Stone murder convictions upheld

Michael Stone, the man convicted twice for the 1996 murders of Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan, today lost his second appeal against the convictions.

Michael Stone, the man convicted twice for the 1996 murders of Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan, today lost his second appeal against the convictions.

Stone, 44, was first found guilty in 1998 of killing 45-year-old Dr Russell and Megan, six, as well as the attempted murder of Megan's sister Josie in Chillenden, Kent.

The convictions were quashed by three appeal judges in February 2001 when a witness admitted he had lied. A retrial was ordered, but in October 2001 Stone was convicted for a second time after a trial at Nottingham crown court and his three life sentences were re-imposed.

A second appeal this week centred on claims that Stone had been "fitted up" by another prisoner, who said he had heard him confess through the bars of his prison cell. Damien Daley was described in court as a heroin-addicted career criminal with psychiatric problems. Daley had admitted lying at Stone's first trial.

Stone's barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, pointed to the fact that there was no forensic evidence linking his client to the attacks, and said the evidence given by Daley was "easily concocted and difficult to disprove".

He argued that the judge at Stone's second trial had failed to warn the jury of the dangers relating to Daley's evidence, or to tell them to exercise particular care because of his bad character and possible motives to lie.

The prosecution said Daley had never been put forward as a man of good character, and it was "accepted that he was an individual who would lie when it suited him, that he was a character with previous convictions and he had tried or taken every drug that it was possible to take".

Daley, the prosecution added, had nothing to gain from the police or prison authorities by lying about the confession.

The appeal court judges - Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Moses and Mr Justice Walker - said they would give their reasons for rejecting Stone's appeal on Friday.

During the course of the appeal, they had already indicated that they rejected the evidence of another prisoner, Paul Gilheaney, that Daley had admitted, in a conversation, that he was lying over the Stone case.

As the judges announced that his appeal had been rejected, Stone showed no emotion except to shrug at his sister Barbara, who was in the public gallery.

On leaving court, she said the battle to clear her brother would go on. She said there was "not a scrap of evidence" against him, and that he had been convicted because Mr Daley had "lied his way through two trials, and he has been upheld".

"I keep saying time and time again it is plain he cannot be believed. The man is a liar," she said.

After visiting Stone in the cells, his solicitor, Derek Hayward, said his client was "left disappointed" but pleased that "a lot of information came out about Damien Daley" during the appeal.

Mr Hayward said they intended to take the case further - "perhaps to the House of Lords" - but a final decision would have to wait until Stone's legal team had studied the appeal judges' reasons for today's decision.

Mark Stephens, the solicitor for Lin Russell's husband, Shaun, issued a statement on his behalf. It said: "I am satisfied that Kent police did the best possible job given the difficult circumstances surrounding our case. 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.

"We would be grateful if we could be left in peace with our happy memories of the ones we have lost, and get on with our lives in as private and undisturbed a way as possible."

Mr Russell and Josie, aged 17, now live in north Wales.

Staff and agencies

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