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Who is Rachel Nickwell and what happened to her?

Her attacker Robert Napper eventually confessed to the Wimbledon Common murder

rachel nickell murderer
Eve Crosbie
TV & Film Writer
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ITV series Cold Case Forensics: The Murder of Rachel Nickell is set to look at the true story of one of the UK's most catastrophic police operations which saw an innocent man accused and charged with the murder of Rachel Nickell. What happened to Rachel, and how did the police catch Rachel's real killer Robert Napper? Keep reading to find out…

WATCH: The police operation was told in Channel 4's Deceit

What happened to Rachel Nickell?

Rachel Nickell was assaulted and murdered in broad daylight during a walk on Wimbledon Common with her dog and two-year-old son back in 1992. Her body was eventually discovered by passers-by, who reportedly found her son repeating the words: "Wake up, Mummy".

rachel 5© Photo: Getty Images

Rachel was killed in 1992

Where is Rachel Nickell's son Alex?

Alex now lives in Spain where he works as a yoga teacher. Speaking about his mother's death back in 2018, he told The Sun on Sunday: "I looked down at my mother lying on the ground. She looked so peaceful, as if asleep and ready to wake up at any moment. I shouted, ‘Get up Mummy!’ with all my strength. In less than a second, life seemed to come to a standstill. She was gone. My heart was completely broken."

flowers wimbledon common© Photo: Getty Images

A woman laying flowers in Wimbledon Common

He continued: "There was beautiful sunshine and I remember the sound of people having picnics in the grass and our dog Molly circling around us. We saw a stranger who was lurching towards us and he had a black bag over his shoulder. Then I was grabbed and thrown to the ground, my face dragged across the mud. A few seconds later my mother collapsed beside me."

Who killed Rachel Nickell?

The brazen crime shocked the nation and in a desperate attempt to catch her attacker, the police launched a major investigation that ended up pinning the crime on the wrong man. In 2002, ten year's after Rachel's murder, Scotland Yard reopened the case, determined to give Rachel's family answers. A breakthrough came in 2006 when advances in DNA testing led to Napper being identified as Rachel's attacker.

robert napper© Photo: Getty Images

Robert Napper eventually confessed to killing Rachel after DNA linked him to the scene

What happened to Robert Napper? 

Napper was already serving time for the murder of Samantha Bisset and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine - which took place just 16 months after Rachel's attack. He had been incarcerated at Broadmoor Hospital due to the fact that he suffered from schizophrenia and Asperger syndrome. Other notorious previous inmates at the high-security facility include Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Charles Bronson and Ronnie Kray. 

colin stagg© Photo: Getty Images

Colin Stagg was the man who was wrongly accused of Rachel's murder

After being interviewed by police, Napper confessed to the Wimbledon Common murder and was formally charged in 2007. When the case reached court, he originally pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility. 

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At the time, Colin Stagg, who was the man who had been accused of Rachel's murder and forced to stand trial at the Old Bailey in 1994, received a public apology from the Metropolitan Police. He had previously been given £706,000 compensation after suing the force on the grounds of malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest.

Today, Napper is 55 years old and remains behind bars. It seems unlikely that he will ever be released, as the judge presiding over his case recommended he be detained indefinitely due to the fact he remains "a very dangerous" individual.

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