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Bergerac's fair cop; John Nettles' daughter joins Jersey police.

WHEN you walk into police headquarters on Jersey you can't help feeling you've been there before.

It's got nothing to do with the sergeant behind the desk, or the squad cars lined up outside. It's the attractive blonde woman in the crime office upstairs.

Her face is uncannily familiar. So are those inquiring blue eyes. After racking your brains for what seems like an age, it finally comes to you. Bergerac!

That's it! She's the spitting image of Jim Bergerac, the TV detective who is Jersey for millions of viewers.

Just for once, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The woman sitting there surrounded by villains' profiles, witness statements and all the other paraphernalia of police work is John Nettles' daughter, Emma.

In an amazing case of fact mirroring fiction, Emma, 28, has joined the force in which her actor father made his name.

"I suppose the wheel has come full circle," says Emma. "Dad pretended to work for the Jersey police for 11 years, and now I'm doing the same thing for real.

"When I rang him up and told him, he was absolutely speechless. He couldn't believe it. It took him a while to get over the shock, but I could tell he was over the moon about it.

"I may not be his little girl any more, but I still love it when he's proud of me."

Emma added: "Dad got to know a lot of policemen on Jersey when he was playing Bergerac. Every time I see him he says, `Give my regards to so- and-so'. But the people here have been very good. They haven't taken the mickey out of me because I'm Bergerac's daughter. They accept me for who I am."

Emma's job - she is civilian support unit manager at St Helier, responsible for a team of 20 people including five uniformed officers - is the climax of a love affair with Jersey which began when she moved there with John after his marriage to his first wife Joyce ended in divorce.

"I was 17," Emma says. "Dad thought he'd neglected me as a child because of his job and he saw it as his opportunity to make up for it. We'd walk for hours along the beach with Alice, our dog. Dad would want to go swimming no matter how freezing it was, and I'd sit in the dunes, shivering and hugging Alice to keep warm."

While there, Emma witnessed the power of her father's fame which crashed over them both like a tidal wave.

"It was appalling for me, to tell you the truth. Everywhere we went, people were shouting out, `Oi, Bergerac, come over here'. I kept on wanting to shout back, `Leave him alone, he's mine'."

Although John was determined not to be a showbusiness father, he didn't want Emma to feel estranged from his TV life, either. "He'd take me on the set with him and find me little jobs, like being a `runner' going from caravan to caravan knocking on doors, getting the actors on set.

"I was even in Bergerac as an extra a few times. It was a question of `Don't blink or you'll miss me', but I got paid twenty-five quid...riches!"

John gave up Bergerac, which was one of the BBC's top shows, pulling in audiences of 12 million-plus, because he wanted to move on.

He went on to win acclaim in the theatre - and moved away from Jersey. But Emma says: "He needs his Jersey `fix' on a regular basis.

"We still do the things we did all those years ago. Lots of walking in the dunes, lots of laughing."

In the meantime, Emma has settled down, found love and married. Her husband, Nobby Martins, 29, runs a computer business, but had ambitions to be a professional footballer (he played for Jersey) until injury ended his hopes. It was Nobby who suggested she applied for the police job.

"I was working as a civil servant and I was at a bit of a crossroads," says Emma. "Nobby saw the advert in the local paper and kept badgering me to apply."

Emma's father, too, has found a new domestic stability.

Three years ago he married for a second time and set up home in a converted barn near Stratford with former nurse Cathryn Sealey.

"Cathy is a wonderful lady," says Emma. "Dad is so happy, and if anyone deserves happiness, he does."

Emma thinks John would like the glamorous end of policing - the chases and the captures - but would get bored by the paperwork. Her own days are spent surrounded by files.

"I feel fortunate to be doing it," she says. "I've only been in the job since October, but I know this is where I belong. When they told me I'd got it, I locked myself in the ladies and screamed with joy.

"Police work is like nothing else I've ever known. You are dealing with the dramas and tragedies of life. No day here is the same, and it is marvellous to work in a job where you can really make a difference to people's lives."

Already she has made a big impression. "She's settled down magnificently," says Inspector Nigel Truscott, who knows her father well and has a picture of him on his wall.

Ironically, while Emma is getting used to working in the real-life police force, John is back on TV as a policeman once again. In ITV's Midsomer Murders (his first wife, Joyce, is casting director) he plays Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, a happily-married man - and a world away from Bergerac.

But the spirit of John's unforgettable portrayal of the alcoholic, mixed-up detective still hovers over Jersey. Everywhere you go there are notices saying: "Visit Bergerac's Location...See Bergerac's Car..."

How much longer, you wonder, before there's a new one: "Break The Law And Meet Bergerac's Daughter Down At The Nick."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 21, 1999
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