Babes in the Wood killer’s ex-girlfriend found guilty of perjury

The ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer Russell Bishop has been found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice over his infamous 1987 trial.

Jennifer Johnson, 55, was accused of having lied “prolifically” and “significantly undermined” the trial, which ultimately ended in Bishop being acquitted of the brutal murders of schoolgirls Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows.

Over the last few weeks, Johnson’s trial at Lewes Crown Court heard she had told “lies that were important” including about a crucial piece of evidence – a sweatshirt found near the scene.

Jennifer Johnson court case
Jennifer Johnson, the ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood murderer Russell Bishop, arriving at Lewes Crown Court (Steve Parsons/PA)

Johnson said that she had acted under duress and “had no choice” but to lie during the trial more than 30 years ago.

But she was convicted by a jury on one count of perjury and one count of perverting the course of justice on Monday.

The jury took more than 12 hours to reach their majority verdicts of guilty on both counts.

Johnson closed her eyes as the jury foreman delivered the verdicts while the victims’ families wiped away tears of relief.

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

Bishop was first tried for the murders in 1987 but was acquitted.

Babes in the Wood murders
Brighton schoolgirls Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows (PA)

The not guilty verdicts “caused devastation” for the girls’ families but there was “another terrible consequence”, the jury was told: Bishop went on to attack another girl in 1990.

It was not until 2018 that Bishop was convicted of the killings of Karen and Nicola, and jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years.

Mr Justice Fraser said Johnson was “infatuated” with Bishop but the relationship had been “problematic”.

“Earlier in her evidence … she said she was being treated like a murderer,” he told jurors during his summing up of the case.

“You must remember that the defendant does admit lying on oath in a crown court trial.”

He added that Johnson had been described as “tough and resourceful” and by her GP, Dr Calum Bartlett who “never had any concern about any active abuse”.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Libby Clark told the PA news agency that Johnson’s decision to lie at the 1987 trial was a “nightmare” for the prosecution.

Johnson’s convictions for perjury and perverting the course of justice mark the end of a long road, not just for the CPS but also the families of Nicola and Karen, she added.

Ms Clark said: “It was unfinished business and naturally we’re very pleased that it’s resulted in a successful conclusion: a guilty verdict from the jury.”