Stone verdict: The Russells can finally move on

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The Independent Online

Shortly after 4pm yesterday, Josie Russell looked up from tending her pet rabbit to learn that the man who killed her mother and sister had been once more found guilty. She said: "Oh that's good."

Three years ago, she had received the same news from her father, Shaun, after Michael Stone was convicted at his first trial. Her reaction was uncannily similar. She had simply replied: "Good."

But this time there was what Dr Russell described as a "small smile of relief" on the face of his daughter, who has overcome mental and physical injuries that on 9 July 1996 few expected her to survive.

Now, five years after the murders, Josie is 14 years old with the preoccupations of many adolescents – make-up, boys, pop music and the welfare of her pets. As her father put it yesterday: "The verdict will, I hope, allow Josie and I to put the anxieties of the criminal proceedings behind us and look forward to a more settled life."

The shadow cast by Stone over the lives of Dr Russell and his daughter has been a long one. Throughout the second trial, Josie had expressed concern that he might be freed to pursue her.

Now it seems that the panic button installed in their home in the Nantlle Valley in north Wales, where the family had lived before moving to Kent, can be considered redundant.

But the experiences of the day that have been relived as memories coaxed from her by two dedicated police officers are not so easily laid to rest.

Three weeks after the killings and the extensive neurosurgery that followed, Josie was allowed home to Chillenden for the day. Dr Russell said: "She started upstairs with a wail growing in her throat and burst into her bedroom.

"Her howling grew stronger and more anguished and she rushed through to Megan's room, grabbing one of her sister's teddies. Then she plunged on into Lin's and my room.

"Josie was sobbing violently now and moaning like a wounded animal between her coughs and splutterings."

Slowly the sobbing fits receded and she returned to playing with friends but the trauma remained. When at the end of August, a farrier came to shoe Josie's ponies, her father found her in tears, cowering in her bedroom while flinching at the sound of the hammer hitting the nails.

With the support of Detective Constable Ed Tingley and Constable Pauline Smith, Josie eventually relived the attack using a scale model of the murder scene and tiny figures of the family and the murder weapon.

Her videoed testimony in front of the model – bearing simultaneous witness to both the savagery of her ordeal and her extraordinary will to survive – was played at both trials.

According to friends, Michael Stone is not a taboo subject in the Russell home. Josie's questions about the gaunt-faced killer are answered by her father but they do not dwell on the subject.

But there is a yearning that still remains unsatisfied. Josie said recently: "It's a long time since I cried, but if I do, I go upstairs and cry on my own. I don't tell my friends what I'm thinking. I want to be normal."