Stone loses appeal against hammer murders conviction

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The Independent Online

Michael Stone today lost his appeal against his conviction for the hammer murders of Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan.

Michael Stone today lost his appeal against his conviction for the hammer murders of Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan.

Stone, 44, was found guilty in 1998 of killing Dr Russell, 45, and Megan, six, and the attempted murder of Megan's sister Josie in Chillenden, Kent.

These convictions were quashed in February 2001 by three appeal judges and a retrial was ordered.

In October that year, Stone was convicted for a second time after a trial at Nottingham Crown Court and his three life sentences were re–imposed.

This week Stone's lawyers appealed again, claiming he did not receive a fair trial and was framed by another prisoner, Damien Daley, who was described as a heroin-ddicted career criminal with psychiatric problems.

But today that appeal was rejected. The reason will be given in the Court of Appeal on Friday.

Shaven–headed Stone, flanked by two security men in the dock, shrugged at his sister, Barbara, as Lord Justice Rose made the announcement that his second appeal had failed. The sister, who has backed her brother's attempts to prove his innocence, sat at the back of the court throughout the appeal.

His solicitor Derek Hayward, on his way to see his client in the court complex, said: "We are very disappointed. Michael will feel there has been another miscarriage of justice. That is all we have to say. We'll have to wait for the judges' reasons."

Stone was tried a second time following his first appeal was successful when a key witness, Barry Thompson, admitted he head lied.

But a jury at his second trial was convinced that it was Stone who attacked Dr Russell and her daughters as they walked home from a swimming gala along a country lane in Chillenden, near Canterbury, on July 9 1996.

Police built up a picture of what happened, based partly on recollections, who recovered from the attack, and partly on Stone's confessions to Daley.

The jury was told that the family passed Stone's car, which was parked in the lane, when he got out wielding a claw hammer and demanded money.

Dr Russell said they did not have any and offered to go home and get some. But Stone said: "No", tied them up and bludgeoned Dr Russell and Megan to death.

Josie was urged by her mother to run home and get help but she was caught, blindfolded with strips of towel taken from her swimming bag and tied to a tree.

Josie was attacked and passed out and left for dead.

Her injuries were so severe that it was not until the next year that she could recount the events to police.

Although Josie, who is now 17, still has difficulty speaking and understanding speech, she is attending college in Wales where she lives with her father, Shaun.

There was no forensic evidence against Stone, who pleaded not guilty and maintained throughout that his cellmate was lying about his confession.

This was the crucial evidence used to convict Stone, who had convictions dating back to 1972, including a two–year sentence in 1981 for attacking a man with a hammer during a robbery.

Mark Stephens, solicitor for Lin Russell's husband Shaun and one of Josie's trustees, later issued a statement on behalf of Mr Russell.

It said: "I am satisfied that Kent police did the best possible job given the difficult circumstances surrounding our case.

"The justice system has taken its course and as far as I can see it has been fair to all parties.

"Josie and I have made an effort to put our memories of this terrible affair behind us, especially as nothing can bring back Josie's mother Lin and sister Megan.

"We would be grateful if we could be left in peace with our happy memories of the ones we have lost, and get on with our lives in as private and undisturbed a way as possible."

Mr Russell and Josie now live in North Wales.