Rachel Nickell, Andre Hanscombe and their son Alex in the park
Not even Scotland Yard’s famed Murder Squad is immune from locking in on one suspect to the exclusion of all others and allowing its conceit to permit a serial rapist and murderer to stay at large for years after the evidence to convict him was in the police’s hands.
by Mark Pulham
In the photograph, her smile is wide and bright. A blue sky is behind her and she squints slightly from the sun as a wisp of blonde hair drifts across her face in a breeze. She seems incredibly happy. In another photograph, she and her boyfriend smile at the camera, bundled up against the chill. Between them is the buggy holding their young son.
Some people just radiate happiness, people who are attractive and put a smile on the face of those who saw them, even if they didn’t know the person.
Rachel Nickell was one of those people. Bright, attractive, and with boundless generosity, she was instantly likeable, and was capable of achieving anything that she set out to do.
Rachel Jane Nickell was born on November 23, 1968 to Andrew Nickell, an officer in the army, and his wife Monica, and brought up in Great Totham, a village near Colchester in Essex. From a very young age, Rachel was naturally charitable, helping out with the elderly and with the disabled children in the area.
When she turned 11, Rachel went to the Colchester High School for Girls, and in her spare time, she joined the Essex Dance Theatre and took up singing, dancing, and acting. She could have pursued this course, but instead, decided to study and get a degree in History and English.
Rachel got a job at a Richmond swimming pool as a lifeguard, and it is there, in 1988, that she met a young motorcycle courier named Andre Hanscombe. The couple fell in love, and a year later, Rachel gave birth to her son, Alexander Louis. Rachel and Andre never married, and there is no indication that they were even thinking about it.
Rachel decided to stop working, at least for then, and devoted herself to being a full-time mother, even though she had been offered work as a photographic model. Maybe when Alex was old enough, she would pursue her ambition to be a children’s television presenter, an ambition in which she no doubt would have excelled.
The young family moved to Balham, in South London, and life seemed perfect. Wimbledon is also in South London. Known throughout the world for hosting the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, people flock there in the summer to watch the matches and eat strawberry cream tarts at the afternoon teas in the pavilions.
But tennis is not the only thing the area is known for.