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Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

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Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Guest on Sat 8 Jan - 11:19

'I can still see the knife in the killer's hand and my mother covered in blood': Rachel Nickell's son - the only witness to her murder - breaks his 18-year silence By Helen Weathers

Last updated at 11:05 AM on 8th January 2011

The memories are hazy now, but they still sometimes come. Alex Hanscombe was a month short of his third birthday when his mother Rachel Nickell was killed in front of him. And the fragmented sequence of horrifying images will never go away.

It is an effort for him to put those memories into words. But 18 years on, Alex is finally ready to speak ­publicly for the first time about one of ­Britain’s most ­disturbing — and, until two years ago, ­unresolved — murder inquiries.

In a dignified, calm voice — bereft of any bitterness, self-pity or tears — he relives the day he lost his mother and his life changed for ever.

He is back on Wimbledon ­Common in South-West London that July ­morning in 1992, ­walking with his mother and their pet dog, Molly. He sees the white male, tall and slim with ­brown hair, ­appearing out of nowhere, before being knocked to the ground, then the flash of a knife blade and the blows raining down on his mother, until the man flees.


Tragic memories: After an 18-year-silence, Alex Hanscombe - then almost three years old - discusses the day, in July 1992, when his mother Rachel Nickell was murdered

He pictures the bank notes on the ground, which have fallen out of his mother’s pocket. He picks them up and tries to give them back to her, placing one note on her forehead as she lies on the ground.

He sees blood and, even though he is just a young child, he is aware she is never coming back. He runs towards a crowd of people in the distance.

Suddenly, he is surrounded by the concerned faces of adults. Then the police arrive.

He is placed in an ­ambulance and given a sedative to fall asleep, ­waking later that afternoon in ­hospital to see the face of his father Andre crying.

‘I was only a small child, but I knew she was dead,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t frightened, there was no time to be scared. I just ­remember the shock of knowing my mother was gone for ever.’
Alex Hanscombe is now 21 and has lived almost all of his childhood with the memory of what he ­witnessed on that July ­morning when his 23-year-old mother, Rachel, was stabbed 49 times and ­sexually assaulted by the man who would later — much later — be ­identified as ­paranoid ­schizophrenic and serial rapist Robert Napper.

Napper, who went on to kill and mutilate another young mother, Samantha Bisset, 28, and her ­four-year-old ­daughter, Jazmine, in ­November 1993, was finally convicted of Rachel’s ­manslaughter in December 2008 on the grounds of ­diminished responsibility.

For many years, his mother’s killer ­featured in Alex’s ­nightmares, but he was so traumatised he could tell no one. Not the police, not the child ­psychologists, not even his father. He buried them as deep as he could.

So it is perhaps a sign of his ­newly-developed maturity — ­following a troubled, angry ­adolescence — that he feels able to give his first ­interview about his mother’s killing.


Hunt: Police search Wimbledon Common for clues after Rachel Nickell's brutal murder

He knows that, for many, he will always be the ‘tragic tot’ who was ‘struck dumb’ by his ordeal; his identity frozen in one awful moment of time. The little boy found by a woman passer-by, ­covered in blood, clinging to his mother, crying ‘Get up, Mummy’ — even though this isn’t part of Alex’s memory.

Few could believe that such a child could ever be happy again.

But now people will know how he has turned out, despite his loss and the ­shocking ­failings of the ­Metropolitan Police, which missed ­opportunities to apprehend Napper before he went on to kill.

Alex has a girlfriend, Alba, a 20-year-old Spanish ­student. He is also a talented guitarist and has studied at music school, including a spell in London.

He would certainly look the part of the rock star with his flowing mane of dark, curly hair and cool, laid-back air. People are always ­telling him he ­inherited the heart-melting smile of his mother, a former model.

Above all, he wants those ­people who worried about him as a child, who sent him letters and presents, to see that ­‘something positive can emerge from something negative’.

‘I was only a small child, but I knew she was dead. I wasn’t frightened, there was no time to be scared. I just ­remember the shock of knowing my mother was gone for ever’

‘I forgave the person who killed my mother long before I even knew who it was. Until you ­forgive, you can never move on with your life,’ he says. ‘I don’t feel damaged by what ­happened. I had my mum for the first few years of my life — the most ­important ones — and being angry or upset isn’t the way to go.’

After his mother’s death, Alex had a peripatetic childhood. Aged three-and-a-half, he was taken to France by his father, Andre, to escape the ­‘goldfish bowl’ of public attention and moved again three years later to a small village in Spain, where he has since enjoyed a normal life.

Alex credits Andre, 47, a tennis coach who was working as a ­motorbike ­courier at the time of Rachel’s death, with ­giving him the ­security and ­protection he needed, as he struggled to adapt to the loss of his mother.

He admits that during his ­childhood he took out much of his ­frustration and anger on his father at ­growing up ­without a mother.

He went through his teenage phases, drank too much beer and there were ­occasional disciplinary ­problems at school over his lack of interest in academic study. Since meeting his girlfriend Alba two years ago, however, Alex has calmed down and now enjoys a female influence, so lacking since his mother’s death.

‘I’m grateful to my father for taking me abroad to live when I was small, so I could grow up ­without the tag of being Rachel Nickell’s son,’ he says.

‘If I had stayed in Britain I think it might have been a different story. I have never been back to ­Wimbledon Common and I don’t visit my ­mother’s grave. I’m not someone who broods on the past.

‘If you are living in the past or the future it means you are not ­living in the moment. We have pictures of my mother around the home, but it is not a shrine. I have never read any books about the case, though I am aware of all the official documentation.

Rachel's killer: Paranoid ­schizophrenic and serial rapist Robert Napper
‘Anyway, I don’t need to know ­anyone else’s version — I saw what happened that day in July. What more could anyone tell me?

‘You don’t remember ­everything from when you are small, but you remember the big things — those that change your life.

‘I clearly remember walking in the park with my mother and Molly and being pushed over by a man, who then attacked my mother. I knew something bad was happening.

‘I saw the knife in his hand and when I saw her lying on the ground covered in blood, I­ ­realised the ­consequences of that act. I wasn’t quite three, but, even so, I knew my mother was never coming back. When I woke up in the hospital the next day, I remembered ­everything. I didn’t ask for my mother once.

‘When you see ­something like that there is no doubt. My father tells me that in the ­hospital I gave him a look, as if it was me telling him Mummy wasn’t coming back, rather than the other way round.’ All Alex can remember of his mother, apart from that final day, is her warm, ­loving ­presence.

But his father Andre has told him they were so close they were like two interlinking circles. They lived for each other.
Andre was so convinced Alex wouldn’t want to live without his mother that, in his grief, he ­considered killing himself and his son. Holding little Alex, who had lost the ­confidence to walk after ­witnessing his mother’s death, Andre asked his son if he wanted to go on.

Astonishingly, Andre says that, despite his young age, he ­remembers this question and understood clearly what his father was saying. ‘I ­remember saying: “Yes, I want to go on.” I understood what he was asking me. I have never wanted to die or end my life, no matter how difficult it might be.
‘People think that when ­something like this happens, it’s the actual incident that matters, but the ­biggest challenge is what happens, day to day, after that. That affects you far more.

‘I was always aware that I was ­different from other children ­growing up, not having a mum. I wasn’t envious of them, but I missed that female influence and ­sometimes took out that ­frustration on my dad.’
When Alex was 12, his extreme moods became worse, even though Andre had decided some years ­earlier to hire a live-in female tutor hoping he would ­benefit from a woman’s presence and that he could enjoy more freedom.

It had some undeniable benefit but was not a complete success. Nor was the relationship with his father’s occasional girlfriends any easier.

‘I was a bit selfish at that age and had grown used to having all his ­attention. It was hard having a woman in the house, as it was a constant reminder that you do not have your own mother.

'I forgave the person who killed my mother long before I even knew who it was. Until you ­forgive, you can never move on with your life'

‘Yes, I missed out on not having a mother, but I got plenty of cuddles and affection from my dad.’

Andre has given Alex some of the ­jewellery his mother owned and his grandparents gave him a ­bottle of her favourite perfume, Coco Chanel, which he was happy to play with as a child.

Alex is not close to Rachel’s ­parents — his grandparents, Andrew and ­Monica Nickell — and has not seen them since he was eight.

Two years ago, after Robert ­Napper’s conviction, they spoke of the way Rachel’s death had changed their lives and complained they had been ­prevented from ­seeing their grandson by Andre.

But Alex insists it was his ­decision not to see his grandparents.

‘There was a lot of tension between my father and my grandparents, as he felt they were ­overstepping ­certain ­boundaries, while they felt he was being ­neurotic and over-­protective,’ says Alex.

‘But I wasn’t banned from seeing them. I just found it upsetting being with them — I didn’t feel ­comfortable. I don’t think it’s sad. If there are too many conflicts it is better to be apart.

‘Last year I wrote to them asking for some videotapes they had of my mother. They sent them and said how nice it was to hear from me.

‘Maybe one day we shall meet up again. I don’t have anything against them, but they belong to a ­different world.’

What is most striking about Alex is his total lack of ­bitterness, even in the face of what he ­considers a lack of professionalism shown by the Metropolitan Police.

It failed to stop serial rapist ­Napper before he went on to kill his mother, and then took years to link him to her death. ‘My mother would still be alive if the police had done their job ­properly,’ he says.


Grief: Andrew and Monica Nickell, Rachel's parents, speak to the media outside the Old Bailey. Alex is not close to them - and has not seen them since he was eight
‘It’s not a matter of opinion — the documented ­evidence speaks for ­itself. I don’t have much trust in what comes from the police.’

For years, Andre and Alex were ­convinced — because the police told them so — that Colin Stagg, a loner from ­Roehampton who used to walk his dog on Wimbledon Common, was Rachel’s killer.

With no forensic evidence linking him to the crime, detectives designed a honeytrap — Operation Edzell — in the hope Mr Stagg would confess to an undercover ­policewoman posing as a potential lover, using the ­pseudonym Lizzie James.

Stagg never admitted to the ­killing, yet was charged with ­murder in August 1993.

In September the ­following year, the trial collapsed when Mr ­Justice Ognall condemned the police ­honeytrap as ‘deceptive conduct of the grossest kind’.

Stagg later received £706,000 in compensation, while Lizzie James took early retirement in 1998, aged 33, on health grounds after her ­‘traumatic’ role in the investigation.

In 2001, she received £125,000 from the Met in an out-of-court settlement. In contrast — more than a decade ago — Alex Hanscombe received just £90,000 from the Criminal ­Injuries Compensation Authority.

But now, after finding out that his mother’s death could have been prevented were it not for the ­mistakes made by the ­Metropolitan Police, he is seeking ­damages for negligence.


Wrongly accused: Colin Stagg was charged with Rachel's murder in 1993 - and received a huge payout when the trial later collapsed

A complaint over the Met’s alleged failure in its duty of care to Rachel, lodged by Alex and Andre, is being ­taking to the European Court of Human Rights.

‘I don’t begrudge Colin Stagg a penny of his compensation. He was wrongly accused and that had to be put right,’ says Alex.

‘I have little faith in the police. We were told one thing by them, then another, then another.

‘It’s like being told it’s going to be sunny tomorrow and then waking up to rain, then being told it will snow and there are storms instead.

‘For me, the court action isn’t about the money. It’s about the police being held to account. It’s important that their errors are made public. I’m not angry, but they haven’t done a good job and my mother died as a result.’

It was in 2003, 11 years after the ­murder, that a cold case review team using refined DNA techniques, linked Robert Napper — already convicted for the murders of the Bissets — to a DNA sample found on Rachel’s clothes.

Andre Hanscombe travelled to the Old Bailey to see him convicted, but Alex chose not to.

‘I didn’t feel it had anything to offer me, but my dad wanted to go. He wanted finally to see justice done, after all the ­confusion,’
says Alex.

The night before the ­conviction, Andre Hanscombe was handed ­Napper’s ­psychiatric reports and case history. Shocked by the documented mistakes the police had made, he lodged a ­complaint with the ­Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Last June, the IPCC released a ­damning report concluding the Met had committed ‘bad decisions and errors’ and ‘missed opportunities’ to stop Napper — linked to more than 83 sex attacks on women — before he killed Rachel.

Even though he’d raped a young mother in front of her child and went on to attack Samantha ­Bisset — like Rachel, a pretty blonde — the link with Rachel’s killing was missed as ­detectives misguidedly pursued Colin Stagg instead.

Yet no one was disciplined or sacked as a result of the police’s ­failing, the key detectives on the case having retired or died.

A Law Lords ruling states that the police cannot be sued for any ­mistakes they might make in an investigation because it would put undue pressure on them.

So unless the Met decides to make a voluntary payment to the ­Hanscombes, their only option is to take their case to the European Court.

Alex has no doubt about the ­consequences of the police’s failure.

‘If they’d done their job properly, my mother would still be alive. If you run through a red light, you get a ticket and fine.

‘Yet still the police are saying they do not have to pay the ­consequences for their mistakes.’

So does Alex ever wonder how his life might have turned out had his mother lived?

‘You could play “what if?” all day long if you wanted to,’ he says.

‘I owe it to myself and my mother to be happy with the life I have.’



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1345219/Rachel-Nickells-son-witness-murder-breaks-18-year-silence.html#ixzz1ARRAb4SQ


Last edited by The Famous Grouse on Sat 8 Jan - 11:32; edited 7 times in total (Reason for editing : add pictures and formatting)

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  fred on Sat 8 Jan - 11:22

‘I’m grateful to my father for taking me abroad to live when I was small, so I could grow up ­without the tag of being Rachel Nickell’s son,’ he says.

Yes I agree with his father, imagine his life is the press had been allowed to follow him around he would have been living in even more misery. It reminds me of the little girl who's mum and sister were killed in a country lane on the way to somewhere and the little girl, who at this second i can't remember (was it Megan) her name was published a lot in the media through out the years.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Guest on Sat 8 Jan - 11:34

What struck me most is that he can remember so much, and so much detail, despite not even being three years old. About the same age as the McCann twins were, in fact.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  fred on Sat 8 Jan - 11:44

Exactly! Makes it even stranger that the twins couldn't be questioned. Or maybe not, the Mccanns wouldn't want them saying anything I'm sure.
"Well mummy was shouting at us, and madeleine climbed on the back of the sofa, and mummy went to grab her and she fell, and we think she went to sleep, well that is what mummy said, we had to be quiet not to wake her up, so we went to bed and mummy 'phoned daddy to come back and wake up madeleine"

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  maebee on Sat 8 Jan - 11:56

fred wrote:
‘I’m grateful to my father for taking me abroad to live when I was small, so I could grow up ­without the tag of being Rachel Nickell’s son,’ he says.

Yes I agree with his father, imagine his life is the press had been allowed to follow him around he would have been living in even more misery. It reminds me of the little girl who's mum and sister were killed in a country lane on the way to somewhere and the little girl, who at this second i can't remember (was it Megan) her name was published a lot in the media through out the years.

Hi Fred, I think you mean this case:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1535474.stm

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Guest on Sat 8 Jan - 11:59

fred wrote:Exactly! Makes it even stranger that the twins couldn't be questioned. Or maybe not, the Mccanns wouldn't want them saying anything I'm sure.
"Well mummy was shouting at us, and madeleine climbed on the back of the sofa, and mummy went to grab her and she fell, and we think she went to sleep, well that is what mummy said, we had to be quiet not to wake her up, so we went to bed and mummy 'phoned daddy to come back and wake up madeleine"

The McCanns must be bricking it today with the publication of that story. What will they do when the twins are 20, and remember what they saw, like poor Alex Hanscombe? How will the parents be able to keep the kids quiet then?

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  fedrules on Sat 8 Jan - 12:30

The Famous Grouse wrote:What struck me most is that he can remember so much, and so much detail, despite not even being three years old. About the same age as the McCann twins were, in fact.
'
I'm not really surprised that he remembers such a traumatic event in some detail. I'm happy that this young man's life has turned out okay in spite of losing his mother in such an apalling manner.

The catalogue of police errors and the fact that this man had been linked to so many attacks before he killed Rachel make very uncomfortable reading indeed.
Thanks for postinf TFG.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Chris on Sat 8 Jan - 13:32

fred wrote:
‘I’m grateful to my father for taking me abroad to live when I was small, so I could grow up ­without the tag of being Rachel Nickell’s son,’ he says.

Yes I agree with his father, imagine his life is the press had been allowed to follow him around he would have been living in even more misery. It reminds me of the little girl who's mum and sister were killed in a country lane on the way to somewhere and the little girl, who at this second i can't remember (was it Megan) her name was published a lot in the media through out the years.

Josie Russell? I think Megan was her sister who died.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  fred on Sat 8 Jan - 13:35

Chris wrote:
fred wrote:
‘I’m grateful to my father for taking me abroad to live when I was small, so I could grow up ­without the tag of being Rachel Nickell’s son,’ he says.

Yes I agree with his father, imagine his life is the press had been allowed to follow him around he would have been living in even more misery. It reminds me of the little girl who's mum and sister were killed in a country lane on the way to somewhere and the little girl, who at this second i can't remember (was it Megan) her name was published a lot in the media through out the years.

Josie Russell? I think Megan was her sister who died.

That's the one, she didn't speak for years she was so truamatised. I'm sure I read sometime last year that she had bought the family house so she could feel close to her mum, as her dad and her moved to Wales.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Sandi on Sat 8 Jan - 15:46

Fred yes Lynn and Megan Russell were the ones that were murdered by Michael Stone.

Actually I think she brought the home they shared before they moved to Kent according to the Daily Mail

Josie Russell, who survived a horrific hammer attack that left her mother and sister dead, has bought the family home she once shared with them.

The 23-year-old artist used money from a trust fund, set up after Michael Stone killed her mother Lin and younger sister Megan, to buy the cottage in North Wales.

She said she feels 'close' to her mother at Plas Tanyrallt, Snowdonia, where they lived before moving to Kent, where the hammer attack took place in July 1996


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1340114/Hammer-attack-victim-Josie-Russell-buys-family-home.html#ixzz1ASWwITXN

I just wonder if these are actual memories or memories put there by media reports etc. He must have read about his mother's death. Can't think of the correct psychological term used for this kind of memory.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  malena stool on Sat 8 Jan - 23:30

The Famous Grouse wrote:What struck me most is that he can remember so much, and so much detail, despite not even being three years old. About the same age as the McCann twins were, in fact.
The McCanns will be redoubling their telling of the twins bedtime story about the monster who took Maddie...

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Angelique on Sun 9 Jan - 0:47

It is heartening to think that he has done so well after such a trauma - he does seem very calm.

I think it is possible his memories are real - because he says just the simple things - nothing complicated about what took place. It was heart-wrenching reading the description of him placing the money on her forehead.

I wish him well and the best for him.

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Re: Rachel Nickell's 2yo son remembers....

Post  Arguida on Sun 9 Jan - 3:37

He is right about remembering tramatic events clearly. I can remember a major earthquake when I was 3. It is like a video playing before me. I remember the room I was in, where my sister and I were sitting. I remember my mother's ashen faced in the doorway and I remember everything she said because she was so frightened. My first memories are just before my 3rd birthday. It is quite possible the twins could have some hazy memories.

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