The girlfriend of Babes in the Wood murderer Russell Bishop has admitted she lied under oath to protect him in 1987 after falling in love with a ‘monster’.
Jennifer Johnson, 55, was accused of telling ‘lies that were important’ in the tragic case, including about a crucial piece of evidence – a sweatshirt found near the scene.
Her ex-boyfriend Bishop was first tried for the brutal murders of schoolgirls Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows in 1987 but was acquitted.
New forensic techniques led to his conviction over the murders of the nine-year-olds in 2018 – and he was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years.
Johnson – who had three children with Bishop – has admitted lying in court to protect him in 1987.
In transcripts of a 2019 police interview read out in court today, Johnson called Bishop a ‘monster’ who used to ‘batter’ and ‘control’ her.
Johnson is charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice. She has denied the charges, claiming she was under duress at the time.
Jennifer Johnson, 55, (left) was accused of telling ‘lies that were important’ in the tragic case, including about a crucial piece of evidence – a sweatshirt found near the scene. Her ex-boyfriend Russell Bishop (right) was first tried for the brutal murders of schoolgirls Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows in 1987 but was acquitted
New forensic techniques led to Bishop’s conviction over the murders of nine-year-olds Nicola (left) and Karen (right) in 2018 – and he was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years
The long road to justice
October 10, 1986 – Victims found in woods in Wild Park, Brighton.
December 3, 1986 – Bishop charged with the murders.
December 10, 1987 – After a four week trial, Bishop is acquitted of both murders and released.
February 4, 1990 – Bishop arrested for kidnap, indecent assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl at Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex.
January 19, 1991 – Bishop convicted of kidnap, indecent assault and attempted murder and sentenced to life with a minimum of 14 years.
July 2002 – Babes in the Wood case subject to review and DNA profiling, but was not a success.
April 2005 – Double jeopardy laws – on people being able to be tried twice for same offence twice – are changed.
January 2006 – Forensic tests link Bishop and the Pinto sweatshirt.
Autumn 2006 – Families of both victims informed there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a fresh case against Bishop.
2011-2012 – Cold case review of the murders.
November 3, 2013 – Full reinvestigation of forensics.
May 10, 2016 – Russell Bishop rearrested.
December 2017 – His acquittal was quashed.
December 2018 – He is finally convicted of the murders.
Johnson claimed Bishop told her to lie about the blue Pinto sweatshirt which linked him to the Babes in the Wood murder scene at his trial in 1987.
Bishop being found not guilty of their murders ’caused devastation’ for the girls’ families but there was ‘another terrible consequence’, a jury was told: Bishop went on to attack another girl in 1990.
During the 2019 Sussex Police interview – after Bishop was locked away for life – Johnson said: ‘It’s a nightmare and I’m still living it,’
‘He’s a monster. I lived my life in fear.
‘I’m still living my life in fear. I met a monster, I didn’t even know but I was young.
‘Young, naive and weak. This nightmare will never end, it will never end. They should’ve brought back hanging.’
Johnson told police Bishop blamed her for his arrest in 1986 and his conviction in 1990.
‘I put him inside and he said he would come after me and kill me.
‘I used to be petrified. I knew he was coming after me.
‘The day I heard he was never coming out, I thought this is when my life starts.
‘I know he used to batter me but I didn’t and I still don’t understand how he could do what he done.
‘He controlled me but you couldn’t say it in those days.
‘Police just said it was domestic.’
Johnson claimed Bishop told her to lie about the blue Pinto sweatshirt linking him to the Babes in the Wood killings.
‘He told me to say it wasn’t his. I had no choice back then.
‘That’s all he said. I knew what the consequences would be.
‘I put him in there, that’s what he used to say, because I said it was his Pinto.
‘He always said he would come out and get me. I had to survive to save my own children.
‘No-one has lived my life. No-one has lived my hell.
‘My life is a disaster because I met the wrong person when I was young.’
A jury at Lewes Crown Court heard Johnson wrote to Bishop in prison while he was on remand waiting to be tried for the attack on a young girl in 1990.
In February 1990, Johnson wrote in a letter to Bishop: ‘Can’t wait till you are home, darling.
‘I miss you in bed and your snoring. I’m not going to leave you and I love you very much. Can we get married quite soon?’
Three days later, Ms Johnson wrote: ‘I’ve been thinking how nasty you’ve been to me and all the nasty things you’ve done to me.
Johnson (pictured under a coat outside court) – who had three children with Bishop – has admitted lying in court to protect him in 1987
‘We will get married as soon as possible. I’m sorry for what I’ve put you through.
‘I’m waiting for you. Love you darling.’
In an April letter the same year, Ms Johnson wrote: ‘We have not got a sex life no more.
‘Everyone knows what we do, so we might as well not do it no more. If they ask me about my sex life in court, I’ll tell them where to go.
‘I’ve not got a life no more. When I come to see you it’s just a front because I know you are happy.’
In a second April letter, Ms Johnson wrote: ‘You’ve hurt me. I miss you. Won’t be long now till we are together again. Really wish you were next to me.’
On May 24, Ms Johnson wrote: ‘Great visit. What we do in our bedroom is our business. Please don’t tell the papers.’
Pictured: A blue Pinto sweatshirt, allegedly worn by Russell Bishop and said to contain vital DNA evidence, which was found beside a path behind Moulsecoomb railway station
The girls were found dead in this ‘den’ in undergrowth in Wild Park, Brighton after the going missing the previous night
Two days later, Ms Johnson wrote: ‘Great to see you. Really missing your sexy body. I still love you. We’ll have a big party when you come home.’
On July 1, Ms Johnson wrote to Bishop in prison saying: ‘I really want to have sex with you all night. You looked really good.’
The blunders that let the killer go free
Bishop’s first trial in 1987 saw a series of blunders which led to his acquittal.
- Bishop’s sweatshirt, which was central to the case, was initially treated as lost property.
- It was put in a brown paper bag as ‘no one thought it was important’ during the search for the girls.
- Forensic science only allowed experts to say the jumper and the girls ‘could’ have been in contact with each other.
- Human hairs and fibres found on Nicola’s body were not tested.
- The ‘Pinto’ jumper was widely available in shops across the country, so may not have been Bishops.
- Bishop’s partner Jennifer Johnson initially identified the jumper as his, but then denied it when she took the witness stand.
In September, weeks before Bishop was jailed for life, Ms Johnson wrote to tell him she would stand up for him in court.
Ms Johnson supported Bishop in a civil action against Sussex Police.
He eventually dropped a claim for wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution in relation to the murders of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway.
In her 2019 police interview, Ms Johnson said: ‘If I made a mistake all them years ago, I thought I was freed from him.
‘I still have the nightmares. Sorry if I did wrong in those days but I didn’t have a choice.
‘Sorry, I really am sorry. Sorry for the parents and sorry for the kids but there was nobody out there to help me.
‘I still fear for them and my grandkids. My life was hell and I’m still living it. I still get it now.’
Johnson added: ‘I don’t understand how I fell for someone like him,’ she told police in interview.
‘He was my first boyfriend.’
Johnson said Bishop was violent and controlling throughout their relationship.
She said: ‘The amount of battering I’ve had, I changed the statement to save my and my children’s lives.
‘I didn’t have a choice. He ain’t a human being is he?
‘He’s a monster.’
Jenny Johnson had three children with Russell Bishop before he was jailed in 1990.
She admitted lying in court to protect him at his first trial in 1987.
But she denies perjury and perverting the course of justice.
The trial at Lewes Crown Court continues.