Former girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer 'lied under oath' to help him get off murder charges

Martin Evans
·4 min read
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were murdered by Russell Bishop in 1986
Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows were murdered by Russell Bishop in 1986

The former girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer, Russell Bishop, “deliberately and prolifically” lied under oath to protect him from a murder conviction, a court has heard.

Jenny Johnson had been a key prosecution witness at the original trial in 1987 when Bishop was accused of sexually assaulting and strangling nine-year-old schoolgirls, Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows in a park in Brighton.

She had told police that a distinctive sweatshirt found near the murder scene belonged to Bishop, who was her boyfriend at the time.

But she sensationally changed her story during the trial, telling jurors she had never seen the sweatshirt before and insisting it did not belong to Russell.

Russell Bishop was finally convicted over the killings in 2018
Russell Bishop was finally convicted over the killings in 2018

The judge directed the jury to acquit Bishop if they were unsure the sweatshirt belonged to him and he was subsequently cleared of both murders.

Three years later however, Bishop struck again, abducting, molesting and then attempting to murder a seven-year-old girl.

He was arrested for the second attack in 1990, and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2018 following a breakthrough in DNA evidence he faced a second trial for the 1986 murders and this time was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of 36-years in prison.

On Friday Ms Johnson, 55, dressed in a black and white coat, black face mask and black trousers, went on trial at Lewes Crown Court - the same court where her former boyfriend was tried in 1987 - charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Jenny Johnson, under the black and white coat is on trial at Lewes Crown Court
Jenny Johnson, under the black and white coat is on trial at Lewes Crown Court

Alison Morgan QC, prosecuting, said Ms Johnson took a deliberate decision to lie “deliberately and prolifically” to help Bishop in 1987.

She said Johnson knew the importance of the sweatshirt to the trial and told lies about it.

She said: “In telling those lies, the prosecution alleges that she intended to pervert the course of justice. She lied because she was seeking to assist and protect her former partner.

“By lying in the way that she did she wanted to help Russell Bishop to be acquitted of the offences of murder. “

She said: “Her evidence attributing the sweatshirt to Bishop fell away. The case against Bishop was significantly undermined as a result.

“Bishop was acquitted of those offences at the trial which took place between November and December 1987. He was then released from custody and returned to live with the defendant and their children.”

Miss Morgan said: “Three years later in 1990, at a time when he was still living with the defendant, Russell Bishop kidnapped, sexually assaulted and tried to kill another young girl. He left that girl in woodland, believing her to be dead. Miraculously, the girl survived.

“There was another trial. The defendant continued to maintain her support for Russell Bishop.

“This time, however, Russell Bishop was convicted of the offences of attempted murder and sexual assault and he was sentenced to a life sentence.”

Russell bishop was linked to the blue Pinto sweatshirt
Russell bishop was linked to the blue Pinto sweatshirt

Miss Morgan told the jury the defendant will claim she lived in fear of Bishop and was under duress to retract her original statement to police.

She said it was clear Johnson, who then worked as a cleaner at the American Express offices in Brighton, was in a “violent, volatile and coercive” relationship with Bishop.

Miss Morgan said: It will be suggested on behalf of the defendant that she was forced to give false evidence by Russell Bishop and his family. She will say that she had ‘no choice’.

“She will say that she was young and the victim of domestic abuse and coercive control. She will say that at the time when she told the lies she did, she was acting under duress.”

But Miss Morgan said Johnson, who was pregnant at the time and also had a a young son with Bishop, also showed signs of being an independent and assertive woman herself.

During the murder investigation she told police she had a normal relationship with Russell and been “happy” until he started a relationship with 16-year-old Marion Stevenson.

Miss Morgan said a person is only entitled to claim that they are acting under duress if there is no reasonable evasive action that they could have taken.

She told the jury the defence of duress is only applicable if the defendant felt seriously threatened.

Miss Morgan said: “For someone to be acting under duress they must reasonably believe that if they do not do something, serious violence will be used against them, or someone close to them, immediately or almost immediately.”

Miss Morgan said Johnson had ample opportunities to tell the truth about the ownership of the sweatshirt.

She said: “Was she someone who was so terrified of Russell Bishop and his family that she simply had no choice but to lie on oath?

“Was there anything stopping her from telling the judge or the police officers or anyone else present in the courtroom that she was under that type of threat.”

Johnson denies the charges and the case, which is set to last around four weeks, continues.