The mother of a seven-year-old girl who was murdered in 1992 said she thought life would mean life after the killer was jailed for a minimum 29 years.
David Boyd, 55, tricked Nikki Allan into following him to waste ground, then sexually assaulted her, or tried to, before he killed her to shut her up, the sentencing judge said at Newcastle Crown Court.
The sex offender murdered Nikki in a derelict building in Sunderland’s East End in a “brutal” way which must have terrified his victim, Mrs Justice Lambert said.
But she did not impose a full-life tariff, and reduced what she would now have imposed as a 37-year minimum term to one of at least 29 years behind bars, because the sentencing regime in the early 1990s was less harsh.
And she said: “I would have been satisfied with life (a whole life term).
“This is a seven-year-old bairn.
“When is anyone going to take crimes like this seriously?
“This is what happens to families like mine over and over again – injustice.”
Standing next to Ms Henderson, Harriet Wistrich, director at the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “Now, Sharon demands that Northumbria police are held accountable for their historic failures that allowed a 31-year wait until the right man was convicted of Nikki’s murder.
“The full extent of the failures remain unknown and therefore we are demanding a public inquiry to examine the historic investigation which led to the wrong man being prosecuted and the police failing to consider alternative suspects until over 20 years later.
“We are also preparing a complaint to be lodged with the Independent Office of Police Complaints and exploring a civil claim for damages on Sharon’s behalf.”
“I feel sadness, disgust, anger, betrayal by people I expected to tell the truth (especially the original investigating officers).”
Boyd was convicted of murder earlier this month after jurors heard he battered her with a brick and stabbed her in the chest 37 times, then left her dead or dying in the basement.
Mrs Justice Lambert found that Boyd lured her away to the Old Exchange Building from the relative safety of the Garths flats, where she lived, that October night in 1992 to sexually assault Nikki, or to try to.
She screamed and Boyd hit her on the lip and forced her through in a window, six feet off the ground, into the the building.
The judge said: “”She must have quickly known she was trapped.
“She must have quickly known you were coming after her to hurt her.
“It was cold and dark. It must have been a truly terrifying experience for this seven-year-old girl.”
He then dumped her in the cellar, hoping she would not be discovered.
Boyd remained at large while innocent Mr Heron stood trial for the killing, before he was acquitted on the orders of the judge in 1993.
Boyd was free to indecently assault a nine-year-old in a Teesside park in 1999 and he later told his probation officer he had previously had sexual fantasises about “young girls”.
In a victim statement read on her behalf, Ms Henderson said: “I’m 57 and I’ve spent more than 30 years fighting for justice.
“My life and that of my family has never been the same since Nikki was murdered.
“By murdering Nikki, David Boyd destroyed the life of my beautiful daughter, my life and the lives of my daughters and grandchildren.
Jason Pitter KC, defending, said Boyd had learning difficulties and has been assessed as having an IQ in the bottom 2% of the population.
Mr Pitter also said it was not the defendant’s fault that Mr Heron was accused of Nikki’s murder.
Outside court, Northumbria Police detective chief superintendent Lisa Theaker said: “First and foremost, my thoughts are with Nikki’s family. I would like to thank them for their patience and strength shown during their relentless pursuit of justice.
“The pain and suffering that David Boyd has caused to so many people is beyond measure.
“As an investigative team, we have worked tirelessly to find the person responsible – and crucially prove that it could only have been Boyd who murdered Nikki that night.”