Russell Bishop ‘murdered Brighton schoolgirls in 1986’, court hears

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were found dead in Wild Park in 1986
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were found dead in Wild Park in 1986

A Brighton man strangled and sexually assaulted two nine-year-old girls for his ‘sexual gratification’ before dumping their bodies in the woods more than 30 years ago, a court heard.

Russell Bishop, 52, is accused of carrying out the murders in Brighton in 1986 - which prompted one of the largest and longest-running police enquiries by Sussex Police.

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were found dead just a mile-and-a-half away from their homes, in Wild Park near the Moulsecoomb estate on October 10 after going missing the night before.

They had been out playing after school when they disappeared overnight.

The Old Bailey heard Bishop was previously acquitted of murdering the two schoolgirls in 1987, but can be re-tried as his acquittal was quashed by the Court of Appeal after DNA evidence was re-evaluated using modern technology.

Jurors also heard that in December 1990, three years after his original acquittal, Bishop was convicted of attacking a seven-year-old in the Whitehawk area of Brighton that February.

The victim survived and Bishop was found guilty of attempted murder, kidnapping and indecent assault.

The case was opened to the jury today (October 16) in a trial that is expected to last between six to eight weeks.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC said: “Thirty-two years ago, almost to the day, on Friday 10 October 1986, two nine-year-old girls, Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, were found dead in the woods at Wild Park in Brighton.

“Both had gone missing the evening before, Thursday 9 October 1986 and, despite searches by police and public, they were not found until the following afternoon.

“That grim discovery led to the largest and longest-running police enquiry Sussex Police has ever known.

“Post-mortem examinations conducted that Friday evening revealed both girls had been strangled to death and they had been sexually assaulted.

“The killings were entirely intentional and they were carried out in the woods by a man who sexually assaulted them for his own gratification.

“That man, say the prosecution, was this defendant, Russell Bishop.”

The court heard the victims were friends but attended different schools in the area but lived in the same street in Moulsecoomb on the northern outskirts of Brighton.

Mr Altman said: “This defendant was, as you will hear later, arrested in 1986, and charged and indeed he was tried the following year, in 1987, for the murders of both girls.

“But on 10 December that year 1987 he was acquitted by a jury at Lewes Crown Court.

“Despite the acquittal, the case was never closed and the police have continued to investigate it.

“One significant part of the enquiry has been to re-evaluate various areas of scientific work that were performed for the purposes of the 1987 trial but through the lens of modern-day techniques.

“DNA profiling which although available in 1987 and 1987 was then in its infancy.

“Because of the new evidence, and without it making any judgement about the guilt or otherwise of this defendant, the Court of Appeal has quashed the 1987 acquittals.

“That means that the defendant can be prosecuted again based on the evidence that existed then and the new evidence that is available now.”

The prosecutor said that re-evaluating the science proves that Russell Bishop was ‘to the exclusion of anyone else’ responsible for the murders.

Mr Altman revealed to jurors that in February 1990, three years after becoming a free man, Bishop returned to Brighton but went on to kidnap, assault and try to kill a seven-year-old girl.

He continued: “We say that the similarities between the events of which he was convicted in 1990 and those in 1986 are such that, together with all the other evidence in the case, they can lead you to the sure conclusion that the defendant was responsible also for the murders of Nicola and Karen but a few years earlier.”

Bishop, formerly of Brighton, denies two counts of murder.

The trial continues.