MILLIONS of TV viewers missed an appeal for the brutal attackers of a frail retired North GP due to tennis star Andy Murray’s on-court heroics.
Murray’s epic Wimbledon encounter with Stanislas Wawrinka on Monday night lasted well over the scheduled time thanks to the installation of the Centre Court’s new roof and lighting.
This meant television bosses decided to switch Crimewatch, due to be screened at 9pm on BBC1 over to BBC2.
Instead of an estimated eight million viewers watching a reconstruction of the attack and robbery on 92-year-old Dr William Benson at his isolated home on the outskirts of Stanley, County Durham, Crimewatch attracted fewer than one million viewers.
Nevertheless, Detective Inspector Geoff Smith, the officer leading the hunt for three men who broke into the house and attacked Dr Benson just after midnight on October 17 last year, told The Journal there had been “some significant calls of interest”.
He added: “The appeal is still on the Crimewatch website and will be until somebody is apprehended.
“But we are still pursuing a number of lines of inquiry and this is very much an active investigation.
“It was disappointing that the tennis over-ran meaning the BBC had to make a last-minute decision to switch Crimewatch to BBC2.
“Nor did it help that ITV were screening a Real Crime programme (about the murder of teenage model Sally Anne Bowman).
“But unlike many investigations, Crimewatch was not a last resort for us. It could be significant, however, in that it is watched by a number of professionals such as police and prison officers and social workers.
“But we do have other irons in the fire.”
The raiders, who mistakenly believed Dr Benson kept money in a safe in his house, woke him and demanded he opened the safe, punched him around the head and threatened him with a large knife, before leaving him stranded in his bed injured and helpless for nine hours until a carer arrived and raised the alarm.
Dr Benson, who served the town for 50 years, was initially treated for his injuries at Durham’s University Hospital, before being transferred to an independent care home.
His recovery since the ordeal has been “remarkable”, added the detective.
He said that Dr Benson, a keen sailor in his youth, had identified the accent of one of his three attackers as “the coastal area to the east of Newcastle, somewhere like North Shields or Wallsend.”
Anyone with information which they think could be useful to the investigators can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.