Toddler watched his mum be sexually assaulted and stabbed 49 times by stranger

A man who watched his mother being stabbed to death while walking her dog has revealed his memory of the horrific event.

On the morning of 15 July 1992, Rachel Nickell was walking her dog with her two-year-old son Alex Hascombe in Wimbledon Common, in southwest London.

They were passing through an area of woodland when the 23-year-old mother was knifed 49 times and sexually assaulted.

Her killer fled, leaving the toddler clinging to his mother’s body repeatedly asking her to get up.

Months later, Alex’s grieving father Andre Hanscombe moved him first to the south of France and then to Barcelona, in Spain, in a bid to start a new life.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police launched a desperate search to find the young mum's killer.

Investigators quickly homed in on a man named Colin Stagg who was known to walk his dog on the Common and had previously revealed a dark sexual fantasy that was reported to the authorities after Nickell's death.

However, no forensic evidence was found linking Stagg to the scene of the attack.

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Criminal psychologist Paul Britton created a profile of the killer, later deciding the newspaper delivery man was their chief suspect.

An undercover officer, going by the pseudonym "Lizzie James", was then brought in to see if she could elicit a confession from Stagg.

The police woman wrote a series of sexually explicit letters to the suspect and they also met several times so she could gain his trust.

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She managed to draw out fantasies from Stagg that Britton interpreted as “violent”, but there was still no confession.

Stagg was charged with the murder but the trial against him later collapsed when a judge condemned the police for the "honey trap" undercover operation.

It was later revealed that the police had been focussing on the wrong man, leaving the real murderer was left free to kill again.

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Robert Napper murdered 27-year-old Samantha Bissett and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine after forcing his way into their home in Plumstead, eighteen months after he killed Alex's mum.

It was not until 2008, 16 years after the attack, Napper eventually admitted Nickell’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after he had been a patient at Broadmoor Hospital, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and Asperger’s.

Stagg eventually received £700,000 compensation from the police.

"Lizzie James" medically retired in 1998 with post-traumatic stress disorder and was given £125,000 in compensation for psychiatric injury.

Alex will revisit his mother’s killing in the documentaryDeath On The Common: My Mother’s Murder , which airs on Channel 4 at 10pm on Tuesday.

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