Cold Case Forensics

Cold Case Forensics

1 of 3
Episode name:
The Murder of Rachel Nickell
Transmission (TX):
TX confirmed:
9:00pm ~ 10:00pm

Week 05 2023 : Sat 28 Jan - Fri 03 Feb

Fri 20 Jan 2023

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 24 January 2023

Cold Case Forensics

“Every contact leaves a trace. It’s just whether or not we’re clever enough to find it." Dr Angela Gallop

New three-part crime documentary series Cold Case Forensics unlocks the secrets that finally solved some of Britain’s most controversial murder cases. 

The series delves into the world of leading forensic scientist Dr Angela Gallop and her team, as they unpick clues that no one had unearthed before.

The horrifying deaths of Rachel Nickell, Lynette White, and Stephen Lawrence have all been expertly cracked by Dr Angela and her team after previous failures in each of the police investigations. 

Rachel Nickell had been found dead on Wimbledon Common in 1992, shocking the entire nation to its core. How did a new DNA breakthrough and evidence on Rachel’s son catch the killer?

The 1988 murder of Lynette White in Cardiff had resulted in one of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice and by 1999 it remained unsolved. But how did Angela and her team find the forensic clues to catch the killer?

The racist, cold blooded, murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 in London remained unsolved for more than a decade. The twists and turns of one of the most infamous killings in history were uncovered by Dr Angela, as she finally proved who took young Stephen's life.

This is an ITV Cymru Wales production for ITV


The Murder of Rachel Nickell

In the first episode, Dr Angela describes how her team helped solve the 1992 murder of Rachel Nickell, who was found dead on Wimbledon Common.

Rachel was found stabbed to death with her three-year-old son Alex clinging to her body. She had also been sexually assaulted. The original investigation focused on a man named Colin Stagg who had been reported by local people as resembling a photofit of a suspect.

Convinced Stagg was guilty, detectives launched a honeytrap operation, sending an undercover female police officer to start a romantic relationship with him, in the hope he would give himself away. But Stagg had nothing to do with the murder and after his trial collapsed - with the judge criticising the police's tactics - Dr Gallop's team were called in to re-examine the evidence.

She said she was shocked to discover that very limited DNA evidence had been recovered from swabs and tapings taken from Rachel's body: "When we were faced with a sample that hadn't given any DNA results at all, when it really should at least have given the result from Rachel herself in this intimate part of her body, then we knew that something was very wrong. You can't have that sort of finding without finding a proper explanation for it. You can't have a loose end like that. Forensic scientists don't like loose ends."

For more than two years Angela's forensic profiler Andy McDonald and his team worked to develop a new process which would allow the search for DNA to continue. The result - known as DNA enhancement - revealed a match to DNA found on Rachel's jeans, a huge step forward in the case. 

Andy says: "We went through all the different people that the police had as people of interest and there was only a match to one individual. Everyone else was excluded. And that match was to a man called Robert Napper."

By this time Napper was locked up in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital for a vicious double murder of a mother and daughter 16 months after the attack on Rachel Nickell. He had also admitted his part in a string of rapes and attempted rapes which had striking similarities, says reporter Jeff Edwards: "In at least two incidents, the victims were young women out walking with young children, with toddlers or with babies in pushchairs, buggies. And it's extremely unusual - vanishingly rare - for rapists to strike and attack a woman when a child is present. Psychologically, I think, it's thought to be a deterrent. "

In order to further cement Napper as the prime suspect in the case Dr Angela's team explored other forensic links to back up their DNA evidence, finding links between evidence found at the scene and a toolbox in his flat along with a shoe print.

In December 2008, Robert Napper pleaded guilty to Rachel Nickell's manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Angela says: "There was satisfaction in knowing that someone who committed this absolutely horrendous crime had been identified and justice had been done insofar as it ever could be for Rachel and her family. "



Press contact:
Picture contact:
Viewer enquiries: