Russell Bishop: Paedophile guilty of 1986 Babes in the Wood murders

media captionKaren Hadaway and Nicola Fellows disappeared while out playing

A convicted paedophile has been found guilty of murdering two schoolgirls who were found strangled and sexually assaulted near Brighton 32 years ago.

Russell Bishop, 52, had protested his innocence since the bodies of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway were found.

Cleared of their murders in 1987, Bishop went on to attack a seven-year-old girl within three years, leaving her for dead in 1990, but she survived.

He was convicted of the double murder in a second trial at the Old Bailey.

After Nicola and Karen were found dead, the case became known as the Babes in the Wood.

The guilty verdicts came exactly 31 years to the day of Bishop's original acquittal in 1987.

Families of the girls wept in court earlier as the jury delivered the verdicts after two-and-a-half hours.

image source, BBC News
image captionBishop was found guilty exactly 31 years on from his first acquittal

Afterwards, Karen's mother Michelle Hadaway described Bishop as an "evil monster".

"We finally have justice for Karen and Nicola," she said.

"Time stood still for us in 1986. To us, them beautiful girls will always be nine years old. They will never grow up."

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, she said: "What people like Bishop inflict on the families of their victims is a living death.

"They take the lives of children but they also take the lives of the families left behind."

media captionBarrie Fellows, who has epilepsy, says his daughter Nicola was always there for him

The Fellows family said in a statement that the two families had been "united in grief", and while the verdicts did not bring the girls back, other children were now safe from Bishop.

They added: "He is a monster. A predatory paedophile. Russell Bishop truly is evil personified.

"During the past eight weeks, we have endured reliving the horrific details of their murders and we have learned an awful lot about the true meaning of heartbreak all over again."

The two girls, aged nine, who were scared of the dark, went missing from their homes after they had gone out to play on 9 October 1986.

They were found in Wild Park the next day, lying together in a woodland den as if they were sleeping.

The trial heard former roofer Bishop had spotted the girls playing in the park near their home and attacked them.

On 10 October, he had joined the search for Nicola and Karen, claiming his dog was a trained tracker, and was nearby when two teenagers spotted the girls' bodies.

image source, PA
image captionA memorial tree stands in Wild Park, where the girls died

Afterwards, Bishop gave conflicting accounts to police and produced a series of fake alibis.

But he described details of the murder scene which only the killer could have known, jurors were told.

Judge Mr Justice Sweeney said Bishop would be sentenced on Tuesday, and must be present at the hearing.

Bishop chose to give evidence in his defence, but not to return during cross-examination, and then did not attend for the rest of the trial.

A DNA breakthrough led to the fresh trial taking place under double jeopardy laws. Bishop's 1987 acquittal was quashed and the second trial ordered.

The DNA came from a blue Pinto sweatshirt that was initially identified as belonging to Bishop by his former partner Jennifer Johnson, who then denied it in the first trial.

Senior investigating officer Det Supt Jeff Riley refused to rule out a perjury investigation.

image source, PA
image captionThe Babes in the Wood case still affects people in the city

After Bishop's conviction, Nigel Pilkington, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said the verdicts marked the end of a long fight for justice by the families, praising their "remarkable resilience".

He described Bishop as an "extremely dangerous" man who had been convicted on "overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence".

Mr Pilkington also 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."

Calling Bishop a "wicked" paedophile, Det Supt Riley said the murder case was one of the most "high-profile and complex" in Sussex Police history and one that still affected people in the city.

"We have never forgotten or given up," he said.

"This is a moment to remember the two girls that died at the hands of a predatory and vicious killer that refused for 32 years to face up to what he did and still does."

Det Supt Riley added: "I sincerely hope the families can find some peace and look forward to the next chapter in their lives."

image source, Sussex Police
image captionBishop will be sentenced for the murders on Tuesday

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