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Brighton Journal | 21st February 2020

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Brighton’s Babes in the Woods murderer found guilty 31 years after acquittal

Brighton’s Babes in the Woods murderer found guilty 31 years after acquittal
Hannah Midgley

The ‘Babes in the Wood’ murderer will be sentenced today following the guilty verdict over three decades after the killings of the two girls.

Russell Bishop was found guilty of killing Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows in what has been described as the most notorious and long-running murder case in the history of Sussex Police.

On Monday 10 December, Bishop, 52, was found guilty of their deaths following a nine-week trial at the Old Bailey, London for the case he was acquitted of 31 years prior to the day.

In 1987, Bishop was cleared of the girls’ murders in Wild Park Moulsecoomb, Brighton, whose bodies were found sexually assaulted and strangled in undergrowth after being reported missing on the evening of Thursday 9 October 1986.

In a joint statement, the families said: “We are extremely relieved and grateful that our 32 years hard fought battle has been a success, finally getting the rightful long-awaited justice for both of our girls.”

Bishop was found guilty on the 31st anniversary of his acquittal of the girls’ murders.

Russell Bishop, then aged 20, who lived locally and knew the girls’ families, was arrested on suspicion of their murders on 31 October and charged on 3 December 1986.

A year later, Bishop was found not guilty by a jury, acquitted of the murders, and walked a free man.

Just years later in 1990, he was convicted of kidnapping, indecent assault and attempted murder a seven-year-old girl who he had left for dead at Devil’s Dyke, South Downs, and sentenced to a term of life imprisonment.

Fifteen years later, new double jeopardy laws and a DNA breakthrough meant there was new evidence for the ‘Babes in the Wood’ trial to be reordered against Bishop.

New DNA evidence came from a blue Pinto sweatshirt belonging to bishop’s former partner, Jennifer Johnson, who initially denied identification of it in the first trial.

in 2016, Sussex Police and their investigation team had gathered substantial and reliable evidence to re-interview Russell Bishop, leading to his arrest in May the same year.


Russell Bishop, then and now © Sussex Police


A DNA breakthrough and new laws led to the rearrest of Bishop for the girls’ murders.

Karen’s mother, 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-year-olds.

“What’s been hard, horrendous and heartbreaking is to hear that they were murdered by a disgusting paedophile, who we actually knew and the two girls liked and trusted.

“People talk to me of forgiveness but I can never forgive or forget what the evil monster did to my beautiful Kaz and Nicky.”

The court heard Bishop had stopped the girls playing and attacked them, and he had joined the search for Nicola and Karen, claiming his dog was a trained tracker.

The jury after two hours and 45 minutes of deliberation found Bishop guilty of both murders.

This high profile case has continuously affected people across Brighton and Hove over the past few decades.

Lee Hadaway, Karen’s father, died in 1998.

“We finally have justice for Karen and Nicola.”

Detective Superintendent Jeff Riley said: “Russell Bishop is a truly wicked man and has rightly now been convicted of these dreadful crimes.”

Paying tribute to the Sussex Police investigation team and forensic experts involved in the case, DS Riley added: “We had never forgotten or given up on the case, which over the years has been the subject of continual review and forensic developments.

“I sincerely hope that the families can now find some peace, and move forward to the next chapter of their lives.”

Bishop will be sentenced today and must be present in court during the hearing.


Watch the moment Bishop was rearrested for the murders of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows two years ago. 

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