The key prosecution witness in the double murder case against Michael Stone admitted in court yesterday to lying on oath to a judge and jury at an earlier trial.
Damien Daley, whose evidence of an alleged cell confession forms the prosecution's principal evidence against Mr Stone, accepted that he had lied about taking heroin in prison. He is now giving evidence at the second trial into the hammer murders of Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan, six, and the attempted murder of her elder daughter, Josie, then nine.
Mr Daley, 26, a former remand prisoner, also admitted that he had lied when it suited him. "That's what crooks do. They beg, borrow, steal or lie however they can to get by," he told Nottingham Crown Court.
However, he denied he was making up the alleged confession by Mr Stone, who he claimed described details of the attacks during a furtive conversation through a heating pipe that linked their cells at Canterbury prison.
Mr Daley, whose convictions include offences of violence and robbery, said he had tried to put details of the alleged confessions out of his mind but felt he had to give evidence. He said he lied because he did not see his drug "misadventures" were relevant.
The pair were allocated adjoining cells in the jail in September 1997 after Mr Stone was held on remand about a year after the killings near the Kent village of Chillenden.
Mr Daley said that fellow inmates were shouting at Mr Stone to tell them why he was there. But Mr Daley, who accepted he had a reputation as a prison hard man, said he told them to be quiet so he could get Mr Stone alone the following day to find out the full details.
He claimed that while he was in his cell reading a newspaper, Mr Stone told him details of the murder for up to 15 minutes and mentioned "smashing heads" and "breaking eggs". Mr Daley said he "clocked" what was going on after reading an article about the case in the paper.
He claimed that through the pipe, he heard Mr Stone describing his victims as being "paupers".
William Clegg QC, counsel for Mr Stone, said Mr Daley had tried to "fit up" Mr Stone and had gleaned the word "paupers" from stories in the newspaper. Mr Daley made a statement to police three days after the alleged confession.
The jury travelled to the prison on Monday and crouched on a mattress in Mr Daley's old cell to try to hear a passage read from J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire from an adjoining cell.
During cross-examination, Mr Clegg challenged Mr Daley's previous claim that he had never taken heroin in prison and that he had been punished under prison rules twice for drug-taking. Mr Clegg said: "You agree that on oath, you lied to a jury on an earlier occasion about whether or not you had taken heroin in prison. That you agree about, right?"
Mr Daley replied: "Yes."
Mr Daley said he finally came forward because the crime broke his criminal "code" of not targeting women, children or old people. He told the court: "I just felt guilty towards that little girl and I felt it's just something I should do. I didn't want to be here, I didn't ask to be here, I was told my evidence would have no weight in a court at all. I have just told the truth."
Michael Stone, 41, of Gillingham, Kent, denies murdering Lin and Megan Russell, and the attempted murder of Josie in July 1996. He is accused of attempting to rob them before tying them up, blindfolding them and beating them repeatedly with a hammer in a small copse as they walked home from a school swimming gala.
The trial continues today.