A MIDDLE-aged man was today (Thursday, February 20) arrested over the unsolved murder of a North-East schoolgirl 22 years ago.

Seven-year-old Nikki Allan was stabbed 37 times and bludgeoned with a brick a short distance from her home in Sunderland in October 1992.

A neighbour was charged with her murder but was acquitted after the judge at his trial in 1994 ruled that police conduct had been “oppressive”.

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An appeal for information and a reconstruction that was featured on the BBC1 TV programme Crimewatch last September led to a woman coming forward with what detectives described as significant information.

Today (Thursday, February 20) Northumbria Police arrested a 43-year-old man over the schoolgirl’s murder.

He was taken into custody this morning and was later released on bail pending further inquiries.

In October 1992 Nikki, who was one of four sisters, vanished after leaving her grandparents’ flat in Wear Garth, in the east end of Sunderland, to walk to her home just 150 yards away.

Her body was found in a nearby derelict building, The Old Exchange, the following day by a neighbour who was helping police search for the missing youngster.

A neighbour was later charged with Nikki’s murder.

He confessed to the killing but the judge ruled that the police had used “oppressive methods” during questioning and he was found not guilty.

The Crimewatch reconstruction led to important information being provided to the investigation team.

Detectives are still appealing for anyone with information about the case to come forward.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said officers were “particularly keen to speak to anyone who lived in the Wear Garth area at the time of the murder or anyone who hung around or inside the Old Exchange Building.”

At the time of the programme, Nikki’s mother Sharon Henderson, 48, said that she hoped her daughter’s killer would eventually be caught and convicted.

Ms Henderson said: 'I want to see the killer behind bars."

Anyone who thinks they have any information that could help detectives with their inquiries is asked to call the Northumbria force on 101, extension 69191.