Babes in the Wood murder victims' mums blast 'coward' killer as he's FINALLY convicted 32 years on

Russell Bishop, 52, molested and strangled nine-year-old Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in Brighton in 1986 but was cleared of the double murder a year later.

Just three years after he walked free, the monster was sentenced to life for the kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl at Devil's Dyke on the South Downs.

He was on trial for the second time over the killings under the double jeopardy law following a DNA breakthrough and was today found guilty after just two-and-a-half hours deliberation.

Families of both girls today wept at the Old Bailey when the verdicts were delivered – with a devastating statement released by both families branding Bishop a "monster".

The sicko was also slammed for leaving the family in the dark for 32 years over who had murdered the two girls as they called him "evil personified".

How Russell Bishop finally faced justice

October 9, 1986: Nicola and Karen, both nine, go missing from their homes in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, East Sussex.

October 10: The bodies of the girls are found huddled together at Wild Park.

December 10, 1987: Bishop is cleared of their murders at Lewes crown court, East Sussex.

December, 13, 1990: Bishop is convicted of a seven-year-old’s attempted murder, kidnapping and indecent assault.

October 16, 2018: He goes on trial again for murders of Nicola and Karen after Court of Appeal gave CPS authority to quash acquittals.

December 10, 2018: Bishop is found guilty of murder in just two hours after an agonising 32 year wait for the family

The case – branded Babes in the Wood – is believed to be the oldest double jeopardy case and Sussex Police's longest-running murder inquiry.

"Wicked" Bishop had taken part in a police hunt for the girls and appeared "grief-stricken" when told they were dead.

Karen was discovered lying across Nicola with her head in her friend's lap and their hands close together following the murder in Wild Park more than 30 years ago.

Bishop later told a neighbour the vision of them lying across each other was a sight he would never forget.

He also sickeningly tried to cast doubt on Nicola's dad Barrie Fellows – claiming he had watched his daughter being filmed while she was sexually abused.

The dad, who had played cricket with Bishop, was forced to deny any involvement and left court weeping after being cross-examined.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC said: "What you have seen unfolding before your eyes is the creation by the defendant of a smokescreen in the hope, quite literally, that he gets away with murder for the second time."

He was questioned by police following his daughter's death and a hate campaign was started on the Moulescoomb estate where he lived – forcing him to leave.

'I can never forgive or forget what the evil monster did' – Karen's mum Michelle's emotional statement

After 32 years of fighting, we finally have justice for Karen and Nicola. Time stood still for us in 1986. To us them beautiful girls will always be nine-year-olds. They will never grow up.

We’ve been deprived of a happy life to watch them grow into adults. 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.

Kas and Nicky, as they were affectionately known, friends playing out together only to have their lives wiped out by a sexual deviant, a monster.

What’s been hard, horrendous and heart breaking is to hear that they were murdered by a disgusting paedophile, who we actually knew and the two girls liked and trusted. He abused that trust.

Bishop doesn’t deserve to breathe the same clean air as we do. After all, he decided that day to strangle the life out of our two angels, leaving them no air to breathe.

What makes a man want to squeeze the life out of two innocent children with his bare hands? Unbelievable when he had a child himself and another on the way.

He’s a coward, without a conscience. I don’t believe you can rehabilitate evil. I think Bishop was just born that way. People talk to me of forgiveness but I can never forgive or forget what the evil monster did to my beautiful Kaz and Nicky.

I’m trying so hard to get my head around this but I will cos I’m a fighter and I’ll never stop being strong for my family

Graffiti daubed on a nearby house read: "Fellows Out" as locals hungry for justice sought out someone to pin the horrific slaughter on.

Even after Mr Fellows had moved, he continued to be shrouded in suspicion by police who arrested him in 2009 over an alleged plot to rape Nicola before her death that turned out to be completely baseless.

In his evil attempt to throw cops off, Bishop had produced a series of fake alibis, including a "wild man" of the woods and his drug dealer.

But he gave harrowing details of the murder scene only the killer could have known – including how one of the girls had foam around her mouth.

Fiend Bishop lapped up publicity after he was originally cleared of murder – warning the double child killer was still at large.

He even vowed to "keep fighting" in sickening TV interviews – and claimed the ordeal would stay with him for life.

Bishop told regional news programme Coast To Coast just days after his acquittal: "I feel very bitter towards the police that they've closed the case.

"They knew all along that I did not do this and therefore they should open this case again.

"I won't stop fighting until it's open again."

Jurors heard during the trial how both girls were afraid of the dark and spoke of a "bogeyman" in the park when they vanished on October 9, 1986.

The pair had gone to buy chips and then made their way to Wild Park — part of the South Downs — half a mile from their homes where they played until dusk.

They were discovered the next day in a woodland den, with post mortem results revealing both Karen and Nicola had bruising across their bodies and were strangled to death.

Their underwear had either been removed or changed and there was evidence they were both sexually assaulted.

Karen would have lost consciousness but death would not have been instant, jurors heard.

Nicola appeared to have been "punched or struck" on the cheek and there was evidence she had been sexually assaulted while alive and after she died.

Bishop, then aged 20, was subsequently charged with the murders but was cleared after a trial at Lewes Crown Court in 1987.

Detectives then carried out a painstaking investigation into the murders and focused their attention back on the beast after a jumper "gave up its secrets".

The light blue Pinto sweatshirt he wore on the day of the murders turned up a "one-in-a-billion" DNA match to Bishop.

But Bishop's defence had tried casting suspicion of the forensic evidence and even suggested it may have been contaminated.

In his 1987 trial, his partner Jamie Johnson denied the blue Pinto belonged to her partner in the witness box, having previous identified it.

Sussex Police has now refused to rule out investigation her for perjury charges 31 years later.

Karen's heartbroken father Lee Hadaway died without seeing his daughter's killer brought to justice.

'United in grief' – the families pay tribute

Nicola and Karen. Our beautiful girls. We will never forget their smiles that would light up a room. Their laughter. Their cheekiness.

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

We stand here as two families united in our grief. United in our fight for justice. And now united in our elation at today’s guilty verdict. We are extremely relieved and grateful that our 32 years hard fought battle has been a success, finally getting the rightful long-awaited justice for both of our girls.

We want to thank our police teams and counsel, who have been fantastic during the past couple of decades. If it wasn’t for their efforts and dedication working with us, we wouldn’t be stood here today.

Together we have changed history with this ‘double jeopardy’ ruling and we finally have the correct outcome – Russell Bishop remains behind bars where he belongs.

The guilty verdict doesn’t bring Nicola and Karen back, but we know that other children are now safe from the hands of Russell Bishop. He is a monster. A predatory paedophile. Russell Bishop truly is evil personified.

Nigel Pilkington, of Crown Prosecution Service South East, said Bishop is an "extremely dangerous man" who had been convicted on "overwhelming and incontrovertible" evidence.

He said: "He is a violent predatory paedophile and he gets cross when you call him that. He also considers himself to be a victim in the sense of the 1990 conviction."

He 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, not realistically at all."

Detective Superintendent Jeff Riley said Bishop was a "wicked" paedophile.

He said: "I still feel it's a shadow over Brighton to this day. I'm very proud of the investigation we have put together. We have been meticulous.

"We have never given up on this investigation."

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