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Missing evidence in the Lin and Megan Russell murder has been found by police after 14 years and could see convicted killer Michael Stone cleared, it has been reported.
The 60-year-old continues to deny the 1996 double killing and hopes DNA on the bootlace found at the scene in Chillenden, Kent, could prove his innocence, his lawyer told the Sun.
Ex-heroin addict Stone has served 24 years in jail after being convicted of murdering mum Lin, 45, Megan, six, and the attempted murder of Josie, then nine.
The 99cm black bootlace was dropped by the killer at the scene after being used to tie up one of Lin’s two daughters.
His barrister Mark McDonald said police told him it "had been tested to destruction" in a lab before he received an email from the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) informing it had been found last October.
It is understood the lace was discovered at a police station.
Josie was found with head injuries near her mum and sister’s bodies after they were attacked on a country lane and walked home on July 9. Pet terrier Lucy was also killed.
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Stone, of Gillingham, was arrested in 1997 and convicted at Maidstone crown court the following year but has always denied the killings.
Two prisoners claimed he had confessed to them and he was reconvicted in a retrial in 2001 after one retracted their statement.
An application for a further appeal in 2005 was rejected and Stone’s defence team asked for the whole lace to be tested with new techniques in 2007.
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In January 1998 six small segments of the lace had been cut out for DNA testing which was then in its infancy.
Tests were inconclusive and a large 90cm section of lace remained. In July 1998 the lace had more areas removed for testing, reducing it to 80cm.
McDonald told The Sun: "For 10 years, police have been denying they had the lace, and now at long last they’ve found it.
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"Michael Stone is hopeful the DNA tests will lead to the real perpetrator being found."
The CCRC investigated Stone’s convictions in 2010 and received the six segments but the 80cm piece was missing.
In 2017 Kent Police insisted it wasn't lost but only "fibrous strands" were left over after "repeated and exhaustive testing".
The CCRC found no evidence of any failures in the case during their 2010 probe but launched a further review in 2017 after claims that serial killer Levi Bellfield had confessed to the Russell murders while at Durham’s Frankland jail.
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Bellfield later retracted his confession and the review is focusing on Stone’s alleged confession to another lag, Damien Daley, while they were both on remand in separate cells at Canterbury jail in 1997.
Det Chief Supt Paul Fotheringham, of Kent Police, said: "We are aware that the Criminal Cases Review Commission is considering an application from Michael Stone appealing his conviction.
"Since Stone was imprisoned, there have been allegations and statements that have been set against what has already been disclosed and they have not provided information that changes the position of Kent Police in relation to his conviction."
The CCRC said it was inappropriate to comment.
- Prison News
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