Monster Russell Bishop is found guilty of Babes in the Wood murders 32 years after killings

Monster Russell Bishop is found guilty of Babes in the Wood murders 32 years after killings

He was finally nailed by DNA advances linking his sweatshirt to nine-year-old victims Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows.

Bishop was cleared of the 1986 sex assaults and stranglings in a 1987 trial but jailed for attacking a third girl in 1990.

Double jeopardy laws introduced in 2003 meant he could be tried over Karen and Nicola again.

The girls’ mums Michelle Hadaway, 61, and Susan Fellows, 69, held hands and wept at the Old Bailey as the verdicts were read out following an eight-week hearing.

Speaking outside court, ­Michelle said: “After 32 years of fighting, we finally have justice for Karen and Nicola. Time stood still for us in 1986. To us, them beautiful girls will always be nine years old.

“They will never grow up. We’ve been deprived of a happy life to watch them grow into adults.

“What people like Bishop inflict on the families of their victims is a living death. They take the lives of children but they also take the lives of the families left behind.”

Michelle, who has remarried after first husband Lee died in 1998, added: “Kas and Nicky, as they were affectionately known, friends playing out together only to have their lives wiped out by a sexual deviant, a monster.”

In a joint statement, the Fellows family said: “Nicola and Karen. We will never forget their smiles that would light up a room. Their laughter. Their cheekiness.

“During the past eight weeks we have endured reliving the horrific details of their murders and we have learned an awful lot about the true meaning of heartbreak all over again.

“We stand here as two families united in our grief. United in our fight for justice. And now united in our elation at today’s guilty verdict.”

Barrie and Susan Fellows, who have split up, added: “The guilty verdict doesn’t bring Nicola and Karen back, but we know that other children are now safe from the hands of Russell Bishop.

“He is a monster. A predatory paedophile. Russell Bishop truly is evil personified.”

Bishop, 52, faces a life term when he is sentenced today. The court heard how he spotted the girls, from Moulsecoomb, Brighton, ­playing in Wild Park half a mile away after school.

The paedophile, then 19, played football for a team run by Barrie and went fishing with the Fellows’ lodger Dougie Judd.

The day after the killings Bishop joined the desperate search for the children, even claiming his dog Misty was a trained tracker.

He was nearby when two 18-year-olds spotted the bodies in thick undergrowth and rushed ahead of a police officer but was stopped before he reached them.

He later described details of the murder scene which only the killer could have known.

But the original case was hampered because the first pathologist on the scene did not take body temperatures — clouding the precise time of deaths.

Prosecutors said the girls must have died before 6.30pm, by which time Bishop had been seen walking home and the girls were spotted outside a fish and chip shop.

But in the retrial, jurors heard the time of death could have been later and Bishop simply doubled back to intercept the children.

The bungle meant roofer Bishop remained free — and in February 1990 he snatched a seven-year-old girl off the street in Brighton. He drove to a beauty spot called Devil’s Dyke where he sexually assaulted and strangled her.

She survived. He was jailed for life with a 14-year minimum tariff and has remained in prison since then.

The grieving families continued campaigning for justice and the DNA breakthrough came in 2014.

A blue Pinto sweatshirt discarded on Bishop’s route home was linked to him by DNA while fibres and ivy also placed it at the murder scene.

Tests on a sample from Karen’s left forearm also revealed a “one in a billion” DNA match to Bishop.

In the new trial he claimed he had felt for a pulse on the girls, but witnesses said he did not get near enough.

Acting on his instructions, his defence team then cast suspicion on Nicola’s father Barrie — suggesting police spent 32 years investigating the wrong man.

Mr Fellows left the courtroom in tears after being accused in the witness box of having killed the girls to cover up that he was sexually abusing his daughter.

After the verdict Crown Prosecution Service spokesman Nigel Pilkington said Bishop had tried to blame Nicola’s father to create “the most havoc” possible. He stressed: “There is not a shred of evidence against Barrie Fellows.”

Detective Supt Jeff Riley said the murders still cast “a shadow over Brighton to this day”.

He added: “I’m very proud of the investigation we have put together. We have been meticulous. We have never given up on this investigation.

Defence 'copy of Bellfield'

Bishop and Bellfield are both held at Frankland prison in Co Durham.

One ­theory is Bellfield could have influenced him to try to pin the murder on Nicola Fellows’ father.

Barrie Fellows was accused by the defence of murdering Nicola over a spurious claim by Bishop’s ex-girlfriend that she had seen him watch a video of his lodger having sex with his daughter.

Mr Fellows was arrested in 2009 but was soon cleared.

Bellfield had instructed his lawyer to grill Milly’s dad Bob in a bid to smear him at his trial in 2011.

A source close to the Bishop case said: “There have been mutterings over whether it is coincidental that Bishop is in the same prison as Bellfield.

“Both of them chose to instruct their lawyers to pour salt on the wounds of their victims’ fathers.”

Girlfriend 'lie probe'

Jennifer Johnson told police a blue sweatshirt found near the murder scene belonged to Bishop.
But in evidence at his 1987 trial she changed her story and denied it.
Vital DNA clues were later found on the jumper.
Det Supt Jeff Riley, of Sussex Police, refused to rule out an investigation.
And Nigel Pilkington, of the CPS, said: “If she had not changed her story it might have been a wholly different thing.”
At Bishop’s latest trial the jury heard he slapped and punched Ms Johnson while she was pregnant.

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