She remembers

A nine-year-old girl who was left for dead after an attack in which her mother and sister were murdered more than two months ago is helping the police hunting the killer.

Police had feared that Josephine Russell would never be able to recall the events surrounding the murder because of her severe head injuries but she has now begun to speak to them. Officers are using a special interview method to coax information from her.

Josephine, her mother, Lin, 45, and sister Megan, six, were set upon in a lane near Chillenden, Kent. All three were battered by a weapon thought to be a hammer. The family dog was also killed. The police are conducting forensic tests on a hammer which was found in field on Monday found near the scene of the crime.

Two police officers using a technique developed by speech therapists and child psychologists which involves short questions and sign language have been interviewing Josephine at her home since Sunday.

There were fears that brain damage would prevent her talking again but she is gradually regaining her voice. She has given the police new leads.Her father, Shaun Russell, said she was beginning to show anxiety as her memories returned. "When she was in hospital and couldn't remember anything she was more or less constantly happy," he said.

"But as she has remembered more and more her happiness has decreased and periods of anxiety have increased." However, she was eager to help the police, Dr Russell said. Detective Chief Inspector Dave Stevens said: "We have devised a method of communicating with Josephine. Long sentences are not possible but over a period of weeks we have been going back over her life and personal details.

"It is obvious that Josephine has a clear memory about the attack and she has already provided us with information that backs up the description of a man seen near the murder scene and other details.

"This could be a turning- point. There is only one eye-witness to these murders. Josephine's memories and evidence could be crucial." The videotaped interviews have been taking place in the living- room of the Russells' cottage.

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