Sussex

Russell Bishop trial: Murder police 'destroyed' accused

Russell Bishop in the witness stand, being questioned by Joel Bennathan QC in front of Mr Justice Sweeney Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Bishop told the court he was wrongfully arrested over the IRA bomb in Brighton

A man accused of murdering two girls in 1986 has told the Old Bailey how police bullied him into making a false account, "totally destroying" him.

Russell Bishop told the court he signed an incorrect witness statement as "it was the only way I was going to get out of there", the jury heard.

Bishop denies murdering Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in a second trial.

He said he considered killing himself and his two children after he was acquitted in a first trial in 1987.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows went missing after they had gone out to play

The court has heard how the girls were found dead in Wild Park, near Brighton, on 10 October 1986, a day after they went missing.

In 1990, Bishop - formerly of Brighton - went on to be jailed for life for the kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl at Devil's Dyke on the South Downs.

Two teenagers who initially discovered Nicola and Karen have told jurors Bishop never touched them.

But the court has also heard claims Bishop touched the bodies and checked for a pulse, which may explain the DNA evidence that has presented in the case, the second time he has been tried over their deaths.

'Totally sickened'

Jurors heard both Bishop and his father faced wrongful arrests before the Babes in the Wood murder investigation - Bishop told the court he was wrongfully detained over the Grand Hotel bombing in Brighton in 1984.

Giving evidence, Bishop described how he had joined the search for the girl but was warned by his father - who had himself previously been wrongly arrested for murder - not to get involved.

He said when a man raised the alarm the girls had been found, he was told to go up the scene and keep people away.

"I went straight to the victims, felt for a pulse, neck on Nicola and Karen on the right arm," he said.

Bishop told jurors he felt "shocked, totally sickened".

He went on to tell the court he was interviewed by police for 13 hours without a solicitor.

He said: "I started getting all frustrated, confused, tied up in knots."

Image copyright Sussex Police/PA
Image caption The girls' bodies were found in a woodland den in Wild Park, near Brighton

He claimed officers showed him pictures of the dead girls and the area where they were found.

Defending, Joel Bennathan QC said: "By the end of this process, you signed a witness statement that said you did not take the pulse of the two girls."

Bishop said: "I was just telling them what they wanted to hear. It was obvious they were not going to believe me over what those two boys were saying.

"I was being called a liar. They had been downright nasty. I was being kept a prisoner.

"I was having two police officers bullying and totally destroying me in that room.

"I'm dyslexic and I could not read or write. I had poor problem-solving skills."

The day they disappeared

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Bishop was acquitted of the murders in 1987 but now faces a second trial

In the witness stand, Bishop told jurors what he did on 9 October 1986, the day the girls disappeared:

  • He described how he went digging for fishing bait and later tried to visit Dougie Judd, a lodger staying with Nicola's father Barrie Fellows.
  • Bishop said he also went to the University of Sussex's car park to try to steal a red Ford Escort.
  • As he walked home, wearing a "blue flecky jumper", he said he came across the park keeper in Wild Park and saw the girls from a distance.
  • From there, he went to Angie Cutting's home to buy a "small amount of cannabis" and rolled it into a joint.
  • Once home, Bishop said he had a bath, which was interrupted by an insurance salesman, and he then began cooking a meal and washing the clothes that had "muck" on them from his walk.
  • After cooking, he said he watched the last five or 10 minutes of EastEnders and later, his partner Jennie Johnson returned home with their young son and they watched a film called Runaway Train.
  • Bishop then told the court at 02:30 the next day, police first arrived at the house and asked him if he could help with the missing girls.

Mr Bennathan earlier told the court that if Bishop touched the bodies there is an explanation for DNA evidence on a Pinto sweatshirt linking Bishop with the girls.

The barrister said: "Did Russell Bishop touch the bodies of the girls when they were discovered on October 10 - because if he did take their pulses then there is an obvious simple explanation why he knew what they looked like and the DNA."

Bishop was tried for the murders in 1987, but acquitted. He now faces a second trial.

Over the attack on the girl he was jailed for, he told the jury he was "deeply ashamed" of what he had done.

Mr Bennathan said Bishop had spent 28 years behind bars for the 1990 attack, adding: "Russell Bishop admittedly committed awful shameful offences in 1990. He's not on trial for them."

'No-one else sought'

Bishop told the court he nearly threw himself and his two children off Beachy Head after the first trial.

He said he had numerous bricks lobbed through his windows and firebombs through the letter box after his acquittal, adding: "There was never a day something did not happen."

After he was cleared, Sussex Police had said they were not looking for anyone else, implying "the jury got it wrong", Bishop said.

He said weeks before he attacked the seven-year-old girl, he set off for the Sussex cliffs with his children, but he said: "My son said something in the car which made me rethink and drive away.

"I went to the beach to clear my head. Went for a walk with the children.

"It's hard to put into words, symptoms of mental illness. There was no sleeping. There was no resting. I was living in fear."

The trial continues.

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