The Continued Denial Of Justice For Michael Stone
Another nail in the coffin of British justice occurred on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 when Michael Stone’s appeal against his convictions for murdering Lin and Megan Russell, and the attempted murder of Josie Russell in July 1996, was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
After months of preparation and two and a half days of legal argument, it took three judges just 10 minutes to condemn Michael Stone to a period of continued incarceration in Full Sutton Prison.
Without even glancing in Stone’s direction, Lord Justice Rose announced that “This appeal is dismissed”, thus confirming what Stone had clearly anticipated when at the start of the last day’s proceedings he had entered the court, nodded at his sister Barbara and in Roman fashion given the thumbs down sign. As he was taken away, the three Appeal Court Judges announced they would give written reasons for their dismissal two days later. Journalists rushed to phone their papers, radio and TV stations with the news. Outside the court a scrum formed to interview Barbara Stone, who when she emerged said there was “not a scrap of evidence” to convict her brother.
Fighting back the tears she admitted that “whilst it was unfortunate that the thing we want the most” [the overturning of the convictions] would inevitably “cause distress to Josie and her father” she was sure “that no one would want the wrong person being locked up for such a terrible crime” as this would mean “the murderer or murderers were still out there.” In numerous interviews that she conducted afterwards Barbara Stone continued to argue that her brother was innocent of the crimes of which he has been convicted.
Remarkably, despite the fact that Barbara Stone was representing a man found guilty of the brutal slaying of two people, one a young child and the leaving for dead of another she was treated with respect. Journalists as a whole are not noted for treating people, especially those representing convicted child killers, with respect. Could this be, is it in fact, because having heard the evidence in this case they know and recognise that ‘something is just not right’? That Stone is, in fact, not the person responsible?
They were asked about their own opinions on the case. “Well it doesn’t look right does it” said one; “he isn’t guilty said another” and mostly “I’m not sure.” Back in Chillenden in Kent, where the murders had taken place, residents were asked their opinions. Jerry Copestake, landlord of the Griffins Head pub said “Most people round here don’t think he did it.” Two years ago on a visit to Chillenden with Barbara Stone I was anxious not to be seen, fearful that being in her company may lead to us being attacked. I could not have been more wrong, she popped in and out of the pub, we walked across the fields and no one seemed concerned, although some residents clearly knew who she was as they glanced in her direction.
No one has taken a poll to see if the majority of people in Britain believe Michael Stone is innocent, or guilty, but it would be an astute man, I guess who could predict with any certainty what the result would be. And this after two trials and two appeals. Clearly something is wrong? Is it really the case, as Barbara Stone has alleged on numerous occasions, that there is “not a scrap of evidence” against her brother? Lin, Megan and Josie Russell were attacked as they walked along a secluded path next to a cornfield on their way home on July 9, 1996. It was a bright summer evening, and the fields and vegetation were in full bloom. Although the path could be and was used by cars it is not wide enough to allow overtaking, if two cars were to meet then one car must reverse into a small clearing to allow the other to pass.
At Stone’s first trial in 1998 at Maidstone Crown Court, the Crown suggested that he had sat in his car watching the Russells cross a series of fields before walking down the path. He had intended to rob them in order to get money to feed his heroin habit.
The jury was taken to the scene of the crime. The trial took place in October 1998, when the scenery and the environment are entirely different from the month when the crimes occurred. In October you can see a good distance.
A visitor in July wanting to see if it is possible to sit and watch people coming from some distance away would soon see that it is not possible. The trees are too tall, and the vegetation is too dense. It is an unlikely place for anyone ‘out on the rob’ to sit, and that is putting it mildly. No person desperate for money to feed a serious drug habit, and Michael Stone had one, would be sitting in a car on a path alongside a field in Chillenden waiting for someone to come along. It simply defies common sense.
Stone was arrested following a reconstruction of events on July 9, 1997 on the popular BBC Crimewatch series. His psychiatrist rang up to say his profile matched that of the killer or killers. From the start he protested his innocence, he still does. His defence was a strange one, he couldn’t remember what he was doing on that day, or in fact what he was doing on many days during the summer of 1996.
He had lived in a children’s home as a young boy in nearby Canterbury. As such it was alleged that he knew the area around Chillenden well. Michael Stone denied this. If he had known the area well I think that makes it even more unlikely he would have gone there. He would have known that unless he was incredibly lucky, few if any people would be wandering down a deserted lane. He could have waited hours for anyone to walk down the lane. This would not have helped him to secure some cash to feed his heroin addiction.
The Russells had been tied up with towels and bootlaces and attacked with a hammer, the motive cited by the police as being robbery. Stone, said the three Appeal judges, was a heroin addict who kept bootlaces. Half of Britain must keep a spare set of bootlaces. It was said that Stone used bootlaces as a tourniquet when he injected himself. The police didn’t bring any to the first two trials; well none shown to belong to Michael Stone, and neither were they able to provide any witnesses to show that Stone did use such a method to inject himself.
Stone it was said had the habit of carrying tools in his car. Many people do, it doesn’t make them murderers.
There was no forensic evidence to link Stone with the crimes, no DNA samples left behind and no witnesses to what had taken place. Josie, then nine, had been left for dead and mercifully recovered. In time she was able to recount some of her experiences to the police but has never been able to give an accurate description of her attacker. At an identity parade she did not pick out Michael Stone. Her grief must be intense; she appears to be a remarkable young woman who now aged 17 is rightfully trying to get on with her life. After Stone’s appeal failed in January 2005 her father Shaun said that “Josie and I have made an effort to put our memories of this terrible affair behind us.” No one can blame them for doing so.
The Appeal Court Judges also cited statements from a number of witnesses that Stone often changed his car and that in the summer of 1996 he had a beige coloured car. Stone disputes this. A witness had said she had seen a beige coloured car emerge from the path at Chillenden on the evening of the murders; she had followed it. She claimed that a man with blond French cropped hair was driving. Stone is bald so even if had had a beige car it wasn’t his she saw.
Meanwhile it is known that Kent Police had stopped Michael Stone just two days before the murders and asked him to produce his driving documents to show that he was the owner of a white Toyota Tercil he was driving. He did this within 24 hours.
Sherry Bhatt, a friend of Michael Stone had given a statement that she had spoken with him the afternoon of July 10, 1996 the day after the attack on the Russells. She said that she had asked him about blood on his T shirt. She claimed that he’d said he’d had a fight and yet there were no indications of any injuries. Clearly she didn’t think of this as being too important at the time as it was after only Stone was arrested a year later that she approached the police. Michael Stone denies that he had blood on his T shirt. Naturally, the shirt has never been found, so it will never be possible to say if there was blood on it and if so whose blood it was.
So at this point the case against Stone amounts to unproven claims that he changed his car a few times, kept tools in the boot, possessed some boot laces, had lived as a child in a home ten miles from Chillenden, and an unproven tale from someone about him having some blood on an old T shirt.
However, in 1998, Maidstone Crown Court heard evidence from three prisoners that he had confessed, at separate times, to them that he’d carried out the murders. This was damming proof that Stone had done it; he’d killed Lin and Megan Russell and left Josie fighting for life. Within days of his conviction however the statement of one of the prisoners, Barry Thompson, was discredited when he admitted lying after obtaining a fee of £5,000 from the Sun newspaper for his story with promises of another £10,000 if Stone was convicted. * A second witness, Mark Jennings, was known to be unreliable and was not used by the Prosecution at the second trial in Nottingham.
Stone’s conviction was quashed, and a retrial was ordered. In 2001 at Nottingham Crown Court he was found guilty after the jury, with a majority verdict of 10 to 2, decided to accept that the remaining witness of the three, Damien Daley, was telling the truth when he gave evidence that Stone had confessed to him that he had attacked the Russells.
Daley, who has a long string of convictions for robbery and burglary, was on remand in Canterbury Prison whilst awaiting trial. He was being housed in the segregation wing. According to his statement this was because of ‘an allegation of violence towards another inmate.’
On Tuesday, September 23, 1997, he claims to have verbally defended Michael Stone when the latter was placed in the next door cell after other prisoners abused him for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell and the attempted murder of Josie Russell.
According to Daley, his defence led to Stone then lying down in his cell and using the water pipes to state “You’re my friend.” Apparently Stone also knew Daley’s surname as according to Daley’s statement ‘I heard Stone call me by my surname’, although they clearly didn’t know each other beforehand as Daley claims he wasn’t certain on September 23 whether his neighbour was Michael Stow or Stone.
Daley claims then that Stone told him all about the murders, that what he heard upset him so much that he was forced to move away from the wall, but that when he saw the Daily Mirror front page article of that day, with its details of events in the case, he went back to the pipes to listen.
At the second trial in Nottingham, Daley had said that because the pipes were hot he had been forced to wrap a towel round them. The prison records showed that the heating was not turned on till October.
Daley claims that he told Stone [or Stow] he’d tell the prison officers, but Stone said that they wouldn’t believe him. Daley’s statement was taken on September 26, 1997 by Detective Constable P Phippin of Kent Police. Daley claimed he needed to speak to his uncle as he didn’t want to be seen as ‘a grass’ by speaking to the police. His uncle said, apparently, that for such a serious offence he should speak to the police.
Daley’s statement, at just over 3 pages long takes approximately 10 minutes to read. According to the records it took nearly two hours to compile as it commenced at 1715 and concluded at 1912 hours. There must have an awful lot of silences during this time.
At Maidstone Crown Court, Daley had told the jury that he had never taken heroin; in the second trial he said he had used it only occasionally.
Edward Fitzgerald QC for Michael Stone revealed during the appeal in January 2005 that Daley was now admitting to have used heroin heavily since 1996. As such he had perjured himself to two juries. Fitzgerald argued that this made all of his evidence “inherently unreliable.”
Fitzgerald argued further that the Judge at the trial in Nottingham had an obligation to give the jury a warning “to be cautious” about “an oral confession” from “a person of dishonest character.” If they had done so it is difficult to believe that the numbers being willing to convict Stone would not have fallen.
Fitzgerald claimed that the need to give the jury a warning was a point of law “which has arisen in this case.” After the appeal was refused, Fitzgerald chose to argue that the appeal judges should allow the House of Lords to decide whether what he was arguing was correct. They declined to allow him to do so, thus probably cutting off the possibility of Michael Stone’s appeal against his convictions being taken to the House of Lords.
As such probably the only legal avenue currently available, unless new evidence can be unearthed, is for Michael Stone to take his case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Meanwhile as Barbara Stone said on Friday January 21, “my brother is innocent” and “no matter how long it takes we shall prove that.”
Meanwhile, Stone languishes in prison for having killed Lin and Megan Russell and attempting to murder Josie Russell.
In Stone’s case there is:-
· No evidence linking him to the awful crimes
· No DNA linking him to the crime scene
· No witnesses to the attack
· Nobody has picked him out of an identification parade
· No one has been found who saw him in the Canterbury area on the day of the crime
Alongside which stands:-
· Unproven claims that he swapped his car a few times
· An unproven claim that he had blood on an old T shirt the day after the murders took place
Meanwhile he has always protested his innocence.
· Yes, he did live at one time at a children’s home nearby
· He did keep tools in the boot of his car
· He may even have owned some bootlaces
These don’t prove that he murdered two people and left another for dead.
And neither does the say so of a convicted criminal who Barbara Stone said correctly outside the Court of Appeal on Wednesday January 19, has “lied his way through two trials.”
Michael Stone’s convictions for the murder of Lin and Megan Russell, as well as for the attempted murder of Josie Russell should, and must be overturned.
Mark Metcalf – January 31st 2005
Letters of support to:-
Michael J Stone,
HMP Full Sutton,
York YO4 1PS
Birthday cards on June 7th
[The above document was received by E-mail from Barbara Stone on February 1, 2005. It has been reformatted and edited to remove grammatical errors and to conform to house style].
* As Stone himself pointed out in a letter from prison in March 2005, it was actually Mark Jennings who received this money.