Stone wins appeal over Russells murders

Michael Stone today won his court of appeal challenge to his convictions for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell.

Michael Stone today won his court of appeal challenge to his convictions for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell.

Three judges in London indicated that they would "allow the appeal" on the basis of the unreliability of key witness Barry Thompson's evidence, given at Stone's trail.

Stone, 40, of Gillingham, Kent, will remain in custody pending deliberation by the court on Thursday on the issue of a possible retrial.

Today's drama unfolded on the second day of Stone's appeal before Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice Maurice Kay and Mrs Justice Hallett at London's law courts.

Stone was given three life sentences at Maidstone crown court in 1998 for the two murders, and the attempted murder of Megan's sister, Josie, near their home at Chillenden, Kent in 1996. He was in court for the announcement.

Sitting in the dock, flanked by security officers, Stone turned to his sister Barbara and smiled, and she then punched the air in delight.

He could be free later this week if the court does not order a re-trial.

The appeal court's decision followed the revelation that the prosecution could no longer rely on one of its key witness, Mr Thompson, as a "witness of truth".

Stone's counsel, Mr William Clegg QC, told the three judges that just "moments ago" he was handed a document by the crown. Mr Clegg read out from the document.

The prosecution stated in the document that having considered all the material now before the court for the purpose of the appeal, the crown "cannot seek to rely on Barry Thompson as a witness of truth".

Thompson, who told the jury that Stone had confessed to the killings while in prison, reportedly said just days after the conviction that he had told the jury "a pack of lies" when he claimed Stone had threatened him and referred to the murders.

He has claimed in newspaper articles that he and another key witness against Stone at his trial were "paid police informants".

It was shortly after this announcement that Lord Justice Kennedy said the court was "minded" to allow the appeal.

The court has not formally quashed the conviction and Lord Justice Kennedy warned that the proceedings were still "live" and there was a realistic possibility of an order for a re-trial and that therefore nothing to Stone's detriment may be published in the interim.

Yesterday, Mr Clegg said that Mr Thompson had now changed his story. "What he says is completely contrary to the evidence he gave at the trial," Mr Clegg said. He now says Stone made no confession of any kind to him and that his evidence at Maidstone was untruthful."

Another prosecution witness, Damien Daley, also gave evidence that Stone had confessed to the killings in prison.

Stone, who has spent much of his life in prison and institutions and has had addictions to heroin and alcohol, has steadfastly denied any involvement in the killings.

Related articles
6.2.2001: Key witnesses in Russell case were police informants, appeal court told
5.2.2001: Russell killer appeals
23.10.00: Background - 'Josie's Journey', by Shaun Russel
5.4.1999: Wrongly convicted?
15.3.1999: Stone trial witness 'lied'

Useful links
Is Michael Stone innocent? - Scandals in Justice

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