Stagg awarded 700,000 pounds compensation

LONDON (Reuters) - Colin Stagg, who was cleared of murdering model Rachel Nickell 16 years ago, has been awarded more than 700,000 pounds compensation for wrongful arrest and prosecution, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Colin Stagg leaves Wimbledon magistrates court in this February 1995 file photo. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

Nickell, a 23-year-old part-time model, was found dead on Wimbledon Common in southwest London in July 1992.

She had been stabbed 49 times and sexually assaulted as she walked with her two-year-old son Alex, in one of Britain’s most notorious murders.

Stagg, who lived nearby, was charged with her murder a year later, despite the lack of any hard evidence. But his trial collapsed and he was cleared because the testimony of an undercover female officer who had tried to entice a confession out of him was deemed inadmissible in court.

The trial judge at the time, Mr Justice Ognall, told the Old Bailey the police tactics had been “deceptive conduct of the grossest kind.”

For years afterwards however Stagg was regularly vilified in newspapers as the man who had “got away” with the murder, and his life suffered as he became the nation’s number one pariah.

The independent government assessor, who awarded Stagg 706,000 pounds, described the police tactics as “highly unusual and legally bizarre”.

Lord Brennan added: “I am quite satisfied that this amounts to misconduct in the investigation and prosecution of this case and I categorise it egregious.”

Stagg told reporters he was now “feeling a sort of peace for the first time” since his arrest 15 years ago.

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“I am not going to rush into things,” he said.

“I am suddenly realising that I have a future...and that is a great feeling.”

His solicitor said Stagg had initially thought it was a joke when told of the award.

“He thought I was pulling his leg,” his solicitor Alex Tribick told Reuters.

“But nothing can compensate for the trauma and stress of the past 15 years.”

He described the amount as “unprecedented”.

“It will go some way to helping rebuild his life and normal existence. What he wanted from the outset though was an apology from the Metropolitan Police.

“Reluctantly, he has accepted though that he will not get it.”

The Metropolitan Police declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We do not comment on individual cases.”

A former warehouseman, Robert Napper, 41, from Plumstead, southeast London, has been charged with Nickell’s murder and is due to stand trial in November.

Editing by Steve Addison