Caught out by her own charade of all too public grief

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It was an astonishing performance, but ultimately it was Tracie Andrews' undoing.

She sat, weeping on television, an accusing black eye staring through the cameras, pleading with the driver whose passenger had butchered Lee Harvey to come forward.

"You are not to blame," she sobbed, "because you walked away".

It was less than two days since the crime that had shocked the nation, the "road rage" murder of Lee, 25, by the fat passenger with "staring eyes" who struck at the end of a three-mile car chase. Yet Andrews was brave enough to put herself in front of the media circus.

Inevitably, little more than three weeks before Christmas, the public's response to her plea for help was enormous. But, as the calls came in, seeds of doubt - of disbelief - grew in the minds of the detectives who had promised themselves that they would catch this killer. Bit by bit, piece by piece, they began to realise that the facts did not fit the former model's story.

"The turning point came when we got a call from two chartered accountants, Simon Baker and Elaine Carruthers," said Detective Inspector Steve Walters of West Mercia Police. "Andrews had said that she and Lee had missed their turning while they were being chased and had to do a reversing manoeuvre in order to get back on to their route home. Baker and Carruthers were travelling the opposite way and did indeed see Lee carrying out the manoeuvre - but they then drove for about five miles along the same route that Andrews said she and Lee had driven, and they saw no other cars, certainly not a dark Sierra in hot pursuit." In fact, the calls showed that no one had seen the Sierra, either in pursuit or on its own.

Andrews was unaware of the twist the inquiry had taken, yet this was the day she attempted to take her life with an overdose of pills. Later, she said it was because she could not bear to live without Lee, but inquiries showed that her love for him was peppered with violence.

Witnesses came forward to tell of violent rows in which she had bitten his neck during an argument at a nightclub. Others recalled an incident in which she had hit him over the head with a bottle and punched him twice in the face for visiting "her" local nightclub during one of their many splits.

Detectives discovered that Andrews had thrown Lee Harvey out of their home four times, while neighbours spoke of lengthy regular and violent rows. Andrew Tilston, a previous boyfriend and father of her seven-year- old daughter, Karla, told police that Andrews had once threatened him with a knife. Furthermore, it is understood he had once warned Mr Harvey "never turn your back" on Andrews during an argument.

Within days, the results of forensic tests began to make the situation even more serious for Andrews.

n The pattern of blood on her clothing suggested she had been close to Lee while blood from his carotid and jugular veins had spurted out. Yet, at the time he was "attacked", she said she had been sitting in his car. The location of much of the blood - at the rear of the car - did not tally with her account of a fight taking place at the side and front of Lee's Escort RS2000 turbo.

n A clutch of Andrews' hairs - 80 to 100 pulled out at the roots - were found near the body. Three more were stuck between Lee's thumb and forefinger, suggesting a struggle.

n A bloodstained mark, matching Lee's DNA profile, was found on the inside of one of Andrews' ankle boots. The mark was about the size of a Swiss Army-style knife, parts of which were found near the body. This discovery allowed the police to explain why no murder weapon was found - they believe Andrews stuffed it down her boot and threw it in a hospital waste bin later.

n A nine-year-old girl, who heard shouting outside her window near the murder scene, confirmed there was an argument - but said there were only two voices, and one of them was soft, like a woman's.

"I believe there was some sort of row - Tracie admits that Lee was very jealous and possessive - and we know that she has a very bad temper," said DI Walters. "Something must have caused her to explode that night. Whether she intended to go as far as she did, we will never know but Lee had nearly 40 separate wounds. This wasn't a quick argument after a motoring incident."

A clue to the cause of the explosion that went off inside Andrews' head that night maybe found in an unsettled childhood and disappointment over later relationships.

She was born and raised in Hereford and Worcester. Her parents broke up when she was a child and she lived with her mother, stepfather, brother, sister and several half-siblings until she was 17, when she left home to live with her brother.

At primary school in Alvechurch, she sang in the choir and carried out voluntary work but after flirting with the idea of becoming a nurse, she took a job selling perfume, makeup and hair products. She was 21 when she became pregnant by her first boyfriend, Andrew Tilston. The relationship ended a year later and she moved in with her mother before securing a council flat in Alvechurch.

She met Lee Harvey in October 1994, and he moved in three months later. The hearing was told that their relationship was stressful and volatile, inbued with jealousy and possessiveness on both sides. It grew so sour at one point that Andrews terminated a pregnancy by Lee, telling him she had had a miscarriage.

She told the court that she regretted having the abortion immediately afterwards, but after her performance in front of the cameras it is difficult to believe anything Tracie Andrews says.

"When we put her up for the cameras, we didn't suspect her - we wouldn't do that deliberately - but it did seem quite amazing when we realised she was lying," said DI Walters. "I don't know what sort of a person could do that. Perhaps a very desperate one."