Nine North East murders which have gone unsolved for more than a decade

As the family of Noddy Rice mark 15 years since his killing, we look at his case and eight others from the North East which still have had the justice system stumped for more than 10 years.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 2:45 pm
Clockwise from top right: Nikki Allan, Kevin Nightingale, Noddy Rice and Stephen Sweeney
Clockwise from top right: Nikki Allan, Kevin Nightingale, Noddy Rice and Stephen Sweeney

Kevin Nightingale, South Shields

He had been shot outside his own front door as he returned home from work on February 17, 1996. He had been a doorman at former nightclub Oz, now a gym, for three years.

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Many believe he was targeted because he was trying to prevent drugs being taken into the club.

Three people charged with his murder walked free from court after the case against them was dropped for a second time in 2001.

Stephen Sweeney, from Hebburn

Stephen Sweeney was found slumped over his desk at the Cascade furniture factory he ran in Stoneygate Industrial Estate, Felling, by his partner Carol Taylor and their seven-year-old daughter Siobhan on July 8, 1998.

The 45-year-old of Riverside, Hebburn, had been shot several times at point-blank range.

But despite 60 detectives working on the case, his killer has never been found. Investigations did, however, paint a picture of shady dealings and a firm in financial trouble.

Officers made a fresh appeal in 2018 on the 20th anniversary of the killing in the hope of bringing those responsible to justice. The case remains unsolved.

Julie Perigo, Sunderland

The 51-year-old mother of two, who worked as a prostitute, was found stabbed to death in her flat in Kidderminster Road, Downhill, on May 23 1986.

The former stripper, who had been divorced twice, regularly advertised in sex contact magazines. She was seen alive on Friday May 16.

Despite a nationwide manhunt and almost 6,000 people interviewed, including an extensive list of her clients which had been kept in her diaries, the case remains unsolved.

In May 2020, police insisted they continued to investigate the killing.

Peter Beaumont Gowling, Newcastle

A convicted drug-money courier, the 52-year-old was found dead at his luxury flat on Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle, by his girlfriend just before midnight on St Valentine's Day 2001.

He had been shot several times in the head, chest and back, with a small-calibre handgun.

Peter Beaumont Gowling, who also known as David Simpson, had been released from jail only three weeks earlier, having been jailed in 1997 for his involvement in a massive drug-money-laundering operation.

Nikki Allan, Sunderland

In one of the most notorious unsolved murders in the region, eight-year-old Nikki Allan's battered body was found in a pool of blood in the then-derelict Quayside Exchange building.

The youngster had been heading for her home from her grandparents house just 150 yards away on October 7 1982 when she vanished.

The building where she met her terrible end was just 300 yards from her own family home.

She had been stabbed 37 times in the chest and abdomen, while a brick had been used to hit her in the head.

A new team was set up to investigate Nikki’s brutal death in April 2017, and on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, they announced they had been successful in recovering new DNA from an unknown male.

Officers arrested a man in connection with the inquiry into Nikki’s death in April 2018.

The man – whose details were not made public – was questioned on suspicion of murdering the youngster, and released.

Police said in 2020 that he remains under investigation.

Paul Logan, County Durham/Northumberland

Apparently having been lured to his violent end, the takeaway delivery driver was found battered to death in December 1993.

The 25-year-old father-of-two from Blackhill, Consett, County Durham, took a call at the Golden Flower Chinese restaurant in Shotley Bridge where he worked, asking for a meal to be delivered to the remote Blue House farm on the Northumberland and County Durham border.

His killers lay in wait and his body was left in deep snow next to his Peugeot 205 car. 10 men were arrested in 1997, but were later released on bail.

Viv Graham, Wallsend

One of the most notorious gangland-linked killings in the North East, Tyneside hardman Viv Graham was killed on New Year's Eve 1993 after leaving The Queen's Head pub in Wallsend.

Killers smashed a window in the 34-year-old's Ford Cosworth, then shot him three times at point-blank range in the legs and chest with a Magnum handgun.

Left bleeding in the street, he dragged himself 30 yards to try to get help before collapsing. He died at North Tyneside General Hospital four hours later surrounded by his family.

The killers escaped in a car later found burnt out in Heaton.

A huge murder enquiry saw more than 1,000 people quizzed, but so far no one has ever been convicted of killing the former pub and club doorman.

John Welch, Newcastle

Father-of-two John Welch was killed at the Swallow Hotel - now called the Chasley - in Newgate Street, Newcastle.

Forty-five year old Mr Welch, from Lincoln, worked for a subsidiary of Ladbrokes and was on Tyneside to wind up the Macau Casino. He was due to meet colleagues for dinner and, when he didn't show up, they phoned the hotel.

Detectives believe that Welch went to answer a knock at the door and was confronted by the killer who hit him over the head.

A post-mortem examination revealed he suffered serious head injuries.

David ‘Noddy’ Rice, South Shields

David ‘Noddy’ Rice, 42, was shot multiple times at close range on May 24, 2006, as he sat in his vehicle at Marsden car park.

Two men fled the scene and the father-of-seven was taken to hospital but died as a result of his injuries.

Two men received prison sentences after the killing.

Steven Bevens, of Birtley, who lured Mr Rice to the scene, was later caught and jailed for life in 2007 for his role in the murder, and driver Derek Blackburn, who lived in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire at the time, was also sentenced to two-and-a-half years for assisting an offender.

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