Grieving mum says BBC's Martin Bashir delayed capture of Babes In The Wood killer by losing crucial evidence
1st December 2020

A GRIEVING mum tonight claimed rogue BBC journalist Martin Bashir delayed the capture of her girl’s Babes In The Wood killer by losing crucial evidence.

Bashir took DNA-laden clothing worn by Karen Hadaway on the day of her murder — but later denied doing so despite leaving a signed note with the nine-year-old’s mum Michelle.

It meant the items were never re-tested as detectives desperately tried to bring prime suspect Russell Bishop to trial in 2004 for the notorious killings 18 years earlier.

It would be another 14 years before cops finally managed to nail the sex fiend.

Charity worker Michelle, 63, said: “Martin Bashir is a despicable rat. I believe the loss of Karen’s clothes could have ­seriously affected the hunt for my child’s killer.

“And now he is being accused of lying to Princess Diana and her family to persuade her to do an interview for the BBC. 

“He should be investigated . . .  over what happened to Karen’s clothing.”

It is unbelievable that he’s still employed by the BBC

Michelle says Bashir persuaded her to hand over Karen’s clothes to him in 1991 for a BBC investigation.

But she added: “I was a grieving mum whose daughter had been murdered. 

“He took advantage of that and has never shown any remorse for the loss.

“Bashir is a rogue journalist and it is unbelievable that he is still employed by the BBC.”

Roofer Bishop had walked free from a bungled trial in 1987 after Karen and pal Nicola Fellows, also nine, were found murdered in Brighton’s Wild Park the year before.

Their bodies were left side by side, as if sleeping, in a forest den and they became known as the Babes in the Wood. Bishop remained the chief suspect for years.

Michelle had Karen’s blood-stained sweatshirt and vest returned to her after the trial and was then approached by Bashir in 1991 when he claimed to be making a BBC ­documentary about the blunders during the case.

She agreed to hand them over and he subsequently lost them.

He could have put case in jeopardy

NOT having the clothing opens the door for the defence to try to undermine forensic evidence.

It looks bad to a jury if the prosecution cannot produce the clothing — and Bishop’s defence did indeed claim at his later trial that exhibits were contaminated.

Fibres were taken from clothing and the girls’ bodies in the original police probe, but something could have been missed.

Techniques and procedures improve and change all the time, and what was good practice in the 1980s, may not be now.

The best item to examine for DNA, or fibres, is the original clothing which, in Karen’s case, was unforgivably lost after being given to Bashir.

Although Bishop was eventually convicted, in my opinion Bashir could have put the case in jeopardy with his cavalier attitude towards the exhibits.

Ultimately, Bishop was convicted of the murders.

But Bashir’s conduct was at best irresponsible and at worst morally repugnant for depriving Michelle of possessions belonging to her daughter.

He should hang his head in shame.

  • By Mick Neville

And when Sussex Police launched a cold case review in 2004 following improvements in DNA techniques, the clothing remained missing. 

DNA evidence from other clothes from the scene and the victims was finally used to snare Bishop, now 54, and he was found guilty at a trial in 2018.

He got life with a minimum 36-year term for sexually assaulting and strangling Nicola and Karen.

At the time of his conviction, he was already in jail for attacking and kidnapping another child in 1990.

Michelle questioned whether Bishop could have been brought to justice earlier had it not been for Bashir losing the clothing. 

She said: “DNA technology has advanced and Karen’s stuff could have been vital evidence but he lost it. He gave me a receipt on a bit of paper and wrote his phone number underneath. That was the last I ever saw or heard from him.”

Michelle added: “Months went by and no programme appeared. I tried phoning him but the line was always engaged. I mislaid the piece of paper. It wasn’t until years later that I found it inside a book and tried again to find out what had happened to Karen’s clothes. 

“Nobody knew a thing and he even said he couldn’t remember meeting me. I’m sickened.” 

Evidence timeline

1986: “Babes in the Wood” Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, both nine, murdered in Brighton’s Wild Park.

1987: Their killer, roofer Russell Bishop, walks free following a bungled trial.

1990: Bishop strikes again and is jailed for life for attempted murder and indecent assault of a girl.

1991: Bashir writes a “receipt” to Michelle Hadaway as he takes a police evidence bag full of Karen’s clothing, citing new DNA testing available ahead of a BBC Public Eye documentary.

1995: Bashir’s Panorama interview with Diana.

2004: Sussex cops launch a cold case review and want evidence returned.

2016: BBC re-employs Bashir after he worked in the US.

2018: Bishop finally convicted of Babes in the Wood killings.

Nicola’s uncle Ian Heffron, 65, a retired police officer, said both victims’ families saw Karen’s clothing as potentially “very important evidence”. When they were not returned, he pursued Mr Bashir and the BBC about the matter but was fobbed off.

Investigative journalist Eileen Fairweather, who worked alongside Bashir for the ditched Public Eye programme, said: “I know Michelle Hadaway is telling the truth about Martin Bashir losing her murdered child’s clothes — I was there when he took them from her.”

She added: “To this day, I cannot understand how any reporter can claim to forget meeting such a ­devastated, heartbroken mother.” 

Eileen also wants the inquiry into Bashir’s conduct over the 1995 ­Princess Diana interview widened to include the Hadaway case. The BBC has appointed former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson to investigate claims by Di’s brother. 

Earl Spencer says Bashir showed him falsified bank accounts wrongly claiming to show two courtiers were being paid by security services for information on Diana, in the hope it would land him the interview. 

Tonight, the BBC said Bashir was aware of the Babes in the Wood case but refused to comment.

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