Mother's killer was a robber, says Josie

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Josie Russell, the nine-year-old girl left for dead in a brutal attack in which her mother and six-year-old sister were murdered, has revealed that the attacker was trying to rob the family.

Josie, who survived despite being hit 16 times with a hammer, has told detectives for the first time how the killer demanded money from them as they walked home from school in Kent. She said the man stopped his car in front of them, took a hammer from the back seat and said: "Give me your money," it was revealed at a news conference yesterday.

Josie, now 10, ran when the man confronted her mother, Lin, 45, and sister, Megan as they walked through woods to their home in Chillenden, near Canterbury, a year ago today.

Mrs Russell said she had no money, but could return to the family's cottage to get some, but her assailant repeated the demand. Mrs Russell shouted at Josie to run away, but the attacker chased her and dragged her back to a small glade where he tied the three up with strips of swimming towel belonging to Josie and blindfolded Mrs Russell. He then asked Josie: "Are they too tight?"

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Stevens, leading the inquiry, said: "This new information throws up a lot of questions. Was this a robbery that went wrong? Was this a petty criminal who saw the family walking along the lane and seized the opportunity to steal? Or was this some bizarre deranged fantasy that became a reality that day?" He added: "I'm keeping back some of the details of the attack, but I thank God that Josie did not see her mother being attacked. She did not see her sister being attacked, or the family dog, Lucy, which had been tied to a tree."

Mr Stevens added that the inquiry had been helped by a new DNA sampling technique that gave a profile from a dead hair believed to be from the killer. Previously only live cells could be used. The new method is not as accurate but will allow the police to compare DNA samples with suspects. A list of 100 has been drawn up and will be tested during the next few weeks.

Dr Shaun Russell, who moved to north Wales with his daughter six months after the murders, spoke of his joy at seeing Josie make her recovery.

He said: "During these last months as I've seen her progress and play with her friends and her ponies, it has given me cause to carry on."