Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years

THE survivor of killer Russell Bishop speaks out to help her ‘cure’ and continue to recover from the ordeal.

In February 1990, Rachael Watts, now 40, was dragged into a car by Bishop, who had been acquitted of the Babes-in-the-Wood murders three years earlier.

She was roller skating in Whitehawk when she was seven when he forced her into his red Ford Cortina.

Bishop then drove 14 miles to Devil’s Dyke and strangled her in the back seat of his car. She was stripped naked and sexually abused.

He took Rachael’s unconscious body from the car and dumped her in brambles in the woods, where he left her for dead.

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Bishop threw Rachael’s rollerblades into the woods. Photo credit: The Argus

Bishop threw her roller skates into the woods before driving away from the scene.

Miraculously, Rachael regained consciousness and, naked and bleeding, crawled out of the bushes and found help.

Her courage in identifying Bishop as her attacker led to his conviction.

While she survived the ordeal, she has struggled ever since. She began to rebuild her life, married and had children, but when Bishop was tried again for the murders of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows, it brought it all back.

In 2018, just four years ago, he was finally convicted of the Babes-in-the-Wood murders after prosecutors said the similarities in both Rachael’s kidnapping and the murders were clear.

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Bishop’s red Ford Cortina. Photo credit: The Argus

Following Bishop’s death from cancer in prison in January this year, Rachael has decided to speak out to help her heal and recover.

A fundraiser was set up to help Rachael raise money to rebuild her life.

It said: “Rachael is a proud, stoic person and has found it difficult to get the help she needs and deserves.

“Now 40, she has developed agoraphobia – a profound fear of nature – and has been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, acute anxiety and nagging fibromyalgia (sometimes associated with stress).

“But she was denied disability benefits and received little therapeutic support.”

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Police on site in Devil’s Dyke in 1990. Photo credit: The Argus

The site says Rachael hopes to use the money raised to make her garden “beautiful” as she finds gardening therapeutic.

It says: “The therapeutic power of gardening is well known and as she still can’t stray far from home, she yearns to build a summer house and make her outdoor space – currently just a concrete paved courtyard – beautiful.

“She would also appreciate a mini outdoor gym to help rebuild her physical health and provide fun for the kids who she is currently unable to take to the park.”

All funds raised by the Go Fund Me will be sent directly to Rachael to help her achieve “her gardening dream”.

The fundraiser adds: “She has since been unable to work. Now she sees speaking as part of her healing… and gardening.

“She now has an understanding new doctor to help her access therapy and potential benefits. But as these are very simple, any help with their garden dream would be greatly appreciated.”

To donate to Rachael’s fundraiser:

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Front page of The Argus in 1990 after the Bishop’s conviction. Photo credit: The Argus

Babes in the Wood murders

Bishop murdered Nicola Fellows and her best friend Karen Hadaway, both aged nine, in Brighton’s Wild Park in 1986.

He strangled the girls after luring them to a park before sexually assaulting them in the so-called Babes In The Wood murders.

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Babes in the Wood victims Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway. Photo credit: The Argus

Bishop, who lived in Hollingdean, had joined the search for the girls after Karen’s mother called the police when they hadn’t returned home from playing nearby.

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Argus front pages after Babes in the Wood murders. Photo credit: The Argus

Bishop, then 20, came under suspicion for his close involvement in the search and was arrested shortly after the girls’ bodies were found.

Ultimately, at his trial in December 1987 at Lewes Crown Court, after two hours of jury deliberation, he was acquitted of both rape and murder. He later sold his story as a wrongly accused person to The News of the World for £15,000.

He evaded justice for the murders for 32 years after various errors by police, coroners and prosecutors.

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'A court artist’s impression of Bishop in the dock at The Old Bailey in 2018. Photo credit: The Argus

Nicola and Karen’s case was then reviewed in 2011 for new DNA advances linking Bishop to a pinto sweatshirt found.

Bishop, who was still in prison for the Devil’s Dyke attack, was found guilty in December 2018 and sentenced to an additional 36 years in prison for the Babes-in-the-Wood murders.

cancer diagnosis and death

In 2020, it was reported that Bishop had been diagnosed with colon cancer, but it later spread to his brain.

He underwent surgery to try to stop the disease from growing, but it was unsuccessful.

The killer, who is said to have been “devastated” by the diagnosis, was receiving palliative care at HMP Frankland, County Durham, where he was being held.

In January, the 55-year-old Bishop died in hospital, accompanied by only two jailers, and was cremated in the absence of his family.

Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years to'cure'Russel Bishop

Nicola Fellows’ uncle Ian Heffron spoke out after it was announced Bishop had died.

He said: “We have some form of closure, it won’t bring the girls back but at least we can know he will never attack another child.

“We’re kind of angry that fate didn’t allow him to serve the right sentence, he was only sentenced to 36 years in 2018 so he really only served three years of that.

“He was rightly punished for what he did to the other girl, but fate granted him a release and I only wish he had spent more time thinking about what he did.”

It was reported this week that almost £3,000 of public money was spent on funeral arrangements after his death. Russell Bishop survivor speaks out after 32 years

Fry Electronics Team

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