Babes in the Woods “monster” Russell Bishop has been jailed for at least 36 years for the murders of two schoolgirls 32 years ago.
The 52-year-old convicted paedophile was found guilty of killing nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, bringing to an end two families’ long fight for justice.
Bishop was 20 years old when he sexually assaulted and strangled the girls in a woodland den in Brighton in October 1986.
He was cleared of their murders on December 10 1987 but within three years went on to kidnap, molest and throttle a seven-year-old girl, leaving her for dead at Devils Dyke.
While serving life for attempted murder, Bishop, now 52, was ordered to face a fresh trial under the double jeopardy law, in light of a DNA breakthrough.
A Pinto sweatshirt discarded on Bishop’s route home was linked to the defendant by DNA, while fibre, paint and ivy transfers placed it at the scene.
Tests on a sample from Karen’s left forearm also revealed a “one in a billion” DNA match to Bishop.
Bishop responded by trying to cast suspicion on Nicola’s devastated father Barrie.
He tailored his evidence to counter the new forensic evidence, claiming to have touched the bodies to feel for a pulse after they were found by two 18-year-olds.
But jurors took just two-and-a-half hours to see through the web of lies and convict Bishop on the “overwhelming” evidence on the 31st anniversary of his acquittal.
Bishop refused to attend court for his sentencing at the Old Bailey.
Handing him a life sentence on Tuesday with a minimum term of 36 years, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “I have no doubt that you were a predatory paedophile.
“The terror that each girl must have suffered in their final moments is unimaginable.”
Members of the girls’ families wept and hugged each other after the verdict.
Karen’s mother Michelle Hadaway said Bishop was an “evil monster”.
In a victim impact statement, she said: “Finally justice has been done and Bishop has been seen as the evil monster he really is.
“On October 15 this year he was tried for the second time. That trial has lasted for a couple of months and has finally led to conviction. This is the result we should have had 31 years ago. Having to go through a second trial has been traumatic and heartbreaking for me and my family.”
Sue Eismann, Nicola’s mother, told how her world “turned upside down” after the death of her daughter.
On her feelings about Bishop, she said: “I have lived with the pain, the loss and sheer hate towards him for what he had done for the last 32 years.
“Russell Bishop is a horrible, wicked man. No child is safe if he is allowed to be free.”
Barrie Fellows said the loss of Nicola destroyed his relationship with his wife, saying it “tore us apart”.
On the false accusations he has faced over the murders, he said: “Thirty-two years is a long time to be suspected of murdering your daughter. When they arrested and charged Russell Bishop I thought that would be the end and we would get some closure. It did not pan out like that.
“Since the trial began I have been through every feeling imaginable from hope to sheer dread.
“Words cannot describe how I feel about Russell Bishop and the effect it has had on people’s lives.”
Members of the girls’ families were embraced by jurors who had all turned up to see Bishop sentenced in his absence.
Afterwards, Detective Superintendent Jeff Riley, of Sussex Police, said: “Russell Bishop is a truly wicked man and the life sentence with a minimum term of 36 years reflects the true magnitude of the terrible crimes against these two young girls.
“Bishop will hopefully spend the remainder of his life behind bars where he truly belongs and never darken the streets of Brighton again.
“This significant term of imprisonment will of course never make up for the loss of Karen and Nicola but I hope their families will take some comfort from it.”