Rachel Nickell's killer finally brought to justice

Rachel Nickell's killer was finally brought to justice today 16 years after she was brutally stabbed and assaulted in front of her young son.

Convicted sex killer Robert Napper admitted carrying out the attack on Wimbledon Common which shocked the nation and triggered one of the biggest manhunts in recent police history.



Broadmoor patient Napper, 42, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the Old Bailey today and his plea was accepted on the grounds of his diminished responsibility.



Telling him he would be held in Broadmoor top security hospital indefinitely, Mr Justice Griffiths Williams said: "You are on any view a very dangerous man."



The plea means one of the most high-profile crimes ever dealt with by Scotland Yard has finally been solved.



But it is unlikely to bring an end to controversy surrounding the case with questions marks still hanging over the original investigation and the missed opportunities to catch Napper, who went on to kill another young mother and her daughter.



A senior officer admitted today that Napper could have been arrested before the Wimbledon Common killing after his mother reported an earlier rape.



Miss Nickell, 23, was stabbed 49 times at the south London beauty spot in a ferocious attack witnessed by her two-year-old son Alex.



Police became convinced local loner Colin Stagg was the killer and relied too heavily on a profiler during the inquiry.



Napper was questioned about the killing in December 1995 but denied involvement.



He had been sent to Broadmoor secure hospital two months earlier for killing Samantha Bissett, 27, and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine in a savage attack in south London November 1993.



He had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of mental illness. He also pleaded guilty to rape and two attempted rapes.



Rachel Nickell's murder became one of the longest and most controversial unsolved homicides inquiries, costing an estimated £3 million.



A tiny particle of Napper's DNA was picked up when Miss Nickell's body was swabbed using tape soon after her death.



But it was too small to be analysed until recent advances made it possible. A match to Napper was confirmed in 2004.



The former warehouseman, who lived near Miss Bissett in Plumstead, south London, was interviewed again in Broadmoor in 2006, but again he did not own up to the crime.



Original suspect Mr Stagg was freed by an Old Bailey judge in September 1994 who criticised police for using a "honey-trap" undercover policewoman to try to make him confess.



Mr Stagg, 45, spent 13 months in custody and endured more than a decade of speculation that he was the killer of Miss Nickell.



This year, he was awarded £706,000 compensation from the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police is expected to make a public apology to him later today.



Miss Nickell, a former model, was attacked as she and Alex took their dog for a walk on a sunny summer morning.



Despite the common being popular with walkers and pet owners, no one saw the savage attack.



But he was spotted washing his hands in a stream after the killing. Witnesses were used to make an artist's impression of the man seen on the common.



The image shows a clear resemblance to Napper who at the time had some facial similarities to Mr Stagg.



Miss Nickell, who lived in south London with Alex and her partner Andre Hanscombe, was described as being full of life and having everything to live for.



The murder of a young mother out with her son brought fear to other women and there was pressure on police to make an arrest.



Miss Nickell's body was found with her son clinging onto her. A piece of paper had been placed on her forehead by Alex to form a plaster.



Alex, a month short of his third birthday, was thrown aside and had to watch his mother's brutal killing.



He was found clinging to her blood-soaked body and pleading: 'Get up, mummy'.



The boy was later given counselling and was eventually taken to live in France by his father in an attempt to give him a fresh start.



Alex is now 19, 6ft tall and lives in Spain with his father.



Miss Nickell's parents, Andrew and Monica, from Bedfordshire, kept a close watch on the police inquiry, which saw 34 arrests with only Mr Stagg being charged before Napper.



Earlier this year, Napper pleaded not guilty to Miss Nickell's murder via a videolink from Broadmoor.



Police investigators admit that a series of failings meant Napper was not caught sooner.



Officers failed to question him after his mother rang a local police station in 1989 to say he had confessed to a rape.



The officer she spoke to could not match up details of the offence with any rape which had been reported.



As a result Napper's DNA was not taken, his house was not searched and he was not arrested.



Police admit that it was a missed opportunity which could have saved Miss Nickell and the other victims.



Outside court, Commander Simon Foy said: "If it had been followed up Rachel could be alive now."



Napper was questioned about a series of sex attacks in 1992 but was wrongly eliminated.



Mr Foy added: "These opportunities in 1992 and 1993 were after he killed Rachel.



"If all or any of these opportunities had been taken, it is probable that he would have been in custody and would not have murdered Samantha and Jazmine.



"We have been absolutely honest about this to their family and we have told them that we deeply regret that this happened and have apologised to them."









In court today balding Napper, wearing a check shirt, was asked by the clerk to enter a plea to the charge that he murdered Miss Nickell on July 15 1992.



The court stood silent as he admitted killing her in a clear but faltering voice, stumbling over the wording of his denial of murder but admission to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.



He said: "I plead not guilty to murder but guilty to diminished responsibility by manslaughter."



The judge told Napper he was "highly unlikely" ever to be released.



He said: "You are on any view a very dangerous man. You still present a very high risk of sexual homicide which can only be managed in a high security hospital.



"You must be returned immediately to Broadmoor."



Victor Temple QC, prosecuting, said two psychiatrists agreed that at the time of the killing Napper suffered from Asperger's syndrome and paranoid schizophrenia.



He said after consultation with police, lawyers and the victim's family it had been decided that it was "proper and appropriate" to accept the plea.



Mr Temple said Mr Hanscombe and Ms Nickell's parents were both in court for today's hearing.



A psychiatrist from Broadmoor, Dr Natalie Pyszora, told the court that Napper was severely mentally ill and should be returned there for treatment.



She said there was a high risk of him committing further sexual offences without treatment, and also a high risk of him committing suicide.



On his admission to Broadmoor in 1995, Napper had a number of delusions and thought people were out to get him.



He also believed he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, had millions in the bank and that he was listed in Who's Who.



At the time he killed Miss Nickell, he would have been irrational and had the feeling that he was almost untouchable.



She added: "The possibility of release is highly unlikely. I could not envisage that happening."



Mr Temple outlined the killing of Rachel Nickell to the judge.



He said Colin Stagg had been formally acquitted in 1994.



Mr Temple added: "It is now accepted that Mr Stagg is wholly innocent of any involvement regarding the murder of Miss Nickell."



Talking of Napper, he said: "The defendant had a propensity to stalk and/or seek out vulnerable young women with a view to rape, arming himself with a knife in order to intimidate or control them.



"As the years went by, starting in 1989, the level of violence against his victims increased."



Napper had bought a number of Commando-style knives and had a tendency to bury his weapons near the scenes of his crimes.



Miss Nickell, her son and the family dog had been seen enjoying a day out on the common at around 10.20am.



A witness then noticed Napper at 10.32am with a bag and washing his hands in a ditch near the area where another walker found the body.



Police were called and arrived to see Miss Nickell's son Alex holding onto her by the arm, crying and saying "Get up mummy".



Mr Temple said an officer described the boy as being covered in blood.



"He was found to have minor abrasions above both eyes and linear abrasions and bruising to both cheeks and mouth.



"In the opinion of the consultant paediatrician who examined him, these injuries were consistent with the child being dragged whilst face down."



Miss Nickell was lying on her left side and had a number of stab wounds.



Her jeans and pants had been pulled down to just above her ankles and there were signs of sexual activity.



Numerous cuts were found seen on the t-shirt and bra. There were 49 stab wounds, mainly to the front and back of the upper body, the court heard.









The judge said: "The killing of Rachel Nickell in broad daylight on Wimbledon Common attracted a great deal of publicity - not only because of the manner of the killing of so pretty a young woman but also because of its circumstances - in front of her young son Alex who was then nearly three.



"You forced her to her knees before stabbing her repeatedly and then moving her to a nearby tree where you continued to stab her before removing her lower clothing and sexually assaulting her.



"You stabbed her a total of 49 times, even when you knew she was dead."



Napper had later explained to a psychiatrist that he was being "excessively aggressive".



"All the while young Alex was there. The marks of injury on his face prove that at some stage you must have dragged him face down almost certainly to get him away from his mother.



"That he was not killed as you were later to kill Jazmine Bissett is almost certainly explained by your anxiety not to be caught by staying too long.



"Now, 16 years or so later, in early adulthood, Alex knows the man who killed his mother has been brought, albeit belatedly, to justice.



"It may be that he can now close a long drawn out chapter in his life as can Mr and Mrs Nickell and Mr Hanscombe, all of whom have had to live with the distress of her killing and the anxiety that her killer had not been brought to justice.



"In each of their cases, their lives have been changed forever."





Miss Nickell's parents and Mr Hanscombe sat behind the barristers in the hushed courtroom as Mr Temple read a victim impact statement from them.



The statement, written by Mr Nickell, made his wife wipe away a tear.



It said: "We have been asked to provide an impact statement to try and describe how Rachel's murder has affected us.



"This is a bit like trying to describe how you felt after being run over by a large truck."







David Fisher QC, defending, said Napper wished to apologise to the victim's then partner and her son, her parents, and her close friends for "the dreadful thing that he did".



He said the killer had also asked him to make an apology to Colin Stagg.



"At the time of these events, the arrest and the preliminary trial of that man, this defendant was not in a satisfactory mental state to really appreciate what was going on. He is now.



"He realises how dreadful that period of time in Mr Stagg's life must have been," Mr Fisher said.



He accepted that Napper was "highly unlikely ever to be released from detention".

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players