Rachel murder - DNA sample found

DETECTIVES last night played down reports that they had made a significant breakthrough in the 11-year hunt for the murderer of former Colchester schoolgirl Rachel Nickell.

DETECTIVES last night played down reports that they had made a significant breakthrough in the 11-year hunt for the murderer of former Colchester schoolgirl Rachel Nickell.

It has been reported that forensic scientists have identified human DNA, which could belong to her killer.

Miss Nickell, a former model, was stabbed 49 times and had her throat cut on Wimbledon Common, south London, on July 15, 1992. Alex, her three-year-old son, witnessed the attack.

Miss Nickell, 23, grew up in Beacon Hill, Great Totham, and went to Colchester County High School for Girls and Colchester Institute.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman told the EADT that there was "nothing at the moment to suggest a breakthrough in the case."

Scotland Yard said that over the last 18 months the Rachel Nickell case has been under investigation by the murder review team and there have been extensive new DNA tests, but it was not the Metropolitan Police's policy to discuss DNA samples of individuals.

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The Nickell case is one of several murders being reviewed using modern scientific and forensic technology, with officers hoping to isolate her murderer's DNA.

Detectives from Scotland Yard's murder review team reopened the case early last year and it has been reported that they have identified a tiny DNA sample on her underwear which does not match either that of Rachel, her son, or of Andre Hanscombe, her boyfriend.

It is believed the sample is sufficient to rule out a suspect and could be tested alongside samples on the national DNA database.

Police no longer have a sample of the DNA of Colin Stagg, who was cleared of the crime in 1994 after evidence was ruled inadmissable. He has always protested his innocence.

Since 1995, the police have been able to hold the DNA of anyone charged with an offence. The Government is amending the law so that the DNA can be kept of anyone arrested for any reason even if they are not charged.

Detectives have explored the similarities between Ms Nickell's murder and that of American artist Margaret Muller, who was killed on February 3, but have not yet unearthed any new evidence.

Miss Muller, 27, was stabbed in the body and neck when she was jogging in Victoria Park, Hackney, East London.

They are focusing on the list of people known to have been on Wimbledon Common when Ms Nickell was killed, to see if any now live in the vicinity of Victoria Park.

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