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EDITIONS
Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Nightmare in broad daylight
Michael Stone
Stone: Drugs may have played a part in the killing
What Michael Stone was doing in the woods near Chillenden in Kent on a beautiful summer's day in 1996 is anybody's guess.

Stone, a heroin addict, may have gone there to inject drugs.

Forensic scientist Rodger Ide told the second trial that a shoelace found in Cherry Garden Lane could have been used as a tourniquet by a heroin addict.


Maybe he thought 'This is everything I want and I can't have it'.

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Stevens
Whatever he was there for, it was a tragic coincidence that Lin Russell and her daughters Megan and Josie happened across him as they walked home from a swimming gala.

The day ended with Lin and Megan lying dead in a copse and Josie being rushed to hospital with horrific head injuries, inflicted by a hammer wielded by Stone.

'He knew the area'

Although he told police he had never heard of Chillenden, friends said the unemployed addict knew the area "like the back of his hand".

Police believe he financed his drug habit by burgling homes and stealing lawnmowers, mobile generators and anything he could hope to sell on.

He could have driven down to Chillenden on the look-out for something to steal.

Stone noticed the family as he drove along the leafy lanes - indeed Josie Russell waved at him moments before the attack although he was a complete stranger.

Desperate for money to buy heroin, he may have decided to mug Dr Russell, though she was unlikely to have had much cash on her.

Josie recalled how he demanded money from her mother but at some point a psychopathic trigger inside him set off an explosion of wanton violence.

He bludgeoned Lin and Megan without mercy and when Josie ran off he chased and caught her, tied her to a tree with strips of her own damp swimming towel and attacked her with the hammer.

Fortunately she lost consciousness and Stone, believing she was dead, drove off in his car.

'I should have killed her'

He later told a fellow prisoner while on remand in Elmley jail that he had "made a mistake with her".

Far from showing remorse for his actions he regretted "not finishing off" Josie.

Before Stone's arrest Detective Chief Inspector Dave Stevens, who led the murder inquiry, said he believed the killer suffered from a personality disorder.

He said: "Maybe he's got a down on stable families. This young family walking through the cornfield with their dog. Maybe he thought 'This is everything I want and I can't have it'."

As a theory it is as good a way as any to explain such an apparently motiveless crime.

Arrested after tip-off

Stone was arrested after a tip-off to BBC One's Crimewatch UK programme.

A friend thought he looked like the e-fit shown on television on the first anniversary of the killings and had noticed him acting strangely.

Another friend had seen him wearing blood-soaked clothes on the day after the murders. Stone had explained it away by saying he had been involved in a fight.

As police looked closer into his background they became more confident they had their man.

Stone never confessed to the killings to the police, but his conviction will come as some small compensation to Megan and Josie's father, Shaun Russell.

Dr Russell, a lecturer in nature conservation, has moved back to North Wales with Josie and is trying to piece together his life again.

In the aftermath of the killings Dr Russell slept with a World War I bayonet by his side despite 24-hour police surveillance.

Their home in Wales is fitted with panic buttons that alert the nearest police car.

Josie and her father can now rest slightly easier, knowing that the "very bad man" will stay in jail for many years.



Analysis

Background

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