Jurors confirm family murder verdicts on Michael Stone

Michael Stone showed no emotion as a jury yesterday returned three guilty verdicts for the brutal murders of Lin and Megan Russell, and the attempted murder of Josie Russell.

Michael Stone showed no emotion as a jury yesterday returned three guilty verdicts for the brutal murders of Lin and Megan Russell, and the attempted murder of Josie Russell.

Stone's sister, Barbara, cried out "oh no, not again" as a retrial at Nottingham crown court confirmed the verdicts at his trial in October 1998. The jury was split 10-2 over the three decisions, and a female juror wept as the foreman read them out.

The judge, Mr Justice Poole, did not dwell on the horror of the murders, saying: "Michael Stone, you have been convicted of three terrible crimes. There is no need for me to develop that description further."

Detective Superintendent Dave Stevens, who led the investigation, said: "Stone has the most appalling criminal history, and a very disturbed psychiatric history. We were looking for a maniac and Stone is a maniac. I don't think Stone meant to kill them when he started out. I think he meant to rob them. But it escalated and escalated.

"In interviews he never admitted anything, but there were things he said to us that were really disturbing. I have no doubt he was responsible."

Shaun Russell welcomed the verdict, and hoped he and his daughter could put the anxiety of the criminal proceedings behind them and look forward to a more settled future. "A jury has found for the second time that the man accused of attacking my wife and children is guilty of the crime.

"I do not envy the task faced by the jury, and I am sure that I would have found it just as difficult to come to a decision beyond all reasonable doubt as they have done.

"However, I am confident the police inquiry and the prosecution of the case was carried out diligently, and the court has done its best to see justice is served; I am therefore relieved with the verdict."

Lin Russell and her daughter Megan, six, were attacked in Chillenden in Kent in July 1996 as they walked home following a school swimming gala. Josie was found alive, but seriously injured. All three had been savagely beaten about the head with a hammer-like weapon.

Stone, 41, a heroin addict with a history of untreatable personality disorders, was arrested soon after the anniversary of the murders when police put out an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch programme. He was tried and convicted at Maidstone crown court in Kent in October 1998. Central to this trial was testimony as to three confessions Stone made in prison on remand.

The verdicts were quashed by the appeal court following a report in the Daily Mirror that one prisoner, Barry Thompson, had lied about one supposed "cell confession".

The prosecution case at Nottingham relied on the evidence of one prisoner -Damien Daley, a career criminal and prison "hard man" who told the court: "I am a criminal, and I do lie when it suits me." The jury believed his evidence that Stone had confessed to him in a neighbouring cell at Maidstone prison.

Daley denies being a police informant. He told the court: "The criminal code is that you don't hurt women and children."

Kent police officers faced an inquiry by another force, Hampshire, following Thompson's claim.

Criminal or disciplinary charges against officers could have followed, but the Hampshire inquiry concluded that the investigation had been above board. No evidence emerged that Thompson had lied in court.

The investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Graham Tarrant said: "The majority of people seen, including what may be termed hardened criminals, speak highly of the integrity and understanding way officers from Kent conducted themselves during the investigation."

Hampshire police found that the cell confessions had been "treated with the utmost care" by the Kent police.

Yesterday, after speaking to Stone in the cells, his sister Barbara Stone vowed to fight on to clear his name.

"Damien Daley committed perjury at the last trial, and I believe he has done it again. Kent police can look over their shoulders. We will always fight for [my brother's] freedom. There will be no let up.

"He can't accept the verdicts, because he is not guilty. Cell confessions should not go before courts."


Jeevan Vasgar and Nick Hopkins

The GuardianTramp

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