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Paedophile admits attacking seven-year-old but denies murdering two schoolgirls

A convicted paedophile has denied the murders of two schoolgirls but admitted his ‘shame’ at attacking a seven-year-old girl less than three years later.

Russell Bishop, 52, is on trial for the second time over the deaths of nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway.

The girls were sexually assaulted and strangled in a den in Wild Park in Brighton, East Sussex, in October 1986.

Former roofer Bishop, was cleared of their murders in 1987 but within three years was jailed for life for the kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl around seven miles away at Devil’s Dyke on the South Downs.

He was ordered to stand trial at the Old Bailey for the killings of Nicola and Karen in light of new forensic evidence.

Karen Hadaway, left, and Nicola Fellows died in 1986 in Wild Park in Brighton, East Sussex

Bishop’s legal team has cast suspicion on Nicola’s father, Barrie Fellows, suggesting he had a gap in his alibi, watched a video of his daughter being abused, and claimed he had been violent in the past.

However, the court has heard forensic evidence taken from a Pinto sweatshirt discarded along Bishop’s route home which was linked to the defendant and the girls.

Giving evidence, Bishop appeared emotional as he told jurors he did not kill Nicola or Karen and he did not know who did.

Bishop said he felt ‘deeply ashamed’ for abducting a younger girl in 1990.

He said he was ‘in a bad state’ after his first murder trial.

On the day he attacked the seven-year-old girl he was fixing his brake pipes that had been cut eight or nine times since his acquittal.

He ‘started to go mad, screaming, shouting and turned to throw the spanner’ when he saw the girl and ‘grabbed hold of her’, he said.

Barrie Fellows, father of Nicola Fellows, arrives at the Old Bailey to give evidence

Barrie Fellows, father of Nicola Fellows, arrives at the Old Bailey to give evidence

Bishop told jurors he had given evidence in his trial for attacking the youngster but did not tell the truth ‘in any shape or form’.

On the day the girls disappeared, Bishop said he went digging for fishing bait, tried to visit Fellows’ lodger Dougie Judd and then went on to Sussex University car park to attempt to steal a red Ford Escort.

As he walked home wearing a ‘blue flecky jumper’ he came across the park keeper in Wild Park and saw girls from a distance, he said.

From there, Bishop said he dropped by the home of Angie Cutting to buy a ‘small amount of cannabis’ which he rolled into a joint.

Once home, Bishop said he had a bath, which was interrupted by an insurance salesman, then began cooking a meal and washing the clothes he was wearing that had got ‘muck on it’ from his walk.

He said: ‘Once I had cooked the meal I sat down, saw the last five or 10 minutes of EastEnders.

‘It was Lofty coming to the pub playing the piano singing, something like that going on.’

Later, his partner, Jennie Johnson, returned home with their young son and they watch a film called the Runaway Train, Bishop said.

At 2.30am, police first arrived at the house and asked Bishop if he could help with the missing girls.

A blue Pinto sweatshirt, allegedly worn by Russell Bishop and said to contain vital DNA evidence

A blue Pinto sweatshirt, allegedly worn by Russell Bishop and said to contain vital DNA evidence

The area where the bodies of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were found, in a woodland den in an overgrown area in Wild Park on the South Downs, near Brighton

The area where the bodies of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were found, in a woodland den in an overgrown area in Wild Park on the South Downs, near Brighton

The next afternoon, Bishop joined the search with his dog Misty, who was shown Karen’s clothing to help track them.

Bishop told a police officer he feared that he would be suspected if he found the girls.

He told jurors: ‘There was a few things that led to that kind of thinking.

‘A couple of years before this I was wrongfully arrested for the Grand Hotel bombing in Brighton.’

Before then, his father was wrongly arrested for murdering a local woman called Margaret Frame who was buried in a shallow grave, the court heard.

Bishop said his ‘old man’ had even warned him ‘don’t get involved’ before he set off for the search.

When a young man raised the alarm that the girls were found, Bishop said he was told to go up and keep people away.

He said: ‘The young man sitting down said he did not know whether they were asleep or dead.

Sketch of Russell Bishop in the dock at the Old Bailey. He told the court he did not murder Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway

Sketch of Russell Bishop in the dock at the Old Bailey. He told the court he did not murder Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway

‘I went straight to the victims, felt for a pulse. Neck on Nicola and Karen on the right arm.’

Bishop told jurors he felt ‘shocked, totally sickened’ and how he felt ‘uneasy’ when he was interviewed by police for 13 hours without a solicitor.

He was quizzed about why his account differed from what the two teenagers who found the bodies had said.

Bishop said: ‘I started getting all frustrated, confused, tied up in knots.’

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

Joel Bennathan QC, defending, said: ‘By the end of this process you signed a witness statement that said you did not take the pulse of the 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. It was the only way I was going to get out of there.’

Bishop, now 52, is on trial for the second time for the murders of Nicola and Karen. He has denied the charges against him

Bishop, now 52, is on trial for the second time for the murders of Nicola and Karen. He has denied the charges against him

Mr Bennathan then called Bishop into the witness box and asked him: ‘Did you kill Karen Hadaway?’

Softly spoken Bishop replied: ‘No, I didn’t, no.’

When Mr Bennathan repeated the question in respect of Nicola Fellows, he added: ‘No.’

The barrister asked Bishop to confirm that he was handed a life sentence in respect of the 1990 offences, to which he said: ‘I am ashamed to say, yes I was.’

Wearing glasses with a dark grey t-shirt and grey tracksuit bottoms, Bishop’s voice stuttered as he described to jurors how he was in ‘a bad state’ at the time.

‘By the time of my offence which I am convicted of I was in a very, very bad state,’ Bishop said.

He explained that he had headed out intending to go to his brother’s house to ‘finish sticking up a satellite dish’.

But he said he noticed his brakes had been cut, ‘not for the first time’ since his acquittal, and he smashed his hand during an accident with the spanner as he tried to fix them.

‘I lost my temper,’ he said of his reaction to the injury. The pain of it just sent me into a wild temper, yes.’

He continued: ‘I started going mad; screaming, shouting.

‘I turned to throw the spanner and the victim was standing within arm’s reach. I didn’t see her coming at all before that.’

Bishop described how he then ‘grabbed hold of her’, adding that he accepts ‘everything that’s been said in this courtroom’ about what happened next.

‘I feel deeply ashamed,’ he added.

When asked if his evidence in that second trial was the truth, he conceded: ‘I didn’t tell the truth in any way, shape or form.’

Bishop told jurors he had smoked cannabis for ‘pain relief’ for an injury to his left shoulder and had known Mr Fellows through playing football in the park.

Before his arrest for the murders, Bishop had been fined and given community orders for theft-related and driving offences.

He denies two counts of murder and the trial continues.

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