The brutal murders of Lin and Megan Russell (mother and daughter respectively) and the horrific injuries inflicted upon Josie Russell shocked the nation. Questions still remain over whether the man imprisoned for their murders and injuries was wrongfully convicted, especially as the evidence for his ‘guilt’ was slim and unreliable

On 9 July 1996, three bodies were found in a little leafy copse beside a country lane in Chillenden, Kent. Mother, Dr Lin Russell, 45, and her two daughters, Megan, six and Josie, nine, had all suffered brutal head injuries caused by a blunt instrument. They had been tied up and their family dog, Lucy, was also found dead nearby. The head injuries looked so bad that Lin’s husband and the girls’ father, Dr Shaun Russell, was initially told that they had all died. Unbelievably, Josie was still alive, albeit barely. She was transferred immediately to King’s College hospital in London, where she was saved. In years to come, she made an even more miraculous recovery.

The three Russells had been returning on foot from a swimming gala at about 4:20 pm along the country lane, when a car passed them. Josie even recalled waving to the driver in the car. As they walked further down the lane, the car was parked across the track, and its driver, a man, got out of the car with a hammer. He demanded money from them. Lin had left her money and purse at home but offered to go back to the house with him to get him the money, which he refused. Lin then told Josie to run to the nearest house to get help.

The man grabbed Josie and hit her on the head with a hammer but inflicted only a slight injury. He then walked the three of them and the dog off the track into a dense copse, where he tied them up with strips torn from Josie’s blue swimming towel, a bootlace and a pair of tights. He then hit Lin on the head at least 15 times, causing severe head trauma and killing her. Josie’s skull was smashed; brain tissue was protruding from a wound behind her left ear and there were several lacerations to her skull. There was extensive tearing to the covering of her brain. Megan had been hit at least seven times, suffering massive skull fractures with exposed brain tissue.

After the attack, the man got into his car and drove back along the way he had come. About half an hour after the murders had taken place, a man was spotted a mile away from the murder scene in an agitated state. The string bag containing bloodied towel strips was dropped in a hedgerow and the man then left the vicinity.