Babes in the Wood perjury trial jury retires

Posted On 13 May 2021 at 12:05 pm

The jury has retired in the Babes in the Wood perjury trial at Lewes Crown Court this afternoon (Thursday 13 May).

Jennie Johnson – Photo courtesy of Brighton Pictures

The seven men and five women have the job of deciding whether Jennie Johnson, 55, is guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Johnson is accused of swearing a false statement and lying under oath at the same court when her ex-boyfriend Russell Bishop stood trial for the Babes in the Woods murders in 1987.

After her evidence, notably about a Pinto sweatshirt worn by Bishop, he was acquitted of murdering Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in Wild Park, Brighton, in October 1986.

He went on to snatch a seven-year-old girl from the street in Whitehawk in February 1990, shoved her in the boot of his car and drove her to the Devil’s Dyke.

At the Dyke, he sexually assaulted her, strangled her and left her for dead in bushes. Miraculously she survived and her evidence helped to put Bishop behind bars.

After advances in forensic science and a change in the double jeopardy law, Bishop was retried and convicted of the Babes in the Wood murders in 2018 and jailed for life.

Johnson admits having lied in her statement and in the witness box but pleaded not guilty, citing duress, saying that she was in fear and had no choice.

The trial judge Sir Peter Fraser, known as Mr Justice Fraser, gave the jury legal directions about the defence of duress.

He said that duress could apply when someone threatened a defendant or a person close to them with immediate or almost immediate violence and that this would involve death or serious injury.

For duress to apply, there would have to be no opportunity to escape or take steps to deal with the threat such as seeking police protection.

Jennifer Nancy Johnson, also known as Jennifer Robinson, 55, of Saunders Park View, Brighton, said that she was in a controlling and coercive relationship with Bishop.

She told the court that he was violent, she was afraid of his family – the Bishop and the Dawes families – and that she had no choice to act in the way that she did.

Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway

In his summing up, the judge said that the jury would have to decide whether there was any evidence of her reporting threats or seeking help.

The jury went out at 12.02pm.

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