Appeal attempt fails for man guilty of Russell family killings

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MICHAEL STONE has lost a new bid to get his case referred back to the Court of Appeal.

Stone, 50, was convicted of bludgeoning mother and daughter Lin and Megan Russell to death with a hammer and attempting to murder Megan’s sister Josie, now 24.

Yesterday, his lawyers asked two High Court judges for permission to challenge a refusal of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to back a fresh appeal.

Stone’s counsel Mark McDonald argued that the CCRC had wrongly failed to investigate fresh evidence that undermined a confession Stone was alleged to have made in his cell to another inmate.

Dismissing the application, Lord Justice Hooper, sitting with Mr Justice Singh, ruled that members of the Commission had come to a decision they were entitled to reach.

Stone received three life sentences and has been told he must serve at least 25 years. The Russell family was attacked in Chillenden, Kent, in July 1996.

Stone was first convicted in 1998, but the convictions were overturned when witness Barrie Thompson admitted making up a story about Stone confessing in prison. Stone was then found guilty at a second trial in 2001 on two counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

The re-trial relied on evidence of a cell confession from another prisoner witness, Damien Daley, who said he had spoken to Stone through a gap between a heating pipe and their cell wall.

Yesterday, Mr McDonald argued on behalf of Stone that the CCRC’s decision was flawed because it had failed to interview Allan King, an acquaintance of Daley who said he heard Daley admit he had lied about Stone confessing.

Rejecting the submission, Lord Justice Hooper ruled the CCRC was entitled to conclude that the appeal court would have found King’s statement “incapable of belief”, especially given the “enormous delay” before King made it.

The judge said that King on his own account, knew about Daley’s alleged retraction in 1999 but never informed anyone in authority for seven years.

It was not until 2008 that King sent a letter to Stone’s solicitor saying he was concerned about the evidence given by Daley at the re-trial seven years earlier in 2001.

A second ground of challenge considered by the court was that the CCRC failed to consider a possible “abuse of process” because a shoelace connected with the case had gone missing.

It was argued that the lace might have contained DNA evidence which could have been recovered through modern forensic methods, and thrown doubt on Stone’s conviction.

The judges ruled the shoelace point had not been fully raised before the CCRC and Stone’s lawyers could now ask its members to consider it.