Brighton woman convicted of false statements in historic murder case
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A Brighton woman has been convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice in a murder case.
Jennifer Johnson, 55, was found guilty of both counts by a jury on majority verdicts at Lewes Crown Court on Monday (17 May) after a month-long trial. She had pleaded not guilty.
Johnson was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at the same court on Wednesday (19 May).
The offences related to statements she made to the police, and evidence she gave at Lewes Crown Court in 1987, during the investigation and prosecution of Russell Bishop for the murders of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in Wild Park, Brighton, in October 1986.
The prosecution, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), followed an investigation by detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team.
Chief Superintendent Nick May said: "We worked closely with the CPS on this case, assessing that it was not possible or proper to prosecute until the guilt of Russell Bishop had been established. He was convicted in December 2018 following an intensive police investigation spanning many years and is now serving sentences of life imprisonment.
"This investigation began in 2019, and a file of evidence was submitted to the CPS who concluded that there was evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that it was in the public interest to bring this case to court.
“The decision of the court today brings to an end the investigations of these terrible crimes. The court was clearly satisfied that Johnson had lied to both the police and the jury in 1987.
“As the prosecutor made clear, those lies mattered. They undermined a key part of the prosecution case in 1987 specifically relating to the sweatshirt owned by Russell Bishop and which was at the centre of the trials in both 1987 and 2018.
“Our thoughts remain with all those affected by the tragic events of 1986 and 1990. None of us will ever fully understand what they have been through."
Lorna Clary, cousin of Nicola, speaking on behalf of the families, said: “We stand here again, two families united in grief and united in our continued 34-year fight for justice. We are relieved and grateful at the guilty verdict today. It is one more piece of truth, one more piece of the puzzle.
“Jennifer Johnson blatantly perverted the course of justice for our beautiful girls Nicola and Karen, as well as for the then seven-year old little girl who suffered immensely in the wake of Bishop’s wrongful acquittals. The wheels of justice are large and they turn incredibly slowly. Justice has finally been served on someone who thought she was untouchable.
“Johnson was infatuated with her lover, the paedophile, double child murderer Russell Bishop. She helped him walk free in 1987 with her lies under oath. Had she not lied, Bishop may have been found guilty. He may not have been free to attack again, which of course he did less than three years after he had been acquitted. She had plenty of opportunities to tell the truth during the past 34 years, instead she took the coward’s way out.
“The now defunct ‘News of the World’ (News UK) also provided encouragement for Johnson to lie. As a key witness in Bishop’s 1987 trial, she lied knowing that there would be a huge financial reward if Bishop received two acquittals for the double child murders. He did indeed receive the wrongful acquittals. The News of the World got their stories. The perpetrators got their payday. Our two families were devastated again after those verdicts, yet on the same evening, Johnson and the Bishops celebrated with a funded champagne dinner at the Hilton Hotel. They should all hang their heads in shame. They all had their part to play. They all have blood on their hands.
“We have fought for over three decades to get to this point. We have never given up. During our mission for justice, we helped change the law surrounding double jeopardy, we have been actively present with the police and we have kept the memories of Nicola and Karen alive in the public eye.
“We want other historical murder families to take hope from today. Please, never give up. It will seem impossible. It will seem that you have a mountain to climb and more. The truth does eventually catch up with those who hide in plain sight. We were told, more than once, that we would never get justice. Please take our lessons with you and never, ever give up your fight. Anything and everything is possible.
"We want to thank our police teams and counsel again, without whom we would not be stood here today. We thank them for their tireless work and dedication in this very complex trial.
"This guilty verdict will not bring Nicola and Karen back, but we will always carry them in our hearts and memories. Rest in Peace Nicky and Karen, we have kept our promises, we never gave up."