A Pinto sweatshirt found during the search for two missing Brighton schoolgirls “was a crucial finding”, a jury was told this afternoon (Tuesday 16 October).
The nine-year-old girls from Moulsecoomb – Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway – were found dead shortly afterwards, in October 1986.
A former Brighton roofer, Russell Bishop, is standing trial for their murder for a second time.
At the Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – in London, Brian Altman, prosecuting, said that Bishop, 52, had been acquitted of their murder in 1987.
But in 1990 the defendant, formerly of Stephens Road, in Hollingdean, was convicted of the attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl and of kidnapping and sexually assaulting her.
Referring to the sweatshirt and the advances since the murders in the science of DNA evidence, Mr Altman told the Old Bailey jury: “After 30 or so years since 1986, it has now given up its secrets.
“And those secrets not only provide scientific links between it and the defendant and his home environment but also it provides several scientific links to the girls, supporting the prosecution case that this man is guilty of their murders.”
Mr Altman told the murder trial about the discovery of the sweatshirt on Friday 10 October 1986.
He said: “At about 3.30 that afternoon, Robert Gander, an engineer for the South Eastern Electricity Board, went to the electricity sub-station which was by the footpath by Moulsecoomb Railway Station leading to Crespin Way and into the Hollingdean area and the area of land where the Pinto sweatshirt had been discovered the night before.
“Mr Gander noticed a woman who was walking along the footpath and had stopped to look at what appeared to him to be a jumper on the grass verge, but then she carried on.
“So, Mr Gander went over and picked up the item which he saw was a blue sweatshirt with the word Pinto written on it.
“He also noticed that it smelt of body odour and had some form of red staining around the chest area and the right sleeve.
“He knew about the disappearance of the two girls and thought that the item might be of interest to the police, so he took it to the electricity sub-station, where he called the police.
“They asked him to take the item to their incident post at the edge of Wild Park. The incident post had been set up in a Major Incident Van.
“It was there, shortly after 4pm, that Mr Gander handed the Pinto sweatshirt to PC David Edwards who was on duty in the post. He put it in a brown paper bag and attached a note to it with the details of the finder pinned to the sweatshirt.
“After the finding of the bodies, the Major Incident Van was moved to a forward position closer to the pavilion in Wild Park.
“Later at around 5pm to 5.30pm, Inspector Verrion who was supervising the post, took the Pinto sweatshirt to Brighton Police Station at John Street, still inside its brown paper bag.
“On arrival at the police station, the Inspector left the packaged sweatshirt in the Exhibits Store, next to the Major Incident Room.
“Later, you will hear detailed evidence about the handling and storage of exhibits in this case, and this is important when you come to hear the scientific findings that were made.
“That Pinto sweatshirt was a crucial finding, because, after 30 or so years since 1986, it has now given up its secrets.
“And those secrets not only provide scientific links between it and the defendant and his home environment, but also it provides several scientific links to the girls, supporting the prosecution case that this man is guilty of their murders.”
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