'Errors' which let killer slip in Rachel Nickell probe

Robert Napper Napper was wrongly eliminted from a rape inquiry for being "too tall"

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Serial rapist Robert Napper was brought to the attention of Metropolitan Police as early as 1989, but a series of "bad errors" allowed the 42-year-old to slip the net, a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found.

Napper was linked to a series of rapes and attempted rapes in a south London parkland, known as the Green Chain, but was cleared for being "too tall".

He went on to kill Rachel Nickell in 1992 and Samantha Bissett and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine in 1993.

Main findings of the IPCC report:

  • September or October 1989 - Napper's mother told police that he had confessed to raping a woman in Plumstead Common, but no action was taken
  • August 1992 - Police went to Napper's home after a tip-off that he resembled the e-fit of the suspect in the Green Chain rapes. No action was taken when Napper did not attend a police station to give a DNA sample
  • September 1992 - Police receive second tip-off and visit Napper's home. He again fails to attend police station and no further action was taken
  • October 1992 - Napper eliminated from the Green Chain rape inquiry as at more than 6ft he was deemed too tall to be the suspect
  • October 1992 - Napper arrested and a gun, bullets, knives and an A-Z with rape locations marked are found. His DNA was not taken but he was jailed later for possessing the weapons
  • February 1993 - a biscuit tin containing a gun with Napper's fingerprint is found in open land, but no action was taken
  • July 1993 - Napper found wandering in an alleyway near a parkland. He was taken home by police but no action was taken
  • In 1994 the then Met commissioner Sir Paul Condon said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with Miss Nickell's murder, although many in the force disagreed
  • Between 1995 and 2001 little progress was made in the case
  • Officers find that Napper escaped prosecution as samples in a 1989 rape case were contaminated at a Met laboratory and his was thrown away
  • A standard DNA testing of fibres from Miss Nickell's body could have identified Napper sooner
  • The IPCC suggests that a commercial rivalry between the Forensic Science Service (FSS) and an independent company may have delayed Napper's prosecution
  • 2002 - An inmate in Broadmoor prison told police that Napper confessed to killing Rachel Nickell during a conversation in 1997 or 1998.

Napper pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in December 2008.

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