9 July 1996 – Dr Lin Russell walked her two daughters, 9 year Josie and 6 year old Megan, home from a school swimming contest, with their dog, through the country lanes of Chillenden in Kent. Chillenden is a really old and beautiful English villages and is referenced in the Doomsday Book (dated 1086). The family, including Lin’s husband and father to Josie and Megan, Shaun, had recently relocated from north Wales and were settling into their new home and area.
During this walk, they were attacked, bound and horrifically beaten with a hammer. Lin and Megan were killed, along with their dog, Lucy, and Josie was left severely injured. Lin, Megan and Josie were found eight hours after the attack had taken place. Kent Police described it as “one of the most horrific crimes ever committed”. The senseless murders rocked the community and the country as a whole.
Following one of the biggest man hunts in British history and the case being featured on Crimewatch, a year after the attack, an arrest is made. The then 37 year old Micheal Stone is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. At his trial in 1998, Stone pleads not guilty yet is convicted. There is no DNA or further forensic evidence linking Stone to the crime but a guilty verdict is reached on witness testimony of one of Stone’s fellow inmates. This witness claimed Stone had confessed to the murders whilst in prison. Forensic evidence was retrieved from the scene; however, one piece (a shoelace) went missing and pieces of swimming towel which had been ripped into strips to bind the family had DNA from a male on the ends.
There was a retrial in 2001 after a prosecution witness recanted his evidence and the credibility of another witness was questioned. However, Stone was convicted for a second time. His lawyers noted that this second trial was unfair because of the manner in which the Judge summed up the case in closing. In 2006, following an appeal to the High Court, a judge presided that he should only be eligible for parole after serving 25 years, so it is unlikely that he will be freed before 2023. He will be 63 years old.
Micheal Stone had a number of mental health and drug addiction problems before the murders. He had a turbulent childhood, suffering from domestic abuse and then being placed in care. After leaving care, he began using heroin. His first criminal offence took place when he was 12 and received prison sentences in the 1980s and 1990s for robbery, burglary, grievous bodily harm and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. An inquiry was held to discuss the support he received in relation to his drug addiction and mental health issues from the Probation Service. Five days before the murder of Lin and Megan, Stone had allegedly threatened to kill his family and criminal justice staff. The outcome of the inquiry was summed up that failings were found, but it did not agree that these failings resulted in Stone committing these murders.
Stone protests his innocence to this day.
There is a twist to this story. It was reported in 2007 by BBC Wales that British serial killer, Levi Bellfield allegedly confessed to killing Lin and Megan and leaving Josie with critical injuries and what his motivation was. He also, allegedly, mentioned facts which were not available to the public. There could also be witnesses who saw Bellfield near the scene around the time the murders occurred.
Levi Bellfield is in prison serving two whole life terms for the murders of Marsha McDonnell, Amelie Delagrange and Milly Dowler and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. He has also previously been charged with three counts of rape in London and Surrey, assault of a woman in Twickenham, and causing grievous bodily harm to another woman. Bellfield is a former nightclub bouncer and has the gross nickname “the bus top killer” as he would ambush women waiting at bus stops. Police note that Bellfield could be linked to other attacks in Britain that involve the use of blunt instruments.
In 2017, a two part documentary called The Chillenden Murders aired on BBC Two. The programme amassed independent experts to re-examine the evidence in this case. The Telegraph summed up the findings of the programme as QUOTE “According to the BBC, new details, uncovered during the making of the documentary, raise the possibility that the wrong man may have been convicted.” Further Stephen Kamlisch, a criminal defence barrister and Sheryl Nwosu, a legal expert, who featured on the programme believe that there are doubts, serious doubts, regarding the secured conviction. They are working towards issuing a third appeal against the conviction on behalf Stone.
Josie has suffered life threatening head injuries after the attack. Her prognosis was initially poor as her injuries were so catastrophic but she, after years of physical therapy she made a full recovery. Josie and her father, Shaun, moved back to Wales shortly after the attack. Josie went on to complete a graphic design degree and now makes the most beautiful cards and landscapes which are available for sale through her website. She is engaged to a fire alarm engineer named Iwan.
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Stone_(criminal)
BBC Wales – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-42144445
BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-41652456