Nikki Allan: Sunderland vicar wishes he had never heard 'horrifying' details

Canon Mark Gardner led the funeral of Nikki Allan in her Sunderland community. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The vicar who led the funeral service for murdered schoolgirl Nikki Allan has emotionally recalled the impact of her death on her community.

Canon Mark Gardner led the seven-year-old school girl's funeral after she was murdered in Sunderland in 1992.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Sunderland as a 20-car cortege proceeded through the east end of the city.

Recalling the day of the funeral, Canon Gardner said: "I remember standing at the door for them to come in, with a huge crowd inside and out. Everybody was aghast.

"This is not the sort of thing you would expect from people who all knew each other and looked after each other. They could be tough people, but fair."

Nikki's mother Sharon was held by family members throughout the day of the funeral. Credit: ITV News

For Nikki's mother Sharon Henderson, it was a service she has few memories of.

Following his time leading the parish in Sunderland, Canon Gardner now lives in Dublin.

Recalling how he first heard about Nikki's murder, he said: "I remember the phone rang, but I don't know who it was that told me. The police arrived, which was a shock. I was told a few details of what happened, which was horrifying.

"I remember the undertakers talking to each other and even they were shocked and horrified. Actually, I wish I hadn't heard what they had said to each other. Details I didn't want to know. [There were] details you couldn't bear thinking about. I think I've tried to avoid thinking about it to that extent."

Canon Gardner said it was difficult to plan a funeral service for a child under such horrific circumstances - but hoped to deliver a ceremony that would "help" the family and members of the public cope with grief.

He said: "I think I felt a bit numb, really. Holding on to something. Trying not to tremble. I suppose that's something to do with shock."

Canon Gardner said in the days and weeks after Nikki's death, some members of her family struggled to separate themselves from the evil that occurred. "I think one or two of them felt, not that they were cursed, but they needed some help".

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Sunderland for Nikki's funeral. Credit: Family photo

Canon Gardner said through the passage of time, it would be true to say he does not think of Nikki often. "I think that's just the way it is. Perhaps, a slight attempt at protecting myself from what was such a horrific event."

On Friday 12 May 2023, a jury found David Boyd guilty of murdering Nikki Allan.

Boyd, 55, of Chesterton Court in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, now faces a life sentence following his conviction.

Jurors at Newcastle Crown Court have been hearing evidence for three weeks. They took about an hour and a half to find him guilty.

Nikki's family sobbed in the court as the verdict was delivered, with shouts of "yes, yes."

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