Russell murderer said he would kill before attacks

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The Independent Online

A series of failings in the care and treatment of Michael Stone, a man with a history of mental disorder and violence, led up to the murder of Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter, Megan, an inquiry has found. The report also disclosed that five days before Stone bludgeoned them to death, and severely injured Megan's nine-year-old sister, Josie, in a country lane in 1996 he told a psychiatric nurse he wanted to kill people.

But despite the catalogue of errors the inquiry report said that the treatment given to Stone was among the best in the country at the time, and that it was unable to say whether better care would have prevented the murders.

In response Shaun Russell, the father of Megan and Josie, disagreed with the conclusion that the murders might not have been prevented. He said: "If everybody had done their job right perhaps he wouldn't have done what he did."

The case will reopen the debate about how to deal with people suffering from severe personality disorders, who are considered dangerous but have not yet broken the law. Attempts to bring in new laws in two mental health Bills have failed following criticism that the powers would allow individuals to be locked up indefinitely for crimes they have not committed.

An independent inquiry into Stone's case was finally published yesterday after years of legal argument.

On 10 July 1996 Stone, then aged 37, attacked Dr Russell, 45, Megan and Josie with a hammer as they walked home from a swimming gala in Chillenden, Kent. Josie was left with severe head injuries.

Stone was originally found guilty in 1998 of the murders and the attempted murder, but his convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2001 and a retrial was ordered. In October that year, Stone was convicted for a second time and his three life sentences were reimposed. He appealed again last year, but the convictions were upheld.

An inquiry was ordered in 1999 into his treatment after it emerged that he had a history of mental disorder, drug abuse, and violence and he had received treatment and supervision from various agencies. He had a string of previous convictions, including attacking a man with a hammer.

Since his release from prison in 1992 he had been seen by various psychiatric services in Kent, had been detained under the Mental Health Act on one occasion, and had received treatment and supervision from a drug addiction clinic.

Yesterday's report commissioned by West Kent Health Authority - now the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority - Kent Social Services and Kent Probation Service found a series of mistakes had been made in his care and treatment. The report revealed that the Prison Service lost many of Stone's medical records. The agencies that treated Stone frequently failed to share information about him. The addiction services failed to plan or implement an appropriate or effective care package.

Stone had appealed for help in tackling his addictions, the report said. He and his solicitors wrote to nurses several times while on remand for burglary and theft, but Stone was told to approach the addiction services on his release.

A consultant at the mental health trust was reluctant to work with Stone because he thought he was dangerous, but failed to inform his colleagues. A GP who lacked adequate training was put in charge of prescribing his medication.

The report also disclosed that Stone had an "aggressive outburst" on 4 July 1996 - five days before the murders - and threatened to kill his previous probation officer and his family. He also "made threats to kill prison officers should he be jailed.

But the report stressed that Stone was "one of the group of patients who are among the most difficult and challenging for the health, social and probation services to deal with".

It concludes: "We are satisfied that the agencies and professionals involved here all did what they perceived at the time to be for the best.

"We doubt that much more would have been attempted anywhere else in the country."

Dr Russell's husband, Shaun, said he believed this conclusion was wrong. He said: "If everybody had done their job right perhaps he wouldn't have done what he did." When asked what the most disturbing failing was, Mr Russell said: "It's this idea of a lack of joined-up action, everything from the Prison Service having lost the records - one is tempted to say conveniently - the probation officer going off on a nervous breakdown, the detox unit saying 'I'm not having this guy in my set-up, he's a danger to my staff.' What are they there for? And the doctor not giving the medication."

Killers released from psychiatric care

Paul Khan

A paranoid schizophrenic, Khan killed Brian Dodd, aged 72, in March 2003. Khan, 34 and from Cardiff, had been branded a danger seven years earlier after cutting a stranger's throat. He was released after four years.

Daniel Gonzalez

Gonzalez, 25, from Woking in Surrey, killed two men and two women in three days in September 2004. Gonzalez, who had a personality disorder, had been treated for seven years for mental illness.

Christopher Clunis

Clunis stabbed to death Jonathan Zito, 27 and newly married, in 1992. A schizophrenic, Clunis, aged 29, had been discharged from nine psychiatric units in five years.

Peter Bryan

Peter Bryan battered his friend Brian Cherry to death in February 2004 in Walthamstow, east London. Bryan had killed a young shop assistant in 1993, and was ordered to be detained indefinitely. But by 2002, a mental health review tribunal had decided he was safe enough to be released.

John Barrett

A paranoid schizophrenic, Barrett killed former banker Denis Finnegan, who happened to be cycling past in Richmond Park in September 2004. Less than 24 hours earlier, Barrett had walked out of a psychiatric hospital.