The sister who stood by man reviled by the world: How Michael Stone's sibling fought to prove his innocence as serial killer Levi Bellfield 'admits he carried out notorious attack on family'

  • Lin and Megan Russell were bludgeoned to death in 1996 in a brutal murder
  • Michael Stone, 57, from Kent, is serving three life sentences for killing them
  • Stone has fought a long legal battle and has always maintained his innocence
  • Lawyers including sister, Barbara, think they have new evidence of innocence
  • Most significant is an alleged confession by Milly Dowler killer Levi Bellfield?

Michael Stone was twice convicted of the murders of Lin and Megan Russell, but his sister, Barbara,(pictured) is leading a campaign for his release

Michael Stone was twice convicted of the murders of Lin and Megan Russell, but his sister, Barbara,(pictured) is leading a campaign for his release

Michael?Stone is the dangerous, career criminal product of a physically and sexually abusive childhood.?

As an adult he was addicted to heroin, convicted of serious acts of violence and diagnosed with an untreatable personality disorder.

But if he did not bludgeon to death Dr Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter Megan and leave for dead her other daughter Josie, nine, in a remote lane in Kent on July 9, 1996, then he should not be in prison now.

If his three life sentences are overturned – and they were secured on the flimsiest of evidence – Stone is likely to be awarded a large sum from the public purse, perhaps as high as seven figures.

He is not a sympathetic figure and his release will not fill the public with unalloyed relief. But justice must be served.

That Stone still has hopes of acquittal after two trials and 21 years behind bars is all down to the campaigning efforts of his sister Barbara, his barrister Michael McDonald and solicitor Paul Bacon.?

The lawyers remain convinced that in spite of his history Stone, who has always protested his innocence, is the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice.

Miss Stone shares this belief. But she also knows all too well the horrifying background from which her brother’s miserable situation sprang.?

‘This is the biggest hope that my brother has had for a long time,’ she told a press conference yesterday. She had never doubted his innocence.

Stone was arrested after the BBC Crimewatch programme marked the first anniversary of the Russell murders.

A psychiatrist who had treated Stone and knew of his paranoid schizophrenia contacted police. It also emerged that Stone had tried to get himself readmitted to a hospital psychiatric wing the day after the attack.

A fellow prisoner called Damien Daley told police that Stone(pictured) had confessed to the murders as they talked from next-door cells

A fellow prisoner called Damien Daley told police that Stone(pictured) had confessed to the murders as they talked from next-door cells

He was arrested and interviewed at length but denied any part, and despite being identified by a witness, there was no forensic evidence to link him to the bloodied scene.

The apparent breakthrough came in September 1997 when Stone was remanded to Canterbury prison.

A fellow prisoner called Damien Daley told police that Stone had confessed to the murders as they talked from next-door cells.

Stone was convicted of the attacks at Maidstone Crown Court in October 1998. But four days later another inmate, who had also given evidence that Stone had confessed, said he had lied.

Stone was granted an appeal, his convictions were quashed and he was retried in Nottingham in 2001. He was convicted again, on a majority verdict. He showed no emotion but his sister cried out: ‘Oh no, not again.’

Afterwards Det Supt Dave Stevens, who led the investigation, said: ‘Stone has the most appalling criminal history and a very disturbed psychiatric history. We were looking for a maniac and Stone is a maniac.

‘In interviews he never admitted anything, but there were things he said to us that were really disturbing. I have no doubt he was responsible.’

In 2014, Daley, the junkie criminal whose allegations of a prison cell confession were the cornerstone of Stone’s convictions, was jailed for life for murder. He had taken part in the stabbing of a drug dealer.

Miss Stone said recently: ‘He was and is a heroin addict and now a murderer and has openly admitted he’s lied through his life to get by.’

What price Daley’s crucial evidence now? Stone, 57, was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, one of five siblings. His mother Jane was married four times and had ‘a string of casual lovers’.

If Stone's(pictured) three life sentences are overturned ? and they were secured on the flimsiest of evidence ? Stone is likely to be awarded a large sum from the public purse

If Stone's(pictured) three life sentences are overturned – and they were secured on the flimsiest of evidence – Stone is likely to be awarded a large sum from the public purse

He was never sure of the identity of his real father, but the physical and sexual abuse he received at the hands of some of the men in his mother’s life and while in local authority care was dreadful.?

According to relatives one of the husbands, Peter Stone – from whom he and Barbara took their family name – beat him with a hammer, the type of weapon used in the Russell killings.

As a child Stone tortured animals stolen from pet shops and forced a schoolgirl to strip at knifepoint in the playground. He received the first of his 14 separate convictions while he was in care, aged 11. He stole and burgled to buy drink and drugs.

As a young man he stabbed a former school friend in the chest while he was asleep on a sofa. When arrested for this, Stone attacked two police officers, gouging the eye of one. He got four years’ imprisonment.

Shortly after his release in 1987 he was jailed for eight years for armed robbery, serving six. He returned to live with his mother by the Medway. A heroin addict, he stole to feed his habit.

He was also displaying clear symptoms of mental illness. He heard voices in his head and on a visit to a drug rehabilitation centre went ‘berserk’, yelling that he would decapitate his victims.

Stone was to spend months in psychiatric hospitals. A local authority report released a decade later revealed both his problems and failures in the health system to address them properly in the months before July 1996.

Stone had told doctors he had felt like murdering children on more than one occasion. His warnings contained references to hammers and the countryside. He also missed taking medication.

The last threat to kill was made only five days before the Russells were attacked.

A horrifying story has become even more grubby. Only two matters remain certain: the desperate loyalty of Barbara Stone and the rekindled anguish of the surviving members of the Russell family.?

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'I didn't do it': Levi Bellfield's family release chilling recording from behind bars denying claims by Michael Stone's lawyers that he murdered Lin and Megan Russell in hammer attack?

Serial killer Levi Bellfield confessed to?murdering Lin Russell and her daughter Megan during a conversation with a cellmate, lawyers for the man twice convicted of the killings claim.?

Michael Stone, now 57, is serving three life sentences with a minimum of 25 years in prison for the killings in Chillenden, Kent, which shocked the nation in 1996.

Lin's elder daughter, Josie, nine, miraculously survived the frenzied attack, in which even the family dog, Lucy, was slaughtered.

Stone's lawyers claim Bellfield confessed in length and in detail to a fellow prisoner whom he had grown to trust, and that an independent witness confirmed he was near the scene of the murders when they happened.?

But in a chilling audio segment recorded in his cell and released by his family this evening, Bellfield rubbishes the claims that he murdered the pair.

Stone was found guilty in 2001 largely on the strength of a disputed cell confession and has fought a protracted legal battle to clear his name.?

Milly Dowler murderer Bellfield branded the allegations from Stone's lawyers the work of a 'fantasist' and 'compulsive liar'.

Bellfield(pictured in a police mugshot) is alleged to have given a 'very detailed confession' to another prisoner but had subsequently denied both the murder and the confession, the BBC reported
Stone(pictured) was convicted on the basis of claims by three prison inmates that he had confessed to them

Serial killer Levi Bellfield (left, a police mugshot) allegedly confessed to murdering Lin Russell and her daughter Megan in 1996.?Michael Stone, now 57, (right, outside the Court of Appeal in 2005) is serving three life sentences with a minimum of 25 years in prison

The explosive raft of claims and counter claims began this afternoon at a press conference at at 33 Bedford Row Chambers in central London.

Stone's lawyers announced they had submitted a dossier of new evidence to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which could refer the matter to the Court of Appeal, which has the power to quash convictions.

Police have dismissed the basis of his appeal. ?

Stone's solicitor?Paul Bacon said: 'We have seen evidence of a full confession by Levi Bellfield that he has admitted the Russell murders and in the confession Bellfield describes how he came across Lin Russell and her two children.

'How he attacked them with a hammer and he explains his motivation for the killing. The confession is detailed and has a number of facts that are not in the public domain.

'We now have an independent witness who has seen Levi Bellfield close to the scene of the murders at about the time they were committed and importantly we have identified forensic material from the scene of the murders which corroborates the confession made by Levi Bellfield.

'The Russell murders by Levi Bellfield fits perfectly with his modus operandi. He is a man known to attack and murder women. His weapon of choice is a hammer.'

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. They are pictured in an undated handout photo

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. They are pictured in an undated handout photo

In a recording sent to national media this evening, Bellfield claimed the 'vile and untrue' allegations came from a conversation he had with serial rapist Richard Baker.?

Bellfield, who is now known as Yusuf Rahim, said: 'It appears Mr Baker has made an allegation of a so-called cell confession.

'In my view such vile, untrue allegations don't warrant a response. They are what they are - the words of a lonely... rapist who craves the spotlight.'

He alleges Baker was 'obsessed with crime' and watched BBC documentary The Chillenden Murders before he came forward alleging Bellfield has confessed.

Shaun Russell with his wife Lin and daughters Megan (second left) and Josie (right), who survived the attack. Claims by Stone's lawyers that Bellfield admitted to the murders have been denied by him in a recorded message from his cell

Shaun Russell with his wife Lin and daughters Megan (second left) and Josie (right), who survived the attack. Claims by Stone's lawyers that Bellfield admitted to the murders have been denied by him in a recorded message from his cell

Josie Russell is now a successful textile artist, and is pictured at home in August 2014.?It is not known what Josie thinks of the latest developments, but she has always maintained Stone is guilty

Josie Russell is now a successful textile artist, and is pictured at home in August 2014.?It is not known what Josie thinks of the latest developments, but she has always maintained Stone is guilty

Following many days of lengthy?conversations the prisoner says he had with Bellfield, he made notes and reported what he had been told to his?solicitor, a police officer and a prison liaison officer.

NEW EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY STONE'S LAWYERS?

Stone's lawyers have provided three items of evidence they believe prove Bellfield's guilt. These are:

  • A 'very detailed' confession by Levi Bellfield in which he admitted to the Russell murders.
  • An independent witness has said they saw Bellfield close to the scene of the murders?at about the time they were committed.
  • They also claim to have identified forensic material from the scene of the murders which corroborates the confession made by Bellfield.

The prisoner alleged: ‘He [Bellfield] said “I’ve never told anyone this before… I killed another child and got away with it… the police were never even close”.’

Bellfield is said to have told him he had spotted the Russells walking home and approached them with a hammer. Mrs Russell had begged him not to hurt her children.

According to the prisoner, Bellfield said he struck her first and then Josie; then their dog was killed followed by Megan. Even though he wore gloves, Bellfield was reportedly worried about DNA advances, saying ‘my life in jail would be over if they could prove it was me’ and that it would ‘tear his mother in two’.

Mr McDonald told the Mail: ‘The evidence has gone to the CCRC. It now needs to be referred to the Court of Appeal so it can be properly assessed. It has to be put in the context that the only thing that convicted Stone ironically was a cell confession.’

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.'?

CRUCIAL DETAILS OF TRIAL THAT HAVE MADE IT SO CONTENTIOUS

Although Michael Stone was twice found guilty of murdering Lin and Megan Russell, his case has been contentious.

Stone was convicted on the basis of claims by three prison inmates that he had confessed to them.?

After one of the inmates admitted soon after the trial ended that they had lied and another was discredited, a re-trial was ordered.

But one of the witnesses, Damian Daley, held fast and said Stone confessed to the hammer murders through a heating pipe into the next cell at Canterbury Prison, something Stone maintains was a lie.?

There was no forensic evidence to support Stone's conviction.?

One particular point of controversy was a shoe lace found near the murder scene, which Stone's supporters claimed could prove his innocence but had been lost by Kent Police.

Officers said the shoelace was still in their possession but had been DNA tested so many times it was no longer of value.

Police have dismissed the merits of Stone's appeal bid. ?

Mr Bacon said there was concern over Kent Police's investigation and Mr McDonald said the force were 'unenthusiastic' when passed the new evidence.?

Stone's sister Barbara said the new evidence offered her and her brother the 'biggest hope' to clear his name.

She added: 'Mick's been in prison for 20 years and that's 20 years too long for somebody who has not committed a crime.?

'He wants you to know he is very hopeful, he fully believes Bellfield has committed these crimes.?

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(pictured, outside the Old Bailey in 2008)

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(pictured, outside the Old Bailey in 2008)

'Although we've had our doubts in the past, when he has seen the contents of the new evidence, he is quite confident it's him that's done it.

'He's quite hopeful but, like myself, we won't allow ourselves to believe the justice system will be kind to us this time so we remain hopeful but it all depends and relies on the CCRC making the referral.'??

A spokesman for the CCRC said they received the application from Stone's lawyers on August 23 and the case is currently under active investigation. ??

Assistant Chief Constable for the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, Nick Downing, said: 'We feel it is no longer contemporaneous and is unfair on the victims to continue to raise questions or re-release details about the murder investigation and subsequent conviction of Michael Stone.'?

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 going under a new name 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.?

Paul Bacon told a press conference in London(pictured) this afternoon that Milly Dowler's murderer Bellfield admitted the killings in prison

Paul Bacon told a press conference in London(pictured) this afternoon that Milly Dowler's murderer Bellfield admitted the killings in prison

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'

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'

HOW JOSIE MANAGED TO COPE AFTER HORRIFIC EVENTS OF 1996?

Josie Russell's?rehabilitation after the murder of her mother and sister was a long, slow process – it was a year before she could speak again – but Josie stunned doctors with her progress.?

Now, 11 years on, she is a successful textile artist, who announced her engagement to her boyfriend of 12 years, Iwan Griffith, in August aged 30.

The couple met in a pub in Caernarfon on December 31, 2005, while Josie was at university.

Josie, pictured with her Welsh mountain pony in 1997, announced her engagement to her boyfriend of 12 years, Iwan Griffith, in August aged 30

Josie, pictured with her Welsh mountain pony in 1997, announced her engagement to her boyfriend of 12 years, Iwan Griffith, in August aged 30

The couple met in a pub in Caernarfon on December 31, 2005, while Josie was at university. Pictured: Josie in 1997

The couple met in a pub in Caernarfon on December 31, 2005, while Josie was at university. Pictured: Josie in 1997

Their romance was sparked by their love of the dramatic Welsh landscape. ‘We aren’t a lovey-dovey couple but there is love and mutual respect,’ Josie said.??

Josie and Iwan now share home, in the foothills of Snowdonia, where she and Megan had lived with their parents.

In 2011, using money from a trust fund and compensation for her injuries, Josie was able to buy back the house which the couple have lovingly renovated.?

Her studio is the bedroom that Lin decorated for her when she was a little girl.???

Josie and Iwan now share home, in the foothills of Snowdonia, where she and Megan had lived with their parents. Josie is pictured in 2006

Josie and Iwan now share home, in the foothills of Snowdonia, where she and Megan had lived with their parents. Josie is pictured in 2006

It is not the first time Stone's legal representatives have pointed the finger at Bellfield.?

In 2011, Mr 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.

The Russells 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.?

In October 1998, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court found heroin addict Stone(pictured inside a prison van) guilty of counts of murder and attempted murder

In October 1998, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court found heroin addict Stone(pictured inside a prison van) guilty of counts of murder and attempted murder

Josie as a child with her pet rabbit Domino, at her North Wales Hillside cottage home
Josie pictured in an undated handout photo

Josie as a child with her pet rabbit Domino, at her North Wales Hillside cottage home,(left) and in an undated handout photo

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.

Stone was found guilty in 1998.

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,(pictured in an undated photo) 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

Bellfield,(pictured in an undated photo) 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

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'.?

Bellfield added that he had challenged Stone to a lie detector test.?

Stone has spoken about his reluctance to do this claiming he had been advised that his history of psychiatric problems and drug addiction could impact its accuracy.?

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.

Marsha McDonnell
Amelie Delagrange

Bellfield had been given a whole-life term for murdering Marsha McDonnell, 19, in 2003, (left, in 2011) and murdering Amelie Delagrange, 22,(right, in 2000) and attempting to murder Ms Sheedy, 18, in 2004

HAMMER KILLER'S 20-YEAR FIGHT TO CLEAR HIS NAME IN ONE OF UK'S MOST NOTORIOUS CRIMES

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

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 - Lawyers for Stone say they have new evidence of his innocence, including a 'very detailed confession' to the killings from Bellfield.

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