Step aside Lieutenant Columbo, there is a new detective on TV and he is from Bloxham.
An ex-police inspector who spent a lot of his 30-year career based in Oxfordshire has been thrust into the limelight as a lead detective on Sky One’s reality show The Heist.
Ray Howard, who retired from active police duty earlier this year, was chosen from hundreds of applicants to be an investigator on the show.
Ray said: “They were advertising and I saw it on my email account at work, when I was still working and I thought ‘that’s not for me’ and ignored it.
“Then I saw it again and the filming was just after I stopped working so I thought it might be interesting and sent them an email, had a Skype interview then went to London for a couple of screen test interviews.
“I think what they were looking for was how you responded and how you come across on camera.”
After getting ‘the call’, Ray was whisked away, not to Hollywood, but to Thirsk in Yorkshire where the first six-episode series was recorded over 16 days.
The show sees ten people team up to steal a life-changing stash of cash from a security van. They then have to hide their share of the £250,000 bounty and remain out of reach of the long arm of the law as real life police hunt them down.
Ray said: “They made it so real for us. I had just left the police so it was a bit like still being in the police.
“What used to be a library and nursery they turned it into a police station and it looked very real. Basically they left us in there, told us this heist was kicking off and deal with it as you will and we’ll film you.”
Although Ray and lead detective Sue Hill from the Metropolitan Police were allowed to use any law enforcement technique to track down the culprits, as former police officers they lacked certain legal powers.
Ray said: “We had a slightly different set of rules as we would have had in the real police, we had to ask permission for everything so we didn’t do anything illegal.”
One tool police officers have is information and a deep understanding of the local criminal fraternity. This element is vital in modern police work but its absence in The Heist case proved taxing.
Ray said: “From a policing perspective, with a crime like this, I’d probably be able to tell you the top ten names of people who are likely to have done it. In this case we had no starting point whatsoever.”
Sky One attracts 16m viewers a month but Ray’s life remained unchanged.
Ray said: “We weren’t really the stars, the people who are worth watching are the people playing the part of the criminals, they were hilarious.”
And did the investigators get their man in the end?
“I can’t tell you,” he said.
The Heist is available to download now from sky.com/watch.