Published: 00:01, 10 June 2016
Convicted murderer Michael Stone’s defence lawyer claims fresh witnesses could cast doubt on the killer’s conviction.
People living in the area where the crime was committed have contacted Stone’s legal team with descriptions placing another man at the scene – one with a striking similarity to notorious murderer Levi Bellfield.
Another informant even suggests a man who lived in the area and has since died is responsible for the brutal killings.
The potential breakthrough comes a month after Stone’s sister Barbara said she would never give up fighting to have him exonerated.
Lin Russell and daughter Megan, six, were bludgeoned to death 20 years ago on a remote country lane in Chillenden near Canterbury.
Lin’s eldest daughter Josie, nine, miraculously survived the frenzied attack.
Stone, a drug addict with convictions for violence and then living in Skinner Street, Gillingham, was arrested a year later and charged with the murders.
He was convicted by a jury and is in prison in Durham, but has always protested his innocence.
Solicitor Paul Bacon, who remains in regular contact with him, said that fresh witnesses with potentially vital information have recently come to light.
He said: “A woman rang us with some very interesting information. She saw a man driving a Ford car in the area on the day of the murders.
“She said he had his collars turned up and the sun visor down, which struck her as odd – as if he was trying not to be recognised.”
Mr Bacon says the female caller was adamant that the man she saw could not have been Stone.
“She describes Stone as having a ‘weasel face’, whereas the man she saw had a fuller face,” he said.
“The description of the man she saw more closely resembles Levi Bellfield."
Bellfield was convicted in 2011 of the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler, who had disappeared on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames in 2002.
When found guilty, the 20-stone former wheelclamper was already serving life sentences for the murders of Marsha McDonnell, 19, and Amélie Delagrange, 22, in West London.
Both died of severe head injuries after being hit with a blunt instrument in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
Earlier this year Bellfield finally admitted to Milly’s murder after years of denial – and was said to have made further jail-cell confessions.
But he subsequently withdrew the confessions, dashing any hope Stone had that the serial killer might admit to the infamous Russell murders too.
Mr Bacon says the coverage prompted a number of fresh calls from potential witnesses.
“We’ve had two or three people of interest come forward,” he said. “One has given information to suggest the murder may have been committed by a local man.
“The man’s now dead, but his family are of course still around.”
Mr Bacon is appealing for those witnesses to get back in touch, in strict confidence.
“This is Michael Stone’s last chance to prove his innocence"- Paul Bacon, solicitor
“There are people out there who perhaps feel they might have seen something and should have spoken out," he said.
“There was so much publicity around this case. There was a great deal of sympathy for the family of course. A year later the police apparently had their man.
“So I feel some people might have found it very hard to go against the tide of public opinion, with information that might have contradicted it.”
“I last visited him two weeks ago. He has been encouraged by this,” he said. “I have to say he’s in better spirits than I’ve seen him in years. He’s looking well. He’s lucid.”
Stone had his original conviction quashed in 2001 but was found guilty for a second time at retrial.
Asked whether his client felt hopeful of ever being released, Mr Bacon said: “It’s hard to judge. He’s done 19 years. You get to be cynical – here you are, an innocent person in prison. Perhaps he’s trying to avoid getting his hopes up, to deal with his time.”
Anyone with information can call Mr Bacon directly on 07973 269033.
More by this authorChris Pragnell