New forensics team in hunt for killer of Sunderland schoolgirl Nikki Allan

Sharon Henderson, with a photo of Nikki Allan.
Sharon Henderson, with a photo of Nikki Allan.
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Northumbria Police is dedicating a new forensics team to finding the killer of Sunderland schoolgirl Nikki Allan ahead of the 25th anniversary of her death.

The seven-year-old vanished while walking home to her flat in Wear Garth, Hendon, in October 1992.

Nikki Allan.

Nikki Allan.

Her body was found next day in the derelict Quayside Exchange building, just yards away.

Neighbour George Heron was charged with he murder but acquitted after a trial judge accused police of heavy-handed tactics and refused to allow the jury to hear a taped confession.

Nikki’s mum Sharon Henderson has campaigned for justice for her daughter ever since.

Now she has met with Northumbria Police chief Constable Steve Ashman and other senior officers at the force’s headquarters to discuss the latest developments in the case.

They will be on it all the time, not moved about, and will be dedicated to Nikki’s case.

Sharomn Henderson

The force is putting a dedicated team together to use the latest forensic techniques: “They will be on it all the time, not moved about, and will be dedicated to Nikki’s case,” said Sharon.

“This will be starting straightaway and will be based at headquarters.

“I will be going up to meet them not next week but the week after.

“They will be looking into more DNA work in June.

Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman.

Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman.

“They are hoping to make it their number one priority - not just the DNA, the whole thing from the beginning.

Sharon admits she has mixed feelings about the news.

“A lot of people are telling me I should be happy but I am angry that I have had to push for this,” she said.

“It is 25 years this year.”

George Heron after being released from prison.

George Heron after being released from prison.

“I feel as if I am the only one that has been investigating Nikki’s case. I have been trying to get a new team.

“It should not have come to this. Nikki’s case should have been solved years ago.”

Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Theaker, who is leading the hunt for Nikki’s killer, emphasised the latest development was an extension of the on-going work on the case.

“The loss of a child in such tragic circumstances is truly horrific and I know Sharon is desperate to know what happened on the night Nikki died and for the person responsible to be caught,” she said.

“Myself and the Chief Constable met with her to discuss the case and offer our reassurance the investigation into Nikki’s murder remains open.

“We understand her frustration that Nikki’s killer has not yet been found and we will continue to do all we can to solve the case.

Scene of crime officers arrive at the Quayside Exchange on October 8, 1992.

Scene of crime officers arrive at the Quayside Exchange on October 8, 1992.

“Our investigation is very much still on-going and we will have a dedicated team working on the investigation.”

Anyone with information on the murder of Nikki Allan should ring Northumbria Police on 101.

Timeline:

* October 7, 1992.

Nikki Allan vanishes on the short walk home from her grandfather Dickie’s flat in Wear Garth.

Nikki sets out for home at 8.30pm to head down the stairwell and across a short corridor, but when mum Sharon gets home 10 minutes later, she is nowhere to be seen.

More than 100 Wearsiders join in the search for her.

Her battered body is discovered the next day in a pool of blood in the derelict Quayside Exchange building in High Street East, just yards from the Garths.

* November 1993.

A murder case against George Heron, who lived near Nikki’s home in Wear Garth, collapses after a judge at Leeds Crown Court accuses police of heavy-handed tactics and refuses to admit a taped confession.

* 1994.

Sharon Henderson brings a civil case against Mr Heron, charging him with “battery on the child, resulting in her death.”

A court finds in her favour and orders him Heron to pay over £7,000, but he cannot be traced and the money is never paid.

* September 2013

A Crimewatch reconstruction puts the case firmly back in the public eye.

The programme produces a number of new leads - but no arrests.

* February 2014

Northumbria Police arrest Sunderland serial killer Steven Grieveson, on suspicion of Nikki’s murder.

He is questioned and bailed and Sharon Henderson writes to him, asking him to cooperate with the inquiry, but detectives later say his bail had been cancelled and he will face no further action.

* August 2015.

In the run-up to what would have been Nikki’s 30th birthday, Sharon describes the family’s feelings at the lack of progress on the case: “We’re just devastated after all this time, we’ve got nothing.”

* September 2016.

Sharon Henderson calls for a full reinvestigation of the crime.

She launches an on-line petition urging Northumbria Police to carry out a top-to-bottom review of the case, which attracts more than 500 signatures in less than 24 hours.

* October 2016.

Sharon again writes to Steven Grieveson, urging him to share anything he may know about Nikki’s death.

“I know he received my last letter but he didn’t answer,” she says.

“But you never know, he might decide to respond this time.”