Crime show presenter Natalie Pinkham tells Roz Laws how she became a real-life victim of burglars.
When presenter Natalie Pinkham interviews the victims of crime for her factual TV series You're Nicked, she can sympathise with what they’ve been through.
She knows exactly what it’s like to feel threatened by intruders, after twice falling victim to burglars – while she was still in the house.
She cowered inside, hiding under her duvet and desperately waited for the police, while men tried to break into her home.
The first time it happened to the former Warwickshire schoolgirl and friend of Prince Harry, she was a politics student at Nottingham University.
“It was horrible and so scary, listening to someone trying to break in,” says Natalie, who competed in Dancing On Ice last year and now presents the Five show You’re Nicked!
“It was the Easter holidays just before our finals and another friend and I had come back early to our student house.
“We’d already had a couple of taxis and a pizza delivery guy knocked on the door, which we hadn’t ordered. In hindsight, it seemed as if someone was trying to trick us into opening the door. Then we heard someone banging into our flimsy glass front door with his shoulder. We looked out and saw this big guy running at the door.
“We barricaded ourselves into one room and called the police. The 999 operator stayed on the phone with me all the time until the police arrived, and told me it was safe to open up.”
Being the target of burglars once is bad enough – but Natalie suffered a second ordeal.
“It happened again when I was living in Fulham in London,” she says. “I was in by myself when he tried to break in from the patio. I know the police say you shouldn’t stand up to intruders, but I got really angry, opened the window above him and shouted: ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ Actually I used rather more blue language than that.
“Only then did I feel scared. I hid under my duvet while I called the police, as if that could protect me!
“Once again the police were there within minutes – and even managed to catch the guy as he tried to scramble over a garden fence.
“The one embarrassing side to it was that I’d covered myself in fake tan to sleep in, and when the police turned up they said: ‘Sorry madam, but could you just explain why your face looks like it’s covered in mud?’.”
Natalie shot to worldwide fame when pictures emerged of her being fondled by Prince Harry. She was introduced to Harry by her first serious boyfriend, rugby player Matt Dawson, whom she met when she was 17.
She was a sixth form pupil at fee-paying Rugby School in Warwickshire and Dawson was living in the nearby Northamptonshire village of Spratton.
Natalie reveals: “I lived with him in Spratton for about four years, while I was at university. I’d go back there at weekends.”
She knows the county well as her parents, barrister Joy and property developer John, live in Hardingstone in Northamptonshire.
Natalie, aged 29, also dated cricketer Kevin Pietersen and is still great friends with Prince Harry but denies ever having a romantic relationship with him.
She now lives in London with her boyfriend Owain, who works in business development for Endemol Television.
Coincidentally, Natalie’s first job in TV was for Endemol, where she was a runner on Ready Steady Cook – and for her first TV appearance she dressed as a giant sausage.
She became an assistant producer on Superstars before presenting Channel 4’s Adrenalin Rush and the football highlights show, David Beckham’s Soccer USA. She was also the face of The Poker Channel and played in Cannes with the Ocean’s 13 cast, including Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
She has been presenting sporting events for Channel 4, such as last weekend’s inaugural Great London Swim and forthcoming Great North Swim.
“Mass participation sport is something I’m very keen to support in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics,” Natalie explains.
“I help to run the charity Access Sport, getting kids off the street and into sport. If they have an outlet for their aggression, they’re less likely to commit crime out of frustration and boredom.”
She’s clearly a competitive risk-taker, who loves the adrenalin rush of zooming about in helicopters with the police and riding pillion with motorbike patrols for You’re Nicked! So it should come as no surprise to discover she has just climbed a mountain, for the fun of it.
“Owain and I felt we needed a weekend away from London and off the booze, so we decided to climb Snowdon.
“The weather was horrible, it was lashing down with rain and wind. I got a bit of a strop on because I was in so much pain, but Owain kept telling me it was character building.
“I’ve always been a tomboy and into sport. Mind you, if there had been a sun lounger and a Martini at the top, that would have made me very happy!”