Scotland Yard offered a full apology to the man wrongly accused of murdering Rachel Nickell for the first time today.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates said "mistakes were made" as Colin Stagg was targeted by detectives pursuing her killer.
He said: "In August 1993 he was wrongly accused of Miss Nickell's murder. It is clear he is completely innocent of any involvement in this case and I today apologise to him for the mistakes that were made in the early 1990s.
"We also recognise the huge and lasting impact this had on his life and, on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, I have today sent him a full written apology."
Stagg was the target of a discredited police honey trap operation using an undercover woman police officer who tried to get him to confess.
But the case against the loner, who lives in Roehampton, south west London, was thrown out by an Old Bailey judge.
Stagg was awarded a record £706,000 compensation from the Home Office earlier this year, which he described as "like winning the lottery".
Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Rene Barclay said outside court that he had written to Mr Stagg to express "regret" that the prosecution against him was brought.
Mr Barclay said: "We are thankful that after so long Rachel Nickell's family and friends have seen her killer brought to justice.
"At the same time we now consider it right to make a public statement about the prosecution of Mr Colin Stagg some 15 years ago.
"As the court has heard, we accept that Mr Stagg was wholly innocent of the murder of Rachel Nickell.
"I have today written to Mr Stagg expressing our regret that a prosecution was brought against him in 1993 for an offence which as we now know, and we have publicly stated in court, he did not commit."
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Mr Yates added: "The Metropolitan Police would have liked to have had some clarity about his status in this inquiry at a much earlier stage.
"It is a matter of regret that the rules governing disclosure, governing criminal trials have, throughout the past seven years, prevented us from publicly acknowledging that mistakes were made in how this case was dealt with in the early 1990s.
"I acknowledge these mistakes and need to, and must, set the record straight in regard to Colin Stagg."
Mr Yates admitted police could have done more to catch Napper as his violent offending escalated.
He said: "We also think there are more cases where more should have and could have been done. Had more been done, we would have been in a position to prevent this and other attacks by Napper.
"In particular, the dreadful attacks on Samantha and Jazmine Bissett in November 1993.
"We do say, however, that the way murder is investigated now has changed significantly from 16 years ago."
Mr Yates said improvements have been made in forensic techniques, particularly DNA analysis, and liaison between police and prosecutors.
But he said police must not be complacent as it is their duty to "protect the innocent and ensure evidence is properly gathered against the guilty".
Speaking about Napper's conviction, Mr Yates said: "At last we can finally say that we have achieved justice for Rachel Nickell and her family.
"It is quite impossible to imagine the grief and the pain they have experienced over the past 16 years.
"This will always remain with them but it is to be hoped knowing her killer is finally behind bars will bring them some degree of comfort."Reuse content