Babes in the wood Murder: Russell Bishop’s guilty girlfriend gets six years for three decades of lies

Former girlfriend of imprisoned ‘Babes in the wood’ murderer, Russell Bishop, has escaped life imprisonment following a trial at Lewes Crown Court today. Jennifer Johnson, 55, from Sussex, pleaded not guilty to Perjury and Perverting the course of justice in historic offences that dated back to 1986.

On the 9th October 1986, two nine-year-old girls, Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, disappeared after they went out to play together near their home. The following day, Sussex Police found the little girls bodies,

“arranged as though they were sleeping and hidden in undergrowth. They were half clothed having been sexually assaulted and strangled to death”.

Nicola and Karen became known as the ‘Babes in the wood’ murder victims.

The main suspect, Russell Bishop, was put on trial in 1987 but a key piece of evidence linking him to the murders was in question when his partner Jennifer Johnson’s lied to Police in order to protect him.

Jennifer originally claimed a blue sweatshirt found at the scene was his, drawing attention to, “some compound on one of the sleeves that had come from him rubbing down one of his cars”. She further elaborated that the stain was “similar to staining he had on his trousers”.

This vital evidence was recorded in a signed Police statement taken on the morning of 31st October 1986, which was signed by Jennifer, aged 22 at the time. The statement was later retracted and allegations of police corruption were made: Jenny claimed she never made the statement and that the police had, “forged her initials”.

Jennifer’s rampant lies and campaign against police caused the murder trial to fall apart and Bishop was released without charge.

Video footage of Jenny condemning the Police for “getting the wrong man” can be found here:

Once Bishop was freed, the News of The World newspaper paid him £15,000 for his story, ‘The man falsely accused of murdering and raping two 9 year old schoolgirls’.

Tragically, on 4th February 1990, two years after his acquittal, Russell Bishop would go to strike again, in a crime that mirrored the one he had gotten away with.

This time he grabbed a seven-year-old girl and bundled into the boot of his Ford Cortina, before taking her to the Devil’s Dyke near Brighton where she was stripped, sexually assaulted and strangled. Bishop, assuming she was dead, fled the scene.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Miraculously, the seven year old was not killed. She regained consciousness and provided vital evidence that identified Bishop and his car. Arrested and charged, Bishop returned to Lewes Crown Court where he was convicted for attempted murder, kidnap and indecent assault of the seven-year-old girl. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on 13 December 1990.

On the 10th December 2018, exactly 31 years to the day after his original acquittal, a change in the law together with forensic advancements in DNA led to Bishop leaving his cell to face re-trial for the babes in the woods murders once again.

The 9-week trial, which took place at the Central Criminal Court in London, culminated with Russell acquiring two more life sentences for the murder of nine year old Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway. With a total of three life inprisonment terms, Russell Bishop will die in prison.

Bishop’s former partner, Jennifer Johnson, mother to three of his children, was not involved in the 2018 trial, however, the following year she admitted to three decades of lies that had led to Bishop’s previous acquittal when questioned by Police.

It is clear that Jennifer Johnson’s commitment to lie in support of her murderous husband allowed him to strike again, very nearly costing the life of his third victim, the seven year old girl who was left for dead at the Devils Dyke.

Jennifer’s defence, that she was in an abusive relationship with Russell Bishop and that she was acting under duress, “Bishop was violent to me and I was young and naïve” was taken into consideration by Judge Justice Fraser with no attempts to diminish her victim status.

However, Jennifer’s refusal to leave her cell to stand trial coupled with her ‘not guilty’ plea, caused the Judge to conclude that she was “unwilling to accept responsibility” for the damage her extensive lies had caused.

Perverting the course of justice carries a maximum term of life imprisonment and Perjury seven years.

Jennifer Johnson, now 55, was sentenced to six-years imprisonment, with eligibility of being released on licence coming after just three.

It is hoped this sentence will bring closure for the families of the nine year old schoolgirls Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, as well as the seven year old victim, now 38 with her own family, who escaped death.

Mr Justice Fraser served his judgement at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday 19th May 2021.

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17 years in media. Passionate about social affairs and audio of any kind. PA / NCTJ

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Xenia Huntley

Xenia Huntley

17 years in media. Passionate about social affairs and audio of any kind. PA / NCTJ

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