Mother and daughter murder trial starts

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The Independent Online

The trial of Michael Stone, the man accused of bludgeoning a mother and daughter to death in a country lane, began yesterday.

They were attacked on 9 July 1996 as they walked down a country lane in Chillenden, Kent. Dr Lin Russell, 45, and her six-year-old child, Megan, were killed, as was the family dog, Lucy.

Dr Russell's other daughter, Josie, who was nine at the time, survived the attack.

The three blood-covered bodies were found in a small copse in Cherry Garden Lane, Chillenden. Emergency staff believed Josie was dead until a faint pulse was detected. She clung on to life and has since made a remarkable recovery from the terrible head injuries that she sustained.

Mr Stone, 41, from Gillingham, in Kent, denies murdering Lin and Megan Russell and attempting to murder Josie.

He appeared in court yesterday, wearing a white T-shirt and blue tracksuit bottoms, speaking only to confirm his name.

His sister, Barbara, and mother, Jane Standen, were in the public gallery to see the start of the trial.

A jury of nine men and three women were sworn in at Nottingham Crown Court before being sent home until Monday morning. The rest of this week will be taken up with legal argument between the prosecution barrister, Nigel Sweeney QC, and William Clegg QC, for the defence.

Mr Justice Poole asked prospective members of the jury, selected from a panel of 32, three questions.

He asked if any of them had any immediate family or connections with the county of Kent and if they had read the book Josie's Journey by Shaun Russell or its serialisation in Reader's Digest.

Nobody said yes. Mr Justice Poole said the trial was likely to last until the start of October.

"This is a second trial of the matters just read out to you," he said. "It may be that you have heard of these matters before. They are matters that attracted a great deal of publicity, some of it accurate and some of it inaccurate, and I am going to be directing you to put all of these matters raised in the publicity entirely out of your mind."

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