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EDITIONS
Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
A father's tale
Josie Russell on a swing
Police initially thought Josie Russell was dead
When his wife kissed him goodbye as he left work on the morning of 9 July 1996 Shaun Russell had no idea that he would not see her alive again.

He left after having breakfast with Lin and his two daughters, Josie, nine, and Megan, six, in their idyllic cottage in the village of Chillenden near Canterbury.

Dr Russell, a lecturer in nature conservation, expected to be working late and told his wife not to expect him until about 8.30pm.

Shaun Russell
Shaun Russell called the police when his family did not return
The girls were going to a swimming gala in the afternoon and Josie was looking forward to going to Brownies in the early evening.

In a statement read out to the trial, Dr Russell said: "Lin came out to the garden to say goodbye. She kissed me goodbye which was unusual for us because we are normally in a hurry."

After a long day at work at Kent University in Canterbury, Dr Russell headed home.


She kissed me goodbye which was unusual for us because we are normally in a hurry.

Shaun Russell
He drove home and parked outside his family's cottage.

He was earlier than he had thought. It was around 7.30pm.

It was early July, dusk was falling so Dr Russell was surprised to find the curtains open and no lights on in the house.

There was no note but he thought they would be home soon.

He told police: "I was not worried because I thought they would be visiting our ponies."

Dr Russell spent the next 45 minutes preparing his supper but was getting gradually more concerned as it became darker and darker and still there was no sign of his family.

Lin and Megan Russell with horse
Shaun Russell assumed the three were with their ponies
At 8.30pm he wandered down the lane to where the ponies were stabled to look for them because it was nearing the girls' bedtime. There was no sign of them.

Becoming increasingly anxious, he rang the police and local hospitals to see if there had been an accident.

At 9.30pm he drove down Cherry Garden Lane, the route which his family would have used to come home from school.

He was just yards from the copse where their bodies lay. Two were dead and Josie was unconscious, but still clinging to life.

Finding no trace he returned home and called the police again. They came out and joined the search.

By now Dr Russell was frantic.

In a statement read out to the trial, Dr Russell said: "Between 11.30 and midnight one of the officers came to me and said he had some bad news, he said my family had been found and that they were all dead."


One of the officers came to me and said he had some bad news, he said my family had been found and that they were all dead.

Shaun Russell
Later it transpired that Josie was actually alive, despite her horrendous head injuries. She was taken to hospital when an officer noticed a "flicker of life" and she underwent emergency surgery.

Dr Russell stayed up all night as he tried to come to terms with the horrendous events of that day.

When he was told Josie was alive he rushed to the hospital and focused all his energies on her survival.

Over the next few days, on top of the grief and trauma, he had to endure questioning by the police.

With Josie unconscious and unable to talk police had little to go on and, as in all murder cases, the husband was initially the prime suspect.

It was not long before staff at the university confirmed Dr Russell's version of events and police realised he was innocent.

They began to search for a random attacker.

It was like looking for a needle in a haystack but, many months later, they came up with the name of Michael Stone.



Analysis

Background

AUDIO VIDEO
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