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Written In Blood - Episode 5: The Rachel Nickell murder
By James Whittington, Sunday 1st October 2017

In episode 5 of Written In Blood, Simon Toyne talks to Luke Delaney who was inspired by the famous murder of Rachel Nickell for his short story, Redemption of the Dead. (pictured).

On July 15th, 1992, Rachel Nickell and her two-year-old son Alex were out walking their dog on Wimbledon common, near where they lived. She was stabbed 49 times before being sexually assaulted, all in the presence of her son. A passer-by found him clinging to her body repeating ‘wake up mummy’. Alex had stuck a piece of paper on his mother like a plaster “to make mummy better”. Scotland Yard was in control of the investigation and quickly identified Colin Stagg as the perpetrator. Though there was no forensic evidence found, they asked a criminal psychologist to create a profile to see if he fit. They also used a female police officer who they called ‘Lizzie Jones’ to try to set a honey trap.

The police officer spent five months contacting Stagg by writing more than 40 letters to him, each becoming more and more explicit. At the end Lizzie was effectively demanding that Stagg confess to Rachel’s murder in exchange of sadomasochistic sex, however Stagg still insisted that he had nothing to do with Rachel’s death.

On August 17th 1993, Stagg was arrested and charged, and then held in custody for a year. In 1994, the case was thrown out at the Old Bailey by Mr Justice Ognal. The judge criticised the police saying they had shown “excessive zeal” and had tried to incriminate a suspect by “deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”. Stagg was formally acquitted in September 1994.

In 2002, a cold case team found male DNA that was not her husband’s or her son’s. In July 2006, Scotland Yard interviewed convicted sex killer, Robert Napper, who had already been held for ten years in Broadmoor Hospital due to suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and Asperger’s. He had previously been convicted of killing Samantha Bisset and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine in November 1993, just 16 months after Rachel’s death.

On December 18th 2008, he pleaded guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Justice Griffiths Williams said he would be held indefinitely at Broadmoor Hospital because he was “a very dangerous man”.

Robert Napper is also thought to be the “Green Chain Rapist” who carried out sexual assaults over four years in the early 90s. All the attacks were similar to Napper’s crimes and it is believed there could be at least 106 offences involving 86 victims. Napper first appeared on the police’s radar in 1989 when he was caught with an airgun, but was given a conditional discharge. Later, Napper confessed to his mother that he raped a woman, who immediately reported it to the police. Napper’s mother stopped all contact with him after this, and he moved into a bedsit.

The police issued an apology to Colin Stagg for falsely accusing him. Colin Stag was given £706,000 in 2008 for the false accusation. He received a further £45,000 from pay outs and publishing deals. Over the next few years Stagg spent the entirety of his compensation on luxury cars, holidays, charity donations and flawed business investments. His cars included a Range Rover, a classic XJS Jaguar and his and hers Kia’s for himself and his girlfriend. Stagg also bought a £80,000 council flat it Roehampton, South West London despite being refused permission to purchase it.


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