An old-fashioned detective’s hunch linked a discarded sweatshirt to the murderer of two nine-year-old girls from Brighton, a court was told.
The blue Pinto sweatshirt was initially treated as an item of lost property when it was found by Moulsecoomb Railway Station as volunteers searched for Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway.
But retired Detective Constable Barry Evans told jurors at Lewes Crown Court yesterday (Monday 19 April) that he had been given the top in a clear evidence bag.
And he and two colleagues had been sent to the home of the suspect, Russell Bishop, in Stephens Road, Hollingdean, to show the top to his girlfriend Jennie Johnson.
The sweatshirt, it later emerged, had been discarded by Bishop on his way home after he killed Nicola and Karen in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb.
Mr Evans, 69, told the court that Johnson said: “Oh, you’ve brought Russell’s jumper back.”
Mr Evans said that he told her that it wasn’t one that they’d taken from Bishop during the investigation of the Babes in the Wood murders.
Johnson said that Bishop had one just like it – but she couldn’t find it. But, she said, it had a motif on the front, a word beginning with P.
The motif was the word Pinto.
She also told the detective that Bishop’s top had a red mark or stain on the sleeve that wouldn’t wash off. It was from some kind of compound that he used when working on cars and he had trousers with a similar stain.
The court was told that she fetched the trousers and, Mr Evans said, she was open and co-operative and then made and signed a statement.
She signed a declaration that said: “This statement consisting of two pages each signed by me is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated in it anything which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.”
The jury heard last week that Johnson, now 55, accepted that her initial statement was true.
But in 1987 she retracted her statement and, when Bishop was tried at Lewes Crown Court for the murder of the two girls, she lied on oath.
Jennifer Nancy Johnson, also known as Jennifer Robinson, of Saunders Park View, is on trial for perjury and perverting justice.
While she accepts that she lied, she denies the charges, insisting that she acted under duress.
Bishop has since been convicted of the murder of the two girls in 1986 at a retrial 32 years afterwards in 2018. He was given a life sentence.
Unusually, his 1987 acquittal was quoshed after advances in DNA science enabled the police and prosecutors to put forward compelling new evidence linking the sweatshirt to Bishop and one of the murdered girls.
Johnson’s trial for perjury and perverting the course of justice continues.
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