Justice Site | Case Name: R v Michael John Stone
THE CRIMINAL STANDARD OF PROOF
"The evidence of the
main prosecution witness Damien Daley should not be dismissed
This website is paradoxically not about Michael Stone, who was convicted of murder in two trials following a confession he allegedly gave to a fellow prison inmate. It is about whether a person can ever receive a fair trial and be safely convicted on the strength of a confession which merely contains facts that are in the public domain and hence which are known even to the proverbial man 'sitting on the Clapham Omnibus'.
Michael Stone was locked in a prison cell next to a heroin addict named Damien Daley who had a history of dishonesty and crime. By his own admission he was an accomplished liar - who "lied to get by in life"- and his motives for lying or telling the truth became an issue which greatly exercised the legal minds involved in the case, to the exclusion of plain commonsense and what the eye witnesses themselves had said about the suspect.
Mr Nigel Sweeney QC told the jury: "We must make you sure that he admitted it to Mr Daley", while Mr William Clegg QC for the defence said if there had been some talk "there was no proof the voice belonged to Stone." These arguments however were irrelevant to proving Stone's guilt, because anyone following the news (even the judge) could have cobbled together the same confession which Daley said he had heard.
tied them up with wet towels and a shoelace while
their dog barked loudly.
One of them tried to run away."
By the time of the alleged confession on 23rd September 1997, extensive accounts of the crime including Stone's arrest as a suspect had been published, and Daley was reading some of these news reports when Stone was 'banged up' in the adjacent cell. Daley made a statement to the police three days later, following a prison visit from his uncle, which indicated in rough terms that Stone had made a 'confession' through a small gap in the cell wall.The confession was remarkable in that it referred only to those four details of the crime which had been widely publicised for more than a year, and contained no revelation which only the murderer could have known. The account of the crime was therefore either an amazing coincidence, or a clumsy concoction which was not worth the paper it was printed on. Daley's task would have been easier if he had simply asked the police to read the newspaper articles that were published on the day of the 'confession', as being evidence of what Stone had said.
None of these 'points of detail' however raised any concerns with the prosecuting authorities. The jury decided by a 10-2 majority that Stone had confessed, but they were not advised in the judge's summing-up that even if he had shouted his confession from the rooftops for the whole world to hear, it wouldn't have been any more credible in proving that he was actually the murderer.
The Prosecution.At the 1st trial (Oct 1998) Anne Rafferty QC (now elevated to Mrs Justice Rafferty) confidently relied on the testimony of two other prisoners, Barry Thompson and Mark Jennings, who had heard Stone making incriminating remarks which tended to support Daley's evidence about the confession.
A friend of Stone - Sheree Batt - was also called to testify that she remembered seeing Stone a year previously wearing a blood-stained tee shirt at around the time of the murders.
After the trial however, Thompson admitted to a newspaper that he had "told the jury a pack of lies" in order to obtain a fee of £5,000 from The Sun newspaper for his story (with the promise of an additional £10,000 if Stone was convicted); and it became known that Jennings's family had also been paid money by a tabloid newspaper, while Sheree Blatt's mother publicly disowned her daughter for lying.
The Guardian (15th Mar 1999) - A witness in the Michael Stone murder trial lied under oath when she said he had blood on his T-shirt the morning after the killings, her mother claimed last night. Mrs Jean Batt said that police investigating the killings had also offered her the chance of a £20,000 reward, a letter to the judge to help in her appeal against a heroin conviction and a prison of her choice if she said the same thing as her daughter - but she refused. Mrs Batt says her daughter has been relocated and she refuses to speak to her. "I disowned her because of her lying," she said. "If Mick done it he wants cutting up in little pieces and put down a sewer. All right, he's a psycho but he didn't kill them. They had no forensic and people lied in the witness box for money. Me and my husband are the only two out of the whole lot who haven't sold our souls."
The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial.
At the 2nd trial (Sept 2001), Sheree Batt's evidence of blood on a tee-shirt was still admitted, which would have helped establish guilt in regard to the confession in the same way that the jury in the 1st trial must have been influenced by the false testimony of the fellow prisoners. Stone was again found guilty.
In Stone's 2nd Appeal (Jan 2005) Lord Justice Rose acknowledged that "the prosecution accepts there was nothing in the confession which was not either in the public domain or capable of being inferred from material in the public domain", but then dismissed the appeal saying "the alleged confession contained many points of detail which it would not have been easy to invent....in the time-scale available to Daley." (there were 3 days between the confession and the statement made to the police).
The 'points of detail' had actually been given extensive publicity for more than a year, with Daley remembering "vague details" about the case from July (the case was shown on BBC Crimewatch) and admitting he "may have seen some television news" while in prison. The time-scale available to Daley to drum up a confession was not therefore a mere 3 days, but rather it was at least 3 months; and in Stone's case, had he wished to portray himself as the murderer (Stone was also a heroin addict) the time-scale would have been at least a year.
Lord Justice Rose agreed with the prosecution that their chief witness upon whose word the conviction was to hang was "a dishonest criminal with an ability to lie when it suited him, even on oath", but nevertheless the court decided that "this was no reason to regard the appellant's conviction as unsafe."
A witness of truth for the prosecution can therefore be an inveterate bare-faced liar and still be acceptable in the eyes of the law for securing a 'safe conviction' beyond reasonable doubt. This was a case where the prosecuting authorities discarded commonsense and ignored the urgent need to continue searching for the actual murderer.
Levi Bellfield was convicted in February 2008 of a number of
murderous attacks on young women, whom he would approach at random in a car before leaping
out to attack them with a hammer. Links to other unsolved crimes are still under
investigation. His arrest and conviction throws a new light on the Chillenden Murders case
which was not available to the jury that condemned Stone.
An 'agitated' suspect seen driving away from the crime scene had "a round red face with chubby cheeks, short gingery blond hair with a fringe, and a fair complexion. He was aged between 20yrs and 30yrs."
Josie Russell said the murderer got out of his car and assaulted her when she tried to run away. He was "blonde, clean-shaven, about 25 yrs old, and a tall man, like my father " (5' 11").
If Josie was right about the murderer's height, that fact alone would rule out Michael Stone, and would explain why she was unable to pick him out in the identity parade: she was looking for a much bigger man - like her father.
Michael Stone was then 36yrs old and is 5' 7" tall. He was shorter than her father and considerably shorter than Bellfield, and older than a young man of 28 yrs. He does not have "chubby cheeks", whereas Bellfield does.
The description of the suspect seen in Cherry Gardens Lane in 1996 and the resemblance to Bellfield may look like a remarkable coincidence, but given the history of Bellfield's crimes and the basis of Stone's conviction, it is more likely there were not two hammer murderers driving around looking for victims, but only one. The police said when issuing the e-fit "make no mistake, this could be the murderer."
The Daily Mirror (1st Oct 1996)
Cops probing the murders of Lin Russell and six-year-old Megan were yesterday studying the file on a second horror attack in Kent. The married woman was walking along a country lane from her home in Cliffe Woods, near Rochester, Kent, to a nearby farm shop this morning when she was attacked.
The victim, an unnamed 31-year-old woman, was bludgeoned with an iron bar and slashed with a knife as she walked across a field near her home. Police say she was lucky to survive Friday's attack at Bromley - 60 miles from the double killing at Chillenden. They are treating the case as attempted murder.
The woman, a local government officer, was walking her dog when the brute struck. The mongrel was also set about and battered with what detectives think was a crowbar. Her nightmare was chillingly like the murderous attack earlier in July. Friday's victim was attacked from behind and knocked unconscious. She woke to find her assailant dragging her across the ground. As she came to he clubbed her again then drew a knife and told her chillingly: "You have seen my face, now I will have to kill you."
He slashed at her repeatedly,
inflicting deep wounds in her face, head and arms. Officers investigating both attacks
have met to compare notes. A Bromley detective said: "There are undoubted
similarities. Both attacks were on women walking dogs on open land and in both instances
the dogs were attacked as well. The methods of attack seem to be very similar."
Feb 2009 - A Scotland Yard task force is investigating as many as 20 unsolved crimes, including murders, rapes, and a number of hammer assaults. These include the murder of Bellfield's schoolfriend Patsy Morris, 14, who was strangled in Hounslow in 1980, as well as hammer attacks on women in south-west London in 1994 and 1996. There are also attacks in Blackpool, where Bellfield went on holiday, and in Sussex, where he worked.
The assistance of Alexander Barron in providing information on this case is gratefully acknowledged.