WHEN Barrie Fellows waved his daughter off at the bus stop one Thursday morning, little did he know it would be the last time he saw her alive.
But that night – October 9 1986 – the nine-year-old and her best friend, Karen Hadaway were murdered by paedophile Russell Bishop, their lifeless bodies left in the woods by their homes.
It was the start of 32 years of hell for Barrie, who was accused of sexually assaulting his own daughter… by the monster who killed her.
After being arrested for the killings in November 1987, Bishop sickeningly claimed Barrie had been the one to abuse Nicola by allowing his lodger to rape her and then watching a video of it.
Sussex police investigated the allegations at the time and found them to be completely untrue.
But in the ITV documentary Babes In The Wood, which airs tonight, 71-year-old Barrie breaks down in tears as he tells Trevor McDonald the cloud of suspicion blighted his life for three decades – until Bishop was finally convicted in December last year.
He said: “This was Bishop, looking for a scapegoat and I’m it. I’ve been that for 32 years. I never laid a finger on my little girl.
“The only way I ever laid a finger on her was with love. I hate that man for what he has done to me and to the members of my family.”
‘It’s a living nightmare’
The two girls disappeared from the Moulsecoomb Estate in Brighton on October 9 1986, sparking a huge search in the area, which Bishop took part in.
Their bodies were found the following morning in a makeshift den in nearby Wild Park by two young men who had been unwittingly led there by Bishop.
They had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death.
PC Paul Smith recalled: “Karen Hadaway was lying on her back as if she was asleep. Nicky Fellows was up against her. Just two kids asleep in the wood. Hence Babes in the Wood.”
“When they came and told me the details of how she’d been asphyxiated and sexually abused before and after death. I just said “why?” She was my little girl,” Barrie says.
“I thought it was a dream. It’s a living nightmare.”
‘I didn’t top the girls’
Bishop acted suspiciously from the start.
CIF detective John Moreton said: “I got to the Wild Park and saw the two men (who had found the bodies) sitting on the ground in despair.
“Standing beside them was another man, shuffling on his feet, whistling and had his hands in his pockets and looked totally out of place.
“That’s when I began to think “There’s something really wrong here.”’
Superintendent Dave Tomlinson, who led the investigation, said the other two men were pale and visibly distressed but Bishop “Didn’t seem at all concerned. He didn’t show any reaction. He seemed more concerned about his dog than what we were dealing with.”
Oddly he told police: “I went across to the bodies and felt both girls round their necks for a pulse.”
Dave added: “I thought that was strange because unless you had a background in medicine you wouldn’t do that. It would be much easier to try their wrist.”
Suspicious over his behaviour, and reports that placed him in the area on the evening of the murders, Bishop was taken in for questions and, on his release, he headed straight to the Fellows’ home.
Barrie recalled: “Bishop knocked on my door and the first words out of his mouth were ‘I didn’t top the girls.’ Not ‘How are you?’
‘I knew that man would do it again’
The police were convinced they had their man and got a breakthrough when a sweatshirt was recovered from Moulsecoomb station, which was on the route Bishop would have taken from Wild Park to his home.
Forensic examination found it had fibres from the girls’ clothing and, when it was shown to his partner Jenny Johnson, she instantly identified it as his.
But during the trial, to the frustration of Sussex Police, Johnson unexpectedly changed her story, claiming she had never seen the sweatshirt, and his defence argued that it could have been contaminated in the evidence room.
Bishop was acquitted of the crime leaving both families and the investigating officers devastated.
Detective John Moreton recalled: “I was numb. I personally went to the families to tell them we weren’t looking for anyone else.
“People were devastated because it was all of our firm belief that we had the right man.
“I felt dreadful because I just knew that man would do it again.”
The programme – which contains exclusive footage of police interviews – includes a chilling video of Bishop marching for ‘justice’ alongside the victims’ families and calling for the ‘real killer’ to be found so he can clear his name.
Three months after the trial, a seven-year-old girl was snatched from another Sussex street, bundled into a car and driven to Devil’s Dyke where she was stripped, sexually assaulted and strangled.
Thrown into the bushes and left for dead, the little girl miraculously survived and was found wandering naked by a picnicking couple at a nearby beauty spot.
She bravely identified Bishop, and, in December 1990 he was tried and jailed.
But it would be three decades before justice would be done for the two nine-year-olds– with devastating effect on the grieving families
Families destroyed by grief
Karen’s devastated dad Lee Hadaway died of a heart attack two years after Bishop’s trial and Barrie’s marriage to Nicola’s mum Susan crumbled.
Speaking before the 2018 trial Karen’s mum Michelle said: “After the (first) trial nobody wanted to know.
“It was like that was the end of it. All we got was ‘We’re not looking for anybody else. Go on your way.
“This is the murder of two little children. You can’t just shrug your shoulders.
“Our world was never the same again and it’s hard. We’re still fighting for justice for our daughter and her little friend and all through the years it’s taken its toll.
“It destroyed my husband, completely and utterly destroyed my husband.”
Barrie was still plagued by the false accusations.
In another recent documentary Barrie said: “I can’t believe the mentality of people. Why? All I’d done was lost this little girl. It makes me so angry. They had no right to accuse me. It’s bang out of order.”
It wasn’t until the double jeopardy law changed in 2003 – meaning a suspect could be retried for the same crime if compelling new evidence emerged – that the families saw a glimmer of hope.
The case was reopened in 2012 after advances in technology made it possible to create a DNA profile from the tiniest scrap of evidence.
Tapes taken from Karen’s forearm contained 14 skin flakes and hairs, which proved a one in a billion match to Russell Bishop.
Samples taken from the cuff of the blue sweatshirt discarded at the station also proved that the sweatshirt belonged to Bishop, a fact he had denied in the original trial.
‘Barrie was a broken man’
But, even as the evidence stacked up against him in the courtroom, Bishop and his defence lawyer continued to insist that real killer was Barrie – cruelly forcing him to defend himself against allegations of abuse in the witness box.
Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett said: “I watched Barrie Fellows give evidence and it was the most distressing thing I’ve ever seen in a courtroom in my career.”
Superintendent Jeff Riley, who led the investigation that finally brought Bishop to justice, said Barrie was a “broken” man.
“Anyone who watched Barrie’s evidence can’t have failed to be moved by it,” he said.
“This man was broken by this allegation and you could see that. But he was strong, he answered the questions, he didn’t run away.
“By contrast, the moment the allegation was put to Russell Bishop that he was a sex offender he left the witness box and never returned.”
In December 2018, Bishop was convicted of both murders and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 36 years.
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After 32 years of torment, Barrie said the conviction “made me believe in justice again.”
Ex-wife Susan added: “I always wanted a little girl and she was taken away from me at just nine years old.
“It’s hard. When I see other little children around I think ‘that should be my daughter walking around with her mum.’
“But now we’ve got him. He’s going to do time. Now my daughter can stop flying around waiting for justice. She can go back and sleep in her angel bed.”
Babes In The Wood – Trevor McDonald airs on ITV tonight at 10pm