On 15 July 1992, a horrified nation learned 23-year-old Rachel Nickell had been murdered on Wimbledon Common – stabbed to death in front of her two-year-old son, Alex Hanscombe.
He was found by a passerby, clinging to his mother’s lifeless body and asking her to “wake up”.
The harrowing story dominated the headlines for months, and the pressure to identify Rachel’s murderer and see justice done was immense.
On 7 September, new documentary Death on the Commons will air on Channel 4, documenting the horrific events surrounding Rachel’s murder from the perspective of Alex.
The documentary follows on from gripping four-part series, Deceit, which premiered on Channel 4 in August, revealing the lengths to which the Metropolitan Police went to catch the man they thought was Rachel’s killer, which were almost as shocking as the crime itself.
Here is everything you need to know about who killed Rachel.
Who is Colin Stagg and why was he accused of Rachel’s murder?
Five months after the murder of Nickell, the Met was no closer to capturing the man they were convinced was responsible.
First identified through a BBC Crimewatch appeal, the police took a keen interest in loner Colin Stagg, who often walked his dog on Wimbledon Common where Rachel was killed.
The media fed the nation’s desire to uncover the truth, covering every detail of the case and demanding justice be done.
Stagg could only be linked to the case via circumstantial evidence, and the authorities needed something more solid if they were to gain a conviction.
In desperation, the police came up with a bold undercover operation in the hopes of drawing a confession out of their suspect, after he admitted to being lonely.
With police believing Stagg may be willing to open up to someone, a plan was formed to find an attractive, young female officer, who would go undercover and attempt to start a relationship with Stagg.
The officer contacted Stagg, posing as a friend of a woman with whom he used to be in contact with via a lonely hearts' column.
She attempted to obtain information from him by feigning a romantic interest, meeting him, speaking to him on the telephone and exchanging letters containing sexual fantasies.
During a meeting in Hyde Park, they spoke about the Nickell killing, but Stagg later claimed that he had only played along with the topic because he wanted to pursue the romance.
Did Colin Stagg go to jail?
Stagg spent one year on remand in prison following his arrest for the murder of Nickell.
When the case reached the Old Bailey, it was ruled that the police had shown "excessive zeal” and had tried to incriminate Stagg by “deceptive conduct of the grossest kind".
Police released a taped conversation between the officer and Stagg in which she claimed to enjoy hurting people; when she went on to say, “If only you had done the Wimbledon Common murder, if only you had killed her, it would be all right”, he replied: “I’m terribly sorry, but I haven’t.”
The judge threw the case out and Stagg was acquitted.
Who killed Rachel Nickell?
In July 2006, Scotland Yard interviewed Robert Napper - who had been convicted of the murder of Samantha Bisset and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine 16 months after Nickell’s homicide - for two days at Broadmoor Prison.
Just over a year later, Napper was charged with murder, to which he pleaded, before pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Nickell on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Napper is currently being detained indefinitely, and it is unlikely he will ever be released.
Did Colin Stagg receive compensation?
Stagg received a public apology from the Metropolitan Police for their previous involvement and prosecution of him in regard to the Nickell murder investigation.
The Met Police apologised for the “huge and most regrettable effect” its proceedings had on Stagg’s life for 16 years.
He received £706,000 in compensation.
When is Death on the Common: My Mother's Murder on TV?
New documentary Death on the Common explores the murder of Rachel Nickell from the perspective of her son, Alex Hanscombe, who was just two years old at the time.
Following the murder, the press covered the “tragic tot” extensively, generating public interest in what would happen to him.
A few months after Rachel’s death, Alex and his father Andre Hanscombe left the country, but now, almost 20 years later they return to the UK and to Wimbledon Common to remember the horrific events.
In the documentary Alex meets key people from the time of the killing, including family, friends and professionals involved in the case. He also gives an insight into his childhood trauma.
Death on the Common: My Mother’s Murder airs on Channel 4 on 7 September at 10pm.
Where can I watch Deceit?
In Deceit - which began on Channel 4 on 13 August - the task of coercing Stagg falls to Sadie Byrne (Niamh Algar), an ambitious young woman who became one of very few female undercover officers to be deployed in covert operations.
She is asked to adopt the persona of Lizzie, a woman with a dark secret in her past, in order to coax admission of guilt out of Stagg (played by Sion Daniel Young).
The officer’s alias has been carefully shaped by psychologist Paul Britton (Eddie Marsan) and Detective Inspector Keith Pedder (Harry Treadaway), and ‘Lizzie’ does her best to win Colin’s trust by divulging a dark secret of her own.
But as the weeks wear on, the pressure of trying to crack him begins to get to her.
The drama is based on real events, however, it’s been described as a “fictionalised retelling” of the facts.
That being said, writer Emilia di Girolamo includes scenes of verbatim dialogue from previously unheard audio, video and written materials as part of her script.
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