Serial killer Levi Bellfield did not carry out the murders of Lin and Megan Russell, an official review is set to conclude.
Bellfield, who is serving life for murdering schoolgirl Milly Dowler and two other women, made a formal confession earlier this year claiming he also committed the horrific 1996 hammer killings.
But a forthcoming Criminal Case Review Commission report is set to say former drug addict Michael Stone, who is serving a life sentence for the Russell murders, was responsible.
After five years of exhaustive inquiries, the CCRC has found no forensic evidence to suggest Bellfield or anyone else was involved in the crime, sources say.
Serial killer Levi Bellfield (pictured in around 2003) did not carry out the murders of Lin and Megan Russell after making a confession earlier this year, an official review is set to conclude
Mrs Russell and her daughters Megan, six, and Josie, nine, were ambushed as they walked down a country lane in Chillenden, Kent, in July 1996, while returning from a swimming gala.
They were tied up and repeatedly bludgeoned with a claw hammer, but Josie miraculously survived.
Stone’s lawyer Paul Bacon, who has spent 15 years trying to prove his innocence, submitted copies of Bellfield’s four-page written confession, made in February from his cell. But evidence has emerged that casts doubt on its credibility.
In comments to inmates and guards, the narcissistic killer dismissed his confession, suggesting he sees his correspondence with Mr Bacon as a game.
Lin Russell, 45, and her two daughters, six-year-old Megan and nine-year-old Josie (all pictured), were tied up and savagely beaten with a hammer in the brutal attack in 1996
Experts from the CCRC promised to ‘thoroughly analyse’ Bellfield’s confession and make ‘appropriate inquiries’ to assess if he was telling the truth.
A bootlace found at the scene of the murders has also been subjected to extensive forensic analysis after going missing for 14 years in police storage.
It was hoped that a knot in the lace could contain DNA yielding the killer’s identity, but no trace was found of DNA from Bellfield, Stone or any potential suspect, sources told the Mail.
Since 2017, when the CCRC was asked to look at the case, Bellfield has been preoccupied with the Russell murders, making admissions to fellow prisoners but then denying responsibility in other correspondence.
He has given a lurid account of the attack, claiming to have kept a hair scrunchie as a macabre souvenir,
A forthcoming Criminal Case Review Commission report is set to say that Michael Stone (pictured), who is serving a life sentence for the Russell murders, was responsible
Those who have investigated Bellfield point out that a previous Scotland Yard probe concluded there was no evidence to link the former nightclub bouncer to the case.
Bellfield’s then-girlfriend Jo Collings told police he was at a party in south-west London on the day of the murder – nearly 100 miles away from the attack.
In his statement, Bellfield also admitted to the murder of a woman called Judith Gold in north London in 1990.
If true, it would make him responsible for at least six murders, making him one of Britain’s worst serial killers.
Bellfield, now known as Yusuf Rahim, is serving a whole-life sentence for murdering Milly, 13, French student Amelie Delagrange, 22, and Marsha McDonnell, 19, between 2002 and 2004.
Mrs Russell and her daughters Megan (both pictured), six, and Josie, nine, were ambushed as they walked down a country lane in Chillenden, Kent, while returning from a swimming gala
He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy in 2004. The CCRC review is now in its final stages with a decision expected to be made public within months.
If no other evidence emerges, sources say the team will conclude that there is insufficient evidence for Stone’s conviction to go to the Court of Appeal.
The petty criminal and former heroin addict was found guilty of two murders and attempted murder in 1998 despite a lack of forensic evidence.
He successfully appealed but was found guilty at a second trial in 2001 based partly on a confession he is said to have made in prison.
It is the second time that Stone has applied to the CCRC. In 2020 experts decided not to refer it to the Court of Appeal after a four-year review.
Bellfield, who is serving life for murdering Milly Dowler (pictured) and two other women, made a formal confession earlier this year, claiming he also committed the 1996 hammer killings
Josie Russell has declined to comment on the review, but the extraordinary length of time the various inquiries have taken is said to have been traumatic for the family.
Kent Police has already said it has no intention of re-investigating the murders.
In February it said that the CCRC ‘has had access to all forensic evidence, documentation and exhibits from the original investigation, the review by Hampshire Police, details of the two Crown Court trials and appeals to the High Court’.
Yesterday Stone’s lawyer Mr Bacon said: ‘We are expecting something this month. But they have not been in touch with their report and we don’t have any information about it.’
A CCRC spokesman said: ‘We have no further comment to make other than the case is still under review.’