Police hunting killer of Rachel Nickell question inmate at Broadmoor

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A convicted killer is being questioned at Broadmoor high-security hospital about the murder of Rachel Nickell, who was stabbed to death on Wimbledon Common in south London 14 years ago.

The 40-year-old suspect is serving a life sentence at the psychiatric hospital in Berkshire for murder and sex offences. The man, who has not been named for legal reasons, was identified as a suspect following new analysis of DNA evidence taken from Ms Nickell's clothes. Detectives from Scotland Yard have spent the past two days interviewing the suspect.

Ms Nickell, a 23-year-old former model, was sexually assaulted and stabbed 49 times while out walking with her two-year-old son, Alex, on 15 July 1992.

Her death led to a £3m murder inquiry and the controversial trial, and acquittal, of Colin Stagg. Mr Stagg was cleared of murder after his case was thrown out at the Old Bailey, on the grounds that police had used a " honey trap" plot to encourage him to confess. A female police officer was ordered to start a relationship with Mr Stagg to coax him to confess to the stabbing.

Dismissing the case, Mr Justice Ognall said that the "honey trap" ploy was "not merely an excess of zeal, but a blatant attempt to incriminate a suspect by positive and deceptive conduct of the grossest kind".

Mr Stagg, 43, who is attempting to gain £1m compensation from the Metropolitan Police for the 14 months he spent in custody awaiting trial, says that many still wrongly believe he is guilty of the murder.

Mr Stagg, from Roehampton, west London, said yesterday: "I'm glad the police are actually doing their job properly and they've got this man now."

He said he thought he would never be able to escape the consequences of being linked to the murder. "I've always been associated with the Rachel Nickell case and I'll never shake that off really. You will always have people who will believe I had something to do with it in some way. They'll just think there's no smoke without fire, and the police had every reason to arrest me."

He added: "I think the police had gone so far in this case against me, and then convincing not only themselves but the family and the press and media that I was guilty of this crime, they didn't want to make themselves look like fools by backtracking and saying 'I think we've got it wrong with Colin Stagg.'"

Even if someone is convicted of the Nickell murder, legal experts believe that Mr Stagg will find it difficult to get damages because he was acquitted at trial. He could take action for malicious prosecution, but that is extremely difficult to prove.

The new development in one of the most notorious unsolved murders of recent times is based on new DNA material identified in 2003. Forensic scientists using new techniques were able to retrieve tiny, previously undetected, DNA traces from Ms Nickell's underwear. The DNA retrieved is thought to only provide a partial identification.

The new suspect is understood to be co-operating with the police. It is unclear how long the detectives will question him.