A convicted paedophile has denied the Babes in the Woods murders, saying he was “bullied” into making a false account by “downright nasty” police.
Russell Bishop, 52, is on trial for the second time over the deaths of nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway.
The girls, dubbed Babes in the Wood, were sexually assaulted and strangled in a den in Wild Park, Brighton in October 1986.
Former roofer Bishop was cleared of their murders in 1987 but within three years was jailed for life for the kidnap, sexual assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl at Devil’s Dyke on the South Downs.
He was ordered to stand trial at the Old Bailey for the killings of Nicola and Karen in light of new forensic evidence linking him to the girls.
Bishop’s defence team has cast suspicion on Nicola’s father Barrie Fellows, claiming he was violent, had seen a video of his own daughter being abused, and had a gap in his alibi.
Giving evidence, Bishop said he feared he would be blamed when he joined the search for the girls on October 10 1986.
He told jurors: “There was a few things that led to that kind of thinking.
“A couple of years before this I was wrongfully arrested for the Grand Hotel bombing in Brighton.”
Before then, his father was wrongly arrested over the unsolved murder of a local woman called Margaret Frame who was buried in a shallow grave, the court heard.
Bishop said his “old man” had even warned him “don’t get involved” before he set off.
During the search, he showed some of Karen’s clothes to his dog Misty in the hope it would track the missing children, he said.
When two 18-year-olds found the girls, Bishop said he was told to go up and keep people away from the scene in Wild Park.
He said: “The young man sitting down said he did not know whether they were asleep or dead.
“I went straight to the victims, felt for a pulse, neck on Nicola and Karen on the right arm.”
Bishop told jurors he felt “shocked, totally sickened”.
Later, he changed his account to fit what the teenagers had said during a 13-hour long police interview without a solicitor, the court heard.
He said: “I started getting all frustrated, confused, tied up in knots.”
He alleged officers showed him pictures of the dead girls and the area where they were found.
Joel Bennathan QC, defending, said: “By the end of this process you signed a witness statement that said you did not take the pulse of the girls.”
Bishop said: “I was just telling them what they wanted to hear. It was obvious they were not going to believe me over what those two boys were saying.
“I was being called a liar. They had been downright nasty. I was being kept a prisoner.
“I was having two police officers bullying and totally destroying me in that room.
“I’m dyslexic and I could not read or write. I had poor problem-solving skills. It was the only way I was going to get out of there.”
Bishop appeared emotional as he told jurors he did not kill Nicola or Karen and he did not know who did.
On the day the girls disappeared, Bishop said he went digging for fishing bait, tried to visit Fellows’ lodger Dougie Judd and then went on to Sussex University car park to attempt to steal a red Ford Escort.
As he walked home wearing a “blue flecky jumper” he came across the park keeper in Wild Park and saw girls from a distance, he said.
From there, Bishop said he dropped by the home of Angie Cutting to buy a “small amount of cannabis” and rolled it into a joint.
Once home, Bishop said he had a bath, which was interrupted by an insurance salesman, then began cooking a meal and washing the clothes he was wearing that had got “muck on it” from his walk.
He said: “Once I had cooked the meal I sat down, saw the last five or 10 minutes of EastEnders.
“It was Lofty coming to the pub, playing the piano, singing, something like that going on.”
Later, his partner Jennie Johnson returned home with their young son and they watched a film called the Runaway Train, Bishop said.
At 2.30am, police first arrived at the house and asked Bishop if he could help with the missing girls.
Earlier, Bishop said he felt “deeply ashamed” for abducting a younger girl in 1990 adding that he was “in a bad state” after his first murders trial.
Before his arrest for the murders, Bishop had been fined and given community orders for theft-related and driving offences.
He denies two counts of murder.