THE former girlfriend of the Babes in the Wood child killer refused to attend court to be sentenced.

Jennifer Johnson was found guilty on Tuesday of lying to protect Russell Bishop.

But Johnson refused to attend Lewes Crown Court to be sentenced for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Her lies helped Bishop initially escape justice for murdering nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in Wild Park, Brighton, in October 1986.

Johnson, 55, was jailed for six years by judge Mr Justice Peter Fraser.

She lied over a key piece of evidence, a blue sweatshirt, and Bishop was acquitted of murder at Lewes Crown Court in 1987.

He went on to kidnap a seven-year-old girl from Whitehawk in February 1990. He indecently assaulted her and attempted to murder her.

At today's hearing Chris Henley QC, defending, spoke of the “real punishment” Johnson has suffered over the last three decades.

He told the court: “She was a vulnerable young mother in 1987 – the mother of two very young children living a very socially isolated life and in a relationship with a violent, abusive and coercive man.”

Mr Henley criticised the idea that the 1987 trial resulted in not guilty verdicts directly because of the evidence she gave about the sweatshirt.

“Of course the evidence in relation to the top was material but it should not for one moment be considered decisive to the outcome of the trial,” he said.

“It is wrong and it isn’t fair to hold Jennifer Johnson responsible for that.

“It was her compelling and corroborated evidence about the top that in the end resulted in Russell Bishop’s conviction all those years later.

“The law required her to be stronger but in our submission a merciful and humane analysis of what happened will understand the reality of her position.”

But jailing Johnson, of Saunders Park View, Brighton, Mr Justice Peter Fraser said her lies struck at the heart of the administration of justice.

He said she remained silent for decades despite knowing she had lied to protect a murderer.

“Your dishonest support of Bishop lasted a number of years.

“You did not finally tell the truth until 2019.

“The effect of your dishonesty lasted for three decades.

“Having seen you give evidence over three days, it is difficult to believe anything you say.

“You are an accomplished liar.

“You wanted Bishop home with you, not in prison,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Fraser said Johnson had lied and lied again to secure Bishop’s acquittal.

She refused to leave her cell or appear by video at her sentencing following her four-week trial.

“Your refusal to appear today shows your refusal to accept what you have done,” the judge said.

He sentenced Johnson to six years for each offence, to run concurrently.

She will spend half her sentence in prison before she is eligible for parole.

The judge praised the families of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows for the considerable dignity they showed throughout the harrowing trial.

He said: “It is to be hoped that this trial will be the last chapter in the prolonged tragedy that started as long ago as the evening of October 9, 1986.”