Cleared man told to pay damages

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The Independent Online
THE MAN cleared of murdering seven-year-old Nikki Allen was ordered to pay damages to her family yesterday in an historic judgment, writes Jason Bennetto.

Nikki's mother, Sharon Dunn, 27, brought a civil action against George Heron for battery leading to her death. Sunderland county court issued judgment against him after he failed to enter a defence within 28 days.

The family could be awarded up to pounds 8,000, which it has promised to give to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. 'We don't want to profit from Nikki's death - we just want justice,' Mrs Dunn said last night.

The action followed the controversial acquittal last November of Mr Heron, 24, who was accused of killing Nikki in October 1992. She had been hit with a brick and stabbed to death in a warehouse near her home in Hendon, Sunderland. Mr Heron, a neighbour, was charged with the killing after allegedly confessing to detectives. But the trial judge ruled that the interviews were 'oppressive' and could not be used.

The civil court does not have to abide by the same restrictions. Mr Heron was cleared amid uproar at Leeds Crown Court last November.

Mrs Dunn's writ against Mr Heron is believed to be the first of its kind. Judgment was issued against Mr Heron by default after he failed to contact the court.

Mr Heron went into hiding after his acquittal and will have to be served with notice of a further hearing at Sunderland on 23 May.

Last night Mr Heron's mother, Sue Young, said: 'My son is still innocent in my eyes. I wish these people would just leave him alone.'