At the Babes in the Wood double murder trial, the defendant Russell Bishop has failed to turn up in court.
Bishop, 52, formerly of Stephens Road, Hollingdean, is accused of murdering Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, both nine, in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb, in October 1986.
He was later convicted and jailed for abducting a seven-year-old girl in Whitehawk and driving her to the Devil’s Dyke where he sexually assaulted and tried to murder her.
But having last week refused to continue to be cross-examined by the prosecutor Brian Altman, today (Tuesday 4 December) Bishop failed to leave his prison cell as the case neared its conclusion.
The case continued in his absence with Mr Altman telling the jury that Bishop was a coward and a hypocrite who had “thrown in the towel” and “refused to go the distance”.
He said that Bishop may have been irritated because his sexual interest in young girls had been shown clearly to the jury under cross-examination.
He said: “He is a coward to refuse to continue his evidence before you and he is a cowardly paedophile who thinks nothing of attacking a seven-year-old child and, on the evidence we suggest, killing two nine-year-old girls purely for his own sexual gratification.”
And he added that Bishop, a former roofer, had nothing to lose by smearing one of the girls’ fathers, blaming Barrie Fellows for the murders.
Mr Altman said: “These are the very serious things that are being alleged about Barrie Fellows, who let us not forget, lost his daughter.”
The prosecutor criticised Marion Stevenson, who was Bishop’s 16-year-old girlfriend at the time of the murders.
He criticised her “wholly unreliable evidence”, saying that she gave an interview to the News of the World before the verdict in Bishop’s first trial in 1987.
In the interview she accused Barrie Fellows of watching a pornographic video featuring his daughter.
It was, Mr Altman said, a kind of insurance policy at the behest of Bishop’s mother Sylvia Bishop in the belief that he would be found guilty at his first trial.
She had not told anyone previously even though such evidence would have been important.
And, Mr Altman added: “Barrie Fellows is not on trial here.
“The defendant is playing for very high stakes and it’s a game of stick or twist and he’s decided to twist.
“He’s nothing much to lose by approaching the case in this way.
“What you have seen unfolding before your eyes is – quite deliberately – the creation of a smokescreen in the hope that he will literally get away with murder for a second time.”
Mr Altman said that the claims against Barrie Fellows just didn’t add up – such as the missing hour in his account of events.
Given corroborating evidence of his whereabouts and when, if he had somehow gone home via Wild Park, Mr Altman said, he would have been fitter and faster than Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt.
Besides, Mr Altman said, Marion Stevenson told no one about the alleged video except the News of the World because “it was all an attempt to smear Barrie Fellows”.
Mr Altman said that Marion Stevenson was vulnerable, under the influence of alcohol and cannabis, and felt that she had been manipulated by everyone in this case.
He dismissed her claims about Barrie Fellows watching a video featuring his lodger Dougie Judd sexually abusing Nicola Fellows.
He said: “Every day she said nothing was another day that Nicola was being abused.
“She said that she was just 16 at the time and that this was not her world.”
She claimed that the police had asked her to extract a confession from Bishop in bed in the flat at 17 Stephens Road.
The police bugged the flat, Marion Stevenson said, and that the defendant had found a bug planted there by the police, she claimed.
There was no such bug, Mr Altman said, adding: “There was a recording device placed on the household phone with her parents’ consent – but she didn’t know about that.”
She was a “wholly unreliable witness who was being exploited by the defendant’s mother and the defendant himself and she is still being exploited by the defendant”.
The trial continues.