Levi Bellfield, a fellow HMP Frankland lifer
Russell Bishop deployed a ‘cowardly’ defence seemingly straight from the playbook of Milly Dowler killer Levi Bellfield.
The 52-year-old cast suspicion on the father of one of his victims as a smokescreen for the overwhelming forensic evidence against him.
Seven years before, Bellfield, a fellow HMP Frankland lifer, had used a similar ploy, heaping further distress on 13-year-old Milly’s family.
After Milly’s father was grilled in cross-examination, Brian Altman QC, who coincidentally prosecuted both men, was moved to tell jurors: ‘The grieving parents are not on trial here.’
In his defence, Bishop pointed the finger at his nine-year-old victim Nicola Fellows’s father Barrie, a man who campaigned to keep the investigation going.
It was claimed Mr Fellows was violent towards his daughter, threatening to chop her hands off for stealing.
Bishop’s vulnerable ex-girlfriend was brought to court to stand by unsubstantiated claims she had made in a News of the World interview in 1987.
In her evidence, Marion Stevenson, 48, told jurors she had seen Mr Fellows watching a video of Nicola having sex with the lodger Dougie Judd a couple of months before her death. Both men denied it.
Under cross-examination, Ms Stevenson sobbed: ‘I lied, OK? I didn’t lie. I will tell you I lied because that’s what you want.’
In earlier legal argument in the absence of the jury, the prosecution opposed the move to allow her evidence, arguing it was not credible.
The court heard of 12 reasons why police had rejected her claims, not least the fact Nicola was a virgin when she died.
Ms Stevenson never mentioned the story to Bishop, lawyers or police after the girls were murdered and claimed to have been the only person who saw the video.
She told investigators she did ‘not know what I was saying’ in her interview after the News of the World plied her with champagne at a hotel.
Mr Justice Sweeney allowed her evidence, while issuing a warning to defence barrister Joel Bennathan QC.
The senior judge reminded him that to suggest Mr Fellows was ‘guilty of the gravest crime in the calendar’, he must ‘back it up with evidence’.
Nigel Pilkington, of the Crown Prosecution Service South East, said there were ‘striking similarities’ with what Bishop and Bellfield said in court.
He said: ‘It is the last refuge of these appalling criminals where they have nowhere to go.
‘Because of their cowardly nature they will cast around for essentially creating the most havoc they can.
‘That is what Russell Bishop has done. There is not a shred of evidence against Barrie Fellows, not realistically at all.’
Mr Pilkington said Bishop was intent on causing ‘more misery and tragedy for the family’.
He said: ‘I have seen this before and it will happen again.’
Detective Superintendent Jeff Riley, of Sussex Police, added: ‘I think it’s desperate measures by a desperate man.
‘When you see the impact on the families, and Barrie in particular, I think it is a particularly cruel way to run a defence but that’s the defendant.
‘I have got a very positive relationship with Barrie. Clearly he feels these allegations have hung over his head. I think it has always been there.’
In a final act of disrespect for the families of their victims, both Bellfield and Bishop refused to attend the end of their trials.