Josie Russell, survivor of hammer attack that killed her mother and sister, reveals her joy at getting engaged

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A woman whose mother and sister were killed in a vicious hammer attack 21 years ago has announced her engagement to a man who had no idea about her history when they met.

Josie Russell, now 30, survived a brutal attack which claimed the lives of her mother Lin and younger sibling Megan in the Kent village of Chillenden in 1996.

They were walking home from a school swimming gala when Michael Stone set upon the family, blindfolding each of them before using strips of Josie’s towel to tie them to a tree. He then beat the mother and daughters as well as the family dog with a hammer.

Lin, 45, and Megan, six, died at the scene but Josie miraculously survived despite suffering catastrophic head injuries.

Killer: Michael Stone (PA)

Now after more than two decades in which she stunned people with her recovery, she is engaged to boyfriend of 12 years Iwan Griffith.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Josie revealed how he had proposed on Christmas day last year.

She said: “It was on Christmas morning, Iwan gave me chocolates and said ‘Sorry, I didn’t get you much’.”

“Then he produced the ring – a diamond solitaire – and said: ‘Happy Christmas’.

“He did offer to get down on one knee and propose but I told him he didn’t have to. It was a wonderful moment because Iwan is not only a wonderful man, he’s my best friend.”

She said the couple weren’t “lovey-dovey” but instead had a relationship built on love and mutual respect.

“I think we are both quite strong-willed which sometimes makes for conflict, but apart from that we get on well,” she said, adding that with friends settling down and having children she is now also thinking about it.

“[It’s] inevitable that my thoughts have turned to whether we should too,” she said.

The couple met in a Welsh pub on New Year’s Eve 2005, while Josie was a student at university. Iwan had no idea about her past at the time and now the couple avoid discussing the subject.

She said: “He asked about my mum once and I just told him she had died. Later his parents told him the full story but we never talk about the past. It’s better for me to just get on with the present.”

Stone was convicted of the murders in 1996 but has continued to protest his innocence of the double-murder that shocked the nation.

Following the attack, Josie’s injuries were so severe that a huge portion of her skull had to be replaced with a titanium plate.

She suffered problems with her speech caused by the blows, but after moving to Wales with her father she surprised specialists with the speed of her recovery.

Earlier this year a BBC documentary claimed to expose “new shocking details that never made it to trial” and cast doubt on Stone’s alleged confession of the murders made to a fellow prison inmate.

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