Russell Bishop has been given a double life sentence for the murder of two nine-year-old girls in Wild Park in Moulsecoomb in October 1986.
Bishop, 52, formerly of Stephens Road, Hollingdean, was jailed for a minimum of 36 years on each count this afternoon (Tuesday 11 December).
The sentences are to be served concurrently, meaning that he will be 88 before he can be considered for parole.
He was convicted yesterday of the murder of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, of Newick Road, Moulsecoomb.
At the Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – in London, the judge Sir Nigel Sweeney, praised the families for the fortitude and dignity in their long quest for justice.
Mr Justice Sweeney heard victim personal statements read out in court from the three surviving parents, Michelle Hadaway and Susan and Barrie Fellows.
Sentencing Bishop in his absence, he said: “Yesterday, 31 years to the day after your acquittal for the same offences, you were convicted – on now overwhelming evidence – of the murders of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, both aged 9, in Wild Park, in Brighton, on (Thursday) 9 October 1986. You were 20 years old at the time. You are now aged 52.
“I have no doubt that you were a predatory paedophile; that, having seen Nicola and Karen playing near the entrance to the park at around 5.15pm on (Thursday) 9 October 1986 you remained in the area in case a chance arose to lure them into the woods in the park; that that chance did arise at around 6.30pm when you saw them not far from you outside the southern end of the park; that taking advantage of your previous dealings with their families and with them, and your local knowledge, you then lured them to a secluded den in the woods; that there, entirely for your own pleasure, you subdued them (punching Nicola in the face and putting your hand over her nose and mouth in the process) and then, in turn, strangled and sexually assaulted each of them; and that the worst of the sexual assault was inflicted on Nicola (including part of it after her death) because, earlier that afternoon, she had been rude to your then 16-year-old girlfriend.
“The terror that each girl must have suffered in their final moments is unimaginable.
“You then left their bodies where they were and walked home, dumping your Pinto sweatshirt on route to avoid anything incriminating on it being linked to you.
“Once you got home, and also to avoid anything incriminating being found, you bathed and washed the remainder of your clothing.
“The following day you pretended to take part, as an innocent helper, in the search for the girls (each minute of which must have increased the apprehension for their families).
“After the discovery of the bodies you pretended that you had checked their pulses so that you would have an excuse if anything linked to you was found on them.
“After your subsequent arrest, you falsely pretended that you were innocent.
“I am fortified in a number of those conclusions by the similarities between the murders of Nicola and Karen and the offences that you committed against (a girl), aged 7, in 1990 – which clearly show you to be a violent paedophile who carried out another sexual attack on a pre-pubescent girl for the pleasure of doing so.
“You have been serving a sentence of life imprisonment for that offence since your conviction for itlater that year.
“During this trial you again falsely pretended that you were innocent and made the allegation (which you were able, in law, to do) that Nicola’s father, Barrie Fellows, could have been the murderer instead.
“That will not add a day to our sentence but it underlines that you have no remorse whatsoever for what you did.
“Indeed, I observe that Barrie Fellows stood in the witness box and dealt with all the questions that were asked of him in cross-examination despite the understandable distress that it caused him whereas, after your initial cross-examination by the prosecution had exposed you as a paedophile and a liar, you refused to answer any more questions and have subsequently refused to attend court at all – or een, today, to attend by video link.
“Hence I am sentencing you in your absence.
“The victim personal statements of Susan Eismann (Nicola’s mother), Barrie Fellows (Nicola’s father) and Michelle Johnson (Karen’s mother) speak with great dignity and force of the extent of the loss suffered by each of their families and of the suffering that they have endured over so many years.
“The court pays humble tribute to them for their fortitude and determination to see justice done.
“The penalty for murder is fixed by law and thus I must and do impose concurrent terms of life imprisonment on each count.
“I must also fix the minimum term that you must serve, from today, before the Parole Board could consider your release.
“The minimum term is intended to reflect the seriousness of your offences.
“Because you were aged 20 at the time of the offences, a whole life order could not be imposed.
“However, the murder of a single child involving (as in your case) sexual motivation is an offence of exceptionally high seriousness which (as a 20-year-old) attracts today a starting point of 30 years.
“However, you have committed two such murders which, in my view, would require a substantial uplift from that starting point.
“It is not disputed that the offences would also be aggravated, in my view seriously, by the offences that you committed against (the seven-year-old girl).
“In addition, there was an element of premeditation in the murders of Nicola and Karen.
“There are no mitigating features.
“Given that your offences are such serious ones of their type – involving two child murders, each of which was sexually motivated, each of which involved a degree of premeditation and each of which was substantially aggravated by your offences in relation to (the seven-year-old girl), I have concluded, with your age in mind, that the minimum term that would have been notified by the Secretary of State in 1986 would have been one of 36 years.
“Accordingly, that is the minimum term that I impose on each count.”