1986 ~ Babes in the Woods Murders

1986 ~ Babes in the Woods Murders


CRIME Babes...Composite handout collect photos of murdered Brighton schoolgirls Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows. The family of Nicola, a nine-year-old girl killed in the so-called 'babes in the woods' murders has broken its silence to call for the reintroduction of the death penalty for child sex killers. Speaking 16 years after Nicola and her best friend Karen, 10, were killed in one of Britain's most famous murder cases, Nicola's aunt, Gillian Chambers, demanded the reintroduction of the death penalty. The two girls were abducted from their homes in Brighton, sexually assaulted and then strangled. Their bodies were later found in Wild Park, Brighton. Mrs Chambers said the recent murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had brought back harrowing memories of the death of her niece. See PA story CRIME Babes. PA Photo


1986, the bodies of  two 9 year old girls Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway were found in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb, north of Brighton, England.

They had both been raped and strangled. A local roofer Russell Bishop was arrested, tried, and then acquitted of the crime. To date, no one has been convicted of the crimes.


Russell  was convicted for abducting and attempted rape of another child, after the being acquitted of the the Babes in the Woods Case. According to media reports the case against him for Nicola and Karen had been flawed which could only mean that the jury found that the investigation had been flawed somehow.

It was Friday the 10th of October 1986 when it was reported that the two young 9 year old girls had not returned home when they should have. A massive search was organised and included around 200 police and neighbors.  A helicopter was brought in to help search the rambling acres of Wild Park.

Initially, it was thought that the search was successful in finding the girls as it was thought that they were alive and huddled together. Sadly, both had been brutally murdered. It has been reported that evidence showed Nicola had been sexually assaulted both before and after her murder, both girls were bruised and appeared to have been beaten, strangulation being the official cause of death for both.

About 3 weeks after the Nicola and Karen  were found, Russell Bishop was arrested by detectives and taken in, where he was questioned for a total of 51 hours. He was then released on bail. He went into hiding, while Police guarded his empty flat.

On the 3rd of December he was charged with the two murders and appeared in Court the following day where the Magistrates decided that he should face trial.

Russell became a suspect because he claimed to have seen the two bodies during the search of  Wild Park, describing how the bodies were lying. The problem with that according to detectives was that he was never actually near the bodies during the search. Details like this however, are not hard to put together after seeing a number of media reports from that time, still detectives tend to keep certain details out of the media so Russell had to have told them something that sealed him in as the suspect.

In December of 1987 it took the jury two hours to find Russell not guilty of the murders. Obviously this upset the families and the police who contend that they investigated the case thoroughly. I am sure the 51 hours of interview time had more than just a little to do with the verdict as well. The number is impressive when it stands alone, by alone I mean alone. Toss that number in front a jury and twist it enough for them to start thinking it was an excessive number of hours and it creates doubt. 

It was 3 years after that, that Russell was convicted  of abduction, kidnap and attempted murder and got a life sentence.

Russell had a history of petty thieving, he was living quietly at the time with his partner and their child.

The key evidence that was presented at the trial against him were some specks of blood on a jumper that other witnesses said belonged to him and the fact that the jumper had been found on his “most likely” route home. Some of the fibers on that jumper matched fibers from the clothes worn by Karen and Nicola when they had gone out that day.

Of course he had an explanation for the how the fibers were found on his jumper, he was one of the first people on the scene when the girls were found. Russell argued as he had taken their pulses, thus any exchange of trace evidence could be accounted for.

Ready for the Twist?

In 2009, Barrie Fellows aged 59, was arrested at his home in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, on suspicion of rape and conspiracy to rape his daughter, Nicola, who was murdered in 1986 when aged nine.

Barrie as it turns out was arrested with a friend, Douglas Judd, aged 44. Sussex Police said the investigation into sexual abuse allegations was unrelated to the ongoing murder inquiry and that the men were arrested on suspicion of sexual offences involving Nicola Fellows.

Here is the twist, Barrie was previously questioned about raping his daughter after Russell was arrested. The allegations it seemed were delivered to police by a female “friend” of none other than Russell Bishop. A father and now his friend arrested for a crime neither committed.

Thankfully, both were found innocent by police and let go. But how sick and twisted is that, it is like punishing a grieving father over and over again.

Russell, led a seemingly quiet life indeed however, another Babes in the Woods killers case bears similarities to the murders of Nicola and Karen. Not that the killer is the same, he seems to be more than likely someone the actual killer of Nicola and Karen learned from, someone for lack of better words, the killer of Nicola and Karen wanted to become. That killer was in prison when Nicola and Karen were murdered. The cases are so similar that it cannot be ignored. 

Main-JebsonRonald Jebson (birth name: Ronald Harper), who snatched Susan Blatchford, 11, and Gary Hanlon, 12, right off of the streets of Enfield, North London, in March of 1970. He then drove the children to Epping Forest, Essex, where he sexually assaulted and strangled them, he then dumped their bodies in the woods.

He was arrested 4 days later for assaulting an 11 year old boy and sentenced to 5 years. The murders of Susan and Gary were not tied to him at that time. After his release he lived with a friend and his friends 8 year old daughter whom he strangled to death.

He confessed to his first murders 3 decades later while serving life in prison.

I do believe that Russell is in fact the actual killer and if police want to find the smoking gun they may want to delve into his past a bit looking for things that might tie him to an interest or obsession with Jacob and the crimes that he committed.

It is always difficult when you think that you have a solid case and the jury hands down a not guilty. You have to go back and review every shred of evidence you had. Once you surmise that you had everything you have to start seeking out that which is hidden, carefully or not, but subtle enough that you never saw it before. You never even put it together let alone considered it. 

Cristal M Clark


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