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Josie Russell announces engagement 20 years after surviving Chillenden hammer attack

PUBLISHED: 16:23 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:23 29 August 2017

Josie Russell survived the Chillenden hammer attack

Josie Russell survived the Chillenden hammer attack

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Her mother and sister were murdered in the brutal attack back in 1996

Josie Russell, who survived a hammer attack that killed her mother and sister in Kent, has announced her engagement two decades on from the tragedy.

Lin Russell, 45, and her six-year-old daughter Megan were beaten to death on a quiet country path with a hammer as they walked home from a swimming gala in Chillenden, between Canterbury and Dover in July 1996, but Josie, then nine, escaped alive.

Michael Stone, from Gillingham, was eventually convicted of the murders, however legal experts in a recent BBC documentary have pledged to assist him in launching a fresh appeal.

Some twenty years on, Miss Russell is now a successful textile artist in Wales, where her father, Shaun, brought her to help recover from the ordeal.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Miss Russell said her rehabilitation was a long, slow process – it was a year before she could speak again – but she stunned doctors with her progress and her academic achievements.

Now, she has announced her intention to marry her boyfriend of 12 years, Iwan Griffith, who proposed last December.

She told the newspaper: “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.

“We aren’t a lovey-dovey couple but there is 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.

“We’re happiest when we’re walking on the beach together or in the mountains biking.”

Mr Griffith, a 31-year-old fire alarm engineer, grew up on a farm and was blissfully ignorant of his partner’s past – a factor which had huge appeal for her.

“It meant things were just nice and normal from the start,” 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.”

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