Mother of Babes in the Wood victim pondering legal action against Martin Bashir

The mother of a murdered schoolgirl says she is considering legal action against journalist Martin Bashir after he took her daughter’s clothes for DNA testing for a BBC programme 30 years ago and never returned them.

Michelle Hadaway says not having the clothing may have hindered her pursuing her daughter’s killer in court and called for an apology from Mr Bashir.

In his interview in The Sunday Times, Mr Bashir was asked about the potentially crucial piece of evidence and replied: “I may have lost it but I don’t remember.”

Karen Hadaway and her friend Nicola Fellows were found sexually assaulted and strangled in a woodland den in Brighton in October 1986 in what became known as the Babes in the Wood murders.

The families of the two girls spent decades fighting for justice after their killer, Russell Bishop, was initially found not guilty of their murders in 1987.

Michelle Hadaway and Sue Eismann at the scene in Wild Park, Brighton, East Sussex, 20 years after their daughters, Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows, were found murdered (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Michelle Hadaway and Sue Eismann at the scene in Wild Park, Brighton, East Sussex, 20 years after their daughters, Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows, were found murdered (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Speaking to Woman’s Hour, Ms Hadaway says Mr Bashir came to her in 1991 and asked to have her daughter’s clothing DNA tested, saying that science had advanced in the five years since the murders, but never returned the clothes.

She said: “Over the years I’ve been so angry with the fact that this man has never apologised to me, never contacted me, the denials have been going on for quite a long time.”

The BBC said it would discuss the matter with Ms Hadaway “if and when she wishes to do so.”

After Bishop was controversially found not guilty in 1987 it took more than 30 years, DNA advances and a change in the law before he was finally convicted at a retrial in 2018.

Last week, Bishop’s ex-girlfriend Jennifer Johnson was jailed for six years for committing perjury at his first trial.

Ms Hadaway said Mr Bashir told her he was working on a programme called Public Eye for the BBC.

She said: “So he took the clothes, gave me signed on a piece of paper, said to me not to worry it would probably be a few months before the programme had come out.

“It was then a few more years.

“I couldn’t remember who he was, I couldn’t remember the name of the programme, all I know is he had taken the clothes but he hadn’t returned them.”

When she eventually found the receipt she said she contacted Mr Bashir, who told her he did not remember and had not taken the clothes.

Russell Bishop (Sussex Police/PA)
Russell Bishop (Sussex Police/PA)

Asked if she thinks not having the clothes returned may have delayed her decades-long quest for justice, she said: “Well I don’t know because I think to myself had he have DNA tested it then maybe we could have taken a civil court case out against the perpetrator.

“So to not give them to me back or not have them DNA tested is a bit shameful, don’t you think?”

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: “We are aware of this matter but it had no material impact on the investigation then or later, or on the 2018 prosecution.

“All forensic evidence needed had been already obtained from the clothing in 1986 and stored separately, including DNA evidence which only became accessible many years later due to advances in forensic technology and which was crucial in securing Bishop’s eventual conviction.

“The families have also been told this.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We appreciate how distressing this must be for Ms Hadaway and we will of course discuss this matter with her if and when she wishes to do so.”