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Prosecuting Homicide

Murder and manslaughter are two of the offences that constitute homicide.

Manslaughter can be committed in one of three ways:

  1. killing with the intent for murder but where there is provocation, diminished responsibility or a suicide pact.
  2. conduct that was grossly negligent given the risk of death, and resulted in death.
  3. conduct, taking the form of an unlawful act involving a danger of some harm, that caused death.

With some exceptions, the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane):
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing)
  • any reasonable creature (human being)
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs)
  • under the Queen's Peace
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

There are other specific homicide offences, for example, infanticide, causing death by dangerous driving, and corporate manslaughter.

Find out more about prosecuting homicide

Robert Napper pleads guilty to manslaughter of Rachel Nickell


Robert Napper, currently detained at Broadmoor Hospital and charged with the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992, today offered a plea of guilty to her manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. This was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

CPS reviewing lawyer Hilary Bradfield said: "We are satisfied with this outcome. It has been over 16 years since Rachel Nickell was cruelly killed in the presence of her two year old son on Wimbledon Common, and since then the Metropolitan Police Service and the CPS have worked tirelessly to identify and convict her killer.

"We gave very careful consideration to the acceptability of this plea. Our case was based on Napper's DNA being found on Rachel Nickell, a paint flake from a tool box in his possession being found on her son, a shoe mark which could have come from Robert Napper's shoe, markings on an A-Z which showed the location of his previous assaults, similarities with those assaults and sightings of a similar man on the common at the time.

"Robert Napper has at last accepted that he killed Rachel Nickell and the two psychiatric reports which were prepared for the defence and prosecution are clear that he suffered from an abnormality of mind which substantially impaired his responsibility at the time. He is already detained in Broadmoor Hospital and the sentence today will mean that he stays there indefinitely.

"Metropolitan Police investigators and CPS lawyers have worked hard together as a team since May 2006 to build a reliable and solid case, following the initial DNA analysis initiated by the police. We authorised the charging of Robert Napper in November 2007 only after an exhaustive review of the integrity of the DNA findings and the strength of the supporting evidence."

Today's conviction follows the prosecution against Mr Colin Stagg. He was acquitted by the judge following legal argument in September 1994.

Mr Rene Barclay, head of CPS London's Special Casework team, said:

"We are thankful that after so long Rachel Nickell's family and friends have seen her killer brought to justice. At the same time we now consider it right to make a public statement about the prosecution of Mr Colin Stagg 15 years ago.

"As the court has heard, we accept that Mr Stagg was wholly innocent of the murder of Rachel Nickell. I have today written to Mr Stagg expressing our regret that a prosecution was brought against him in 1993 for an offence which, as we now know and have publicly stated in court, he did not commit.

"We hope that, justice having at last been done, the outcome of today's hearing will provide some measure of closure for the friends and family of Rachel Nickell."


  1. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office 020 7710 6088, Out of hours pager: 07699 781926
  2. Robert Napper is currently detained at Broadmoor Hospital following his October 1995 guilty pleas to the manslaughters of Samantha and Jasmine Bissett, and one count of rape and two of attempted rape each involving separate women. He had been sentenced to a Restriction Order to be detained indefinitely at Broadmoor Hospital under the Mental Health Act.
  3. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  4. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  5. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. The Protocol is published on our website at: