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17 May 2021

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

17 May 2021

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 (PA Wire)

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.

After the verdicts were read out, Lorna Heffron, Nicola’s cousin, faced Johnson as she delivered an emotional statement in court.

She said Johnson “played a huge part in helping to blur the lines” of Bishop’s first trial by her “devious actions” of perjury.

Ms Heffron added: “Russell Bishop will never be freed from prison – he will die where he belongs behind bars.

“His ex-lover Jennifer Johnson must also pay her price for the part she played in the miscarriage of justice.

“Her prolific and devious lies have impacted us all.”

Johnson was remanded in custody ahead of her sentencing on Wednesday.

Nine-year-olds Karen and Nicola 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 (PA Media)

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.”

Michelle Hadaway, Karen’s mother, spoke of the impact Johnson’s evidence had in 1987 and their long fight for justice ever since.

She told reporters: “Not only had we lost our daughters, the evil monster who had killed them walked free.

“The wicked lies this woman told had very serious consequences, because three years later on the anniversary of Karen and Nicola’s funeral, that evil man struck again.

“It took 32 long years for two families to get justice, 32 years of pure fighting, never losing hope, not once in all those years did this wicked woman own up to what she had done.”

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