Thursday, August 14, 2008

British man awarded $1,400,000 compensation over corrupt murder prosecution

Colin Stagg, who was cleared 13 years ago of murdering Rachel Nickell in a frenzied attack on Wimbledon Common, has finally been awarded 706,000 pounds in compensation, his lawyer said today. “Naturally Colin is relieved and it will go some way to compensating him for the vilification that he has received at the hands of the public and media for the least 16 years," said Alex Tribick, Mr Stagg's solicitor.

Miss Nickell, 23, a part-time model, was walking on the common in southwest London with her two-year-old son when she was attacked in July 1992. She was sexually assaulted and stabbed 49 times. Her son was standing by her body, crying “Wake up, Mummy” when she was found. The boy, now aged 17, lives in France with his father, Andre Hanscombe, who was Miss Nickell’s fiance.

Today's Home Office compensation award is final vindication for Mr Stagg, 44, of Roehampton in southwest London, who was the focus of a lengthy police investigation and spent a year in custody before his trial at the Old Bailey in 1994.

He was acquitted when a judge threw out the case and criticised the police for running a “honey trap” operation. A female undercover officer had befriended Mr Stagg and encouraged him to talk about the killing and discuss violent sexual fantasies. Mr Justice Ognall said the use of the tactic was “not merely an excess of zeal, but a blatant attempt to incriminate a suspect by positive and deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”.

Mr Stagg said that being charged with the murder had destroyed his life and, despite his acquittal, many people still believed that he was guilty. He said: “I became a national hate figure. I had to endure every form of vilification. I was insulted, attacked, spat upon. My home was attacked and so was I. My name alone was enough to stop me getting work.”

Last year another man was charged with Ms Nickell's murder. Robert Napper, 42, is due to stand trial in November.

The Home Office announced in January 2007 that Mr Stagg was eligible under a discretionary compensation scheme. The amount was set by an independent assessor, Lord Brennan. Mr Tribick said the offer was made in a letter from the Office of Criminal Justice Reform following an application for compensation. He said Lord Brennan submitted a “carefully considered and reasoned” 70-page document supporting the award.

Mr Tribick said: “This is an offer that has been made and that offer has been accepted. It will allow him to try and rebuild his life and to have some sort of normal existence. “But of course what he really wanted was an apology from the Metropolitan Police and I think he has accepted that is something he will never get. “He is not angry, he is hurt and disappointed. He is gradually getting his life back on track and this will act as a catalyst.” Mr Tribick added: “Colin is realistic enough to realise and accept that his name, no matter what happens, will always be synonymous with the tragic events of Rachel Nickell’s death.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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