Top detective Steve solved major crimes - but was also a useful all-round sportsman

Steve WilkinsOn the 11th, 12th and 13th January there will be a programme on ITV documenting the notorious murders that brought the county into the national news 35 years ago and the eventual solving of the crimes by a dedicated team of detectives under the leadership of Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Wilkins.
The crimes included the double killing at Scoveston (1985), near Milford Haven, two murders on the coastal path (1989), plus an armed attack on 5 children in 1996 in Milford Haven which were finally solved over 20 years later.
Taking the role of Steve Wilkins will be Hollywood star Luke Evans and on the following night (14th January) there will be a documentary which details the filming of the drama on location in Pembrokeshire and other parts of Wales and the immense amount of forensic work undertaken in what is known as a ‘Cold Case Review’.

Steve was a top detective but also loved his sport in Pembrokeshire

So Steve’s detective work is again brought to the fore, this time as part of a documentary over those four evenings but what might not be so well known is the fact that he played a lot of rugby and cricket in the county after his parents arrived in Pembroke Dock in 1976,  having bought the  old Caledonia Inn, which is sadly no longer with us, and he initially joined Pembroke Dock Harlequins as a very combative teenage scrum half and played up the top of the town at Imble Lane with Pembroke Dock Cricket Club.
In the oval ball game he set out with The Quins’ Youth team and it wasn’t long before he gained county selection, with a famous international and British Lion as his half back partner.

“His name was Peter Morgan and I knew even then that he was destined for great things and my job was to make sure that any hard-won possession was shifted out to ‘Mogs’ as quickly as possible.

Knock Out Cup baptism of fire in local derby

“At 19 I made my Knockout Cup debut for The Quins in a local derby against Pembroke after regular incumbent Andy Charlette had been sent off with Scarlets’ flanker Roy Bundock when the teams met in a league match the previous week.
“It was a real baptism of fire with characters like Morgan Lewis and Guy Thomas breathing down my neck but I was nursed through it by our experienced forwards Lenny and Roy Scourfield, Ossie and Dai Boswell, and I was pleased when I read a positive report in the local paper alongside my old pal Haydn Williams, about our narrow win.”

 Steve  and George Wilkins

Rugby in Sandbach, and then back at Bierspool

When he joined the Cheshire Police in 1980 (and there will be more about his police work later) Steve joined Sandbach RFC and played in the newly-formed National Girobank  League and became league one champions as well as helping them win The Potteries Cup – but as his work kept him more and more busy his involvement came to a halt until he came back to police work in our county when he was 36 and had a few games  back at Bierspool.
“To be honest I was too old but had a few games in the firsts when Andy Morrissey got injured but I dislocated an elbow three times over the years and decided it was time to hang up my rugby boots, but I was daft enough to still have a few games with Tenby United Thirds before I finally called a halt.”

A late switch to football as an ‘agricultural midfielder

But his boots were then used on the local football pitches when he played with St Florence alongside the likes of Paul Griffiths, Steve Briers, Paul Davies and the late Ben Blake.
“Ben was one of the nicest people I ever met or played sport with, and I loved his company.
“He was a cultured midfielder, I played in a style which was far more ‘agricultural’. I wasn’t a great player, but I made it very hard for those who thought they were!”
“I also coached a Tenby junior side with my son George playing in midfield and that offered more challenges but I enjoyed just being a part of it.”

Cricket with characters at ‘The Dock’ and then at Middlewich

On the cricket front, Steve started out at Pembroke Dock, where Terry Harvey and Bill Carne were first team captain and vice-captain, with other great characters like fast bowler Wyn Evans, all-rounder Willie Fell, both players named John Davies (known as Snr and Jnr for obvious reasons), and Maurice Leyland, who still does a great job now of tending the terrific playing service at Imble Lane.
When he returned to Cheshire he played cricket for Middlewich, mainly on Sundays because of his work commitments and on his return here he played in 1992 for Manorbier because he was pals with Andrew Kidney, whose brother Phil was a key all-rounder alongside Keith May.

Steve Wilkins hits out

Playing for ‘The Saints’ and ‘The Doves’ – and a chance of a century drifts away

Then Tommy Roberts and the late John Wolverston (another great character in the village) decided to try and get cricket up and running in St Florence and Steve opened the batting with the late Peter Hall; certainly one of the best cricketers Pembrokeshire has ever known.

“My role there was to make sure Peter had the strike as often as possible and we had some really good opening partnerships, but always with ‘Horlicks’ scoring about 70% of the runs.”
In 2008, after being promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent, Steve joined Cresselly and really enjoyed playing mostly for the third XI alongside some other old timers like Phil ‘Spam’ James, Steve ‘Spongie’ Davies,  Glyn Cole and Richard ‘Dick the Dog’ Arthur in a side that always tried to be competitive but with a sense of fun at all times.
“We played our ‘home’ matches at St Florence and I had my top score there of 96 not out against Haverfordwest Fourths – and I thought I was in with a chance of my maiden century because there was one over left.
“But then the youngster who was there with him at the other end failed to hit a ball and he was left stranded just four runs short of what would have been his only century.

“I couldn’t be mad with him because he tried his best and it was a great treat for me because George, who became a far better player than I was, had a regular place in that team too.”

Steve Wilkins marches back to pavilionFamily matters . . .

Ask Steve about important people in his life and he would be quick to name his wife Diane, whom he married six years ago, and he says gives him total support in his sport and at work.

“Between us we have four lovely children and I’m delighted that George is now a police constable in Gwent after playing football with Haverfordwest County juniors, Swansea City Development Squad and for Carmarthen Town under 19s, as well as cricket at St Florence and Cresselly with dad. His daughter Emily was a keen swimmer and gymnast and his other boy Loucas plays rugby for the Military Police.
“Our youngest son Kieran is 17 and loves his football as a 6’ 4” tall central midfielder with Nantwich Pumas, who are a strong side and certainly on a par with the best of Pembrokeshire Football”

Interesting local jobs – and an even more interesting introduction to police work

In his youth Steve wasn’t really sure of what he wanted to do so he took on temporary jobs like picking potatoes and working on the hay at local farms, besides other work at GKN Factory, Silcox Buses and Jenkins & Davies Engineers.
“I had thought about joining The Royal Marines because both my brothers were PTIs there but came across the work of the police almost by accident when I was playing youth rugby for The Quins and after a match at Crickmarren we had a few pints – and for some stupid reason I decided to climb one of the Belisha Beacons at a zebra crossing and try to remove the bright orange globe at the top.
“It seemed a good idea until I was helped down by a member of the local constabulary and taken to Pembroke Dock Police Station, where it was decided that since I was of previous good character there would be no charge but I had to receive an official warning the next day!

Parents not impressed and Steve gets a ‘light bulb’ moment

“I had to tell my father, a former Merseyside docker and tough ex-boxer, and even worse was telling my mother, who went ballistic before taking me down to the police station for my rollicking, which was given to me by a police inspector.
“As I was about to leave, I offered my hand in apology but it was refused because this senior officer told me he expected me back if that was the way I behaved.
“If it was a deliberate ploy to give me a wake-up call it worked because within days I decided I wanted to be a policeman and was given some good advice by my Quins’ team-mate Billy Horne, who went on to become assistant chief constable of Gwent, and in 1980 I was back home in Cheshire as a police constable.”

Steve helps solve serious crimes in Cheshire and then returns to Pembrokeshire

Steve soon became a detective, working with the Cheshire Serious Crime squad for a number of years and really enjoying the challenge of dealing with hardened criminals.

After a decade he decided to study for his sergeant’s and inspector’s exams – and from then his promotions came at regular intervals after he joined Dyfed Powys as a sergeant at Tenby in 1992.
He moved through the detective ranks of inspector, chief inspector, superintendent and chief superintendent before he retired following the completion of the cold case “Operation Ottawa” mounted to solve the afore-mentioned murders.

Then a role leading the confiscating of contraband cigarettes across the world

Steve then joined Japan Tobacco International and his work was undertaken from Geneva, where he lived for several years. “Ironically, I’ve never smoked in my life,” Steve told us, “and I was now charged with the responsibility of stopping the smuggling of them across the European Union and all of North and South America, working closely with law enforcement officers across the globe in confiscating contraband and putting criminals in jail.
Steve is due to retire in March 2021, and he will be looking to relax a little more with golf, fishing and travel. When he retired from the police in 2012 he  was approached to write a book about the murders and other offences in Pembrokeshire and after talking to the families of those who suffered he decided to go ahead to set the record straight, assisted by Jonathan Hill, the well-known presenter with ITV Wales.

And finally . . .

“Then came several calls from people eager to make a drama and I finally agreed after setting out some clear “red lines” and more talks with victims’ families and some of my own family, especially since I attended the filming in an advisory capacity, and briefed the cast.
“I wanted to ensure that the drama was true to the real investigation, without being insensitive. The drama covers a six-year investigation in three hours, but in doing so captures the hard work of my team and the complexity of the forensic evidence which resulted in a successful conclusion”.
“It is nice to be back in Cheshire now,” admitted Steve, “but I will never forget my time in Pembrokeshire, especially when my parents found out how daft their young son could be, the great friends I made through the police fraternity and especially through my sport.

“I still register every cricket season as a player with Cresselly and I hope that I can play a few games on my visits to the county because I still haven’t quite given up on that elusive century with the third team yet!
“One light-hearted moment came when I was invited to speak at a police dinner and afterwards the now-retired Chief inspector who had issued my warning at the police station, but clearly didn’t remember me, came up to shake hands with me.

“He was totally lost for words when I told him where and when we had met before – but I did shake hands with him because without our earlier meeting I might not have become a policeman!”

Steve Wilkins  with George in Cresselly team