In July 1996, Dr Lin Russell and her six year old daughter Megan were battered to death in a frenzied attack in a country lane near Chillenden in Kent. Her eldest daughter, Josie, survived, although she had no meaningful memory of the terrible incident. A year after the attack, drug addict and habitual criminal Michael Stone was arrested. In spite of there being no forensic evidence against him, at first glance the other evidence looked impressive, but at his trial in October 1998 the case crumbled, although controversially, he was convicted on a majority verdict, by dint of confessions he was alleged to have made to other inmates while on remand.
After the trial, one of these prison witnesses, Barry Thompson, admitted to a national newspaper that he had fabricated Stone’s confession. In February 2001, the Court of Appeal quashed his convictions without drawing breath; a retrial was ordered.
In September 2001, Michael Stone went on trial for the second time for the Chillenden murders. He was again convicted, this time on the basis of a confession he is alleged to have shouted through the wall to the inmate in the next cell!
Michael Stone is not the type who commands much sympathy; as well as convictions for burglary he has a criminal record for serious violence, and is the sort of man most people would believe capable of the Chillenden murders. But the evidence that he did commit them is close to non-existent. There is also evidence which indicates that another as yet unknown individual was at the crime scene.
In March 2004, Michael Stone was granted leave to appeal against his second conviction for the Chillenden murders. In his ruling, Mr Justice Treacy stated: “I consider that there is an arguable point as to whether, in the light of the matters considered in Benedetto v The Queen (2003) 1 WLR 1545, the judge should have given a more extensive warning about the cell confession evidence when the whole Crown case depended upon it. I therefore grant leave on this ground.”
The judge granted Legal Aid “for ONE Counsel only” but refused leave to appeal against conviction on the grounds of prejudicial publicity (as I told Stone he would!). It is then a frightening thought that without this very recent decision of the Privy Council, Stone might well have been refused leave, and his appeals may have effectively been at the end of the road. Stone’s legal team have done a tremendous amount of work for him without Legal Aid.
This site has been set up to present the facts of the conviction of Michael Stone to an informed and intelligent public.
November 17, 2002
Updated April 8, 2004