Murderer stabbed Rachel Nickell 49 times

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THE murderer who killed Rachel Nickell as she walked with her two-year-old son on Wimbledon Common stabbed her 49 times and continued his attack even after she was dead, an inquest was told yesterday.

Most of the wounds were to her back and chest but there were three on her neck and one on her hand which showed that she had tried to protect herself, Dr Richard Shepherd, a pathologist, said.

The inquest was told that a passer-by found Ms Nickell's son Alex clinging to her bloodstained body on the common in south-west London saying 'get up mummy'.

A verdict of unlawful killing on Ms Nickell, who died of multiple stab wounds, was recorded by Dr Paul Knapman, the coroner.

'This has been a truly horrific story. She has been the subject of a frenzied attack,' he said.

Ms Nickell, 23, from Tooting, south-west London, was killed on 15 July last year. Even murder squad detectives were shocked by the ferocity of the attack.

After the inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court, Ms Nickell's father, Andrew, said that the family had been torn apart by the murder and that they now 'survive from day to day'.

Detective Superintendent John Bassett, in charge of the investigation, told the coroner that although 1,000 statements had been taken by police nobody had been charged with the murder.

He continued: 'Although we have suspects there is no evidence which would hold up in a court of law to link any person with the murder.'

Afterwards he refused to elaborate or to say whether police know the murderer's identity. He said that five or six men had not been eliminated from inquiries and that the killer probably lived within a mile of the common.

He admitted that the chances of charging anyone with the murder were fading and both he and Mr Nickell asked for 15 to 20 people thought to have been on the common that day who have not yet come forward to do so.

He warned that psychologists, who have built up a profile of the killer, believe that he will strike again and said that women should not walk alone in remote areas of the common.

Ms Nickell's boyfriend Andre Hanscombe, 29, a despatch rider, gave evidence of identification and said she had starting walking on Wimbledon Common because she thought that others were more dangerous.

When the coroner asked after Alex he replied: 'He's fine at the moment.' He and his son were planning to move to France to start a new life.

Ms Nickell's body was found by Michael Murray, a retired architect from Putney, south-west London, who was walking his dog. She was lying naked from the waist down in a copse with Alex clinging to her.

Mr Murray said he had heard no noise and had not seen anyone nearby before discovering the body.

Dr Shepherd, a consultant forensic pathologist at Guy's Medical School, who carried out the post-mortem, said that Ms Nickell had suffered 49 stab wounds and that her lungs, heart and liver had been punctured.

'Death occurred during the attack and the injuries continued to be inflicted after she had died,' he said. There was evidence that she had been sexually assaulted.

Mr Nickell, 50, from Ampthill, Bedfordshire, said after the inquest: 'My grandson has recovered remarkably well, he is in good condition. He appears to me to be now a normal happy boy.

'What happens after a murder like this is that the family is torn asunder and it is difficult to go back, well you can never go back to life as it was before.'