The jury in the Babes in the Wood double murder trial have been urged to reject the flawed case against former Brighton roofer Russell Bishop.
Bishop, 52, is accused of murdering two nine-year-old girls – Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway – in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb, in October 1986.
He is on trial at the Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – in London although he was again absent from the dock yesterday (Wednesday 5 December).
Bishop was tried for the murders and acquitted at Lewes Crown Court in 1987 but the verdict was quoshed after advances in DNA science brought new evidence to light.
His barrister at the Old Bailey, Joel Bennathan, criticised the prosecutor Brian Altman for baiting Bishop over his 1990 conviction for kidnapping a seven-year-old girl from Whitehawk, sexually assaulting her and trying to murder her.
Mr Bennathan said: “They are awful offences – and anyone coming to this who did not have the benefit of (the trial judge’s) directions would probably think that you don’t come back from that.
“You don’t do what happened to that little girl in 1990 and pop up in a trial and expect a fair trial.
“Once you know what happened in 1990, that will do. That’s enough. Don’t worry about the rest. We say no!”
Mr Bennathan compared the prosecution case against Bishop to a bridge consisting of wooden planks, some of which were rotten.
The rotten planks included concerns about contaminated forensic evidence, doubts about a Pinto sweatshirt and suspicions that someone else had killed the girls.
He pointed the finger at Barrie Fellows, the father of one of the murdered girls, Nicky Fellows.
Mr Fellows was visibly and audibly distressed at the back of he court as Mr Bennathan repeated the defence case that there was a missing hour during which Mr Fellows had murdered his own daughter.
The jury had already been reminded that Mr Fellows was not on trial, with Mr Altman telling jurors that the only person accused of the murders was Bishop, formerly of Stephens Road, Hollingdean.
Mr Bennathan told the jury: “You have to look at it all together. You have to be sure.
Some of the planks of the prosecution case were mouldy, Mr Bennathan said, and you might not be sure how safe the “bridge” was.
“Don’t cross the bridge unless you are sure,” he said, “even if the tour guide, Mr Altman, assures you that you can ignore the faulty planks.”
Bishop denies two counts of murder.
The trial continues.