Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He's a Sad Loner but Did He Kill Rachel? AS THE STANDARD REVEALED THIS WEEK, COLIN STAGG IS DETERMINED TO PROVE HE IS NOT A MURDERER. HERE, IN A RARE INTERVIEW, HE TALKS ABOUT HIS 'LIFE SENTENCE'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He's a Sad Loner but Did He Kill Rachel? AS THE STANDARD REVEALED THIS WEEK, COLIN STAGG IS DETERMINED TO PROVE HE IS NOT A MURDERER. HERE, IN A RARE INTERVIEW, HE TALKS ABOUT HIS 'LIFE SENTENCE'

Article excerpt

Byline: EMINE SANER

WHEN I walk through the Roehampton council estate where Colin Stagg lives, a couple of youths watch me.

They know exactly what door I'm going to knock on - Stagg is something of a celebrity around here.

This is the man who was charged with the savage murder of Rachel Nickell, the beautiful 23-year-old model who was sexually assaulted and stabbed on Wimbledon Common in 1992, but was acquitted after the trial collapsed amid claims of a bungled investigation.

Despite his innocence in the eyes of the law, Colin Stagg is the man who got away with murder in the minds of many people in Britain.

More than 11 years on, the murder is being reviewed by the Metropolitan Police. This involves using the latest forensic techniques that, detectives hope, will provide new lines of inquiry. This week, in the Evening Standard, Stagg offered to provide a DNA sample in an attempt to clear his name once and for all.

Yet, whatever comes of this, Stagg - who has always maintained his innocence - is in effect serving a life sentence, albeit in a south London flat rather than a high-security wing. Before he opens the door, I can hear him undoing several bolts and, when he does, a big black dog lunges at me. Stagg holds her back. He has two dogs, Jessie and Gypsy, and one, I discover, has rather bad wind. At least, that is what Stagg insisted.

Colin Stagg turns out to be a lot smaller than I imagined - about 5ft 7in - and wearing a blue rugby shirt and jeans. Smiling, he invites me in.

He's polite and, when he talks, he seems at ease. He is used to talking to the press. And, of course, he's used to being questioned.

Yet does he terrify me? Not, I have to say, in any way. He is 40, his eyes are blue-grey and he speaks eloquently with a "Sarf London" accent, as if he's practised at saying the same things over and over again, which he probably is. But could I imagine him going a little crazy in a fight? Yes.

He's got what some people might call "small man syndrome".

Back in 1992, when the police raided Stagg's flat on the morning of 18 September to arrest him, they didn't find a murder weapon but something, in their minds at least, almost as incriminating. Strange pictures had been drawn on the black walls, one featured a figure wielding two axes. There was a collection of knives hanging on the wall.

Under public pressure to find a killer, it is easy to imagine how the police could have convinced themselves the hunt had ended here.

"The police thought I was a Satanist," says Stagg now, "a weirdo loner and they wanted me to be guilty."

Today, his home is - slightly - more conventional. The knives remain but the walls are papered light blue, the ornaments (mostly stags) are arranged neatly and the room is dominated by a huge television. There are books on history, astronomy and Greek mythology ("the pagan thing was just a phase I was going through").

On the coffee table there is an unfinished crossword from a Sunday newspaper. One of the clues Stagg has filled in reads "trigger happy", ironic for the man famous for his quickfire temper.

He doesn't have many friends. His best friend is a woman in her fifties, Lee, who lives nearby. He is unemployed and survives on [pounds sterling]45a-week benefits - his job applications have been turned down by more than 100 potential employers. His notoriety undoubtedly hinders him but he was also unemployed before he was suspected of Rachel Nickell's murder. "As soon as they see my name, they always say the job's gone. I've put adverts in the local supermarket saying 'work wanted'. I'd clean toilets, anything."

What does he do all day? "I sit and watch telly - I like Monty Python, the Carry On films, that sort of thing. I listen to classical music. I like Chopin.

I've never been a social person, I've never gone out to pubs and clubs. …

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