Michael Stone is serving three life sentences for bludgeoning Lin Russell and her daughter Megan, six, to death in an attack near Chillenden in Kent in 1996 in which her other daughter, Josie, nine, suffered severe head injuries and the family’s dog, Lucy, was killed
Lawyers acting for the man jailed for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell will present new evidence which they claim links serial killer Levi Bellfield to the brutal crime.
Hammer killer Michael Stone, now 57, is serving three life sentences with a minimum of 25 years in prison.
He bludgeoned to death Lin Russell and six-year-old daughter Megan 20 years ago in a murder that shocked the nation.
Lin’s elder daughter Josie, nine, miraculously survived the frenzied attack, in which even the family dog was slaughtered.
But Stone, who has fought a protracted legal battle to clear his name, has always maintained his innocence and now his legal team have said they will present new evidence which they claim points to Milly Dowler’s killer, Bellfield.
The lawyers said: ‘There is now new and compelling evidence which proves that he was not responsible for these awful crimes.
‘The evidence suggests that the person responsible is Levi Bellfield, the convicted murderer of three women including Milly Dowler.’
Stone’s barrister, Mark McDonald, said: ‘This evidence needs to tested by the Court of Appeal and, if believed, will lead to the largest miscarriage of justice since the Birmingham Six.’
Known as the bus stop killer, Bellfield, 49, is currently serving two whole life terms, for the murders of Milly Dowler, Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange, and for the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy.
Now known as Yusuf Rahim after converting to Islam, the former wheel clamper caused outrage by finally admitting raping and murdering 13-year-old Milly during a prison interview in May 2015.
It is widely believed by detectives that Bellfield is responsible for numerous other crimes dating back to the 1980s.
He has been linked to 24 violent attacks and rapes in the two decades before he was caught in 2004.
Lin, 45, and Megan, who was just six, were the victims of a frenzied attack as they walked along a quiet country lane in Kent, on their way back from a school swimming gala in the village of Chillenden
In October 1998, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court found heroin addict Stone guilty of counts of murder and attempted murder
Stone was convicted on the evidence of Damien Daley, who admitted in the witness box that he had lied about his drug-taking exploits at the first trial in 1998. Daley said Stone confessed to the hammer murders through a heating pipe into the next cell at Canterbury Prison
It is not the first time Stone’s legal representatives have pointed the finger at Bellfield – in 2011, his solicitor, Paul Bacon, claimed Milly’s killer was a better match for the e-fit of the suspect issued during the police manhunt.
The claims also come months after a two-part BBC documentary aired in May saw a panel of independent experts re-examine the evidence and questioned whether Bellfield might be a more likely suspect, an accusation he has fiercely denied.
Lin Russell, 45, and Megan, six, were killed in 1996 within months of moving to Kent from north Wales. Josie, nine, survived despite dreadful injuries.
All three were blindfolded with strips of Josie’s swimming towel as they returned home from a school swimming gala and she and Megan were tied to trees.
The two girls were each struck seven times with a hammer, while her mother, a geologist, sustained 15 blows to the head, almost severing her brain at the stem.
Josie needed intensive neurological treatment for a year before she could even speak again. She lives and works as an artist in north Wales, having returned to Gwynedd with her father soon after the attack.
Michael Stone was found guilty in 1998.
Shaun Russell with his wife Lin and daughters Megan (second left) and Josie (right), who survived the attack
Without any forensic evidence, the jury believed the main thrust of the prosecution’s case – three prison inmates who claimed Stone had confessed.
One of the inmates admitted soon after the trial ended they had lied and another was discredited. Stone’s legal team challenged his conviction and a retrial was ordered.
But one of the inmates, Damien Daley, then aged 26, maintained Stone had confessed the crime to him.
In late 2001, Stone was once again found guilty and given three life sentences.
Bellfield, who now calls himself Yusuf Rahim, is serving a whole-life tariff after being found guilty of abducting and killing Milly following a trial at the Old Bailey. He was jailed in 2011
As the judge addressed him, Stone shouted: ‘It wasn’t me your Honour, I didn’t do it!’
Since then Stone has failed in two appeal bids.
Josie, now 30, recently announced her engagement to her boyfriend of 12 years Iwan Griffith, 31, and plans to start a family of her own.
Milly was snatched from the street while on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002
She is convinced the right man is behind bars for the murder of her mother and sister and was angry about the way the family’s wounds were reopened when the BBC screened the documentary earlier this year called The Chillenden Murders.
‘It didn’t seem to prove anything,’ she said. ‘We just want to get on with our lives. We don’t want it to come back again.’
Meanwhile Bellfield has accused Stone of attempting to bribe him to take the blame for his crimes.
After a stream of letters from Stone, Bellfield contacted his lawyers to urge the correspondence to stop, calling it ‘quite intolerable’.
The killers are both in Durham’s top security Frankland jail, where they are both being held in separate wings.
Kent Police said Stone’s protests of innocence had been thoroughly tested by the judicial system.
Bellfield had been given a whole-life term for murdering Marsha McDonnell, 19, in 2003, (left) and murdering Amelie Delagrange, 22, and attempting to murder Ms Sheedy, 18, in 2004
THE CHILLENDEN MURDERS AND MICHAEL STONE’S BATTLE TO CLEAR HIS NAME
July 9 1996 – At around 4.25pm Lin Russell and her daughters Megan, six, and Josie, nine, are walking home along Cherry Garden Lane, near the village of Chillenden in Kent, when they are attacked by a man.
Dr Russell and her daughters are blindfolded, tied up with towels and shoelaces and bludgeoned over the head with a hammer, leaving the mother, Megan and the family dog Lucy dead. Josie survives.
December 1996 – Josie, who is still recovering from serious head injuries, moves with her father Shaun to begin a new life in North Wales.
July 1997 – More than 9,000 people are interviewed in connection with the case and over 1,000 statements taken.
July 17 1997 – Michael Stone, from Gillingham, Kent, is arrested and held at Chatham police station, then charged.
September 1997 – Josie attends an identity parade at Rainham police station near Gillingham to try to pick out the man who killed her mother and sister.
October 1998 – Unemployed Stone appears at Maidstone Crown Court charged with the hammer attack. He denies the charges.
Stone is alleged to have admitted committing the attack in a discussion with another prisoner – Damien Daley – while being held at Canterbury Prison.
Stone must serve a minimum of 25 years in jail before he can be considered for parole
October 23 1998 – At the end of a three-week trial Stone is found guilty of murdering Dr Russell and Megan and trying to murder Josie, and is given three life sentences.
2000 – Doubt is raised over the convictions after the Daily Mail reports that two key witnesses against Stone – Barry Thompson and Daley – were paid Kent Police informers.
Thompson had told the 1998 trial that Stone described his failure to kill Josie as a ‘mistake’.
January 2001 – Stone is given leave to appeal against the convictions.
February 2001 – Three judges at the Court of Appeal formally quash the murder convictions and order a retrial.
October 2001 – Stone is convicted a second time after a trial at Nottingham Crown Court.
March 2004 – Stone’s lawyers win the right to another appeal.
January 2005 – Three Court of Appeal judges throw out his second appeal.
September 25 2006 – An independent inquiry report is published and reveals Stone, who had a history of mental disorder, drug abuse and violence, had an ‘aggressive outburst’ on July 4 1996, and told a psychiatric nurse that he wanted to kill his previous probation officer and his family.
December 21 2006 – High Court judge Mr Justice Royce tells Stone he must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before he can be considered for parole.
October 26 2010 – The Criminal Cases Review Commission refuses a fresh appeal over his conviction.
June 24 2011 – Stone’s solicitor Paul Bacon says Levi Bellfield should be considered as a suspect in the Russell murders, following his conviction over the abduction and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
November 29 2017 – Barrister Mark McDonald claims there is ‘new and compelling’ evidence that exonerates Stone and suggests Bellfield was responsible.