Nickell murder evidence revealed

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The Independent Online
A new chapter in the story of the unsolved murder of Rachel Nickell began yesterday when previously unheard evidence against a man acquitted of killing her was made public.

Friends and family of Colin Stagg were furious that witness statements, including evidence gained by an undercover policewoman who befriended him, were published by the Mail on Sunday. The tabloid said it was trying to "air" all the available evidence.

Mr Stagg's wife Diane said: "We are totally disgusted and outraged because they are not telling the full story. Nobody wants the killer caught more than Colin. It would end all this, but we are just ordinary people who can't afford to fight."

Declining to talk to the media, Mr Stagg burnt a copy of the newspaper and threw it in the street in Roehampton, south-west London, where he lives. He also hurled eggs at a photographer.

The Old Bailey case against Mr Stagg in September 1994 was dropped before a jury could be sworn in, with the judge, Mr Justice Ognall, describing the use of the undercover officer as "bait" and "deception of the highest kind".

No jury thus heard statements from what the Mail on Sunday called a dozen ordinary citizens, many of whose accounts of 15 July 1992, when Ms Nickell was stabbed to death on Wimbledon Common, appear to differ from his.

They include claims that Mr Stagg was close to the murder scene near 10.30am, the time when Ms Nickell is thought to have died as her two-year- old son Alex looked on.

Jane Harriman is said to have seen Mr Stagg - whom she later picked out in an identification parade - near the scene at about 10.23am.

One of his neighbours, Susan Gale, says she saw him on the common at 9.25am.

Mr Stagg said he was ill and had cut short his walk with his dog by 9.15am, when he watched television, and also told a policeman who guarded the park after the murder that he had been walking his dog between 8.15am and 8.30am.

Another witness, Lillian Avid, is reported as saying she met Mr Stagg that day, when he rushed up and spoke about the murder, mentioning the exact time and place. Disturbed by his knowledge, she asked him: "Are you sure you didn't do it, Colin?" He "grinned" and replied: "Nah".

In his talks with the undercover officer, Mr Stagg is reported to have revealed details of the position of Ms Nickell's body and of her wounds he said he gleaned in photographs shown him by police. Police say that he saw only one, which did not show such detail.

If Mr Stagg continues with his stated plan to sue the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest, much of this evidence - already presented during the 11-day committal proceedings - will be heard at the High Court.

Yesterday one of his friends, Lee Ashley, said the matter was in the hands of Mr Stagg's solicitor. "Everything that's in the [newspaper] today has been answered," she said.

Earlier, Mrs Stagg said: "There was never any forensic evidence against him and he had tests on his hair, blood and saliva and there was nothing there."