Stone loses appeal over hammer murders

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Michael Stone's attempt to overturn his conviction for the murders of Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter Megan was rejected by the Court of Appeal yesterday. The decision by the three judges was welcomed by the husband of Mrs Russell as "fair to all parties".

Michael Stone's attempt to overturn his conviction for the murders of Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter Megan was rejected by the Court of Appeal yesterday. The decision by the three judges was welcomed by the husband of Mrs Russell as "fair to all parties".

It was the second time that the case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. On the previous occasion the court quashed Stone's conviction, but he was found guilty at a second trial of the murders at Chillenden in Kent in 1996. He was also convicted of attempting to murder Megan's sister, Josie, then aged nine, by bludgeoning her with a hammer, causing severe head injuries. He is serving three life sentences.

Shaun Russell, the father of Josie, said in a statement after yesterday's ruling: "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."

Josie, now aged 17, has made a remarkable recovery from her injuries and lives with her father in north Wales.

Stone, 44, a drug addict with a psychopathic disorder and a previous conviction for attacking a man with a hammer during a robbery, was returned to prison yesterday.

His legal team had said his conviction in 1998 was unsafe because it was based on the testimony of a self-confessed liar and heroin addict who was trying to curry favour with the police and prison authorities. Damien Daley claimed to have heard Stone confessing through the gaps in the heating pipes while being held in a neighbouring cell at Canterbury jail.

He said Stone had talked about cracking the victims' heads like eggs and tying up one victim who tried to run away. There was no scientific or identification evidence that linked Stone directly to the attack.

The three appeal judges spent three days considering the case and will give reasons for their decision tomorrow.

The Crown said Daley had no reason to lie about Stone and that the jury at the second trial knew that the prison informer was a lying drug user, but chose to believe his testimony.

Stone, who was flanked by two security men in the dock at the Court of Appeal in London, shrugged at his sister, Barbara, as Lord Justice Rose announced the decision.

Stone's sister said outside court that their fight would go on: "We are hoping to go to the House of Lords. Damien Daley is a liar and I stand by that. There isn't a scrap of evidence. There is the word of one heroin addict, a lying person's cell confession. That's the only piece of evidence and as I keep saying time and time again it is plain he cannot be believed. The man is a liar.

"I think it's very unfortunate that what is going to make me very happy would make the Russell family very unhappy, but I think we have got one thing in common, we want justice, all of us. We want justice, all of us. We want the true murderer apprehended and put in prison where he belongs."

Stone's solicitor, Derek Hayward, added: "Michael will feel there has been another miscarriage of justice."

Stone was granted a retrial at his first appeal in February 2001 after a key prosecution witness, Barry Thompson, admitted he lied about hearing a confession.

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

HOW JOSIE RUSSELL HAS REBUILT HER LIFE

Josie Russell was struck five times with a hammer and left in a lane in Chillenden, Kent, in July 1996, beside the bodies of her mother and younger sister.

The nine-year-old had multiple skull fractures and a 9in hole in her head. Few of the ambulance crew thought she would survive. It took a year with a speech therapist, and dolls, for Josie to tell what had happened.

Michael Stone, a mentally ill drug addict with convictions for violence, got out of his car with a claw hammer as the family walked past, and demanded money. Mrs Russell said they did not have any and offered to go home and get some. But Stone said, "No", tied them and battered Mrs Russell and Megan. Mrs Russell told Josie to run home for help but she was caught, blindfolded with strips of towel from her swimming bag, tied to a tree and beaten.

Josie spent five months in hospital then moved with her father, Dr Shaun Russell, to a village near Caernarfon, North Wales.

Even today, she still has difficulty speaking and understanding speech. But her recovery has astonished teachers and doctors.

There was an outcry when Josie was awarded just £18,500 by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. On appeal, that was increased to £79,000. Josie's plight has received huge national media coverage and her devoted father has attempted to protect his daughter from unwanted attention.

Last year, she passed eight GCSEs. She gained A grades in Welsh, and art and design, Bs in textiles and graphics and a C in English. She also scored passes in maths and two science exams. She is taking a design course at college.