Police apologise to man wrongly accused of murdering Nikki Allen, 7

Police apologise to man wrongly accused of murdering seven-year-old Nikki Allen and her family after real killer cheated justice for 30 years

  • George Heron has received a formal written apology from Northumbria Police

Police have made a humbling double apology over the wrong man being accused of a schoolgirl’s murder and the real killer cheating justice for 30 years.

George Heron, 53, has received a formal written apology from Northumbria Police for ‘mistakes’ in the original investigation that led to him standing trial in 1993 for the horrific murder of Nikki Allan, seven, the year before.

Although he was cleared by a jury after his ‘confession’ was ruled inadmissible by a judge, police admit his life was ‘ruined’ by the false accusation.

The victim’s family have also had to live with the knowledge that police blunders during the 1990s allowed the real killer David Boyd to live freely for three decades and today they also received an apology.

Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson said: ‘I am sorry for the mistakes made in the investigation and I am sorry that it has taken so long.’

The police chief and the senior investigating officer Lisa Theaker plan to meet Nikki’s mother Sharon Henderson and other family members after Boyd is sentenced next week to ‘share information’ with them that has previously had to stay confidential.

They will assure them that no one else was involved in the killing.

Nikki Allan’s family have had to live with the knowledge that police blunders during the 1990s allowed the real killer to live freely for three decades

George Heron in a photo dated 1992 – police admit his life was ‘ruined’ by the false accusation

David Boyd who has been convicted at Newcastle Crown Court of the 1992 murder of seven-year-old Nikki Allan

An emotional victim impact statement from Mr Heron describing the turmoil he has gone through over the past three decades will also be read out at Newcastle Crown Court during the sentencing hearing.

He has so far refused to comment publicly about his life since being wrongly branded a child killer 30 years ago.

The letter sent to him by ACC Simpson states: ‘On behalf of Northumbria Police, I would like to apologise for the mistakes that were made in the investigation and I hope, as you express in your statement, that the conviction of Mr Boyd will finally bring closure on this matter for you and allow you to move on with your life.’ 

Mr Heron was 23 at the time and living in the same block of flats in Sunderland as Nikki when she was murdered in October 1992. She was battered with a brick, stabled multiple times and her body dumped in a derelict building.

Police became fixated on him and only treated Boyd, another local resident, as a witness, despite him having convictions of a sexual nature. Boyd was found guilty of the murder last Friday and is due to be given a mandatory life sentence.

ACC Simpson said the mistakes by police in the 90s had a ‘huge impact on George Heron’s life’ and it was ‘right to acknowledge that’ on behalf of the force.

Police confirmed Mr Heron had not taken legal action against police.

The letter Northumbria Police have written to George Heron to apologise 

The flawed interview of Heron back in 1992 that led to a ‘confession’, in which he named the wrong murder weapon, was described by a judge as ‘oppressive.’ 

ACC Simpson said: ‘That case led to changes in the way all police officers conduct interviews nationally. The impact of that has been far-reaching. That has been embedded and there is dramatic differences in the way we did things in 1992 and to today.’ 

Lisa Theaker, now an Assistant Chief Constable with Cleveland Police, said a huge amount of police time has been spent investigating Boyd’s life and he has not been linked with any other unsolved crimes.

Boyd was jailed for indecently assaulting a nine-year-girl in 1999 and was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register but has had no convictions since.

Read more: The innocent man blamed for Nikki Allan’s death

Police matched his DNA profile with DNA on Nikki’s clothing in 2018 but spent the next four years ruling out all possible other suspects before Crown Prosecution Service lawyers gave the go ahead for a charge.

In total 839 DNA samples were taken and 1,226 men ruled out before Boyd could be confirmed as the killer.

‘We wouldn’t have got this anywhere near a court or a charge sheet until we had done all that work,’ said ACC Theaker.

The cutting edge ‘Y’ DNA technique used to crack the case separated out the male DNA profile. Often a suspect’s DNA is so mixed in with the mass of DNA belonging to the female victim that it can be ‘swamped’ by it and hidden.

This new male DNA technique has been used in one other ‘cold case’ prosecution and is now being examined by other forces in the hope that it can be used to crack other historic unsolved cases.

The problem with the technique is that new samples must be collected from suspects rather than checked against the national DNA database.

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