Who is Colin Stagg? Man wrongly accused of Rachel Nickell murder

Colin Stagg says he "does not blame the police"

A man wrongly accused of the murder of Rachel Nickell has told ITV's Good Morning Britain that he doesn't blame police for their mistake.

But who is Colin Stagg? And what events led to him appearing in court for the killing of a 23-year-old woman on Wimbledon Common?

Rachel was stabbed to death in front of her two-year-old son back in 1992. It took 16 years for the man responsible to admit the killing.

Mr Stagg was eventually given £706,000 to "rebuild his life" following a Met Police honey-trap operation. ITV News has gone back to the start of the case to explain how it got to that point.

What happened to Rachel Nickell?

Rachel Nickell

Rachel Nickell, 23, was living with her boyfriend Andre Hanscombe, son Alex and their dog Molly in Wimbledon.

On July 15 1992, she took the dog out for a walk with her two-year-old boy and never came home.

They were walking on Wimbledon Common when an attacker jumped out of bushes and stabbed Rachel repeatedly and sexually assaulted her.

Alex was thrown on the ground and saw his mother collapse but was left unharmed. A passer-by reportedly found him clinging onto his mother crying "wake up mummy".

Speaking 25 years after the crime, Alex told This Morning he still remembers asking for his mother to get up and realising "she had gone and was never coming back".

Who is Colin Stagg?

Colin Stagg leaves the Old Bailey in 1994 after being cleared of murder

After Rachel's death, police received a tip-off about 29-year-old Colin Stagg following a Crimewatch appeal.

Colin Stagg lived in nearby Roehampton and often walked his dog on Wimbledon Common.

He was subjected to an undercover 'honey-trap' police operation and in February 1994 stood trial accused of Rachel's murder.

The trial collapsed after the judge condemned the police tactics as "deceptive conduct of the grossest kind".

Mr Stagg spent 13 months in custody and endured more than a decade of speculation that he was Rachel's killer.

He says he received a letter from Rachel's partner after he was exonerated, expressing his anger at the police.

What took place in the police honey-trap operation?

During the Met Police investigation into Rachel's death, a criminal psychologist created an 'offender profile' which officers thought Mr Stagg fitted.

The force then used an undercover officer to feign a romantic interest in Mr Stagg, gaining his trust to see whether he would admit to the crime.

An officer used the persona of 'Lizzie James' to start the relationship, claiming to be the friend of someone who Mr Stagg spoke to via a Lonely Hearts column.

Speaking later to Good Morning Britain, Mr Stagg said: "I was being picked on because I was a young, immature guy. We’re all awkward when we’re young at that age.

"I was just responding to what Lizzie James was telling me."

Who really murdered Rachel Nickell?

Robert Napper

The cold case review of Rachel's murder was opened in 2002 after developments in DNA testing.

Robert Napper, now 55, who had a history of violent attacks on women, was identified as a suspect and interviewed at Broadmoor high security hospital.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in 2008. Napper had already been convicted in 1993 of the double murder of Samantha Bisset and her daughter, Jazmine.

Mr Justice Griffiths Williams told him he would be held in Broadmoor indefinitely. "You are on any view a very dangerous man," the judge said.

What does the Metropolitan Police say about the Rachel Nickell murder inquiry?

After the conviction of Napper, Mr Stagg was given a full apology by the Met Police.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates said: "In August 1993, he was wrongly accused of Miss Nickell's murder. It is clear he is completely innocent of any involvement in this case and I today apologise to him for the mistakes that were made in the early 1990s.

"We also recognise the huge and lasting impact this had on his life and, on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, I have today sent him a full written apology."

The force also acknowledged that more could have been done to catch Napper earlier.

Mr Yates continued: "Had more been done, we would have been in a position to prevent this and other attacks by Napper. In particular, the dreadful attacks on Samantha and Jazmine Bisset in November 1993.

"We do say, however, that the way murder is investigated now has changed significantly from 16 years ago."

Where is Colin Stagg now?

Colin Stagg was given £706,000 in compensation Credit: PA

Following Napper's conviction, Mr Stagg was awarded £706,000 compensation from the Home Office for the bungled investigation – a sum he described as “like winning the lottery”.

He later told The Sun he had spent all the money "like there was no tomorrow".

Speaking in 2017, he said: "I was making up for lost time, doing the things I should’ve done in my youth if it hadn’t been blighted by Rachel’s murder.”

A Channel Four documentary about the case called Deceit aired this year.

"The way they portrayed me [in the Channel 4 drama] I was roughly like that, a bit awkward and shy," Mr Stagg said.

"I don’t see myself as the victim. I never look backwards. Backwards is negative and forwards is positive and that’s how I live my life," he added.

Colin Stagg does not blame the police

Despite the effect the police investigation had on his life, Mr Stagg says he does not blame the police.

"When I was inside prison, I thought that was going to be the end of my life, that it was going to go to jury who weren’t going to take any chances and I was going to be convicted," Mr Stagg told Good Morning Britain.

Video courtesy of Good Morning Britain

"I don’t blame the police at all. They were doing their job. And they got wrapped up in the false statements people were making about me at the time.

"I couldn’t blame them really for being convinced it was me," he added.