Student is twelfth suspect in Nickell inquiry

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The Independent Online
A MAN arrested in Liverpool by detectives investigating the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common, south London, is not being viewed as a strong suspect, according to the police.

'He is a possible, not a probable,' a Scotland Yard spokesman said last night. Twelve suspects have been interviewed so far.

The latest, a 26-year-old photography student, was arrested on Sunday in the Sefton Park area of the city after a joint surveillance operation by a detective from Wimbledon in conjunction with Merseyside police and regional crime squad officers.

Acting on a tip-off, police raided the flat where the man lives with his common-law wife and her two children. Officers have also searched five other addresses, including a funeral parlour in North Cheam, Surrey, in operations linked to the arrest. Two were raided on Sunday and a further three yesterday, while, in Liverpool, the man's garden and drains were searched.

It is understood the man, a Londoner who has been living in Liverpool for 12 months, was staying with his parents near Wimbledon Common at the time of the murder last month, but police would not say whether he had spent time at the five addresses searched.

Yesterday, he was taken from Admiral Street police station in Toxteth shortly after 2pm and driven under heavy guard to London where detectives were expected to begin interviewing him late last night.

Dozens of reporters and photographers gathered outside Wimbledon police station despite a Scotland Yard assertion that the man would not be taken there. A spokesman declined to say where the interview would take place.

But one police source said: 'This man is not even a strong suspect. Anyone brought this distance (to be questioned) is a suspect, but this one is certainly not a definite. He is not even immediately in the frame.'

Ms Nickell, 23, from Tooting, south-west London, was stabbed and sexually assaulted as she walked with her son, Alex, and their dog across Wimbledon Common. When her body was found by a passer-by, Alex, who is three today, was still clinging to her.

Hampshire police and Scotland Yard also moved last night to dismiss reports that the man would be questioned in connection with the murder of Katie Rackliff, a 19- year-old hairdresser whose half- naked body was found in June near a cemetery in Farnborough, Hampshire.

Scotland Yard said no evidence had been found to link the murders. Hampshire police issued a statement confirming they were liaising with the Wimbledon officers, but adding: 'At this stage, there are no firm grounds to link the two inquiries but an open mind is being kept.

'The individual detained in Liverpool does not yet feature in the Katie Rackliff inquiry.'