A child killer who brutally murdered a “bright and shining” seven-year-old girl and managed to evade justice for more than 30 years has been sentenced to life in prison.
A judge ruled Tuesday that David Boyd must serve a minimum sentence of 29 years for the murder of Nikki Allen.
Nikki was murdered in October 1992 after she was lured to an abandoned building in Sunderland, the prosecution said, by Boyd intending to commit a sex crime. When Nikki resisted and screamed, Boyd hit her over the head with a brick and stabbed her 37 times in the chest and abdomen.
It was a shocking, high-profile crime in which the police arrested and prosecuted an innocent man, George Herron. They were cleared by a jury and the case was reopened in 2017 with advances in forensic science helping police to match DNA to Nikki to Boyd, 55, of Stockton-on-Tees.
Nikki Allen was murdered in October 1992 after being lured to an abandoned building in Sunderland. Photograph: Northumbria Police/PA
He was arrested in 2018 and following a complex investigation that involved 1,000 other men, he was found guilty of murder following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court this month.
On Tuesday Judge Mrs Lambert said Nikki’s horror must have been “unimaginable” and it was a crime that would “horrify all who hear or read about it”.
She said she had to sentence Boyd because the law was enacted in 1992, when the sentence was less than life imprisonment. If the offense was contemporary, the minimum term would be 37 years.
Herron’s prosecution came after his alleged confession, which was followed by three days of intense police questioning and 120 rebuttals. He was found not guilty by a jury after a judge ruled that several police interviews were “suppressive” and inadmissible as evidence. The case led to changes nationally in the way police interviews were conducted.
Northumbria Police have written to Heron to apologise, as have apologies to Nikki’s family, including her mother Sharon Henderson, who has never stopped campaigning for justice.
Victim impact statements were read out from Henderson and Nikki’s father, David Allen.
Henderson, who was 25 at the time of the murder, described Nikki as a “bright and shining” child with “a beautiful smile” who was “always a mama’s girl”.
Herron’s ordeal was traumatic, she said, with police later telling her they weren’t looking for anyone else. “After my acquittal, I was accused of being a bad mother, even though my children were being looked after. The local people were angry towards me and not the person responsible for killing her,” she said.
“I had this feeling that I had to fight for justice for Nikki. I have fought tirelessly and endlessly for this. It has been very difficult, it has become a part of my life. The stress of it has taken a toll on both my mental and physical health. I was sectioned and spent some time in the hospital.
In a statement, Herron said that he had lost what little honor and wealth he had when he was falsely accused of murder. He said: “At times moving around and trying to rebuild what’s left of my life hasn’t been easy – learning to trust anyone has been difficult, and I didn’t even feel I needed to go to a professional to get help.” I can count on.”
He said that his anger and frustration had led him to turn to alcohol. “The murder of Nikki Allen destroyed the lives of so many people – I am one of those people.”
At times Henderson stated that he had targeted people he suspected of covering for others and had been arrested because of it.
Allen expressed his “anger and disgust”. He said that he lived close to the building in which Nikki was murdered and it was a constant reminder to him.
“I think Nikki was laying on her own in the cold in that building that night. That building, the night she went missing and was murdered, I went through countless times looking for her. Since Nikki’s death, I can’t go to the funeral because I miss her coffin scene.
The prosecutor, Richard Wright Casey, argued that there was a sexual component to the murder, given Boyd’s conviction for indecent exposure and indecent assault on a nine-year-old girl in a park in 1999.
Jason Peter Casey, Boyd’s defense attorney, argued that mental abnormality should be taken into account when sentencing. He stated that his client had learning difficulties and that her IQ was in the bottom 2% of the wider population.
The sentence followed legal reasoning and was not straightforward as Boyd was being dealt with as the law stood in 1992, when home secretaries determined how long prisoners must serve before being considered for parole .