NIKKI Allen, the seven-year-old girl who was beaten to death in

Sunderland on Wednesday night, was seen begging outside a public house

before she was abducted, police said yesterday.

Police believe that the customers in the Boar's Head, Sunderland, on

Wednesday may hold vital clues to the killing. Nikki was clubbed to

death and left in a pool of blood in a disused warehouse after

disappearing from outside her home in Wear Garth, Sunderland, Tyne and


Witnesses have told detectives that they saw her at around 10pm -- 10

minutes after she was last seen by her mother -- standing alone outside

the pub. ''She was asking people for money,'' said a Northumbria police


Detectives are trying to trace everyone who visited the pub on the

Wednesday night. Last night they said that a man rang their incident

room on Thursday to say that a 14-year-old girl had told him that a

bloodstained man she saw on Wednesday night claimed he had just murdered


''The call was anonymous. Police appeal for the male caller and/or the

girl to contact them,'' said the spokesman.

Detective Superintendent George Sinclair, leading the murder inquiry,

said that the killer may be a local man, possibly known to Nikki. Police

think that he led her away from the Boar's Head down High Street East or

Lower Road.

Mr Sinclair appealed to anyone in the area at the time to contact

police. ''Provided we get the assistance of the public, I have no doubt

we will conclude the inquiry,'' he said. The incident room had received

more than 100 calls in the first 24 hours of the murder inquiry.

A post-mortem examination showed that Nikki was beaten to death but

found no signs of a sexual assault -- however, Mr Sinclair did not rule

out a sexual element to the attack. ''It may have started off as a

sexual motive but may have stopped, resulting in the girl being


He said that police thought the killer was familiar with the High

Street West warehouse where Nikki's body was found in the basement. ''It

is a dark place down there, not very well-lit. It's a dangerous place to

be unless you know the place.''

Police said that Nikki's mother Mrs Sharon Allen, 25, was still deeply

shocked and under sedation.

Mr Sinclair said it was possible that Nikki was asking for cash for

Halloween outside the pub. ''She was apparently asking people for money

and that is not inconceivable as Halloween approaches.''

He added: ''It is possible that Nikki's killer may have been drinking

in the Boar's Head that night. But at the moment I am keeping an open


Nikki's schoolfriends prayed for her in a tribute at St John's and St

Patrick's Primary, Sunderland. Acting headmaster Mr Bill Cairns said:

''She was a beautiful girl who will be dearly missed. We prayed that we

could all be strong together until this terrible black cloud has blown


''We know it is not going to be easy, and that the children will go on

shedding tears. But we hope eventually we can put this horrible event

behind us.''

Nikki's grandfather made an appeal for help in tracking down her

killer. Mr Richard Prest, 51, said: ''Nikki was the apple of my eye, I

thought the world of her. We have to catch this monster before he

strikes again.''

A former dock worker, who lives just 100 yards from Nikki's home in

Wear Garth, Mr Prest said the family has been overwhelmed by the

sympathy and support from friends and neighbours.

Nikki's uncle, Mr Terry Clark, 33, said: ''The whole family is

devastated by this tragedy. I don't imagine we will ever come to terms

with it. Nikki was a great little girl, loved by everybody, and her life

didn't deserve to end this way.''

He said he believed she had been snatched, because she had been warned

never to go with strangers. ''She wasn't the sort of girl who would just

go off. She knew the dangers.''