Detectives are to visit killer Karen Tunmore behind bars in a bid to unlock the identity of the mystery man who was with her when she murdered Scott Pritchard, the Sunderland teenager’s family have told the Echo.
Tunmore, 36, was jailed for life earlier this month after finally confessing to beating Scott, 19, to death outside of his Hendon home back in January 2004 - ending a 14-year nightmare for his loved ones.
At the time of the murder, Tunmore had been accompanied by a man, identified only as 'Ste' or 'Steve' - but he has never been traced.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Steve, or Ste, had planned to buy Tunmore’s Nissan Sunny and the pair had travelled to Sunderland to seek out Scott to get hold of cash he was owed.
His links to that community could still be key in finding him, with it said he had connections to the notorious crime gang the Hendon Mad Dogs.
But what began as an effort to collect a debt turned to a bloody, battered assault and ended in Scott’s death.
A year after Scott’s killing, his father Robert Frederick Stacey - better known as Freddie - was charged with his murder and spent 16 weeks on remand before the case against him was dropped.
But he never got over the anguish of being wrongly labelled his son’s murderer - and the abuse he was subjected to - and died earlier this month without knowing Tunmore had been put behind bars for a minimum of 17-and-a-half years.
In recent days, Detective Chief Inspector John Bent, of Northumbria Police, has been to visit Freddie’s heartbroken daughters - Charlie Hellens, 30, Aimee Stacey, 34 and Kimberley Pratt, 37 - who said the top cop had told them their father should never have been charged over the murder.
And they said DCI Bent told them detectives would be visiting Tunmore in jail to see if she will shed light on who 'Ste' actually is.
Charlie said: "Ch Insp Bent told us officers were going to see Tunmore in prison in the next two weeks to try to get some answers out of her as to who this mystery 'Ste' was.
"He said he didn’t hold out much hope. But they would try. i don’t even know if there was any 'Ste' or if it’s just something she has made up to make her look a little bitter.
"But I would like to think, if there was such a man, someone would know who he was and we could get some closure to this whole thing.
"Otherwise it still isn’t over. We will always be wondering who this man and he also knew all that time who killed my dad and kept it a secret and is still doing so.
"Hopefully the police can get something from her. He said he would get back in touch as soon as they had spoken to her."
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: "Following the conviction of Karen Tunmore for the historic murder of Scott Pritchard, officers are looking to identify a man named as 'Ste'.
"This individual has been named by Tunmore as being present when she carried out the fatal attack.
"We will follow up lines of enquiry in a bid to identify this man and would urge anyone with information to contact police on the 101 number."
'Ste' was known to Tunmore through the modified car scene.
At the time of the attack he was in his late 20s - and is described as having dark brown hair, brushed forward, and having a lateral scar on the left hand side of his face.
After Tunmore’s sentencing, DCI Bent said: "The case is not closed for us, because we’re really keen to trace the individual she was with at the time.
"People will know who her associates were at the time.
"We would either encourage him, because he’s lived with that guilt, that trauma, in the same way she has for 14 years, or someone who would have known who he would have been at that time, to come forward and let us know."