum jail term, the defendant, , of The Esplanade in Weymouth, Dorset, sat with his with his head in his hands, muttered to himself and then broke down in tears.

Susan Wardle, Mr Watkins' partner and mother of his two children, Stephen and James, watched Everson in the dock as he was sentenced.

Ms Wardle said she was delighted at the outcome, and thanked the police's major crime team for their kindness and support.

She said: "With technology now, things have improved and so much more has been done. It completed the case, really."

Image caption Susan Wardle looked directly at Everson as he was sentenced

Ms Wardle said she never thought her family would have to wait 26 years to receive justice and explained how her "life changed forever" on the night the father of her children was murdered.

She added her younger son James, who was one at the time of his father's death, had "struggled" with the trial, with "his only memory of his father being that he was murdered".

"The retrial has been like opening Pandora's box," she added.

"Everson has robbed me of growing old with the man I loved.

"He has robbed my children of their father.

"Murder creates more victims than the person who is killed - it changes lives and devastates families."

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites