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Chillenden murders: Who is Michael Stone?

He has spent almost 20 years behind bars for the notorious Chillenden murders, but an apparent confession by serial killer Levi Bellfield now casts doubt over Michael Stone's conviction.

Born Michael John Goodban in Tunbridge Wells in 1960, Stone spent much of his childhood in care, where he was abused.

His criminal record began at the age of 12, and he became involved in shoplifting and burglary in his teens.

Michael Stone: convicted of the Russell murders.
Michael Stone: convicted of the Russell murders.

Throughout the 1980s, the heroin user was in and out of prison for various crimes including robbery, burglary, GBH and ABH.

But his life changed forever when Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter Megan were tied up and brutally murdered in a hammer attack in a country lane in Chillenden in July 1996. Nine-year-old Josie Russell survived her horrendous injuries.

Just over a year after the killings, the finger of suspicion was pointed at Stone. He was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and one of attempted murder, and following a trial, given three life sentences. He was told he must spend at least 25 years in prison, making his earliest chance of release in 2023 when he will be 63.

No DNA evidence linking him to the murder scene was found and he was largely convicted on an alleged confession to fellow inmate Damien Daley in Canterbury prison.

He was convicted for a second time at a retrial and in 2010 the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) rejected his application for an appeal.

Three years later, Stone's request for a judicial review of Kent Police’s refusal to give him access to DNA evidence was rejected, with a High Court judge saying the family of those slaughtered deserved “finality”.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave called the request a "fishing expedition" that would not come "within a mile" of casting doubt on Stone’s guilt.

Stone has always maintained his innocence, and his sister Barbara has consistently campaigned for his release.

Michael Stone has apparently written to friends saying he would rather starve than confess.
Michael Stone has apparently written to friends saying he would rather starve than confess.

Earlier this year, two independent experts hired by TV producers to re-examine Stone's conviction said they were backing his attempt to win a third appeal.

Criminal defence specialist Stephen Kamlisch and top barrister Sheryl Nwosu said there were significant doubts surrounding the case.

They were told by a forensic specialist that advances in DNA techniques not only confirmed no link between Stone and the killings, but showed the likely presence of another man at the scene.

Samples obtained from the family of Bellfield, who was convicted for the murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler and two women, showed a possible but unprovable link to him.

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