Lawyer for man accused of murdering schoolgirls in 1986 points finger at father

A lawyer for a sex predator accused of murdering two nine-year-olds has pointed the finger at the father of one of the girls, saying police spent “32 years building a case against the wrong man”.

Former roofer Russell Bishop is on trial for the second time for the murders of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows.

The girls were sexually abused and strangled on the South Downs on the outskirts of Brighton in October 1986.

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows

In an opening speech, Bishop’s lawyer Joel Bennathan QC cast suspicion on Barrie Fellows, Nicola’s father, saying detectives had spent “32 years building a case against the wrong man”.

He told jurors at the Old Bailey: “Only one person is on trial here sitting in the dock – Russell Bishop.

“But the law allows a defendant like him to point out facts, ask questions, to the jury that might suggest the possibility that another person exists who may have carried out these awful attacks.

“We will ask questions of witnesses to show that when the girls went missing there was someone very close to them who has no alibi.

“That someone made comments after the killings that are far more incriminating than anything Russell Bishop said. That someone is someone who may actually – unlike Mr Bishop – have been able to order Nicola Fellows to meet him in Wild Park.

“That someone has a guilty secret – that he has been complicit in the sexual abuse of Nicola Fellows, which shows an interest in paedophilic sex.

“In the end it might mean he could not let Nicola Fellows tell the world what has been happening. That person is her father, Barrie Fellows.”

Michelle Hadaway and Sue Eismann at the scene in Wild Park
Michelle Hadaway and Sue Eismann at the scene in Wild Park

Nicola’s mother Susan Fellows – now Eismann – told jurors her daughter was “funny”, “happy” and “spoke her mind” to the point of embarrassment.

In 1986, she told police: “Nicola was dotty over her father but was also wary of him. She knew what he said went.”

In a recent statement, she described hearing of a sexual allegation about her daughter from Bishop’s then-teenage girlfriend Marion Stevenson.

Russell Bishop
Russell Bishop

She said: “I first heard of an allegation made by Marion of Nicola being in a pornographic film in 1986.

“I heard the allegation through speaking to people in the area and also through my police liaison officer.”

She said she never spoke to her ex-husband about it, saying she would not dare.

She was also asked about an incident of violence towards her grandmother, and said the elderly woman was “quite outspoken and said something about not liking Barrie”.

Mr Fellows responded by raising his hand and striking her “directly on the nose”.

The grandmother suffered a broken nose, but did not want to press charges, according to the account.

Mrs Eismann said Nicola and her father loved each other in a “child’s way”, adding: “If she was out of control, if she was naughty, he would slap her.”

Karen’s mother Michelle Hadaway was asked about concerns she raised in 1989 about Nicola’s father.

She had written a letter to her local councillor and Bishop’s uncle outlining her fears about his “strange” behaviour.

She wrote: “I’m afraid that Barrie Fellows’ strange and unnatural behaviour since my daughter was murdered has not got any better.”

He allegedly told her it was “lucky Karen had not been beaten before she died”, which she found strange coming before she had been told what happened.

Mr Fellows also remarked more than once that Karen was in the “wrong place at the wrong time”, she had said.

The trial has heard how Nicola and Karen went missing while out playing together in Wild Park near Brighton after school on October 9 1986.

Russell Bishop
Russell Bishop

Following a desperate search by the girls’ mothers, police and locals including Bishop, they were found dead in a wooded den the next day.

Mrs Hadaway wept as she told of the moment the girls were found.

She said: “I was all upset, confused and did not know where I was. I was just terrified about my little girl. Worried about both them children.”

Bishop was cleared of the murder in 1987 but was ordered to stand trial at the Old Bailey in light of new DNA evidence.

Three years after his acquittal, he was convicted of the kidnap, indecent assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl at Devil’s Dyke, also on the South Downs.

Bishop, now aged 52, formerly from Brighton, has denied two charges of murder.