Killer may have stalked family

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The Independent Online
The nine-year-old girl who witnessed the brutal killing of her mother and six-year-old sister may never be able to reveal the vital information that would lead to the killer, detectives warned last night. But Kent police investigating the "utterly frenzied" murders of Lin Russell, 45, and her daughter Megan, have not ruled out the possibility that they were planned by a local man.

Detective Chief Inspector David Stevens, leading the hunt for the murderer, said that experts were being called in to draw up a psychological profile of the killer. There appears to have been no sexual motive involved. "The person could be local and could have pre-planned this. We appeal to anyone who has seen someone looking around, sitting in a car, or just acting suspiciously, to contact us immediately." .

Mr Stevens warned women and children in the area not to venture out alone. "There is somebody dangerous in the area and until we catch him people cannot feel safe. Parents should not let children go out alone, or women go out in certain areas alone."

While officers at an unnamed hospital guarded Mrs Russell's nine-year- old daughter Josephine, who survived Tuesday's attack, police detailed the victims' terrible injuries.

Mrs Russell and her daughters were found by police early on Wednesday near Cherrygarden Lane, less than half a mile from their home, Granary Cottage, in Nonington, Kent, after they failed to return from the nearby Goodnestone Primary School. The family's terrier, Lucy, was also killled. Josephine was found still clinging to life and was described yesterday as "stable but poorly".

Mr Stevens said that the three family members had all suffered lacerations and vicious, repeated blows with a blunt instrument, probably a hammer. Mrs Russell had been hit more than 15 times. "In my 23 years of experience, this is the most horrific, terrible murder I have ever had the misfortune to come across," he said. Mrs Russell's husband, Dr Shaun Russell, 47, a lecturer in marine biology at the University of Kent, is staying at his daughter's bedside. Police, who described him as "a gentle man", said he had been enormously helpful in dreadful circumstances.

Josephine's teacher, Lynda Roberts, said: "We're absolutely stunned. Our prayers are with Josie. In this school we are such a close community that all 78 children are best friend. It's going to affect them all."

The police can draw on the goodwill of a local religious community, the 80-strong Bruderhof community of Christian pacifists, and those at the rehabilitation clinic, the Promise Recovery Centre.

Robin Lefever, director of the pounds 1,280 a week private centre, said: " There were suggestions that this could have been done by someone on drugs, but everyone here is in a state of abstinence. Only a few have had drug problems, and they were all in group therapy."