July 9

This Day in History

Crime

Jul 9, 1996:

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 a BBC 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.

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