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‘Babes in the wood’ murderer Russell Bishop jailed for at least 36 years

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A convicted paedophile who was found guilty of murdering two nine-year-old girls in 1986 has been jailed for life.

Russell Bishop, 52, was tried for the second time over the deaths of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway when new evidence linked him to the crime after he was cleared of their murders in 1987.

The girls were sexually assaulted and strangled in a den in Wild Park, Brighton, more than three decades ago.

He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years.

Russell Bishop pictured in about 1988 after he was acquitted of the murders of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows
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Russell Bishop pictured in about 1988 after he was acquitted of the murders of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows

Bishop declined to attend the Old Bailey to hear his sentencing.

He was initially acquitted of the murders but tests revealed a “one-in-a-billion” DNA match from a sample taken from Karen’s left forearm.

A Pinto sweatshirt which had been discarded on Bishop’s route home was linked to him by DNA, whlie fibre, paint and ivy transfers placed it at the scene of the crime.

Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows were murdered in October 1986
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Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows were murdered in October 1986

Their mothers described Bishop, who was aged 20 at the time, as an “evil monster” after 32 years of fighting for justice.

Speaking after the Old Bailey verdict, 31 years to the day Bishop was first acquitted, Karen’s mother Michelle Hadaway said she was “relieved”.

Although Bishop, a former roofer, was originally cleared of the “babes in the wood” murders, within three years he was sentenced to life for the kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl at Devil’s Dyke on the South Downs.

Two 18-year-olds found the girls' bodies in Wild Park. Pic: Sussex Police
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Two 18-year-olds found the girls’ bodies in Wild Park. Pic: Sussex Police

Giving evidence earlier in the trial, Bishop said he feared he would be blamed when he joined the search to find the girls on 10 October 1986.

He told jurors he had been wrongly arrested in connection to a bombing at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, and said he had been “sickened” when he first saw the victims’ bodies in the woods after the girls had been found.

He had also tried to cast suspicion on Nicola’s father Barrie.

A jury at the Old Bailey took just two-and-a-half-hours to convict Bishop.

Evidence showed Bishop left skin flakes containing his DNA on the girls' arms. Pic: Sussex Police
Image:
Evidence showed Bishop left skin flakes containing his DNA on the girls’ arms. Pic: Sussex Police

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.”

Sue Eissman, Nicola’s mother, 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.”

A memorial tree stands in Wild Park where the girls' bodies were found
Image:
A memorial tree stands in Wild Park where the girls’ bodies were found

Mr Fellows, Nicola’s father, who had been accused of the murders, 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.”

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