A police force has apologised to a man wrongly accused of murdering a seven-year-old girl in 1992, after the real killer was convicted 31 years later.
Northumbria Police have written a letter to George Heron, who was tried for the murder of Nikki Allan in 1993, before being cleared, on the directions of the judge.
Last week, David Boyd, 55, was found guilty of Nikki’s murder after scientific breakthroughs enabled police to forensically link him to the crime.
Mr Heron, who was subjected to “inappropriate” questioning, denied having any involvement in the murder 120 times during three days of interviews, before he made a confession.
Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Simpson who wrote to Mr Heron, said: “In our original investigation, I think there was too much focus on one individual.
“And I think it’s well documented that the interviewing of George Heron was completely inappropriate and led to an innocent man being put on trial.
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“That was wrong and I’ve written a personal letter of apology to George Heron for the way in which that was done and the impact that has had on his whole life.”
Mr Heron, who was forced to move away from the area, is understood to have had his face slashed while on remand in the 1990s.
Chief Constable Simpson also revealed the force’s investigations team had been in touch with Mr Heron, before and during the trial.
While he took the decision to apologise after being provided with Mr Heron’s victim impact statement, which will be read out in court when Boyd is sentenced next week.
Mr Simpson’s letter reads: “On behalf of Northumbia 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.”
The force also apologised to the family of Nikki Allan for mistakes made in the original investigation of her murder and the length of time it has taken to catch her real killer, 55-year-old Boyd.
Her mother Sharon campaigned for justice for three decades, while Boyd remained at large.
In a case that shocked the community and the country, Boyd, then aged 25, lured Nikki away from the flats in Sunderland where she lived and took her to a derelict building where he hit her with a brick and stabbed her 37 times before dumping her, dead or dying, in the basement.
Mr Simpson said: “I think I will always regret the amount of time it has taken for this investigation, but I think it’s important to note that we never gave up in the hunt for Nikki Allan’s killer.
“We’ve constantly reviewed all of the evidence available, and there have been thousands of lines of inquiry as part of this investigation.
“It’s one of the most complex investigations that Northumbria Police have ever undertaken.”