Nineteen years ago Nikki Allan, a seven-year-old girl, was murdered on Wear Garth estate in Sunderland. It was a crime of extreme brutality. Nikki's body was found in a derelict building - she had been battered over the head and stabbed 37 times. No one has ever been convicted of this most evil murder. The family need answers and the murderer must be caught !
George Heron, then 24, lived on the same estate, having moved in only weeks earlier with his sister. At first Heron denied knowing Nikki, but he admitted he did after witnesses came forward to say they had seen him with her on several occasions.
There was other evidence. The blade of a knife recovered from his lodgings matched the stab wounds. Blood splatters were found on Heron's shoe and other clothing. His sister told police that on returning home on the night of Nikki's murder, Heron had gone straight to the bathroom where, uncharacteristically, he spent "a good half hour" washing both himself and his clothes. Although Heron had at first denied going out that evening, four separate witnesses saw a man at the Boar's Head and Clarendon public houses fitting his description. The man was seen buying cheese-and-onion crisps - Nikki's favourite - which police believed the killer used to lure Nikki into the building where she died.
After three days of police questioning, Heron confessed to killing Nikki. He had previously denied it 120 times. The bulk of the evidence against him was circumstantial, but police and prosecutors maintained that several of the details in Heron's confession were corroborated by evidence gathered during the course of the inquiry. Police were confident of a conviction.
The trial opened in Leeds in October 1993. Community hatred towards Heron ran at fever pitch, making it difficult to guarantee a fair trial in Sunderland. The distance was no deterrent. Scores of local people, including Nikki's entire extended family, travelled daily to fill the public gallery and often had to be restrained from leaping into the dock to attack the defendant.
The judge in the case immediately identified a problem with the taped confessions. After two weeks of legal argument, he ruled that seven of the 12 interview tapes - thought by the Crown Prosecution Service to be crucial in proving the case - were inadmissible because officers had used "oppressive methods" to obtain the confession. After a six-week trial, the judge directed the jury to deliver a verdict of not guilty. Fighting broke out in the courtroom, Sharon passed out and several jury members were sobbing.
Heron was given a change of identity and moved out of Sunderland. Soon after the trial, his solicitor's office was firebombed. While Heron was in prison on remand, he was slashed across the face by an inmate and left badly scarred. Sharon was secretly invited into the prison to meet the inmate so she could thank him. "I was even sent letters from some of the jurors," says Sharon, "saying they would be haunted by Nikki's murder for the rest of their lives."
Nineteen years ago Nikki Allan, a seven-year-old girl, was murdered on Wear Garth estate in Sunderland. It was a crime of extreme brutality. Nikki's body was found in a derelict building - she had been battered over the head and stabbed 37 times.
No one has ever been convicted of this most evil murder. The family need answers and the murderer must be caught !
The Justice for Nikki Allan petition to United Kingdom was written by Sharon Henderson & Chris Wittwer and is in the category Children's Rights at GoPetition.