Police have apologised to the mother of seven-year-old Nikki Allan for just how long it took to bring her daughter’s killer to justice - along with the man who was falsely accused of her murder.
More than three decades after Nikki was killed in 1992, David Boyd was finally convicted of her murder on Friday 12 May.
Police have apologised to Nikki’s mother Sharon Henderson, who has campaigned tirelessly to get justice for her daughter.
She has called for answers as to why it took three decades to find Nikki’s killer, when he had lived just a few doors away.
Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson said: “I am truly sorry for mistakes that were made in the 1992 investigation and I am sorry for the length of time it has taken to get justice for the family.
“I cannot imagine the impact on them over the course of the last 30 years, so I have offered to meet with Sharon and with other members of the family and I will be happy to say that to them when I meet them.”
Mr Simpson also issued an apology to George Heron – the man falsely accused of killing Nikki.
He stood trial for murder in 1993 but was cleared on the directions of the judge.
Mr Heron, who had to move away from Sunderland despite being cleared, was subject to “oppressive” questioning and denied having any involvement in the murder 120 times during three days of interviews, before he made some kind of confession.
After Mr Heron was cleared, police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with Nikki’s murder – although the real killer, Boyd, remained at large.
Mr Heron has provided a statement which will be read to the court when Boyd is sentenced on 23 May.
Mr Simpson’s letter states: “I have had the opportunity to read your Victim’s Impact Statement and appreciate the effects of your arrest, charge and trial had on you and continue to have.
“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.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Lisa Theaker led a complex re-investigation which began in 2017 and culminated in Boyd’s conviction last week.
She praised Nikki’s mother for her ceaseless campaigning to keep the pressure on the force over the years.
Ms Henderson met the then Chief Constable Steve Ashman in 2017, who agreed to a re-investigation of the case on the back of advances in DNA techniques which were able to extract new traces from the little girl’s clothes.
The breakthrough ultimately led them to Boyd, but also involved hundreds of Sunderland men volunteering to give DNA samples so they could be eliminated from the inquiry.
Ms Theaker said: “The residents of Sunderland have been absolutely incredible and truth be told, without their help we would have struggled to get where we are today.
“We went to see 641 residents who all provided DNA. There was only one person refused to give their DNA. The community was really supportive and it played a really big part in getting justice for Nikki.”
Boyd is due to be sentenced on 23 May.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...