The Guardian Monday, March 15, 1999. (G2 supplement page 4)

Stone trial witness ‘lied’

Claim by witness’s mother
adds to concern over safety of conviction

Audrey Gillan

A WITNESS in the Michael Stone murder trial lied under oath when she said he had blood on his T-shirt the morning after the killings, her mother claimed last night.

Jean Batt said that police investigating the killings had also offered her the chance of a £20,000 reward, a letter to the judge to help in her appeal against a heroin conviction and a prison of her choice if she said the same thing as her daughter – but she refused.

Mrs Batt’s daughter Sheree told the jury that Stone came to her house the day after Lin and Megan Russell were bludgeoned to death and Josie Russell was left for dead in a hammer attack, and that he had blood on the neck of his T-shirt. Mrs Batt claims the police “rounded off” the date for her daughter because she couldn’t remember it.

The police were not available for comment last night.

The killings took place on July 9, 1996, but Mrs Batt claims the day Stone had blood on his T-shirt was July 23. She remembers it, she says, because she had seen Stone with the blood on his T-shirt and it was the day before she visited her son Kerry in prison on the Isle of Wight. Police checked prison records to confirm her story.

The claim adds to mounting concern over the safety of Stone’s conviction. Just days after he was given three life sentences, another witness in his trial, Barry Thompson, admitted he had committed perjury while giving evidence. The matter is now the subject of an independent police investigation. Stone was convicted by a 10-2 majority verdict, but there was no forensic evidence or positive identification of him at the scene of the crime. The key to his conviction was his alleged confessions to three convicts, including Thompson, and the evidence of Batt and her boyfriend, Lawrence Calder – who also said Stone had blood on his T-shirt but couldn’t remember when.

Stone is awaiting leave to appeal his conviction. His solicitor, Derek Hayward, said that if what Mrs Batt said was true then it was of grave concern. “It is such a large amount of money and it must be of concern because it shows the manner in which the inquiry was conducted,” he said.

Stone’s sister Barbara said Mrs Batt’s claims called into question the reliability of a number of witnesses. “I really believe that my brother was fitted up. The fact that Jean Batt was offered this makes you wonder what some of the others were offered,” she said.

Mrs Batt said Stone and Calder had come round to her house in Chatham, Kent, after robbing a post office. They asked if she and her husband Harold would keep some pension books but they refused. “I asked Mick why he had blood on his T-shirt. Calder just laughed and said he had punched somebody, but when I went out of the room Mick told my husband he had injected himself and the blood splashed back,” she said.

Mr and Mrs Batt both claim they were harassed by Kent police to say it was the day after the killings. They both refused and were arrested for withholding evidence and conspiracy to murder. Days later Mrs Batt was arrested after being caught taking 4.5 g of heroin into a prison while visiting her son. She claims she did not know what was in the parcel and only took it because her son had been threatened. She had just lost one son and another one was brain damaged after a car accident. “I would have done anything for my other one,” she said.

Mrs Batt claims she was offered a deal but refused to co-operate. She was sentenced to three years in prison and says: “I definitely got that for refusing to swing Michael Stone.” A letter from Kent police which she received while in prison says: “If such information is forthcoming then a senior officer of Kent County Constabulary after due consideration may provide you with a letter explaining how you have co-operated and assisted the police. This letter may be shown to the judge in your forthcoming appeal against sentence and conviction.” Again, Mrs Batt refused. An appeal judge said she had been ill at the time of the heroin offence and reduced the sentence to two years suspended.

Mrs Batt says her daughter has been relocated and she refuses to speak to her. “I disowned her because of her lying,” she said. “If Mick done it he wants cutting up in little pieces and put down a sewer. All right, he’s a psycho but he didn’t kill them. They had no forensic and people lied in the witness box for money. Me and my husband are the only two out of the whole lot who haven’t sold our souls.”

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