Updated:
Original:
Year
1996
Month Day
July 09

A family is brutally attacked on a walk in England

Dr. Lin Russell, her two daughters, Josie and Megan, and their dog, Lucy, are all brutally attacked by a man wielding a hammer on their way home to Nonington Village, Kent, England, after a swimming gala. Forcing them to sit down in the woods, the attacker blindfolded and tied up his victims with their torn towels, and then bludgeoned them one by one. Nine-year-old Josie, the sole survivor of the vicious assault, had to relearn to speak after surgeons inserted a metal plate into her head to cover the area where her skull had been smashed. Some of her brain tissue was so damaged that it had to be removed.

Finally, on July 17 of the following year, Michael Stone, who had a record of burglary and robbery, as well as a history of drug abuse and mental illness, was arrested. He had been recognized after the broadcast of aBBC television special that included his picture and description. Asked by detectives where he was on the day of the murders, Stone replied, “I can’t remember for two reasons. One, I was badly on drugs, and two, it was so long ago.”

During the trial, several witnesses testified against Stone. One maintained that the defendant’s stepfather often beat young Michael with a hammer; several prison inmates (Barry Thompson, Damien Daley, and Mark Jennings) claimed that Stone had confessed to the murders on separate occasions; and a couple, Sheree Batt and Lawrence Calder, alleged that Stone had come to their house the morning after the murders wearing blood-splattered clothing.

On October 23, 1998, the 38-year-old Stone was convicted and given a triple life sentence, despite his repeated claims of innocence. Immediately thereafter, Barry Thompson contacted a daily newspaper to retract his testimony. Based on Thompson’s admission that he lied, a Court of Appeals threw out Stone’s conviction. At a second trial, which ended in early October 2001, he was again convicted and sentenced to three life terms, which he began serving on October 5. Stone’s attorney, who said he was “disappointed and saddened by the outcome” pledged to appeal the convictions “in the event of fresh evidence.”

Despite the second conviction, there are some who still believe Stone is innocent.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Catherine the Great assumes power

On this day in 1762, the wife of Russia’s new emperor, Peter III, rallies the army regiments of St. Petersburg against her husband and is proclaimed Empress Catherine II, the sole ruler of Russia. More commonly known as Catherine the Great, she would stay on the throne for the ...read more

Romanov remains identified using DNA

British forensic scientists announce that they have positively identified the remains of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II; his wife, Czarina Alexandra; and three of their daughters. The scientists used mitochondria DNA fingerprinting to identify the bones, which had been excavated ...read more

Wimbledon tournament begins

On July 9, 1877, the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club begins its first lawn tennis tournament at Wimbledon, then an outer-suburb of London. Twenty-one amateurs showed up to compete in the Gentlemen’s Singles tournament, the only event at the first Wimbledon. The winner ...read more

New York elects its first governor

On this day in 1777, New York elects Brigadier General George Clinton as the first governor of the independent state of New York. Clinton would go on to become New York’s longest-serving governor, as well as the longest-serving governor in the United States, holding the post ...read more

Enigma key broken

On this day in 1941, crackerjack British cryptologists break the secret code used by the German army to direct ground-to-air operations on the Eastern front. British and Polish experts had already broken many of the Enigma codes for the Western front. Enigma was the Germans’ most ...read more