‘Accomplished liar’ jailed for perjury in Babes in the Wood murder trial

Michelle Hadaway (bottom), mother of Karen Hadaway, accompanied by family members, reads a statement outside Sussex Police Headquarters in Lewes, East Sussex, after Jennifer Johnson, the ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood murderer Russell Bishop, was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice over his infamous 1987 trial. Picture date: Monday May 17, 2021.
Michelle Hadaway (bottom), mother of Karen Hadaway, accompanied by family members, reads a statement outside Sussex Police Headquarters in Lewes, East Sussex, after Jennifer Johnson, the ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood murderer Russell Bishop, was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice over his infamous 1987 trial. Picture date: Monday May 17, 2021.

The ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer Russell Bishop has been jailed for six years after telling “wicked lies” at his murder trial.

“Accomplished liar” Jennifer Johnson, 55, refused to appear for sentencing on Wednesday in the same courtroom where she committed perjury more than three decades ago.

Bishop was put on trial for the murders of schoolgirls Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows in 1987, but Johnson’s lies under oath led to him being acquitted, the judge said.

Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows (PA)

The impact of the original not guilty verdicts was made clear three years later when Bishop kidnapped and sexually assaulted another young girl, leaving her for dead.

Johnson told her trial she “had no choice” but to lie, but was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice on Monday by majority verdicts.

Nine-year-olds Karen and Nicola were found sexually assaulted and strangled in a woodland den in Brighton in October 1986.

It took more than 30 years and a change in the law, fought for by the girls’ families, before Bishop was convicted at a retrial in 2018.

Karen’s mother Michelle Hadaway told Lewes Crown Court that Johnson’s lies in 1987 left her “completely numb to the core”.

Michelle Hadaway
Michelle Hadaway (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The pain I have had to endure over the loss of my beautiful daughter Karen over the last 30 years has been unbearable.

“There has never been a moment when that sense of injustice has ever left and I fought with everything I possibly could.”

Looking down on the empty dock, Mr Justice Sir Peter Fraser called Johnson an “accomplished liar” and said her crimes “strike at the heart of the administration of justice”.

He added: “The effect of your dishonesty endured for over three decades.

“Your refusal to attend today is an example of your refusal to accept what you have done.”

He recognised that she had suffered mental health issues but he did not accept she was in a “controlling and coercive relationship” with Bishop before her offences.

Russell Bishop
Russell Bishop (Sussex Police/PA)

The judge said he hoped this was the “last chapter” in the “prolonged tragedy” that began with the deaths of Karen and Nicola.

Defence barrister Chris Henley QC spoke of the “real punishment” Johnson has suffered over the last three decades.

He said she was a “vulnerable young mother” in 1987 living a socially isolated life in a relationship with a “violent, abusive and coercive man”.

Mr Henley also criticised the idea that her evidence about a blue sweatshirt led directly to the not guilty verdicts in 1987.

“The law required her to be stronger but in our submission a merciful and humane analysis of what happened will understand the reality of her position.”

Ms Hadaway held a picture of her daughter as she spoke outside the court after the verdict.

She said: “I just wonder in the whole of the 35 years, has she ever gone up to the Bear Road cemetery and put any flowers down on them two children’s graves?

“Has she ever inside her heart ever felt any sympathy or anything at all for what we’ve gone through?”

Following the verdicts on Monday, she said Johnson’s “wicked lies” had “very serious consequences”.