Nikki Conroy: 20 years on, what has been done to improve school safety?

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Media captionNikki Conroy was one of three pupils stabbed at Hall Garth School in 1994

It is 20 years since 12-year-old Nikki Conroy was fatally stabbed by an intruder at her school in Middlesbrough. Her friends and family are coming together to celebrate her life, but just what has been done since then to stop a similar tragedy happening again?

"We were just an ordinary family, in an ordinary town and, later, you think it does happen to ordinary people, in an ordinary town."

For Diane Conroy, the unthinkable happened.

On the morning of 28 March 1994, an ordinary day at her daughter's school was disturbed by an intruder making his way through the building and into a second-floor classroom.

Aiming a gun at the head of a boy, he ordered the teacher out of the room, lined the children up and began attacking them with a knife.

In the seconds before staff could overpower him, Stephen Wilkinson stabbed three girls. Diane's daughter, 12-year-old Nikki, was killed.

A sense of bewilderment followed at how such a thing could happen, in a quiet suburb of Middlesbrough, and Hall Garth School became the focus of national attention.

An image of Nikki, beaming from a school photograph, flashed around the world.

The Conroy family were inundated with support, a note from Prince Charles sitting alongside the touching gesture of a mystery pensioner who sent them a solitary pound coin.

One of the tragedies of Hall Garth is that it was a portent of worse to come.

Image caption Two years after Nikki's death, the Dunblane Massacre brought school safety back into focus

Two years later came the Dunblane massacre, in which 16 children were shot dead by Thomas Hamilton.

It had echoes of Middlesbrough in that an intruder had been able to make his way into the building, but this time the consequences were even more devastating.

Then, in July 1996, nursery nurse Lisa Potts was injured as she shielded 18 infants from machete-wielding Horrett Campbell during a teddy bears' picnic in the grounds of St Luke's Church of England Primary School in Wolverhampton.

Tragedies such as those led to calls for improved security in UK schools.

In 2006, the then Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, gave England's schools the go-ahead to install airport-style security scanners in a bid to combat knife crime.

The most common security measure introduced has been the deployment of CCTV cameras.

By 2012, it was estimated that there were more than 100,000 cameras in schools across England, Scotland and Wales.

Elsewhere, security fences and swipe cards have been mooted as ways to prevent children's safety being threatened.

Link never broken

In 1995, Nikki Conroy's family attended Leeds Crown Court as her killer was convicted of manslaughter with diminished responsibility.

Ordinary life did eventually return to Hall Garth, where a memorial garden was created in Nikki's honour.

But life could never be the same again for Peter and Diane Conroy or Nikki's brother, John.

She has never been forgotten though.

On the evening of the anniversary of her death, friends and family will gather at a charity event to celebrate her short life.

It has been organised by Lee Bowes, now 33, who was her boyfriend at the time she died.

"We want to focus on her life, not on her passing," said Mr Bowes.

"She was a really lovely person, just a beautiful girl. We all feel blessed we had the chance to share a part of Nikki in our lives."

Hall Garth School no longer exists. It was demolished and a new one built on the site.

But the link with Nikki can never be broken, and so the new school library was named after her.

Today, Nikki's classmates are in their thirties. Their lives went on beyond the horrors of that day in classroom 8MR.

The anniversary will be a moment to remember Nikki - the ordinary girl, at an ordinary school, who became the victim of an extraordinary crime.

Image caption Nikki's parents, Peter and Diane Conroy, are to celebrate her life at an anniversary event

And for the Conroy family, another year has passed without their daughter. A year after Nikki died, her dad, Peter, expressed how he felt to lose his child.

"Whatever happens now," he said, "there will always be a but.

"We'll say we had a marvellous holiday but Nikki wasn't there. If we bought a new car, we'd say but Nikki never saw it. If we won the lottery, it would be nice, but it isn't important because she isn't there.

"Everything has a but."

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