The devastated mother of murdered schoolgirl Nikki Allan is to sue police after allegations of a bungled investigation that left child sex killer David Boyd free for three decades.
On Tuesday, Boyd, now 55, was jailed for life with a minimum of 29 years. Nikki’s mother, Sharon Henderson, called the sentence “a disgrace”.
She stormed out of Newcastle Crown Court with Nikki’s sister Stacey, adding: “I thought life would be life. I’ve been let down again by the justice system and the police force.”
Boyd subjected his seven-year-old victim to “unimaginable terror” in an abandoned warehouse 31 years ago.
There he crushed her skull with a brick before stabbing her 37 times in a frenzied sexually-motivated attack.
He then hoodwinked detectives with a statement pushing them towards their belief that Mrs Henderson’s neighbour George Heron was the killer – a position police maintained even after Mr Heron was acquitted in 1993.
On Tuesday, Mrs Henderson announced she had instructed legal charity the Centre for Women’s Justice to hold Northumbria Police to account.
She also said the family felt let down at the length of a sentence based on the legal regulations when the offence was committed.
Solicitor Harriet Wistrich accused the force of “tunnel vision” in its pursuit of George Heron to the exclusion of any other suspect.
She said: “Sharon demands that Northumbria Police are held accountable for their historic failures that allowed a 31-year wait until the right man was convicted of Nikki’s murder.
“The full extent of the failures remain unknown and therefore we are demanding a public inquiry to examine the historic investigation which led to the wrong man being prosecuted and the police failing to consider alternative suspects until over 20 years later.
“We are also preparing a complaint to be lodged with the Independent Office of Police Complaints and exploring a civil claim for damages on Sharon’s behalf.”
Outside court, Mrs Henderson said she had only been told on Tuesday that Boyd would be dealt with under the sentencing regime of the early 1990s, when minimum terms were usually shorter.
She said: “I would have been satisfied with life [a whole life term]. This is a seven-year-old bairn. When is anyone going to take crimes like this seriously?
“This is what happens to families like mine over and over again – injustice.”
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Police were finally persuaded to launch a cold case review in 2016 following intense campaigning by Mrs Henderson. Boyd had been well known to Nikki as his then-girlfriend Caroline Branton was her babysitter and he was a neighbour of her grandparents in the Hendon district of Sunderland. But somehow he avoided suspicion.
Mrs Henderson said: “I first mentioned that they should look at Boyd’s house in 2013, but nothing ever came of it until years later.”
She launched her own probe, even moving close to Boyd’s ex-girlfriend Ms Branton to gather more evidence. Finally, in 2017 Northumbria Police began zoning in on convicted child abuser Boyd, arresting him the following year.
Boyd, who admitted having uncontrollable sexual urges towards children, gave a DNA test that was found to be a one
in 28,000 match for microscopic samples found on the waistband of Nikki’s cycling shorts and under the armpits of her T-shirt.
In her victim impact statement, Mrs Henderson said: “I’m 57 and I’ve spent more than 30 years fighting for justice. By murdering Nikki, David Boyd destroyed the life of my beautiful daughter, my life and the lives of my daughters and grandchildren.”
Sentencing Boyd, Mrs Justice Lambert said she was sure he had sexually assaulted the little girl, or attempted to, after “tricking” her into following him into the derelict Old Exchange Building.
She added: “It was cold and dark. It must have been a truly terrifying experience.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Lisa Theaker, of Northumbria Police, said: “As an investigative team, we have worked tirelessly to find the person responsible – and crucially prove that it could only have been Boyd who murdered Nikki that night.”
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