The mum of murdered Sunderland schoolgirl Nikki Allan hopes advances in DNA techniques could provide a breakthorough in the hunt for her daughter’s killer a quarter of a century on.
Tomorrow marks 25 years to the day since Sharon Henderson last saw the seven-year-old, who vanished while walking home to her flat in Wear Garth, Hendon.
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.
Now Sharon is urging anyone who may have had contact with Nikki to come forward, after police told her they are examining further forensic evidence relating to her murder.
Northumbria Police confirmed in April that it was dedicating a new forensics team to the investigation and would be revisiting the DNA evidence.
If anybody thinks there is any chance their DNA could have been in there, they need to come forward. The police want to eliminate everybody from the DNA they have got.Sharon Henderson
Sharon has now been introduced to the team and given the lowdown on their latest findings.
“They have got something back from DNA, and now they are asking for members of the public to come forward that may have had any contact with Nikki - family members, neighbours, teachers, shop staff - just to eliminate them from the enquiry.”
Detectives have already started collecting samples, but are appealing for anyone who could have had contact with Nikki or been in the area around the murder scene at the time to come forward.
Now leaflets and posters have been produced to support the DNA drive and a £10,000 Crimestoppers reward is on offer.
“If anybody went into that building, they really need to tell the police,” said Sharon.
“I lived down there and I did not know people were getting in.
“If anybody thinks there is any chance their DNA could have been in there, they need to come forward. The police want to eliminate everybody from the DNA they have got.”
Sharon is pleased with the team’s progress, but angry it has taken so long for her daughter’s case to be re-examined, and is being careful not to expect too much.
“I feel a bit more confident because the team is only going to be working on Nikki’s case and nobody else’s,” she said.
“All the things I have been asking for, screaming and shouting about, getting arrested for, to move things on, they are actually happening now.”
“But I have been told things in the past and I have bee let down. I have had my hopes built up.”
“The public sees this anniversary as a landmark - I see it as a disgrace to the judicial system that it has taken 25 years since Nikki’s death and the acquittal of the first person arrested in the case.
“This should have been done straight after that. I believe Nikki’s case could have been solved a long time ago.”
Sharon says someone must know what happened to Nikki. The youngsters’s shoes and folded coat were discovered outside the Exchange building the morning after Nikki disappeared.
“I have always believed there were two people. I believe a woman folded the coat up and put the shoes outside the building.
“The way Nikki was murdered, the killer would have to be covered in blood. He was not going to stand outside, folding the coat.
“I believe somebody went back, most likely under cover of the search for Nikki - nobody would have noticed them because there were hundreds of people.
“I think they wanted Nikki found but did not want to show the killer.”
Her message to anyone who thinks they may know anything is clear: “Please, please come forward.
“Even if it is the littlest thing, or you feel awkward because you have not come forward in the past.”
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.