Ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer ‘to claim duress over 1987 evidence’

Jennifer Johnson is accused of offences relating to Russell Bishop’s 1987 trial which ended in him being controversially acquitted.

Russell Bishop court case
Russell Bishop court case

The ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood murderer Russell Bishop who is accused of lying over a key piece of evidence 32 years ago intends to claim she was under duress, a court has heard.

Jennifer Johnson is accused of offences relating to Bishop’s 1987 prosecution, the trial of which ended in him being controversially acquitted.

It was not until 2018 that he was finally brought to justice for the brutal killing of schoolgirls Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows.

Karen and Nicola were nine years old when they were found sexually assaulted and strangled in a woodland den in Brighton, East Sussex, in October 1986.

The horrific crime shocked the community and the decades-long wait for justice caused anguish for the girls’ families.

Russell Bishop court case
Russell Bishop was found guilty of the 1986 murders of schoolgirls Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway (Sussex Police/PA)

Johnson, now 54, is alleged to have lied to the first trial and claimed that a blue Pinto sweatshirt did not belong to Bishop and that she had never seen it before, according to the charge.

She is charged with wilfully making a false statement in judicial proceedings under the Perjury Act and committing an act or series of acts with intent to pervert the course of justice.

Johnson, of Saunders Park View in Brighton, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday via Skype but was unable to enter pleas because of what the judge said were “extremely unsatisfactory” technical issues.

Johnson was briefly visible in the Skype hearing – her face covered by glasses and a face mask – but her video cut out before she could enter pleas.

Russell Bishop court case
A banner in Wild Park, in the Moulsecoomb area of Brighton, near to where the bodies of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway were found (Flora Thompson/PA) 

The court heard that she intends to plead not guilty to the two charges, and that she will be running a defence of duress.

A provisional trial date of March 22 2021 was set and Johnson was told to appear in court in person on Wednesday for a further hearing.

Within three years of his 1987 acquittal, Bishop went on to kidnap, molest and throttle a seven-year-old girl, leaving her for dead at Devil’s Dyke.

While serving life for attempted murder for that offence, Bishop was ordered to face a fresh trial in light of a DNA breakthrough.

The new trial was only possible after double jeopardy laws in England were changed in 2003.

In 2018 the convicted paedophile was found guilty of killing the two schoolgirls, bringing to an end their families’ long fight for justice.

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