Killer confesses to double murder that put another man behind bars for two decades
A 1989 picture of Lin Russell and her daughter Josie, released by Kent Police
PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
The man who killed schoolgirl Milly Dowler has reportedly confessed to murdering a woman and her six-year-old daughter six years earlier.
Lin and Megan Russell were killed with a claw hammer while they walked home from a swimming gala in Chillenden, near Canterbury, on 9 July 1996. Lin’s nine-year-old daughter, Josie, was also left for dead but survived.
A local heroin addict, Michael Stone, has spent more than two decades behind bars for the double murder, but has always maintained his innocence.
Over the weekend The Sun revealed that Levi Bellfield, who is serving a life sentence for killing Dowler and two other young women, had admitted to the Chillenden murders. The paper said that Bellfield had sent a four-page statement to Stone’s solicitor last month that “discloses in matter-of-fact detail how he carried out the murderous attack”.
Bellfield, who now goes by the name Yusuf Rahim after converting to Islam, said “he took a hair scrunchie as a macabre souvenir – and that he killed the family dog after it bit him”, said the newspaper.
It quotes the statement as saying: “I was wearing bright yellow marigold washing up gloves and holding a hammer in my right hand… My first intention was to just attack Lin, but I quickly changed my mind due to the screams and was worried she would fight back given the children were with her.”
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He said it was the first time he had “committed a crime and another person has been arrested for it”, and apologised to Stone and the Russell family for his “heinous acts”.
If true, the confession would mean Bellfield was responsible for at least five murders. He is serving a whole-life order for the murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange and another for the murder of 13-year-old Milly. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy.
Former detective chief inspector Colin Sutton, who helped capture Bellfield, told The Sun there is “a lot of detail” in the statement “that needs to be checked”. While Sutton has “no doubt” that Bellfield carried out other attacks, he noted that “this could be him playing games – he likes to have the spotlight on himself and is a narcissist”.
Stone’s solicitor Paul Bacon, who has spent 15 years trying to prove his client’s innocence, said Bellfield’s statement was a “full and frank confession”.
“I believe what he is saying and I think if the police were to interview him he would finally admit the murders,” he told Sky News. Stone’s lawyers have previously claimed Bellfield gave a full confession to the Russell murders to another prisoner, but Bellfield denied it at the time.
But another of his representatives, barrister Mark McDonald, admitted there was nothing in the new statement that had “not previously been in the public domain, raising the possibility he has fabricated it using known facts”, said the Daily Mirror.
The Mirror said there are other “major questions” about the latest confession, including evidence from his former wife Jo Collings that she was with him celebrating her 25th birthday on the day of the Russell murders.
“Collings gave evidence against her ex-husband during his trial for the murders of Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell and is described as ‘the very last person’ who would try to protect him,” said The Sunday Times in 2017.
She told a BBC documentary the same year that Bellfield “never left my side, all day and all night, so there’s absolutely no way he could have got from Twickenham, where I lived, or Windsor, where I kept my horses, to Kent, done what they say he did, and got back without me not knowing he was there”.
She added: “I hate to say it, but I can say hand on my heart he didn’t do it.”
The Guardian added that a “comprehensive investigation” by the Met Police into the allegations concluded there was “no evidence” to support the claims Bellfield was involved in the Russell murders.
Another ex-partner, Rebecca Wilkinson, mother to four of Bellfield’s 11 children, told the Mirror this week that she believed the confession. “I knew he would say it after his mum died,” she said. Bellfield’s mother, Jean, died in 2017.
As far back as 2011, The Telegraph was reporting that “one of the key planks of Stone’s defence was that DNA found on a shoelace used to tie up the Russells was not Stone’s DNA”. Bacon had called for new forensic tests on it to see if the DNA is Bellfield’s.
Last year, he said the shoelace “which was missing until it was found in police storage in 2020” could still provide “vital” evidence, reported the BBC.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the miscarriage of justice watchdog, is considering another application from Stone to quash his conviction.
A CCRC spokesperson told The Guardian the application was being reviewed and that it would “thoroughly analyse” any further information and “make any appropriate enquiries”.