The 23-year-old man who walked free from court while his best friend went down for 26 years for stabbing his girlfriend to death, is no more.

Tom Fuller is a year older now and has a new life in West Sussex, 90 miles away from the home in Oakley Drive, Eltham, where he was living at the time of Natalie Jarvis’ murder in October 2012.

Speaking exclusively to News Shopper for the first time since he was cleared of the killing in April last year, 24-year-old Fuller admits he still regrets not doing enough to save her.

Natalie was 23 when she was stabbed more than 20 times with a multi-tool by her boyfriend, and Tom’s best friend, Adam Whelehan.

News Shopper:

Tom Fuller walks free from Maidstone Crown Court on April 24, 2013. 

Former Hurstmere School pupils Tom and Adam visited the Tailor’s Chalk and Portrait pubs in Sidcup on the night of the murder on October 3, 2012.

The pair then headed to Natalie’s home in Swanley to pick her up and while Tom waited in the boot of his friend’s car, Whelehan, then 23, drove to the Button Street car park in Swanley Village before attacking Natalie and leaving her to die.

Tom was accused of being Whelehan’s knowing getaway driver, which he has always denied.

News Shopper:

Whelehan hands himself in at Bexleyheath police station after being dropped off by Tom Fuller. 

He lives with his girlfriend of seven months Abby Wheeler, 21, and though he may look tanned and healthy, he is clearly nervous and occasionally struggles to find the right words.

Tom told News Shopper things got "quite rough" during the six months he spent awaiting trial at Elmley prison in Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey.

He said: "The wing I was on there were quite a few people from Swanley, including some traveller people, and I made friends with people there who said ‘stay away from so-and-so – they know the Jarvis family’ so I always had to have my wits about me.

News Shopper:

Tom speaks to News Shopper.

"I got attacked once with a razor blade on the end of a toothbrush. I got cut across my eye. That was in the cell.

"The cells had locks on so you could lock yourself in the cell and they came in and locked the door behind themselves and just came at me with a knife. It was two of them."

Tom admits there were things he could have done which may have stopped the murder.

He said: "I do not feel guilt for what Adam did but I do regret how naive I was to get myself involved in the situation.

"I wish I had done some things differently – like not sending some of the texts I sent Adam, which may have changed the outcome, but we'll never know.

"I was just trying to make him laugh, make him feel better about everything.

"I thought nothing more of it. I didn’t actually think that he’d go and stab her.

"He may have planned to kill Natalie that night whether I was there or not."

Tom says the barbs thrown at him on Facebook and in magazine articles by the Jarvis family have forced him to speak out.

Why are you doing this now?

"I’m just sick of them mentioning me in their stories and I’m not allowed to get my side out.

"I want to get facts out there really. No one’s ever mentioned that I’m the one who drove Adam to Bexleyheath police station so he could hand himself in.

"I talked him out of wanting to run away up north somewhere and told him to hand himself in."

How has your life changed?

"It’s completely been turned upside down. I’m trying to get over it.

"I understand they’re grieving and they’ve lost their daughter but in a way I’m grieving about it still because I got dragged into it for nothing.

"I didn’t ask for any of this to happen, I didn’t want it to happen. I thought it was just a bit of banter and that was it."

Why didn’t you warn Natalie?

"I don’t know. I didn’t know they had a knife, I thought they were just going down the road.

"I never thought it would come to this.

“I can’t help it that I just froze. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Why didn’t you go and find her when Whelehan came back?

"I was just panicking really because he’d just come running back on his own, jumped in the car and said ‘drive’ so I instinctively just drove.

"I didn’t know where we were, I’d never been there before in my life.”

How do you feel towards Natalie's family?

"I do sympathise with them greatly. I can't imagine how it must be for them to lose their daughter, especially in the manner that it happened."

Do you feel guilt at all?

“No. I don’t know, I just don’t. There’s nothing I can do about it now.

“There’s no point in feeling bad about something that I can’t change.

“I used to go through it in my head and what if I’d done something differently but I haven’t got a time machine.

“I can’t go back and change anything.”

How do you feel towards Whelehan?

“My feelings towards Adam have changed completely. I don’t really like saying his name to be honest with you.

“In the weeks leading up to it he mentioned a couple of times a week that he was going to go and do it and every time he didn’t do it.

“I thought I knew him, I thought I proper knew him and there was always a reason why he didn’t do it.

“I thought he’s not like that, he’s not the type of person that’s going to murder someone.”

When did you last speak to him?

“The day I got released. He just said I’m glad that you’ve been found innocent.

“I just said thanks, take care and he had to get on the prison bus.”

Were you not egging him on a bit, even if you didn’t mean to? (Tom sent text messages to Whelehan appearing to encourage him to murder Natalie).

“I think maybe unintentionally I must have egged him on.

“He must have thought 'oh right, Tom’s behind me in this' but in reality it was just like one big joke to me.

“I didn’t think it would ever happen, that it would ever come to this.”

Did you ever feel the verdict wasn’t going to go your way?

“Not really, no. I was always confident that I was going to get the right verdict, that the truth would come out.

What was it like waiting for the verdict?

“I had a panic attack in the cell when the guard came down to tell us it was coming through.

“I was in the same cell as Adam at the time, the holding cell.

“He was just calm as anything – I think he knew he was going down anyway.

“He was poker-faced.”

When the foreman said 'not guilty' what did you feel like?

“I just wanted to jump up and down but the judge said show no emotion when the verdicts are read out so I think I just held my head in my hands.

“I didn’t want to look at anyone.”

Was it more relief or was it joy?

“It was relief that I thought it was all over really. I thought that was it, I can get on with the rest of my life now.”