“I made a mistake and I have had to live with it for the rest of my life.”
The mother of murdered Sunderland schoolgirl Nikki Allan has been tortured by the thought of her daughter’s last moments for a quarter of a century.
Sharon Henderson has lived with the psychological consequences of Nikki’s death for 25 years.
Today, police are trained in helping families cope with the trauma of a loved one’s death – but a quarter of a century ago, things were very different.
“Nobody was trained to deal with the families,” she said.
“I actually spoke to the police about that. I said ‘You just left me on my own’.”
Sharon has heard rumours about people who may know something about Nikki’s death over the years and admits she sometimes gave into the temptation to take the law into her own hands.
“It was anger that I was feeling, anger and frustration,” she said.
“My answer was to turn to alcohol, get angry and go out and look for these people.”
Sharon has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has contemplated suicide, but knows she must carry on for daughters Stacey, 33, Zara, 28, and 26-year-old Niomi, as well as her four grandchildren.
“A few months ago, I went to the bridge with the posters and I was going to throw myself off,” she said.
“I have felt a bit more positive in myself in the last few weeks that I have seen them doing something about the case.”
Sharon has lived with rumours about her actions on the night Nikki disappeared since the murder: “I was just thinking the other day that the families suffer so much,” she said. “The families get more grief than the killers.
“I made a mistake and I have had to live with it for the rest of my life. I let Nikki walk down a flight of stairs – I did not think it was wrong at the time.
“I try to get the word out so people don’t make the mistake I made. I want people to realise it is dangerous out there.”
She is braced for the possibility the new appeal will reignite the malicious gossip: “Niomi is 26 now – she was just one at the time Nikki died,” she said.
“She got upset yesterday because one of her friends said her grandad had just had his DNA taken. I have had to have a sit down and talk to her.
“She is going to hear things that are going to be hard to understand.”
Sharon is unsure how tomorrow’s anniversary will affect her: “I am just going to see how it goes,” she said. When you have got post-traumatic stress disorder, it is a difficult disease to live with. One moment I can be okay, the next I am crying.
“Each day is different. It is just a matter of coping on the day the best you can.”
And she is determined to carry on with her campaign: “I want to fight for Nikki every day. I just keep battling on because I am looking for answers, for my daughter’s murderer.
“I am not going to relax. I am not going to put myself in that position where I am just letting them get on with their jobs.
“I am going to carry on with my campaign, I am going to check every single week what is happening.”