The mother of a seven-year-old who was battered and stabbed to death in 1992 has criticised police after seeing her daughter’s killer finally convicted of murder.
There was chaos in court as the guilty verdict was returned against David Boyd, a 55-year-old sex offender, for the murder of his neighbour, schoolgirl Nikki Allan.
Police charged the wrong man with her murder and jobless Boyd remained free until DNA advances brought a breakthrough and he was finally charged in 2022.
“Three doors down from Nikki’s grandparents. They should have investigated him straight away,” she said.
Asked how she found the strength to keep fighting for justice, Ms Henderson said: “Because Nikki’s my daughter and I love her.”
Cries of “yes” and “you bastard” could be heard in the public gallery as family members hugged and shouted in jubilation as the verdict came in.
Mrs Justice Lambert had asked for quiet when it was returned and she cleared the public gallery.
Boyd attacked her with a brick and stabbed her 37 times in the chest, before dumping her – dead or dying – in the basement of the old Exchange building.
Locals later told police they heard piercing screams coming from the building.
Her shoes and jacket were found the next morning outside, and the horrific discovery of her body in the corner of the basement followed soon after.
Northumbria Police first prosecuted the wrong man, George Heron, who was cleared after a trial in 1993, but whose life was ruined by then.
Outlining the prosecution case, Richard Wright KC told the court Boyd was known to Nikki’s family, lived in the same block of flats as her and was the boyfriend of their babysitter.
Mr Wright said: “The little girl would occasionally drop behind and would then skip to catch up.
“This was Nikki Allan. She was with her killer and she was unwittingly skipping to her death.”
Boyd, aged 25 at the time of the killing and now of Chesterton Court, Stockton, Teesside, denied murder but refused to go into the witness box to give evidence.
Prosecutors said Nikki must have known her killer to willingly follow him – grainy CCTV showed a male adult being trailed by a child.
Her blood was discovered outside the only entry point, a boarded-up window about six feet off the ground.
Seven years later, Boyd indecently assaulted a nine-year-old girl in a Teesside park.
He already had a conviction for breach of the peace in 1986 after asking an underage girl for a kiss, and two flashing offences.
He told his probation officer he had fantasised about naked “young girls” when he was in his early 20s.
In 2017, advances in DNA techniques allowed police to re-examine Nikki’s case and extract samples from her clothing.
Tests indicated a one in 28,000 match for Boyd – or a male relative of his – was found on the clothes “in multiple areas”, jurors heard.
Boyd was arrested on suspicion of murder in 2018 and charged last year after a painstaking investigation involving the DNA testing of 839 men linked to the area at the time.
Outside court, Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Brad Howe thanked Nikki’s family for their “patience and strength”.
He said: “David Boyd hid his crime, lying about his involvement and prolonging the family’s suffering, knowing all along that he had taken the life of their little girl.
“The investigation into Nikki’s murder has been one of the most complex and comprehensive ever conducted by Northumbria Police.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Lisa Theaker, the senior investigating officer in the case, added: “Nikki would have been 37 now and who knows what her life could have been.
“The pain and suffering that he has caused, and to so many people, is immeasurable.”
She said: “New forensic techniques were a key part in this investigation, and we have been supported by incredible experts, witnesses and specialists who have helped us discover and prove who was responsible.”
She also thanked the residents of Sunderland who agreed to DNA tests so they could be eliminated from the inquiry.
“Without their help, today’s conviction would not have been possible,” she said.
The judge said Boyd will be sentenced on May 23.