A deranged murderer hid in plain site for 12 years

The new four-part Channel 4 drama, Deceit will follow the journey of Rachel Nickell’s tragic murder and the true story of the honeytrap operation.

The tense tale, available to watch on 4od, uncovers the story of the brutal murder that happened on Wimbledon common.

It also aims to convey the experience of the wrongly accused man Colin Stagg – who spent months in custody for the crime.

The Channel 4 series follows the true story of how Colin was wrongly accused and shows how the real murderer went undiscovered in plain site for over 12 years.

What happened to Rachel Nickell?

Back in July 1992 Rachel Nickell was sexually assaulted and brutally stabbed in front of her two-year-old son, Alex.

Rachel Nickell was just 23-years-old when she was murdered in broad daylight on Wimbledon Common whilst walking her dog with her son.

Dog walkers discovered Rachel’s body in the bushes near her son, covered in blood.

When the walkers found Rachel's body, her son Alex was holding her hand – pleading "Wake up, mummy.”

The first detective to arrive at the scene, Ron Turnbull said in a recent ITV documentary "It's still foremost in my memory.

"At that time I had 20-plus years as a Scotland Yard detective and I thought I'd seen it all.”

Adding "In this case you could actually see some of the deeper stab wounds that had hilted actually through to the body as well such was the ferocity of the lunges of the knife. It was a lovely day, kids, dogs, how did that happen?"

The Met police were keen to find the culprit of the murder and were put under enormous pressure to find Rachel's killer.

A prime suspect at the time was Colin Stagg, a lonely, single man who regularly walked his dog in the same area.

Despite having no forensic evidence linking Colin to the case, police were convinced he was the evil killer.

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The theory had developed after Police found a knife and pornography at Colin's flat.

In an attempt to provide evidence against Colin, the police set up a secret operation known as Operation Ezdell.

They used an undercover police officer who went by the name of ‘Lizzie James’ to gain information from Colin through creating a false relationship with him.

For several months ‘Lizzie’ pretended she was romantically fancied Colin.

After winning Colin’s confidence, he admitted to violent fantasies but never confessed to the murder of Rachel.

However, it was later revealed that Colin had “gone along” with the topic because he wanted to follow the romance.

In a taped conversation later released by the police ‘Lizzie’ had said "If only you had done the Wimbledon Common murder, if only you had killed her, it would be all right.

Stagg replied, "I'm terribly sorry, but I haven’t."

The police refused to accept they had the wrong man, despite not having enough evidence or a confession and Colin was charged with the murder of Rachel in August 1993.

He spent over a year in custody before later being released after a judge dropped the charge due to the lack of evidence.

After his release, the police were criticised and the true murderer remained unknown.

Rachel Nickell's real killer

It was years later – in 2004 – when police discovered the DNA evidence of Robert Napper, a serial rapist and murderer.

Robert was serving time in Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire for the murder of Samantha Bisset and her daughter, Jazmine in 1993.

In December 2008 Robert was charged with the manslaughter of Rachel Nickel, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, having already been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

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He was sentenced to remain in Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital and he won't ever be released.

The police only admitted Colin was the wrong guy after Robert was convicted – causing years of disruption and trauma for Colin.

Colin was awarded £706,000 in compensation by the Home Office.

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