Nicola Fellows/Karen Hadaway – Brighton – 1986

Nicola Fellows And Karen Hadaway – Brighton – Babes in the wood

Two nine-year-old girls were dubbed the Babes in the Wood after their bodies were found in the Wild Park, at Moulescombe, Brighton, on Thursday, October 9th, 1986. Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway had been sexually assaulted and murdered.

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows (right) were strangled

Nicola and Karen were snatched off the street close to their homes in the Moulsecoomb estate in Brighton on October 9, 1986 after going out to play. Relatives and friends, including Russell Bishop,a family friend joined more than 150 police officers searching for them. 

Their bodies were found the following day, huddled together in nearby Wild Park. Karen’s head was resting on her friend’s lap. Detectives believed the girls knew their killer and arrested Bishop three weeks later

Russell Bishop, (pictured below) was tried for the rape and strangulation of the two girls, but was acquitted. He was tried at Lewes Crown Court for the double-murder. Notwithstanding that, the police believed he was a paedophile who would strike again. 

The murders became known as the Babes in the Wood murders after the children’s tale. The then teenager Russell Bishop, who knew both girls and once lodged at Nicola’s home in Brighton was acquitted in 1987 of the double killing which remains one of the country’s most notorious unsolved crimes

He was cleared on both murder charges at his trial in December 1987, and the case remains open. 

During his trial, a jury heard they died without a struggle, suggesting Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows knew their killer – and the jury heard Bishop was well acquainted with the girls.

A blue and white sweatshirt was found on the route Bishop would have taken home, a garment he denied owning.

The shirt became a key item in the case against him with the prosecution claiming scientific evidence proved he was the murderer of the girls, aged nine and 10, in Brighton.

Jurors heard fibres on the sweatshirt matched those on theclothes worn by Karen and Nicola when they were killed in 1986.

And ivy spores on the sweatshirt were said to have matched those at the crime scene.

But jurors could not be persuaded the sweatshirt had belonged to the defendant.

It took them only two hours to acquit the unemployed labourer, after which police said they had no plans to reopen the inquiry.

During the trial, jurors were told by the defence that the suggestion that one man had killed the girls was “unlikely if not downright absurd”.

At the time the trial was taking place, lawyers representing Bishop also appealed for witnesses to the murders to come forward, in bids to identify the girls’ killer.

One young person was said to have made three “highly relevant” telephone calls to a defence solicitor, but had only given their first name and had sounded “terrified”.

Double jeopardy seemed to eliminate any possibility that Bishop might one day face a new trial for the murders, but new legislation in 2005 meant that a criminal could face a new trial for a crime if substantial new evidence came to light. In September 2006, the High Court decided that there was not enough for Bishop to face a second trial for the murders

In February, 1990, a seven-year-old girl was abducted, stripped, violently sexually assaulted and partially strangled near Brighton. She was found alive at the Devil’s Dyke, a beauty spot nearby. More than one witness saw a red Ford Cortina near the scene of the kidnap, and the suspect in the case of Nicola and Karen was driving that type of car. He was arrested as a suspect again.

See Russell Bishop profile – click this link

In December, 1990, he stood in the same dock in the same court as he had done three years earlier, accused of kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder. His defence was that he was nowhere near the scene and that the police had “fitted him up.” He was convicted and sentenced to life. 

By 2007, Bishop was still in prison and one of the longest serving prisoners in Britain not to be serving a sentence for murder

The man maintains that he is innocent of both crimes, but the surviving parents of Nicola and Karen believe he murdered their daughters. With DNA technology developments in mind, the police are re-assessing the case. Despite reports of the man’s imminent release, he remains in prison.