Police apologise to man wrongly charged with girl’s murder in 1992

Northumbria Police also apologised to Nikki’s family for the 31 years they had to wait for justice

Oliver Pritchard-Jones
Wednesday 17 May 2023 17:09 BST
Moment David Boyd arrested as he's found guilty of murdering Nikki Allen

A police force has apologised to the man wrongly accused of murdering seven-year-old schoolgirl Nikki Allan in 1992.

Northumbria Police also said sorry to Nikki’s family for mistakes made in the original investigation and for the 31 years they had to wait before her real killer David Boyd was brought to justice.

The convicted sex offender, 55, was found guilty of murdering her in Hendon, Sunderland, on the evening of October 7, 1992 at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday.

His trial heard how he lured the girl to a derelict building where he smashed her skull with a brick before repeatedly stabbing her through the heart.

David Boyd evaded justice for decades before being convicted of murder on Friday
David Boyd evaded justice for decades before being convicted of murder on Friday (PA)

Today, the force released a letter it sent to George Heron apologising for how he was treated during the initial investigation.

Mr Heron wrongly stood trial for the offence in 1993, and was later cleared after a judge dismissed a false confession he made following days of “oppressive” questioning.

In the letter, Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson wrote: “On behalf of Northumbria Police, I would like to apologise for the mistakes that were made in the investigation and I hope, as you express in your statement, that the conviction of Mr Boyd will finally bring closure on this matter for you and allow you to move on with your life.”

During the initial investigation Mr Heron was subject to “oppressive” questioning and denied having any involvement in the murder 120 times during three days of interviews, before he made some kind of confession.

After he was cleared, police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with Nikki’s murder – despite the real killer remaining at large.

It is understood that Mr Heron had his face slashed while on remand in the 1990s.

He then had to move away from Sunderland despite being cleared, and was taken in by a religious order.

Detective Superintendent Lisa Theaker led a complex re-investigation which began in 2017 and culminated in Boyd’s conviction.

The police force has formally apologised to Mr Heron for how it treated him during its initial investigation
The police force has formally apologised to Mr Heron for how it treated him during its initial investigation (PA )

She told reporters: “In terms of the earlier (1992) investigation, it’s been well publicised that the interviews that were conducted back in the day were oppressive and some of the evidence was misrepresented before George Heron ‘confessed’, and we know the judge excluded that confession.

“On a national scale, the way we interview people has changed massively.”

Ms Theaker said now the trial has finished, the team will be able to share information with Nikki’s mother Sharon Henderson and reassure her family that no-one else was involved with the murder.

Mr Simpson extended the apology to Nikki’s family, saying: “I am truly sorry for mistakes that were made in the 1992 investigation and I am sorry for the length of time it has taken to get justice for the family.

Nikki Allan was brutally murdered after being lured to a derelict building and being attacked with a brick and a knife
Nikki Allan was brutally murdered after being lured to a derelict building and being attacked with a brick and a knife (PA)

“I cannot imagine the impact on them over the course of the last 30 years, so I have offered to meet with Sharon and with other members of the family and I will be happy to say that to them when I meet them.”

During the decades that he evaded justice, Body indecently assaulted a nine-year-old in a park in 1999 and told his probation officer that he had a sexual interest in young girls when he was younger.

But Ms Henderson never gave up her fight to get her daughter justice and campaigned relentlessly. She met the then Chief Constable Steve Ashman in 2017 who agreed to a re-investigation.

The sex offender - who was 25 when he murdered Nikki - was later caught thanks to advances in DNA techniques which were able to extract new traces from the little girl’s clothes.

An emotional Sharon Priest at her daughter’s funeral after she was murdered in 1992
An emotional Sharon Priest at her daughter’s funeral after she was murdered in 1992 (PA)

Outside court last week, Ms Henderson spoke of the “injustice” that “this evil man slipped through the net to murder Nikki when he was on their (police) files in the first place”.

Asked how she found the strength to keep fighting for justice, Ms Henderson said: “Because Nikki’s my daughter and I love her.”

Mr Heron has provided a statement which will be read to the court when Boyd is sentenced on May 23.

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