The mum of murdered Sunderland schoolgirl Nikki Allan believes 2018 is the year she will finally see her daughter’s killer brought to justice.
Now Sharon Henderson has repeated the call for men to come forward and provide DNA samples so they can be eliminated from the latest investigation into a crime which shocked Sunderland.
Seven-year-old Nikki vanished while walking home to her flat in Wear Garth, Hendon, in October 1992.
Her body was found next day in the derelict Quayside Exchange building, just yards away. She had been repeatedly stabbed.
Neighbour George Heron was charged with her murder but acquitted after a trial judge accused police of heavy-handed tactics and refused to allow the jury to hear a taped confession.
Sharon, 51, brought a civil case against him in 1994, and won. A court ordered Mr Heron to pay over £7,000, but he could not be traced.
I am feeling positive for the first time in 25 years. I have full confidence I will see justice this year.Sharon Henderson
Sunderland serial killer Steven Grieveson was subsequently questioned about the murder but no further action was taken.
Northumbria Police set up a new team to investigate the killing in April and on the 25th anniversary of Nikki’s death, announced they had succeeded in recovering new DNA from an unknown male and appealed for any men who may have been in contact with Niiki or in the area of the crime scene to come forward.
Sharon, who now lives in Ryhope, believes the end of her nightmare is now in sight.
“They have told me they are hopeful,” she said.
“I am feeling positive for the first time in 25 years. I have full confidence I will see justice this year.”
And she repeated the call for men to provide DNA samples to the investigating team.
“We still need people to come forward,” she said.
“The team on Nikki’s case is working through the holidays really hard. I know they are still visiting people and going out themselves for people’s DNA.
“They need to build a concrete case - you need to be 100 per cent certain when you go back to court with the same case. It is about getting as many people as possible to come forward who may have been in and around that area at that time.
“They are even asking for Nikki’s school teachers to come forward, because they know how DNA can be carried about.”
Sharon admits she has sometimes felt as though she is the only one fighting for justice for Nikki and it has seen her end up in court herself.
Now she is stepping back and letting the new team do their job: “I have told the police I am still carrying on with my campaign but I have taken a back seat on some things,” she said.
“I found I was getting arrested. I have got a really bad police record now because of it, but I have complete confidence about this new team.”
The wait for news, however, is taking its toll.
“I can’t sleep,” said Sharon.
“My anxiety is really bad - I am just waiting for the phone call to say they have arrested somebody.
“I have waited that long for it.”
Anyone who wishes to speak to police or pass any information on is asked to contact the major crime team on 101 ext 69191 or the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.