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  1. ITV Report

Babes in the Woods killer Russell Bishop jailed for minimum of 36 years

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

Babes in the Woods "monster" Russell Bishop has been jailed for at least 36 years for the murders of two schoolgirls 32 years ago.

The 52-year-old convicted paedophile was found guilty of killing nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway on Monday, bringing to an end two families' long fight for justice.

Bishop was 20 years old when he sexually assaulted and strangled the girls in a woodland den in Brighton in October 1986.

He was cleared of their murders on December 10 1987, but within three years went on to kidnap, molest and throttle a seven-year-old girl, leaving her for dead at Devils Dyke.

While serving life for attempted murder, Bishop was ordered to face a fresh trial under the double jeopardy law in light of a DNA breakthrough.

Karen Hadaway (l) and Nicola Fellows were murdered in 1986. Credit: PA

A Pinto sweatshirt discarded on Bishop's route home was linked to the defendant 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.

Bishop responded by trying to cast suspicion on Nicola’s devastated father Barrie.

He tailored his evidence to counter the new forensic evidence, claiming to have touched the bodies to feel for a pulse after they were found by two 18-year-olds.

But jurors took just one hour and 39 minutes to see through the web of lies and convict Bishop on the "overwhelming" evidence on the 31st anniversary of his acquittal.

Bishop refused to attend court for his sentencing at the Old Bailey.

Handing him a life sentence on Tuesday with a minimum term of 36 years, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “I have no doubt that you were a predatory paedophile.

“The terror that each girl must have suffered in their final moments is unimaginable.

Members of the girls' families wept and hugged each other after the verdict.

Michelle Hadaway, the mother of Karen Hadaway, left, with Barrie Fellows and Sue Eismann, the parents of Nicola Fellows Credit: PA

Karen's mother Michelle Hadaway said Bishop was an "evil monster".

In a victim impact statement, she said: "Finally justice has been done and Bishop has been seen as the evil monster he really is.

"On October 15 this year he was tried for the second time. That trial has lasted for a couple of months and has finally led to conviction. This is the result we should have had 31 years ago. Having to go through a second trial has been traumatic and heartbreaking for me and my family."

Sue Eismann, Nicola's mother, told how her world "turned upside down" after the death of her daughter.

On her feelings about Bishop, she said: "I have lived with the pain, the loss and sheer hate towards him for what he had done for the last 32 years.

"Russell Bishop is a horrible, wicked man. No child is safe if he is allowed to be free."

Barrie Fellows said the loss of Nicola destroyed his relationship with his wife, saying it "tore us apart".

On the false accusations he has faced over the murders, he said: "Thirty-two years is a long time to be suspected of murdering your daughter. When they arrested and charged Russell Bishop I thought that would be the end and we would get some closure. It did not pan out like that.

"Since the trial began I have been through every feeling imaginable from hope to sheer dread.

"Words cannot describe how I feel about Russell Bishop and the effect it has had on people's lives."

Bernie Wells, a former superintendent who led the first Babes investigation, said the murder "stopped children playing in the park" and left the community "devastated".

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Wells said that he always feared Bishop would strike again.

"My reaction when he was convicted [over the Babes in the Woods] was one of joy," Mr Wells said.

"Not because he was convicted, not because I felt we'd got our own back on him. Purely and simply because ever since that first one - the two girls - I always thought he would do it again. And he did do it again.

"Unfortunately that young girl the second time had to go through an awful ordeal."

Mr Wells told ITV News that Bishop was someone who would "always, always, always" pose a danger to young children and felt relieved the 52-year-old would likely never be released.

"I can understand his mother, for instance, being disappointed," Mr Wells said.

"But, if she really analysed it and realised what he's done, I'm sure even she would think the right place for him is in prison."

Speaking of the girls' families, Mr Wells said he struggled to come to terms with the loss they had suffered.

"I never blamed myself for losing the first case, not at all. I think we did everything we could to bring the case to a successful conclusion," he said.

"We failed, but my guess is that although they'll be pleased to know that he won't be out and able to do it again, they are still feeling the anguish of losing those two little girls."