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  1. ITV Report

Paedophile Russell Bishop to be sentenced for Babes in the Woods double murder

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

A paedophile is due to be sentenced on Tuesday after being convicted of the Babes in the Woods murders involving two young girls - 32 years after their deaths.

Russell Bishop was found guilty of the killings of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, both aged nine, following a trial at the Old Bailey.

Bishop was just 20 when he sexually assaulted and strangled the youngsters in a woodland den in Brighton in 1986.

He was originally acquitted of their murders in 1987, almost 31 years ago.

But the 52-year-old was ordered to face a fresh trial under the double jeopardy law when new DNA evidence came to light, and he was convicted on Monday.

The girls' families gasped and wept in court as the jury delivered its verdict following just one hour and 39 minutes of deliberation.

Russell Bishop will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Credit: PA

Bishop's fresh trial came as he was serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl.

That attack, where he kidnapped, molested and throttled his victim before leaving her for dead at Devil's Dyke on the edge of Brighton, came within three years of the Babes in the Woods murders.

A Pinto sweatshirt discarded on Bishop's route home from the Babes in the Woods attack was linked to him by DNA while fibre, paint and ivy transfers placed it at the scene.

Tests on a sample from Karen's left forearm also revealed a "one in a billion" DNA match to Bishop.

During the initial search for the girls, Bishop joined in and claimed his dog Misty was a trained tracker.

The wooded area on the outskirts of Brighton where the girls' bodies were found. Credit: Sussex Police
The Pinto jumper which helped convict Bishop. Credit: PA

The murders shocked the UK in 1986 and the case is believed to be the oldest involving double jeopardy.

It was also Sussex Police's longest-running murder inquiry.

Both girls were afraid of the dark and Nicola's father had banned her from playing in Wild Park, even saying the "bogeyman" lived there, the trial heard.

At around dusk on October 9 1986, Bishop spotted the girls playing in the park near their home and seized his opportunity, the prosecution said.

During the attack, he punched Nicola in the face, to "subdue" or "punish" her for being disrespectful to his teenage girlfriend earlier that day, Brian Altman QC suggested.

The prosecutor pointed out Bishop's violent nature, saying he slapped his partner Jennie Johnson when she was pregnant with their second child.

Barrie Fellows, father of Nicola Fellows. Credit: PA

Following the search, the girls' bodies were eventually spotted by two 18-year-olds.

Afterwards, Bishop gave conflicting accounts to police, produced fake alibis, and described details of the murder scene which only the killer could have known.

In the original trial, the prosecution said the girls must have been killed before 6.30pm, by which time Bishop had been seen heading home on foot 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, both of whom he knew.

Bishop tailored his defence to the new forensic evidence, claiming he touched the girls to feel for a pulse, even though the 18-year-olds insisted he never got near.

Bishop in 1986. Credit: PA

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

During the two-month trial Nicola's father Barrie Fellows, 69, had been reduced to tears over the claims against him.

Bishop's defence also cast doubt on the forensic evidence, suggesting it could have been contaminated.

In light of the guilty verdict, Sussex Police has refused to rule out investigation her for perjury charges 31 years later.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bishop in the dock.

Bishop refused to attend court throughout the duration of his latest trial, whereas the mothers of both girls sat through the entire process for a second time.

Karen's father Lee died without seeing the girls' killer brought to justice.

Nigel Pilkington, of Crown Prosecution Service South East, said Bishop was an "extremely dangerous man" who had been convicted on "overwhelming and incontrovertible" evidence.

He said Bishop had tried to blame Nicola's father to create "the most havoc" possible, adding: "There is not a shred of evidence against Barrie Fellows, not realistically at all."