Chilling question Babes in Wood killer’s mum asked victim’s family

The mum of ‘Babes in the Wood’ victim Karen Hadaway was visited by the mother of killer Rusell Bishop, she has reevaled.

Johnson’s daughter Karen was murdered along with Nicola Fellows in 1986 when they were nine years old and killer Russell Bishop was only jailed in this month after Michelle campaigned for justice.

Bishop originally walked free after a bungled trial in 1987. Now is the oldest double jeopardy conviction in the UK.

Now, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror, Michelle Johnson revealed: “After he was arrested, Bishop’s mum Sylvia came to see me and asked me if I thought he’d done it.

“She said: ‘Do you think my Russell is involved?’

“I told her I knew he had killed those girls. And she must have had her doubts to have come to me and ask me that question.

“She just told me her son was a wally.

“He wasn’t even in the frame, he wasn’t even a suspect.

“That’s always stuck in my mind as it was a funny thing to say.”

Everyone knew he was guilty.

But a shambolic criminal prosecution saw him to escape justice for sexually assaulting and strangling Nicola and Karen the first time on the evening of October 9, 1986 in Brighton.

The blunder allowed him to strike again in 1990.

In fact Michelle remembers that she predicted that he would strike again – and he did on the afternoon of February 2 he attempted to pick up two little girls in Hollingdean.

Only two days later he struck again at Devil’s Dyke. On 4 February on the three-year anniversary of the girls’ burial.

He was jailed for life for the indecent assault and attempted murder of a 7-year-old girl but denied the sickening attack.

Michelle, clasping Karen’s older sister Lyndsey, 37 said: "He admitted abducting her in Karen and Nicola’s re-trial.

"But he still pleaded not guilty for them.

“Was it a game he was playing? Was he still taunting us?

"He had the opportunity in those eight weeks to have told the truth, he could have turned around and said he was guilty but he still wouldn’t admit it.

"We’ve never had an apology or an explanation from anyone.

“The defence said for more than three decades the police pursued the wrong man and I pursued the right one.

“We were let down in 1987.”

Michelle heartbreakingly tells of how her beloved little girl was stuck in “limbo” for 32 years.

“I’ve never been able to look at my daughter’s photograph and say she was at peace," she said.

“But now she can finally rest with Nicola in their angel beds in heaven.

“She’s been waiting so long.

“I came home after the verdict and looked at her picture and said to her: ‘We’ve done it, darling. You and Nicola can rest – and now mummy can rest’."

Michelle describes how Bishop haunted her every thought on her journey "to hell and back" as she battled to get him locked up for one of Britain’s most horrific crimes.

"I was manic," she confesses.

"I went every day to the 1990 trial.

"I wanted to go as a member of the public to see if I could actually see evil in him.

"And I did.

“I would lay a plate at the table for Karen every mealtime.

“It was torturing me.

“Her favourite dinner was chicken pie."

At the time of the murders Michelle was seven-and-a-half months pregnant.

“I had cooked that chicken pie for her the night she was murdered and it stayed in the oven for three months.

“I didn’t want to open the oven and face reality."

And she nearly broke down after her husband Lee died of a heart attack in 1998, which the family believes was brought on by the stress of Karen’s murder.

“It was one of the hardest things for me to bear and I got very low," she said.

“I felt so alone.

“It was just me against the world really.

“He got so obsessed he didn’t want me out of his sight as he didn’t want to lose me like he had lost Karen.

“When he went into to identify Karen at 9.35am 11 October, he came out a complete stranger, He became a shadow of the man he was and I never got him back.

“I had left him behind trying to fight for justice and he used drink to deaden the pain.

“Bishop took so much.

“He took my first born, my husband and my soul.

“It was constantly eating away at me.

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"I haven’t been able to sleep for over 30 years.

"I had nightmares about him almost every night, waking up in a blind panic screaming."

But although Michelle is still struggling to come to terms with her daughter’s death – she says she can now finally look to the future.

She said: “This is the first Christmas, where Christmas will really mean anything to me. We’ve always made the effort but this year we will put up a stocking for Karen.

“There’s now tinsel and lights around her picture.

“On our Christmas tree I’m going to put heart decorations with photos of Karen and Nicola in.

“And they have two little bears.

“It would have been her birthday next week – she would have been 42.

“There will be a lot of tears but also tears of joy.”

Michelle – who is looking forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep – added:

“I have had a great weight lifted from my shoulders but it’s going to take time to grieve and I would never have been able to get through it without the support of my children and my family.

"I’ve always tried to protect my children, Darren was 12 and Lyndsey was five-and-a-half and if we had justice in 1987 they never would have had to go through this and hear the details that they have done in the last eight weeks.

"I’ve never stopped fighting from day one.

“I did it.

“That monster took everything away from me but I was never going to let him destroy me as a person.”

Michelle now has plans to write a book: “I want to write a book because 32 years ago two little girls went out to play and never came back.

It was a big thing in Brighton but I want the world to know what happened.”

A BBC Two documentary has also followed the story and will transmit in January.

She added: “With the book, I want to explain how both families have fought for 32 long years for justice, I want to share the journey, the things that we fought, the positivity that got us through to this point.

"I lost my heart 32 years ago and I this week I was able to thank my legal team (who were the absolute best), for getting it back and I want to the world to know how we got to this point.

“The judge and the jury were incredible. 12 just men and true.”

"The two families stood together, we took on evil and we won.”

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