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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Village quiet life helped rebuild family
Nantlle, where Shaun and Josie Russell live
The Russell's live in Nantlle in Gwynedd
The village of Nantlle is a largely Welsh-speaking community of around 100 people in Gwynedd in north Wales.

It is where the Russells, husband and wife Shaun and Lin, and their daughters, Josie and Megan, lived for almost five years from 1991.

Cemetery where Lin and Megan Russell are buried

It was also the place to which father and daughter Shaun and Josie retreated to rebuild their shattered lives after one terrible day in 1996.

Since learning that the victims of the horror in a Kent country lane were the people they had known and respected as neighbours and friends, the villagers of Nantlle have been a resource on which the surviving Russells have drawn.

And it is not surprising that within weeks of the tragedy Shaun Russell left the job he had taken up as a scientist and conservationist at the University of Kent and returned to the support of the community which had been their home.

Less than two months after the attack, Josie and her father buried Lin and Megan in the peace of St Mary's churchyard in nearby Garndolbenmaen.

Josie Russell at a river
Josie Russell enjoying the river near her home

The move back to the close-knit community is something that has undoubtedly helped speed Josie's recovery from the terrible injuries which were meant to have taken her life.

Today's verdict means that Josie and Shaun Russell can, after two trials, take comfort in finally seeing the killer behind bars for life.

It has been a long hard road for Shaun Russell to nurse his surviving daughter back to health after the terrible head injuries she suffered.

But in wanting to giving her something resembling a normal life, he has been helped by the people of Nantlle.

As soon as the pair moved back, the village threw a protective arm around its own, closing ranks against anyone trying to pry into their lives.

Even now people are unwilling to talk to strangers, let alone the media, about the Russells.

Incredibly, in a world where celebrity is king, the Russells' privacy has been maintained, even shielded, by their neighbours.

Josie Russell on horseback
Josie Russell, the horse rider, near Nantlle

The village's collective defence is perhaps a continuation of the community spirit it developed by being home to slate workers - the main industry in the area for more than 150 years.

But it is more likely that because the Russells never forgot Nantlle, the people of Nantlle never forgot them.

After moving to Kent, Josie kept in touch with her primary school friends.

Now, though she is a year behind in the bilingual English-Welsh education at the village high school, Ysgol Uwchradd Dyffryn Nantlle, she still has the same pals.

Five years on Josie Russell is practically unrecognisable as the shy little girl who touched the hearts of many.

Her speech and understanding had been badly affected by her terrible head injuries and the cloth hats she wore to hide the operation scars became a near-permanent fixture.

Josie Russell
Josie Russell has made a remarkable recovery

But now, aged 14, she has developed into a bright and active teenager who is as fashion-conscious as any other young woman.

When she cannot find the right English word to express herself will often use its Welsh equivalent instead.

And her bravery has since been honoured in a series of awards and her story documented in a book by her father Shaun.

With a second guilty verdict against Michael Stone, perhaps now Shaun and Josie Russell can look forward to brighter chapters in the family's life.

A special report by BBC Wales's Matthew Richards
"Josie is practically unrecognisable now from the shy girl that captured the hearts of the nation"
See also:

04 Oct 01 | England
04 Oct 01 | England
04 Oct 01 | England
04 Oct 01 | England
Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.

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