Celebrated psychic medium Colin Fry returns to the Beck Theatre as part of his new Free Spirit Tour. He speaks to SIBA MATTI about chatting with the dead, deciphering unsolved murders and passing on life-changing messages

How did you discover your psychic abilities? What was the first message you received, and from whom?

There was no discovery - it was there all the time - but I gave my first message when I was four years old. I told my father that his mother had gone to heaven. He told me off, but then he got a telegram the next morning saying she had passed away.

Until I was about 10, we lived in a terraced Victorian house, where I used to talk to a man called Mr Potter at the bottom of the garden. My parents thought I had an overactive imagination but we later found out a man with that name had lived there before we moved in.

These were regular occurrences throughout my youth, but when I was about 13, I realised it wasn't going to go away, and I did my first show when I was 17.

Q: In spite of these 'spooky' events, you decided to pursue a career in retail management, which you turned your back on after 18 successful years. Why?

A: Until about 16 years ago, I never thought of a medium as a full-time career; it was something I did in my spare time.

My adopted brother, Michael, was always pushing me to be a professional psychic medium, and when he died from Aids in 1994, I thought 'I can't go back to my job', and resigned the next day. It was completely illogical as I had a mortgage to pay, but I felt it was the right thing to do.

For the first five years as a professional medium, I was earning just enough to keep my head above water, but everything changed after I was approached by a TV company.

Q: You have since become a household name, with shows including Living TV's 6th Sense and Colin Fry Live. Did you ever expect them to be so popular?

A: The first series of 6th Sense was just a bit of fun; I never anticipated it would become a phenomenon. I think the shows have been successful because the messages really do mean so much to people. There isn't any planning involved. I just deliver the messages as they come into my head, and I forget them almost straight away. I was on the Tube in London and a lady leaned over and said 'hello', but I just couldn't remember her, as I meet so many people through my job. It turned out I had given her a message in 1989, which she said changed her life.

Q:Your show Psychic Private Eyes was dedicated to finding answers to unsolved murders, including the brutal killing of Sally Ann Bowman by Mark Dixie in 2005. Did you ever find this work disturbing?

A: Yes. I never wanted to do the show, as I think when you are working with a victim's family, it should be kept out of the public eye. I received a letter from Sally Ann's mother, who wanted help to catch her killer. We were able to give a detailed description and profile - even stating his name was Mark - long before the trial, but if I was approached to do that work again, I would probably think twice. It is not pleasant having the vicious murder of a young girl replayed in your mind, and it affected me for days afterwards.

Q: Can you sense people's presence all the time? Do you actually see dead people?

A: Sometimes I do see the dead and find myself having conversations with people when I am alone. I was once having a chat about the weather with an old man, who I assumed was a local villager, but he started to become translucent. I was talking to a spirit person for 10 minutes and didn't realise!

Q: How would you respond to sceptics who say you are targeting vulnerable people?

A: There are so many psychics coming out of the woodwork, many of whom have had no training and are only too keen to self-publicise. I would just say talk to the people I have given messages to. I receive thousands of letters and emails from people who say I have really helped them, even if I have never met them personally.

what? Colin Fry - Free Spirit Tour

where? Beck Theatre, Grange Road, Hayes, UB3 2UE

when? Thursday, July 8 and Friday, July 9, 7.30pm

cost? From £20 call? 020 8561 8371

see: www.becktheatre.org.uk