The supergrass who helped nail the Rettendon murderers has spoken for the first time about his secret life under police protection.

Darren Nicholls, 33, who formerly lived in Braintree but who has now been given a new identity under the witness protection programme, lives in constant fear of being tracked down by supporters of killers Michael Steele and Jack Whomes.

It was Nicholls's crucial testimony which led to the conviction of Steele, 56, of Aingers Green, Great Bentley, and Whomes, 37, of Suffolk, at the Old Bailey last year.

They were found guilty of gunning down rival drug barons Pat Tate, 37, Tony Tucker, 38, and Craig Rolfe, 26, whose bodies were found inside a Range Rover in Workhouse Lane, Rettendon.

Nicholls was the getaway driver who confessed his role to the police in May 1996 when he was arrested for possession of drugs.

He is still waiting for the final details of his new identity to slip into place.

But because his former identity has been erased - including national insurance number, passport and driving licence - and his new one has yet to be established he can't even get a job.

He said: "At the moment I'm just getting used to being at home. It was nice to get back to normality - well, to be with my family anyway.

"The place I'm living in is so peaceful compared to Braintree. It's a different pace of life and I feel like a retired person - without the pension.

"The police will help me find employment but it's difficult to know what to do."

The fear he might be tracked down by Whomes and Steele's associates is always on his mind.

Whomes and Steele's second bid to seek leave to appeal was turned down by a High Court judge last week.

Essex Police were today locked in discussions with television programme makers in an effort to make last-minute changes to a documentary about supergrass Nicholls.

Senior officers are said to be unhappy about certain parts of an Inside Story programme due to be aired tomorrow night.

In the programme, Nicholls tells of his life after the Rettendon murders.

Police are said to be anxious that parts of the documentary may lead to his identification.

If the programme is to be aired on BBC1 at 10.15pm tomorrow, key changes to blur his identity look set to be made.

Nicholls' story will soon be told in a book Bloggs 19 by crime writer Tony Thompson.

It tells the story of how he met Whomes, Steele and Tate in prison through to the present day.

Bloggs 19 was the name given to Darren when he was held in a special supergrass wing in HMP Woodhill in Bedfordshire.

Bloggs 19 will hit the bookshelves in the spring published by Little Brown and priced £5.99.

Converted for the new archive on 19 November 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.