October 2018

‘Babes in the Wood’ murders

Some of the most sophisticated DNA techniques known to modern science have been used finally to prove the guilt of a predatory paedophile who got away with murdering two nine-year-old girls in 1986, a court heard.

Russell Bishop, now 52, sexually assaulted and strangled Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows in a Brighton park, but escaped justice when he was acquitted by a murder trial jury in 1987, the Old Bailey was told.

Three years after that acquittal, in February 1990, Bishop grabbed a seven-year-old girl off the street, bundled her into the boot of a stolen car, and strangled and sexually assaulted her before leaving her for dead in gorse bushes at the Devil’s Dyke beauty spot in Sussex.

Now a convicted sex offender, Bishop is being retried in connection with the murders of Karen and Nicola after the Court of Appeal quashed his 1987 acquittal.

He has always denied killing the girls.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC, however, told the jury that while DNA profiling had been in its infancy in 1986: “The science has developed over the years, allowing far greater sensitivity than was possible before.”

As a result, he said, the forensic samples collected in 1986 now represent a “time capsule” that can be used to provide “devastating evidence” against Bishop.

Mr Altman said that in 2014 forensic samples collected in 1986 were re-examined by Eurofins, a private laboratory, using DNA-17 short tandem repeat (DNA-17 STR) testing, “which was a very new technique and was accepted to be the most sensitive available”.

The samples, Mr Altman added, were also analysed using Y23 Y-STR profiling, a sensitive technique specific to male DNA.

Mr Altman told the jury that when skin flakes collected from Karen’s left forearm in 1986 were analysed using the new DNA methods

“They produced a very significant finding. The majority of the DNA detected formed an incomplete STR profile matching that of the defendant.”

Components matching Bishop’s Y-STR profile were also found on the skin flakes, Mr Altman said.

Taken together, the new profiling results provided “extremely strong support” for the conclusion that Bishop’s DNA had got on to Karen’s forearm, the court heard.

Mr Altman told the jury: “The DNA findings would be approximately one billion times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant, Karen and an unknown person, rather than if DNA was present from Karen and two unknown people.”

Mr Altman said these new techniques could also be used to prove what fibre evidence had suggested in 1986: that a light blue ‘Pinto’ branded sweatshirt found discarded on the night of the murder was the top that Bishop had been wearing when he killed the girls.

Mr Altman said DNA-17 STR analysis of skin flakes taken from the outside of the sweatshirt in 1986 produced findings that “would be in excess of one billion times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant”.

He added that 2014 analysis of a sample taken from the sweatshirt’s inside right sleeve produced results that would have been roughly 39,000 times more likely if Bishop’s DNA was present.

Mr Altman said this was “assessed as providing very strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present.”

Mr Altman told the jury that the 2014 analysis, combined with re-examinations conducted using modern forensic techniques in 2005 and 2012, “Are devastating for the defendant.

“They prove scientifically not only that he was the wearer of the Pinto [sweatshirt] and that garment was connected to his home environment, but also that it is linked to the two girls and therefore their murder.”

Karen and Nicola, friends on the Moulsecoomb council estate in the north of Brighton, were killed after they went out to play on the evening October 9 1986.

The prosecution alleges that Bishop killed the girls in a ‘den’ in Wild Park, Brighton, and then joined the search for the missing nine-year-olds in a “cynical and deliberate attempt to divert attention away from himself.”

The investigation into the deaths of Karen and Nicola has become the largest and longest running enquiry that Sussex Police has ever known.

The trial continues.

Paedophile who murdered two young girls gave himself away with details only killer could have known

A predatory paedophile gave himself away by telling police and friends details of how two nine-year-old girls had been found murdered that only the killer could have known, a court heard.

Russell Bishop, 52, gave a statement to police describing how the bodies of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were huddled together with blood-coloured foam on the latter girls’ lips.

The only problem, said Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, was that despite what he claimed, Bishop had not been close enough to the bodies when they were discovered to have been able to pick out such detail.

Instead, Mr Altman alleged, Bishop only knew the detail because he had sexually assaulted and murdered the girls the day before, in Wild Park, Brighton, on October 9 1986.

“There is simply no possibility that the defendant could have been in possession of the detail of the precise situation and position of the girls and the foam or froth on Nicola’s lips unless he had seen it with his own eyes from very close,” Mr Altman explained.

“The difficulty is he just could not have seen what he claims at the time of the finding as he did not get close enough to see it with such detail.

“That leaves only one possibility: he was able to describe what he did because that is how he left those two little girls, having killed and sexually assaulted them.”

The Old Bailey also heard claims that Bishop had seemed “grief-stricken” when he falsely claimed to a friend that he had been one of those who saw the bodies when they were discovered.

“If he did appear to be grief-stricken,” Mr Altman said, “Then he was playacting.”

Days later, Mr Altman said, Bishop told a very different story to another friend who asked about his reaction on finding the bodies.

“In in stark relief to the [earlier] grief-stricken impression,” said Mr Altman, “The defendant told his friend that it did not bother him at all.”

Bishop, the court heard, also added the detail that “One [girl] was lying on her back and the other one was lying across the other one’s stomach”.

The prosecution alleges that only the murderer or those who discovered the bodies could have known this.

Bishop denies murdering the two girls.

The prosecution, however, claims he cheated justice when a jury cleared him of killing the girls after he was put on trial for their murder in 1987. 

Three years after walking free from that 1987 murder trial, Bishop kidnapped, indecently assaulted and attempted to kill a seven-year-old girl in Brighton, in February 1990.  The girl survived and Bishop was convicted for this attack.

The prosecution is now putting forward new DNA evidence to support its claim that Bishop strangled and murdered the girls, before joining the search for them in a “cynical and deliberate attempt to divert attention away from himself.”

During this search, Mr Altman said, Bishop also gave himself away with “pre-emptive, semi-confessional statements” suggesting the girls were dead when everyone else searching for them thought they might still be alive.

Mr Altman described to the jury how Bishop went through the charade of pretending to get his pet dog Misty to try to track the scent of the girls while in the company of PC Christopher Markham.

The court how after Bishop said the dog had “lost the scent” PC Markham proposed rejoining the other searchers.

Mr Altman told the jury that Bishop “then said, quite suddenly, that he would not like to continue searching on his own in case he found anything, adding he would ‘hate to find the girls, especially if they had been messed up’.

“PC Markham was taken aback by this, as it simply had not occurred to him that the girls might be found dead; he had assumed they would be found alive.”

The court heard that later that afternoon, Bishop told PC Paul Smith who was searching in Wild Park: “I reckon they [the girls] have either gone north or if they’re here they’re finished”.

The jury was told that Bishop then said he was not searching any more, explaining, “because, well if I found the girls and if they were done in I’d get the blame, I’d get nicked”.

Mr Altman told the jury: “If the defendant had nothing to do with the girls’ disappearance and was innocent of their murders, you might well wonder why, even before they had been found, he was the one raising the prospect that they might be found dead and that if he found them he would get the blame for it.”

Mr Altman said that as Bishop was being driven home after giving his police statement on the night the girls’ bodies were discovered, he told officers that he thought he was “the number one suspect.”

Five days later, when questioned again by the police, the 20-year-old Bishop became agitated and started contradicting himself during the course of a single interview, the court heard.

Mr Altman said that he at first “flatly denied” having gone into the area where the bodies were found, even when shown his earlier statement in which he had claimed to have touched them to check for pulses.

The court heard Bishop said the claim to have checked for a pulse had been included in his earlier signed statement by mistake.

“You may think that was some mistake to make,” Mr Altman said.

Mr Altman added that Bishop’s story veered back and forth in the same interview between having checked for a pulse and having not done so.  When the police asked him to explain his changes of mind, Mr Altman said, “He could not answer and became agitated.

“He insisted the truth was that he did not touch the bodies and said what he had said to feel important.”

Mr Altman said that during a third interview, on November 1 1986, Bishop said the closest he got to the girls was between 7ft and 8ft.

“He accepted that when he had said he could see blood-flecked foam on Nicola’s mouth, that was a lie,” Mr Altman said.  “He said he had been guessing when he had said that before.”

Mr Altman added that when Bishop was arrested on suspicion of murder and cautioned, “His response was to say, ‘No, no, it’s not me, f*ck off, leave it out.’”

The trial continues. 

October 2014

Child rapist who was prime suspect in 1986 Babes in the Wood murders could be free in six months after Justice Secretary approves his case for review

The child sex attacker who was the prime suspect in the notorious ‘Babes in the Wood’ murders in 1986 could soon walk free from jail.

Tragic Nicola Fellows, 10, and Karen Hadaway, nine, went missing 28 years ago today and their bodies were later found in a park in Brighton, East Sussex.

Russell Bishop, then 19, was found not guilty of the killings a year later but was jailed for life for the attempted murder and rape of another young girl in 1991.

Now Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has approved his case for review in a decision which could see Bishop walk free from prison.

Nicola and Karen, who were neighbours on an estate in Brighton, were last seen alive on October 9, 1986, after going out to play.

Relatives and friends, including Bishop, also from Brighton, joined more than 150 police officers in a hunt for the girls.

They were found strangled in the city’s Wild Park the next day, huddled together with Karen’s head resting on her friend’s lap.

Police believed they knew their killer and arrested Bishop – then a teenager who lodged at Nicola’s house for a short time – three weeks later.

He was charged with double murder but was cleared at a trial at Lewes Crown Court in December 1987.

Bishop was later sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of the abduction, molestation and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl.

He is serving a life sentence for those crimes and is one of the longest-serving prisoners in the country not convicted of murder.

The latest decision by the Justice Secretary will see a ruling on whether he should be released from the prison within six months.

A statement from the parole board said: ‘We can confirm that it has received a referral of Russell Bishop’s case from the Secretary of State for Justice and that his case is currently under review.’

Bishop has always denied the murders, but his potential freedom comes as a blow to the girls’ families, who remember them at the scene of their death each year.

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Nicola’s uncle, Nigel Heffron, 60, recently spoke of his ‘frustration’ at the lack of answers over the crime.

Mr Heffron said: ‘Each year we hold a vigil in the park by the memorial and go there to remember them.

‘It is a cold case. We haven’t had any updates from the police. Each year goes into the other and we still look for answers.’

Mr Heffron’s brother, Ian, has  said of Bishop’s potential freedom: ‘This is something that stops Nicky and Karen’s families from being able to get on with their lives, even after this long.

‘Every two years we have to go through this. We need him to be locked up for life and to get justice for Nicky and Karen to ever get any closure.’

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Timeline

October 1986 Nicola and Karen were snatched off the street close to their homes in the Moulsecoomb estate in Brighton after going out to play. Their bodies were found the following day, huddled together in a nearby park. Bishop, who knew both girls, was arrested three weeks later.

December 1987 A jury took a little over two hours to find the roof tiler Bishop, then 19, not guilty of the murders.

1991 Bishop was jailed for life for the kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl from Brighton two miles from where Nicola and Karen were found.

2005 A repeal of double jeopardy laws meant Bishop could have faced a fresh trial if substantial evidence came to light, but the following year, the High Court ruled there was not enough evidence.

2014 Justice Secretary Chris Grayling approves his case for parole for review. A decision is expected in the next six months.

The murders became known as the Babes in the Wood murders after the children’s tale. The then teenager Russell Bishop, who knew both girls and once lodged at Nicola’s home in Brighton was acquitted in 1987 of the double killing which remains one of the country’s most notorious unsolved crimes

He was cleared on both murder charges at his trial in December 1987, and the case remains open. 

During his trial, a jury heard they died without a struggle, suggesting Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows knew their killer – and the jury heard Bishop was well acquainted with the girls.

A blue and white sweatshirt was found on the route Bishop would have taken home, a garment he denied owning.

The shirt became a key item in the case against him with the prosecution claiming scientific evidence proved he was the murderer of the girls, aged nine and 10, in Brighton.

Jurors heard fibres on the sweatshirt matched those on theclothes worn by Karen and Nicola when they were killed in 1986.

And ivy spores on the sweatshirt were said to have matched those at the crime scene.

But jurors could not be persuaded the sweatshirt had belonged to the defendant.

It took them only two hours to acquit the unemployed labourer, after which police said they had no plans to reopen the inquiry.

During the trial, jurors were told by the defence that the suggestion that one man had killed the girls was “unlikely if not downright absurd”.

At the time the trial was taking place, lawyers representing Bishop also appealed for witnesses to the murders to come forward, in bids to identify the girls’ killer.

One young person was said to have made three “highly relevant” telephone calls to a defence solicitor, but had only given their first name and had sounded “terrified”.

Double jeopardy seemed to eliminate any possibility that Bishop might one day face a new trial for the murders, but new legislation in 2005 meant that a criminal could face a new trial for a crime if substantial new evidence came to light. In September 2006, the High Court decided that there was not enough for Bishop to face a second trial for the murders

In February, 1990, a seven-year-old girl was abducted, stripped, violently sexually assaulted and partially strangled near Brighton. She was found alive at the Devil’s Dyke, a beauty spot nearby. More than one witness saw a red Ford Cortina near the scene of the kidnap, and the suspect in the case of Nicola and Karen was driving that type of car. He was arrested as a suspect again.

In December, 1990, he stood in the same dock in the same court as he had done three years earlier, accused of kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder. His defence was that he was nowhere near the scene and that the police had “fitted him up.” He was convicted and sentenced to life. 

By 2007, Bishop was still in prison and one of the longest serving prisoners in Britain not to be serving a sentence for murder

The man maintains that he is innocent of both crimes, but the surviving parents of Nicola and Karen believe he murdered their daughters. With DNA technology developments in mind, the police are re-assessing the case. Despite reports of the man’s imminent release, he remains in prison.

Russell Bishop (born 1966 in Brighton, Sussex, England) is a convicted child molester and abductor

Bishop has now served more than 24 years in prison and is believed to be Britain’s longest serving offender for sexual offences where no “conviction” for murder was involved

He is serving life imprisonment for the abduction, molestation and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl in the Whitehawk area of Brighton. He committed the crime on 4 February 1990, and was sentenced on 13 December 1990. By 2007, Bishop was still in prison and one of the longest serving prisoners in Britain not to be serving a sentence for murder, despite the trial judge recommending a minimum term of 14 years which could have seen him out of prison in 2004.

Bishop first became the centre of media attention in October 1986 when he was arrested on suspicion of the murders of two nine-year-old girls whose bodies were found in Wild ParkBrighton. The murders became known as the Babes in the Wood murders after the children’s tale. The then teenager Russell Bishop, who knew both girls and once lodged at Nicola’s home in Brighton, was acquitted in 1987 of the double killing which remains one of the country’s most notorious unsolved crimes

He was cleared on both murder charges at his trial in December 1987, and the case remains open. Double jeopardy seemed to eliminate any possibility that Bishop might one day face a new trial for the murders, but new legislation in 2005 meant that a criminal could face a new trial for a crime if substantial new evidence came to light. In September 2006, the High Court decided that there was not enough for Bishop to face a second trial for the murders

Bishop is currently serving the remainder of his sentence at open prison and is due parole within the next 12 months (2012)

September 2006

The babes in the wood murders and Acquittal

russellbishop

Nineteen-year-old Russell Bishop left the dock in tears in 1987, protesting his innocence after he was cleared of the murders of two Brighton girls.

During his trial, a jury heard they died without a struggle, suggesting Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows knew their killer – and the jury heard Bishop was well acquainted with the girls.

A blue and white sweatshirt was found on the route Bishop would have taken home, a garment he denied owning.

The shirt became a key item in the case against him with the prosecution claiming scientific evidence proved he was the murderer of the girls, aged nine and 10, in Brighton.

Jurors heard fibres on the sweatshirt matched those on the clothes worn by Karen and Nicola when they were killed in 1986.

And ivy spores on the sweatshirt were said to have matched those at the crime scene.

But jurors could not be persuaded the sweatshirt had belonged to the defendant.

It took them only two hours to acquit the unemployed labourer, after which police said they had no plans to reopen the inquiry.

During the trial, jurors were told by the defence that the suggestion that one man had killed the girls was “unlikely if not downright absurd”.

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows’ killer has never been found

At the time the trial was taking place, lawyers representing Bishop also appealed for witnesses to the murders to come forward, in bids to identify the girls’ killer.

One young person was said to have made three “highly relevant” telephone calls to a defence solicitor, but had only given their first name and had sounded “terrified”.

Then in 1990, Bishop was arrested after a seven-year-old girl was sexually attacked and left for dead, just 200 yards from her Brighton home.

Officers said the attack was “sickening and beyond the comprehension of ordinary people”.

He was charged with kidnap, indecent assault and attempted murder.

DNA and the girl’s evidence given by video led to his conviction in 1990, when he was jailed for life.

Fresh evidence

And in 2002, Sussex Police revealed that the Babes in the Wood inquiry had been reopened.

Officers said hopes rested on better scientific tests and developments in DNA technology and revealed that leads included the possibility of finding DNA traces on the sweatshirt linked to Karen and Nicola.

Sussex Police have now said that tests have revealed fibres but the evidence only serves to confirm existing evidence and does not provide fresh leads.

Bishop is still in prison, even though his minimum term has expired.

He could face a retrial under changes to the double jeopardy rule which had said defendants could not be tried again for offences of which they have been acquitted.

But for such a retrial to take place, fresh evidence would have to be substantial and compelling.

The family are reported to be considering a private prosecution.