Ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer jailed for six years for lying during murder trial

The ex-girlfriend of Babes in the Wood killer Russell Bishop has been jailed for six years for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Jennifer Johnson, 55, was accused of lying prolifically during Bishop’s trial in 1987, when he was acquitted of the murders of nine-year-old schoolgirls Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows.

In 1990, Bishop kidnapped and sexually assaulted another young girl, leaving her for dead.

It was not until a retrial in 2018 that he was finally convicted of killing Karen and Nicola, who he sexually assaulted and strangled in a woodland den in Brighton in October 1986.

Johnson, who insisted she had acted under duress and "had no choice" but to lie during the trial more than three decades ago, was convicted on Monday.

She declined to appear in person for her sentencing on Wednesday, which took place at Lewes Crown Court – the same place Bishop’s 1987 trial was held.

Sentencing Johnson, Mr Justice Fraser said her "refusal to attend today is an example of your refusal to accept what you have done".

"The effect of your dishonesty endured for over three decades," he added.

Johnson’s perjury "led to" the not-guilty verdicts in 1987, the judge continued, and while he recognised she had suffered with mental health issues, he did not accept she was in a "controlling and coercive relationship" with Bishop prior to her offences.

Michelle Hadaway, mother of Karen, told the court Johnson’s lies "left me completely numb to the core".

She added: "I knew from that moment onwards that there was a good chance that this evil man could be acquitted.

"The pain I have had to endure over the loss of my beautiful daughter Karen over the last 30 years has been unbearable."

Chris Henley QC, for the defence, said Johnson was a "vulnerable young mother in 1987, the mother of two very young children living a very socially isolated life and in a relationship with a violent, abusive and coercive man".

He also criticised a suggestion that the not-guilty verdicts in 1987 were the direct result of evidence Johnson gave about a sweatshirt found near the scene.

She initially told police officers the garment belonged to Bishop, the court heard, before later asking if she could change her story.

She said Bishop had threatened retribution if she did not alter her statement.

"Of course the evidence in relation to the top was material but it should not for one moment be considered decisive to the outcome of the trial," Mr Henley said.

"It is wrong and it isn’t fair to hold Jennifer Johnson responsible for that."

It took jurors more than 12 hours to reach their majority decisions of guilty on both charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

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