Police thought Josie was dead and then they saw that she had moved

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The Independent Online
A SLIGHT change in the position of Josie Russell's body finally alerted police that she had survived the attack which killed her mother and sister, a court heard yesterday.

The first officers to come across the bodies of Josie, then nine, Megan, six, and their mother, Lin, 45, believed they had all been killed.

Michael Stone, 38, of Gillingham, Kent, is accused of murdering Dr Lin and Megan Russell and the attempted murder of Josephine, known as Josie, on 9 July 1996. He denies the charges.

Maidstone Crown Court heard yesterday how PC Gavin Fox shone a torch on the bloody scene while his colleague, PC Richard Leivers, checked for signs of life. He found none, PC Fox said. But more than an hour later, when the police surgeon Dr Michael Parks arrived, PC Leivers realised that Josie was no longer in the same position she had been in earlier.

In a statement read to the court, Dr Parks said: "As I approached the body of the female adult, PC Leivers noted that the body of the female child close to me had moved." By that time Dr Parks had ascertained that Dr Russell was cold and showing no signs of being alive.

Turning his attention to Josie, Dr Parks said: "She moved when I touched her and felt warm. I reassured her and, after a brief moment of reflection, asked PC Leivers to pick her up."

They left the clearing and the constable carried the little girl to the nearby police van. "She was semi-conscious and had clear head injuries," the doctor said.

But the van was bogged and, having confirmed Megan was dead, the doctor decided to drive Josie to hospital. "PC Leivers cradled Josie in his arms in the back seat and I drove quickly to the casualty department of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital."

The attack took place as the family walked home from school in nearby Goodnestone.

On the second day of evidence yesterday, the jury of eight women and four men heard from PC Fox how he and colleagues were called to search after Dr Shaun Russell reported his family missing.

The constable said it was very dark with no moonlight as they began searching the area near the Russell family home in Nonington near Canterbury.

The discovery of Megan's swimming costume lying on a track not far from her home prompted the officers to investigate that area further.

The three bodies were found at about 12.30am. They had been beaten with a blunt instrument, which may have been a hammer or a pole.

Stephen Griffiths, a crime-scenes officer, said that blood stains and hairs found on most of the clothes and belongings were from Lin, Josie or Megan Russell. But a hair found on Dr Russell's trousers and another on one of Josie's shoes came from another source, which was not the defendant.

Mr Griffiths said a fingerprint found on a lunch box could not have been made by the defendant, either.

A string of witnesses yesterday provided details of sightings during the afternoon of the brutal killings.

Isobel Cole, a carpenter's wife, spotted a man clutching a claw hammer as she drove home from an afternoon out. The man had dark eyebrows and a very pale face and was in his late 20s or early 30s, Mrs Cole said.

"I slowed down because there was nobody about, nothing that he could be going back to - a car, nothing like that. As I approached him I looked a bit more at what he had in his hand and it was a hammer ... I looked all around and couldn't see anything for him to use a hammer for."

After she passed, he crossed the road behind her, swinging the hammer.

Anthony Rayfield, a jobbing gardener, described coming across a man acting strangely as he was on his way home from work. The man was quite small, with a wiry build and light hair, aged 35 to 40 years, Mr Rayfield said. "He seemed agitated, like he was in a hurry." The man trotted down the road towards a beige-coloured Ford Escort with the boot open. Later, a curious Mr Rayfield went back to the scene. There, he spotted a net bag. When details of the murders emerged the next day, Mr Rayfield contacted police. The bag had belonged to the Russell sisters.

Trevor Jackson, a scrap metal dealer, also described seeing a light-coloured Escort near where the bodies of the Russells were eventually discovered. But in one of several statements he made to the police, Mr Jackson described seeing two men at the scene - one near the car and another down the road.

The court had earlier heard graphic details of evidence gathered from the scene, including items used to bind the victims and scientific proof of how the killer had left the copse. Forensic officers found a pair of tights that had been used to bind Josie to a tree before she was attacked. Further searches had found a black boot lace which had probably been used to tie Megan before she suffered seven blows to the head.

James Fraser, the forensic scientist responsible for combing the murder scene, said there was proof the murderer had left with blood "dripping" from the murder weapon.

Mark Ellison, for the prosecution, said there was no medical evidence of sexual interference with the victims, nor evidence of ejaculation.

The case continues today.

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