Russell Bishop jailed for 1986 Babes in the Wood murders

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Media captionKaren Hadaway and Nicola Fellows disappeared while out playing

Convicted paedophile Russell Bishop has been jailed for life for the murders of two schoolgirls 32 years ago.

The Babes in the Wood killer will serve a minimum of 36 years after being found guilty at a second trial on Monday.

Bishop, aged 20 in 1986, killed nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in a woodland den in Brighton.

In 1987 he was cleared of their murders, but within three years kidnapped another girl and left her for dead, the Old Bailey heard.

"Finally, justice has been done and Bishop has been seen as the evil monster he really is," Karen's mother Michelle Hadaway said following the verdict.

Bishop, aged 52, who was already serving a life term for attempting to murder the seven-year-old girl at Devil's Dyke in 1990, had refused to attend court for his sentencing.

In his absence the judge Mr Justice Sweeney, described him as a "predatory paedophile" who had shown no remorse.

"The terror that each girl must have suffered in their final moments is unimaginable," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A memorial tree stands in Wild Park where the girls died

The two girls 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.

Bishop was among the first on the scene when they were found and protested his innocence throughout the police investigation and during his first trial.

But less than three years later, in a case which bore "striking similarities", he kidnapped the seven-year-old girl who had been roller skating in Brighton.

He drove her to Devil's Dyke on the South Downs, where he strangled and molested her, leaving her for dead, the court was told.

Double jeopardy

As he sentenced him, Mr Justice Sweeney said he had "no doubt" Bishop was a "predatory paedophile" who had lured Karen and Nicola into the woods.

But it was not until a DNA breakthrough was made in the case, that Bishop was told he would face a new trial over their killings, under the double jeopardy law.

A sweatshirt discarded on his route home linked him to the scene while a sample from Karen's left forearm revealed a "one in a billion" DNA match, his second trial was told.

Image copyright Sussex Police
Image caption The court heard a blue Pinto sweatshirt linked Bishop to the scene

In a victim impact statement Nicola's mother, Sue Eismann, said her world "turned upside down" after Bishop killed her daughter.

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

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

During the trial, Bishop tried to cast suspicion on Nicola's father Barrie, who since the first trial had put up with rumours of his involvement in her death.

"Thirty-two years is a long time to be suspected of murdering your daughter," Mr Fellows said.

"I have been through every feeling imaginable from hope to sheer dread.

"Words cannot describe how I feel about Russell Bishop."

Image copyright Sussex Police
Image caption Bishop was originally cleared of the girls' murders in 1987

Det Sup Jeff Riley, of Sussex Police, described Bishop as a "truly wicked man".

"Bishop will hopefully spend the remainder of his life behind bars where he truly belongs and never darken the streets of Brighton again," he said following the sentencing.

"This significant term of imprisonment will of course never make up for the loss of Karen and Nicola but I hope their families will take some comfort from it."

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