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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Sweatshirt at heart of murder case
Russell Bishop (Elstree VT)
Russell Bishop was cleared of the murders in 1986
Nineteen-year-old Russell Bishop left the dock in tears in 1987, protesting his innocence after he was cleared of the murders of two Brighton girls.

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 the clothes 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".

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows' killer has never been found

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".

Then in 1990, Bishop was arrested after a seven-year-old girl was sexually attacked and left for dead, just 200 yards from her Brighton home.

Officers said the attack was "sickening and beyond the comprehension of ordinary people".

He was charged with kidnap, indecent assault and attempted murder.

DNA and the girl's evidence given by video led to his conviction in 1990, when he was jailed for life.

Fresh evidence

And in 2002, Sussex Police revealed that the Babes in the Wood inquiry had been reopened.

Officers said hopes rested on better scientific tests and developments in DNA technology and revealed that leads included the possibility of finding DNA traces on the sweatshirt linked to Karen and Nicola.

Sussex Police have now said that tests have revealed fibres but the evidence only serves to confirm existing evidence and does not provide fresh leads.

Bishop is still in prison, even though his minimum term has expired.

He could face a retrial under changes to the double jeopardy rule which had said defendants could not be tried again for offences of which they have been acquitted.

But for such a retrial to take place, fresh evidence would have to be substantial and compelling.

The family are reported to be considering a private prosecution.




SEE ALSO
New 'babes in wood' case rejected
15 Sep 06 |  Southern Counties
Website bid to find Babes killer
04 Aug 05 |  Southern Counties
Babes in wood families 'find evidence'
15 Sep 03 |  Southern Counties

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