Real-life murder mystery
He says Rachel’s death changed him in many ways. “It makes you more sensitive to emotional stimuli. Moving movies are more likely to upset me.
“But the most profound effect it’s had is that it has made me intolerant of wasted time.”
At first, he couldn’t imagine ever meeting anyone else, but 18 months after Rachel’s death, Mears met Ruth at a book-signing. She was a mature student reading archaeology at Durham University.
“I’ve no idea how, but she broke through the fog that had been surrounding me. It was love at first sight,” he recalls.
They went on to marry. “Ruth is part of the new me. I’m very lucky to have had a second chance.”
The son of a printer, Mears spent his first two years of life in Lagos, Nigeria, where his father’s work had been, before the family moved to Kenley on Surrey’s borders.
It was there that his love of nature came into its own, and on leaving school he went on expeditions with volunteering charity Operation Raleigh, before joiningWorld magazine as a photographer, later founding his company, Woodlore. When his bushcraft talent was honed for TV, he discovered his newfound fame inevitably led to a loss of privacy.
“That’s the price you pay,” he reflects. “But for me, it was worth paying because I believe in what I do, and want to bring it to a wider audience. “I hadn’t realised how widely it would take off and that the programmes would be shown worldwide.” The hardest job he’s ever had though, was helping police track murderer Raoul Moat, who’d gone on the run following a killing spree in Northumberland in 2010.
The bush tracker joined a Tornado fighter jet and scores of armed police officers in the £1 million-plus (Dh5.8 million) search for the former doorman and recently released prisoner after he went to ground for six days in woodland surrounding the scene of his crimes in Rothbury. “I hope it never happens again,” Mears says, shuddering.
“The stakes were so high. I didn’t seek glory or charge police for my time or expenses. I have a unique skill and was in a unique position to help.
“For 10 years I’d been teaching British special forces how to survive,” he continues, “so I have a good understanding of what happens to people when they try to do what he [Moat] was trying to do.”
In the more comfortable world of TV, Mears has just finished filming a series in America on the WildWest for BBC Four, which will go out next year, but says he doesn’t watch survival shows that create a false sense of jeopardy within the programmes for entertainment’s sake.
“I try to bring people and nature closer together. In the digital age, it’s more important now than ever before,” he adds.
“It’s easy to sit in a concrete building behind a computer screen and not realise that you’re still dependent on nature, that you are an animal, a part of nature, and that your actions on a daily basis influence the natural world that surrounds you.”
In his autobiography bushcraft expert Ray Mears talks about his love of nature