Two murdered girls dubbed the Babes in the Wood appeared to have been “thrown or tossed” together when their bodies were found in a den 32 years ago, a retired senior police officer has told jurors.
Former Superintendent David Tomlinson was in charge of the extensive operation to find nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway after they went missing while out playing in Wild Park, Brighton, on October 9, 1986.
Police officers had joined forces with local residents in the search, including murder-accused Russell Bishop and his Jack Russell dog Misty, the Old Bailey heard.
The girls were found dead in a clearing amid undergrowth, near steps known as Jacob’s Ladder, the following day.
Bishop had rushed ahead of PC Paul Smith after one of two 18-year-olds who made the discovery raised the alarm, jurors heard.
Giving evidence in Bishop’s second trial, Tomlinson said he received word of the find at about 4.20pm on 10 October, 1986.
When he arrived in the area, he came across PC Smith, Bishop and the two teenagers.
PC Smith pointed to a small clearing about 20ft (6m) away, the witness said.
The former Sussex Police officer said his view of the bodies was obscured by a slight curve so he moved forward about 10ft (3m) to get a better look.
He said: “I walked along the path. I was conscious that I wanted to keep the disturbance of the scene to the minimum.
“There was still an amount of undergrowth. With the position of the bodies it was difficult for me to see what had happened.
“I was able to see the two bodies but they were not in a comfortable position. I got the impression one body had been almost thrown or tossed against the other.
“Karen was wearing a grey pleated skirt, a type of school uniform. Nicola had a checked type skirt.”
One of the two teenagers who found the bodies became pale and looked as if he was about to pass out but Bishop “did not seem to be affected”, Tomlinson said.
The retired officer said he ordered the whole scene to be sealed off.
Bishop was acquitted of the murders in 1987 but was ordered to stand trial a second time in light of new evidence following advances in DNA testing.
The court heard that a blue Pinto sweatshirt – allegedly worn by Bishop – was found beside a path behind Moulsecoomb railway station.
The blue crewneck sweatshirt, which smelt strongly of sweat and had red stains on it, was handed in to police at Wild Park on the afternoon of October 10, the court heard.
It was put in a brown paper bag and taken to Brighton police station before later being transferred to a clear sealed bag, jurors were told.
Retired chief superintendent Christopher Bentham gave evidence about how the key prosecution exhibit was handled.
He told jurors that he examined it on October 31 1986, wearing a lab coat and disposable gloves.
He said the role of scenes of crime officers at the time was to “obtain and preserve the integrity” of items to prevent contamination.
Explaining the tests that would be carried out, he said: “They would be looking for blood. They would also be looking for fibres, stuff that had been left on a particular object from a particular contact in a particular context.
“The main focus was to preserve whatever item it was for examination for the relevant scientists.”
Meanwhile, tapings from the girls’ clothes and bodies were taken as a pathologist carried out post-mortem examinations.
Sealed exhibits were later sent off to Aldermaston Forensic Laboratory for testing, jurors were told.
Bishop, a former roofer, who is now 52, has denied the murders.