Original article from Kent Live
A bootlace found at the scene of one of Kent's most notorious murders and thought to be lost by police has now been found, according to reports.
Mother and daughter Lin and Megan Russell were killed in a brutal hammer attack near the village of Chillenden in 1996.
Now lawyers representing the man convicted of their murders, Michael Stone, say he could be cleared after police found lost evidence 14 years after it was requested for re-examination.
Stone, 60, has always denied killing mum Lin, 45, and her youngest daughter Megan, six, as well as the attempted murder of her sister Josie, then nine.
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The latter was found with life-threatening head injuries but miraculously survived.
The three were attacked on a country lane in the village near Deal as they walked home from a swimming gala on July 6, 1996.
Stone was arrested the following year before being convicted at Maidstone Crown Court.
The bootlace had been used to tie up one of the girls and had been left at the scene by the killer.
In 1998, six segments of the lace were used for DNA testing but results came back inconclusive.
After an appeal was rejected in 2005, Stone's lawyers requested the remaining section of lace be tested in 2007, with DNA techniques having progressed considerably.
Barrister Mark McDonald told The Sun: "For 10 years police have been denying they had the lace, and now at long last they’ve found it.
"Michael Stone is hopeful the DNA tests will lead to the real perpetrator being found."
Mr McDonald said the legal team waited three years for police to respond and "said they didn't have the lace", claiming it hadn't been returned by Forensic Science Service in 1998.
"But the lab insisted they had sent it back. Police then kept saying the lace had been tested to destruction," he added.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) began probing the convictions in 2010 and were given the previously tested segments but not the missing 80cm piece.
In 2017, Kent Police said the lace wasn't lost but only "fibrous strands" remained after testing.
In October 2020, Mr McDonald was then told by the CCRC the lace had been found at a police station.
However, the lawyer said there are concerns it could have been "forensically contaminated" if it wasn't kept securely and that the CCRC are now testing the lace.
The review commission had also previously requested a lunchbox which had been found at the scene and contained a bloody fingerprint.
However, it was told it had also been misplaced.
A further review had been launched in 2017 when serial killer Levi Bellfield confessed to the murders before retracting it.
In a statement sent to the Mirror, Detective Chief Superintendent 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 for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell and the attempted murder of Josie Russell in 1996.
"We are engaged with the CCRC and have been providing them with all the relevant information and evidence required in relation to the case.
"Much like a live investigation, it would not be appropriate at this stage of the review to disclose the nature of the materials provided.
"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."