Babes in the Wood murders: Families of victims ‘never gave up’ the fight for justice

The families of two schoolgirls murdered in Brighton said they ‘never gave up’ in their fight for justice.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 4:56 pm
The families making a statement outside Sussex Police HQ this afternoon

Their comments came after Jennifer Johnson, the former partner of murderer Russell Bishop, was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice after a four-week trial.

Bishop was convicted in 2019 for the murders of Karen Fellows and Nicola Hadaway in Wild Park, Brighton, in October 1986, in a case that became known as Babes in the Wood.

The jury found Johnson had lied to police and lied in court at Bishop’s first trial in 1987.

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows

As a result, Bishop was acquitted and three years later he committed another brutal attack on a third schoolgirl, leaving her for dead at Devil’s Dyke near Brighton in 1990.

Johnson will be sentenced on Wednesday – read more about her trial here.

After the trial, Michelle Hadaway, Karen’s mum said: “We’ve got there, we’ve got the justice, we’ve got what is right.”

She said of Johnson: “I stood in court when she gave her evidence and lied for him. She lied and lied.

The families making a statement outside Sussex Police HQ this afternoon

“The impact she has had on my life has been as bad as him.

“We fought for 32 years to get him to justice and then we’ve had to go through this court case again.

“It was so unnecessary. All those years ago, she could have told the truth, she could have asked the police for help. Her choice.”

She said she had ‘had to be strong’ for her family.

“I just had to carry on and do the normal thing but justice was always in the back of my mind I just never thought it would take so long,” she said.

Michelle paid tribute to her daughter.

“Karen was a happy go lucky little girl who loved to dance and play out with her friend Nicola,” she said.

“We were a happy family and we loved our children.

“The flame in our lives when out when they were found murdered.

“My husband was never the same again. He was a broken man.

“32 years times 365 days of waking up to the horror of losing my Karen.

“For some moments in life there are simply no words to describe the pain within us.”

In a statement after the verdict was announced Lorna Clary, cousin of Nicola Fellows, said on behalf of both families: “We stand here again, two families united in grief and united in our continued 34-year fight for justice.

“We are relieved and grateful at the guilty verdict today.

“It is one more piece of truth, one more piece of the puzzle.

“Jennifer Johnson blatantly perverted the course of justice for our beautiful girls Nicola and Karen, as well as for the then seven-year old little girl who suffered immensely in the wake of Bishop’s wrongful acquittals.

“The wheels of justice are large and they turn incredibly slowly.

“Justice has finally been served on someone who thought she was untouchable.

“Johnson was infatuated with her lover, the paedophile, double child murderer Russell Bishop.

She helped him walk free in 1987 with her lies under oath.

“Had she not lied, Bishop may have been found guilty.

“He may not have been free to attack again, which of course he did less than three years after he had been acquitted.

“She had plenty of opportunities to tell the truth during the past 34 years, instead she took the coward’s way out.

“We have fought for over three decades to get to this point.

“We have never given up.

“During our mission for justice, we helped change the law surrounding double jeopardy, we have been actively present with the police and we have kept the memories of Nicola and Karen alive in the public eye.

“We want other historical murder families to take hope from today. Please, never give up.

“It will seem impossible. It will seem that you have a mountain to climb and more.

“The truth does eventually catch up with those who hide in plain sight.

“We were told, more than once, that we would never get justice.

“Please take our lessons with you and never, ever give up your fight.

“Anything and everything is possible.

“We want to thank our police teams and counsel again, without whom we would not be stood here today.

“We thank them for their tireless work and dedication in this very complex trial.

“This guilty verdict will not bring Nicola and Karen back, but we will always carry them in our hearts and memories.

“Rest in Peace Nicky and Karen, we have kept our promises, we never gave up.”