By VennerRoad, 28th Jun 2017
In July 1997, Michael Stone was arrested on suspicion of committing the Chillenden Murders. The case against him was and remains wafer thin.
Actually it would probably be more accurate to say that since the retrial the “case” against him has been ludicrous. If you are not au fait with the Chillenden Murders there are two websites dedicated to what was one of the most outrageous crimes of the decade in the UK. A full timeline can be found here, but briefly there were three human victims and a dog. In July 1996, Dr Lin Russell and her two young daughters were viciously attacked near Chillenden, Kent on their way home from the swimming pool. She and her youngest daughter were killed as was one of the family dogs that was walking with them.
When they were found later that night, Josie, the eldest daughter, was believed to be dead as well, but incredibly she was just about alive and was rushed to hospital. She had been battered so badly around the head that she lost brain tissue, but made a remarkable recovery, and is now a successful commercial artist. Her recovery was slow and painful, but even a year later she was unable to give any meaningful information to the authorities about the attack.
Michael Stone was not the first person to be arrested in connection with the crime; another man was held and questioned for three days, and the case against him was stronger than that against Stone, but it was the Maidstone man who was charged and put on trial. Stone said the judge at the first trial was very fair, and had severe reservations about the case. All the same, he was convicted and given the mandatory life sentence.
If you want to learn about the full background to the case including the trial, the retrial, and developments since, the BBC produced an excellent two part series to “celebrate” the twentieth anniversary of his incarceration. This has been archived and can be found on the Site Index of the first Michael Stone site (at the bottom of the page). A team from Channel 4 was also working on a documentary but for whatever reason it appears to have fallen through.
There are three important issues that are worth mentioning:
Stone’s failure to take the stand at both trials.
The “evidence” of Damien Daley.
And most importantly, the best real suspect, Levi Bellfield.
Without wishing to disparage William Clegg, Stone had far from the best legal representation. In view of his appalling criminal record, which included two convictions for serious violence, it was understandable that Clegg would have advised him not to testify at the first trial in 1998, but by the time of the retrial three years later, anyone who read a newspaper or watched a news programme would have realised Stone was a recidivist with a violent past. If he had simply taken the stand to testify that he had never made the confession alleged - which was supposed to have been a boast shouted through a prison wall - his willingness to subject himself to cross-examination would have carried some weight with the jury.
The testimony of Daley is ludicrous. Prison confessions - what the Americans call snitch culture - are notoriously unreliable because they are so easy to manufacture, and without meaningful corroboration come down to the credibility of the witness. Daley has now been convicted of murder himself, was an admitted drug addict at the time, and had even tried to phone his dead mother! How much credibility does anything a man like that says have?
Then there is Levi Bellfield. As UK crime buffs will known, Bellfield is an extremely dangerous sexual psychopath who has now been convicted of three murders, including of a thirteen year old girl. He has also attacked a number of other young women - that much is proven - and is strongly suspected of having committed other murders.
The DNA evidence in this case - such as it is - points away from Stone but does not rule out Bellfield. Those who have looked at it closely come away with the feeling that for whatever reason, exculpatory evidence is being suppressed, and that in spite of the media coverage generated at times by the possible Bellfield connection, the police have not put as much effort into ruling him in or ruling him out as they could.
In spite of his transformation behind bars from inarticulate junkie and yob, Michael Stone is not the type to generate much sympathy, but whether or not anyone else is eventually brought to book for the Chillenden Murders, his conviction will surely go down in the annals of crime as a notorious miscarriage of justice.
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