This is a piece I first wrote for the uPSDWYP police whistleblowers’ website eight years ago (2013), writes Neil Wilby. It has been widely updated with a substantial tranche of new information, together with some recent developments relating to other miscarriage of justice cases involving West Yorkshire Police.
Its importance lies, over 45 years after a grotesque and wrongful conviction, in highlighting the almost ‘classic’ miscarriage of justice case: Police fixated on one suspect, forced confession retracted very soon afterwards, crucial evidence suppressed from both prosecutor and defence, late or flawed disclosure to the defence, seemingly one-sided summing up, and curt dismissal by appeal court.
There is also the rare occurrence of the Court of Appeal not only quashing the conviction, albeit at the second attempt, the three law lords emphasised his complete innocence.
A similarly rare event is the successful prosecution of a murderer, 30 years after the killing, and after a successful appeal against conviction by an innocent man previously found guilty of the same crime.
On the gravestone that marks the burial place of Charlotte Hedwig Kiszko, and her son Stefan (pictured above), an inscription is carved on blackened Pennine rock: “A loving wife and a very devoted mother“.
That, on any independent view, is an understatement of monumental proportions.
No one could possibly have been more steadfast than Charlotte, who campaigned tirelessly – and ultimately successfully – for sixteen long years, in the face of threats, ridicule and studious political and State indifference, to prove the innocence of her son.
Much in the way that the mothers, relatives, and friends of the many who perished in the Hillsborough Disaster have fought relentlessly for justice – and the parents of such as Danny Major and Andrew Feather, who have battled for so long to clear their own sons’ name after they were allegedly ‘fitted up’ by the police force that features centrally in this shocking story.
The first murder investigation
Stefan Ivan Kiszko was convicted, after a heavily criticised West Yorkshire Police ‘investigation’ into the murder of a frail, 11-year-old Rochdale girl, Lesley Susan Molseed, in October, 1975. She had been brutally stabbed to death on Rishworth Moor, close to the Lancashire-Yorkshire border after being abducted shortly after leaving home to run an errand to the shops for her mother.
Her grave lies not far away in the same Rochdale cemetery. One senior detective, called to the scene soon afterwards, described the killing as ‘the work of a monster’.
It became a WYP led investigation, by dint of the location of the murdered girl’s body being just inside God’s Own County, although many Greater Manchester Police detectives assisted with such as house-to-house enquiries near Lesley’s home and tracing vehicles thought to be connected to the crime.
During the first five days after her body was found, face down in the damp moorland grass, a total of 250 detectives, from both forces, were deployed. It was a large scale manhunt that included appeals on television and mass coverage in the press.
The killer had ejaculated on Lesley’s underclothes. It was to prove crucial in later convicting the perpetrator, albeit at the second attempt.
Known to her family as ‘Lel’, she was a small girl for her age, weighing just 18kg (three stones) and 1.2 metres (four feet) in height. A heart condition since birth, and the first year of her life spent in hospital, had left her with breathing problems. In spite of these issues, the youngest of four children, she was a dearly loved, cheerful, normal child. As a result of her slower than normal physical and mental development, she attended a special needs school, High Birch, close to the family home.
The initial murder probe, and subsequent persistently unlawful, and relentless, three day interrogation of Kiszko eleven weeks later, was led by Detective Sergeant John Akeroyd and, later, his boss, newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector, Dick Holland, both of whom were commended at the subsequent trial.
As was the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), Chief Superintendent Jack Dibb. In spite of almost every one of the Judges’ Rules, governing detention and police interviews at the time, having been broken by the police. Holland was promoted to Superintendent after the trial. His chief constable, Ronald Gregory, praising the ‘skill and persistence during the final interview, in very trying circumstances’.
Dibb was called to Bradford to lead another murder enquiry shortly after the Molseed atrocity and had left the day to day command of the investigation into Lesley’s death to Holland, a highly experienced detective, focused on ‘results’. Because of the nature of this murder, and the intensive media coverage that followed, the pressure was very much on the police to apprehend the killer quickly.
Following a Lancashire Constabulary ‘outside force’ investigation in 1992/93, Holland and Dibb were later charged with perverting the course of justice, but the trial was halted after Dibb passed away in 1995.
An application for a stay, on the grounds of abuse of process, was allowed by the stipendiary magistrate in Rochdale, Jane Hayward.
She said that a fair trial was not possible without hearing oral evidence from the deceased Dibb. Passage of time, the ‘loss’ of vital exhibits and documents, and non-availability of other witnesses, were also factors weighing in the balance.
Holland, and a forensic scientist charged along with the two police officers, Ronald Outteridge, were set to blame Dibb for any evidential shortcomings.
It is said, fairly or otherwise, that Holland’s development over the years, as a detective, narrowed to that as a procurer of evidence for prosecutors, rather than an open-minded, neutral investigator. The focus on ‘results’ became all consuming. The Kiszko and Ward miscarriages of justice appear to lend significant force to that proposition.
The repeated request to have his mother, Charlotte, present whilst he was being questioned, was refused and, crucially, the police did not caution the grossly immature Stefan Kiszko, until long after they had decided he was the prime – and indeed only – suspect. The interest in a list of five other men, and two other vehicles, particularly a white Vauxhall Viva about which there was a public appeal a few days after the murder, fell away completely.
He, ultimately, “confessed” after being told he could go home to his mother if he did so. The confession, written out in full by Dick Holland, was retracted almost immediately after being given access to a solicitor.
It is now beyond any doubt, that the first ‘confession’ statement contained a number of facts and references to events that could only have been known to those at the very heart of the police investigation and, of course, the killer. The inference being, therefore, that DCI Holland had fabricated the statement in order to get a ‘result’. It is difficult to see any other conclusion in the light of subsequent events.
Stefan had attended Rochdale Police Station voluntarily on 21st December, 1975, and had, in fact, driven himself there in the bronze coloured Hillman Avenger that was his pride and joy accompanied by one of three detectives who had arrived on his mother’s doorstep that day. A car of that make, model or colour had not raised even the slightest suspicion previously.
He was, initially, questioned about allegations of indecent exposure, crimes of which he was later cleared; the interviews concerning the murder came two days later.
He was, the police say, arrested on his third day in custody. But, in a statement submitted with his second appeal to the Court of Appeal, Stefan said he was never arrested at all, not even at Halifax police station where he was driven on 23rd December, 1975 to be charged with Lesley’s murder.
Stefan Kiszko was a person of previously good character with no convictions of any kind or any adverse contact with the police at all. With no propensity to violence, whatsoever. The ‘monster’ the police said they were looking for, he most certainly was not.
He was known to his family, and colleagues at the tax office, as a conscientious, courteous, respectful, timid man. His last Kingsway School report read: “Physically he is very weak….an oddity and a butt for bullies. Old fashioned. Very kind and thoughtful.”
That arrest, if indeed one took place at all, came two days after his first contact with Holland, who is alleged to have said, without preamble, to an immature, frightened, unwell man: “I’ll get the fucking truth out of you, one way or another”, whilst assaulting him. This was the first sustained contact between the two, Holland (who always denied this account) had, briefly, been in the interview room the previous evening.
Holland was later to achieve notoriety in the grotesque shambles that was the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, after which he was demoted following an internal inquiry. His focus, or more accurately, obsession, together with that of his superior, George Oldfield, on a Geordie accent cost three lives as Peter Sutcliffe, with a flat, West Riding accent, continued to kill despite ticking many other profiling boxes and being interviewed NINE times by WYP detectives.
He, along with Oldfield, was also one of the senior investigators on another of the greatest miscarriages of justices of modern times: Judith Ward was wrongly convicted of the M62 IRA coach bomb murders near the Hartshead Moor service area, after a similarly brutalising WYP interrogation (read more on that grimly failed investigation here).
When he retired in 1988, Holland viewed the convictions of both Stefan Kiszko and of Judith Ward as being “among his finest hours during his 35 years in the police force”. The quashing of both those convictions, by the appeal court, came less than five years later.
Holland died in 2007, without ever accepting that anything was wrong with either his own actions or the Molseed investigation itself. He told the Manchester Evening News in interview after Stefan was cleared : “My conscience is clear. Whilst I feel sorrow for Mr Kiszko, I did an honest, professional job. I did not stitch him up.”
The Stefan Kiszko trial
It is over 45 years since Stefan, an Inland Revenue clerk with the mental and emotional age of a 12-year-old, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court by a jury directed by the very experienced High Court judge, Sir Hugh Park; and almost 30 years since he died, like his father, of a heart attack, after an all too brief taste of freedom.
He was just 41 years of age, mentally and physically broken when he died in December, 1993. His beloved mother, of Slovenian descent, died just a few months later.
Charlotte had buried her husband, the giant Ukrainian-born Iwan Kiszko, known locally as John, in a Halifax cemetery after he dropped dead at Stefan’s feet, in 1970, following a heart attack in the street near their home in Rochdale.
Stefan’s parents had met in migrant accommodation in 1951, married a year later and were a devoted, happy couple. He was their only child. Iwan, a road construction worker had helped build the M62 trans-Pennine motorway that swept past the bleak spot at which Lesley Molseed’s body was found near Windy Hill.
Stefan suffered from XYY syndrome, a condition in which the human male has an extra Y chromosome. Such men are normal except for – sometimes slight – growth irregularities and minor behavioural abnormalities. He also suffered from hypergonadism and was acutely anaemic. As a child he had suffered badly with asthma.
One of his behavioural abnormalities was jotting down the registration numbers of a car if he had been annoyed by the driver. This trait led, in part, to his wrongful conviction as he had, at some point prior to the murder, unwittingly written down the number of a car seen near the scene of the crime on the Oldham – Halifax A672 road at around 2.30pm on that fateful Sunday. A red Renault 16TL with the mark, ADK539L.
It was argued by the prosecution, at the murder trial, that only someone at the scene could have known the number of this car. A submission that was later to be proved wholly unlikely, by even the simplest of investigations: It was a car first registered in Rochdale, and owned by a couple in the town for the first two years of its life. It was even known to have been parked in the car park near the Inland Revenue offices where Stefan worked.
One of a number of simple tasks that, regrettably, Rochdale solicitor Albert Wright, the senior partner in the town’s oldest firm of solicitors, and instructed counsel, also failed to undertake. Neither the prosecution nor the police were ever able to establish when that number was jotted down, but became fixated upon it.
Also, as a symptom of his medical conditions, Stefan Kiszko would have been physically incapable of producing the the type of sperm that was found in the inside crotch area of Lesley’s knickers and on the front and back of her skirt, which was a cornerstone of the prosecution case. A crucial fact that was never disclosed to either the court, or more particularly, his defence team, at the time of the trial.
Another incapacity, a surgical pin in a recently, and badly, broken ankle, would have prevented Stefan carrying, or dragging, Lesley up a steep forty foot ascent, away from the main road to the killing ground. Wright, and the defence team, never made submissions to the court in this regard.
Apart from these evidential and investigative failings, Stefan Kiszko’s defence team, led by David Waddington QC, made a number of significant tactical mistakes at trial. Grounded in the belief, it seems, that the jury would find Stefan guilty of the murder.
Firstly, they did not seek an adjournment when the Crown delivered over 6,000 witness statements, as part of the ‘unused material’, on the first morning of the trial. These had lain, untouched, in an office attached to the Director of Public Prosecutions for weeks before the trial.
Included in those statements were those of Chistopher Coverdale and Maurice Helm, both of which would have seriously undermined the prosecution’s claims.
Mr Coverdale had seen a man and a girl, at the lay-by on the A672 beneath the murder scene, on the Sunday afternoon. The man described bore no resemblance at all to the accused; the description of the girl, and what she was wearing, was uncannily close to Lesley.
Mr Helm was a local milkman who admitted inadvertently exposing himself to two young girls when taking an emergency ‘leak’ on the Friday before the murder.
Much was made of this ‘crime’ being committed by Stefan Kiszko at Crown Court, in what was perversely described as ‘similar fact evidence’ to a brutal murder. Had Messrs Coverdale and Helm been brought to court as witnesses, the trial would have been, effectively, over.
Secondly, Waddington never challenged the admissibility of the Kiszko confession or the lurid similar fact evidence of alleged indecent exposure offences, by way of a pre-trial voir dire (a trial within a trial) without the jury present. Instead, the defence sought to challenge how ‘voluntary’ it actually was, and some of its remarkable content, in the course of the trial itself and in front of the jury. In his summing up, the judge gave a clear direction to the jury that the latter bore no relevance to the murder. It follows easily, therefore, that an application to exclude it would have succeeded before the trial proper got under way.
Thirdly, The defence team allowed the witness statements of two girls, Catherine Burke and Pamela Hind, alleging indecent exposure against Stefan Kiszko, to be read into evidence to the jury, unchallenged, rather than give live testimony upon which they could both be cross-examined. Both of them, 14 years later, admitted they had lied in those statements.
Fourthly, From the judge’s summing up, it does appear that the cross-examination of Supt Holland, the key prosecution witness, lacked the necessary rigour. Many errors, omissions and inconsistencies in his witness statement, taken together with those of other detectives involved in the ‘confession’ interviews, and Stefan Kiszko’s own account of what took place in the police station, do not appear to have been adequately tested.
Fifthly, and very arguably most disastrously, in court, Waddington maintained the risky, inconsistent, and parallel defence of diminished responsibility, which the Kiszko family had never authorised. The lawyer contends that they did.
A tainted jury
Stefan was adamant that he had never seen, nor touched, Lesley Molseed and they were his instructions to Mr Wright and counsel. In effect, Waddington was putting to the jury an admission of guilt to murder, but a plea for them to return a manslaughter verdict, running alongside an alibi defence to the murder. One of the jurors became aware, during the trial, by way of a ‘chance’ encounter in a pub, with a police prosecution solicitor attached to Leeds City Council (said not to be connected with the case), that David Waddington QC had, allegedly, tried to persuade his client to plead guilty to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility.
The defence team, although they were made aware of this astonishing revelation by way of a conference in the chambers of the trial judge, did not seek the discharge of either that juror or the jury as a whole. An application that should, surely, have succeeded in the first part and, very likely, on the second given the taint then attached to the panel.
Nevertheless, contemporaneous documents reveal that Mr Justice Park was determined that the trial would go ahead, regardless. The jury taint formed the first ground of appeal to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division filed a month after Stefan Kiszko was sentenced. He was completely unaware of the juror incident until that point.
No enquiries were ever made, it seems, as to how the police prosecutor came to be in possession of such sensitive knowledge known to a very small handful of other people.
The aftermath – didn’t they do well?
Burnley-born Waddington went on to become Margaret Thatcher‘s last Home Secretary, on the very day that Stefan’s second, and ultimately successful, appeal was filed with the Home Office – and he retired in 2015 from the cross-benches in the House of Lords where he had sat as Baron Waddington from 1990.
Albert Wright had, in fact, initially instructed George Carman QC, the leading criminal defence barrister of his day. He was, however, detained elsewhere when the Kiszko trial started on 7th July, 1976. It is not difficult to believe that the trial would have had a very different shape, and outcome, had Carman retained the brief.
In February 1992, at the time of the quashing of Stefan’s conviction, Charlotte Kiszko said that it was David Waddington who ought to be “strung up” for his pro-capital punishment views and for the way he had handled her son’s defence at the 1976 trial.
On any independent view, it was shocking – and Waddington was not helped by a judge who also appeared, in a one-sided summing up, to take the view that Kiszko was guilty.
Prosecuting counsel, Peter Taylor QC, later became Lord Chief Justice and, in another quirk of fate attained that high office on the same day that Stefan’s conviction was finally quashed. He maintained, at the time, that the police had withheld the crucial scientific evidence from the prosecution, as well as the defence, at the fateful trial. A proposition that now seems highly likely.
As Lord Chief Justice, and, by then, Sir Peter Taylor, he became increasingly aware of miscarriages of justice and gave due attention to appeals against conviction. He was also responsible for many liberal innovations in the English criminal and civil justice systems and gave strong support to the full disclosure of police and prosecution evidence. Still a controversial topic over 30 years later.
Taylor is, of course, eternally (and now posthumously) famous as the legal luminary leading the Departmental Inquiry into the Hillsborough Disaster, just over 4 weeks after the football stadium tragedy which cost 97 lives at the Sheffield Wednesday football stadium, in April, 1989. He quickly exonerated fans of Liverpool Football Club from any blame for the Disaster but bereaved families, and survivors from the caged pens on the West terraces of the creaking, perennially unsafe football stadium, still wait for justice over 30 years later.
A mother’s persistence
After spending months in the notorious Armley jail in Leeds, both on remand and following his conviction, Stefan Kiszko was transferred to the even more fearsome Category A Wakefield Prison and immediately placed on Rule 43 to protect him from other inmates. As, at least in the eyes of the law, he was now a convicted sex offender. Or, in prison parlance, a ‘nonce’. For five years, he was kept in his cell for 23 hours a day.
He suffered a number of assaults during those first five years of incarceration but, after striking back at his assailant on the fifth occasion he was attacked, the beatings ceased. His mental and physical health both deteriorated further in the face of that brutal regime.
Stefan’s mother launched an appeal against his conviction with the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, but it was dismissed on 25th May 1978, when Lord Justice Bridge, sitting with Mr Justice Wien and Mr Justice Eastham, said, curtly: “We can find no grounds whatsoever to condemn the jury’s verdict of murder as in any way unsafe or unsatisfactory. The appeal is dismissed”.
The three law lords did not, apparently, acquaint themselves sufficiently with the appeal: For example, there is a reference to ‘a second arrest’ in the contemporaneous law reports, but Stefan had only ever been arrested once, if that. Allegedly, after his three day ordeal in Rochdale Police station.
But Lord Justice Bridge is, probably, best known as presiding judge in the infamous Birmingham Six trial, especially his closing remarks where he expressed regret at not being able to pass a sentence that would see those convicted, hanged. They were, of course, ultimately cleared of the IRA pub bombings. Again, after forced and false confessions were in issue.
Like Mr Justice Park in the court below, the three appellate judges appeared to have formed the view that Stefan was the killer and nothing in the way of new evidence or fresh legal argument would change that.
Stefan had agreed that Waddington and Clegg would represent him at appeal, whilst in Wakefield jail. When it was put to him, on a ‘legal visit’ to the prison to discuss the grounds for the appeal, it was explained that he had a choice of choosing a different team. As he knew of no-one else to turn to, he decided to stick with his trial counsel.
The former should, arguably, have returned the brief as he was compromised by the grounds of that appeal, most notably ground 1 in which the jury taint issue was set out. In effect, and read neutrally, that ground effectively set out that the defence team at trial had deprived their client of a fair trial. Troubled waters that the appellate bench poured oil upon.
Charlotte Kiszko, ably aided by her elder sister, Alfreda Tosić (Stefan’s beloved Aunt ‘Freda), never gave up the fight to clear her son’s name, despite being roundly ignored, and then airily dismissed, by many politicians, including her own MP, the now notorious Cyril Smith, who knew full well of the existence of another potential and serious suspect in his own constituency, together with successive Prime Ministers James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher and their Secretaries of State, and by a legal system designed to stonewall justice campaigners.
Thatcher’s role in the police cover-ups after both the Battle of Orgreave and the Hillsborough Disaster has now unravelled in spectacular fashion. She set out to protect her political militia at all costs and would hear no criticism of the police.
In 1984, Charlotte contacted JUSTICE, the UK human rights organisation which, at the time, investigated many miscarriages of justice. Three years later, she made her first contact with solicitor Campbell Malone, who agreed to take a look at the case when it seemed almost certain that Charlotte’s son would never be released.
Mrs Kiszko invested the £40,000 compensation she received, for a cotton-mill induced incurable lung disease, in the campaign to prove she was right about her son’s innocence.
Meeting Malone (pictured above right) was the turning point for Mrs Kiszko and two years later, working with barrister Philip Clegg (Waddington’s junior at the trial and later a highly respected circuit judge) a petition was presented to the Home Office.
By an astonishing quirk of fate, Waddington replaced Douglas Hurd as Home Secretary on the very same day, 26th October 1989. It took the Home Office a further thirteen months to refer the matter back to West Yorkshire Police for re-investigation. The issue of Waddington’s conflict in the matter was never the subject of any independent scrutiny, although he did issue a note to Department C3 saying that the case should be referred to a Home Office Minister, other than himself, when the papers had been considered. He left the Home Office in November, 1990.
As a result of the Home Office referral, Detective Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson was asked by his chief constable, Peter Nobes, and the assistant chief constable holding the crime portfolio at the time, Tom Cook, to look at the investigation afresh. He quickly established that there were glaring errors in the prosecution case, particularly relating to the medical evidence.
Key witnesses against Stefan also retracted their original statements saying that they had lied for “a laugh”and other witnesses were located through private investigator, Peter Jackson (no relation to the police whistleblower of the same same who features elsewhere on this website), a former Royal Air Force police officer who discovered that Stefan had strong alibis at the time of the original trial.
Following a Home Office referral by the then Secretary of State, Kenneth Baker, a fresh appeal against Stefan Kiszko’s conviction was heard on 18th February 1992, by three judges, Lord Chief Justice Lane, Mr. Justice Rose and Mr. Justice Potts.
The Crown were represented by Franz Muller QC and William Boyce. The inimitable Stephen Sedley QC and Jim Gregory were defence counsel, who asserted Kiszko was innocent. Gregory had taken over from Clegg when the latter took up his judicial appointment.
However, Muller and Boyce did not put up any counter argument after hearing the new evidence, and immediately accepted its provenance. The Court of Appeal decision by which Kiszko was released is not reported on the conventional criminal justice system databases. There is no public record as to how a life came to be so callously destroyed and there was no mention of the grotesque and needless suffering of Stefan Ivan Kiszko, let alone an apology from the bench.
Lesley Molseed’s natural father, Fred Anderson, and her mother, April Molseed (later Garrett), were both in court to hear the appeal. Still convinced that Kiszko was guilty and should remain behind bars until, of course, they heard the new evidence, the ruling and the accompanying commentary from the bench.
Despite the overwhelming, and obvious, evidence that Kiszko was innocent, West Yorkshire Police and Ronald Outteridge, the original forensic scientist, refused to apologise to Kiszko for his wrongful conviction. In 1991, Outteridge became angry when questioned by journalists about his role in the trial.
Neither did David Waddington, Sheila Buckley, her daughter Maxine Buckley, Pamela Hind, Debbie Brown and Catherine Burke, whose perjured evidence helped convict Kiszko, offer any apology, or express one word of regret, for what had happened. All refused to comment when Kiszko was released.
West Yorkshire Police even tried to justify the position they took in 1975 whilst accepting, and admitting, they were wrong. Stefan did, however, receive a letter from Sir Hugh Park, the trial judge, expressing his profound regret over what had happened, but maintained that his conduct of the trial was above criticism. A view not shared by a number of legal commentators and, eventually, politicians.
Anthony Beaumont-Dark, a Conservative MP said, “This must be the worst miscarriage of justice of all time” and, like many others, demanded a full, independent and wide ranging inquiry into the actions of the police and prosecutors that led to the conviction. Instead, the public were treated to a police investigating police enquiry, undertaken by Lancashire Constabulary.
The Ronald Castrree investigation and conviction
Fifteen years after Stefan was vindicated and released, justice was finally done for the victim’s family.
Ronald Charles Edward Castree (pictured above), who was living in Shaw, near Oldham at the time, was eventually caught after he gave a biometric sample in connection with an allegation of sexually assaulting a prostitute in a hotel room in October, 2005.
No action was taken over that complaint, due to what was considered to be doubts about the reliability of the witness, but the DNA provided a perfect match with semen found on Lesley Molseed’s knickers. He was arrested and charged one month later.
He was never a suspect in the original Molseed investigation.
From the 1980’s he had been a comic book dealer, firstly as a market stall holder then, latterly, running a business called Arcadia Comics in Old Street, Ashton-under-Lyne which was a magnet for young children. Some of whom he shamelessly groomed, particularly those he classed as backward or vulnerable. He also had a sideline in under the counter pornography. All this took place within a half mile of the town’s police station. A second Arcadia shop was located in Rochdale.
In 2002, he vacated the Arcadia shop premises and left a trail of unpaid bills behind him. His first wife, Beverley, to whom he was routinely unfaithful, often with prostitutes, and he abused both physically and mentally, had divorced him in 1997.
Two years earlier, came the launch of the world’s first DNA database by the Home Office’s Forensic Science Service (FSS). Soon after came the innovative and highly sensitive DNA profiling technique called LCN (low copy number). It was that technique that, fortuitously, led the police to Castree.
In November 2000, they had been able to compile a DNA profile of the Lesley’s murderer from two pieces of Sellotape. Peter Guise, a FSS scientist working on the case at the Wetherby laboratory in 1975, had used a hand roller to apply the sticky surface across her stained skirt and knickers and, in doing so, acquired enough material for a DNA profile to be, eventually, produced.
By this time, indeed some years earlier, in 1985, Lesley’s heavily bloodstained clothing had been destroyed, unfortunately depriving scientists of further opportunities to uncover other, potentially vital, evidence from subsequent analysis.
A surprising element of the Castree trial, in which Julian Goose QC (now a High Court judge) prosecuted, featured Ronald Outteridge whose stated, and quite correct, view in these later proceedings was ‘that it could not be proved that someone who matched the DNA taken from the child’s clothes necessarily murdered her’.
By contrast, it was always the prosecution case at the Kiszko trial in 1976 that the murderer had left this forensic evidence at the scene of the murder. Underpinned, of course, by Stefan’s purported confession. But Mr Outteridge advanced his later hypothesis at the second trial when he, effectively, gave expert evidence that favoured the defence team. The fact that he had appeared as a defendant, in a perverting the course of justice trial over matters relating to the same murder, appeared to pass without any commentary.
Nevertheless, he came off clear second best during examination of his witness statement, and re-examination of his oral evidence, by Mr Goose.
The sexually deviant Castree was found by the jury at Bradford Crown Court to have lured Lesley into his taxi before sexually assaulting her, stabbing her 12 times and leaving her for dead high up on the moors. The 10-2 majority verdict was the same margin by which Stefan Kiszko had been convicted in Leeds Crown Court twenty-one years earlier.
Ronald Castree had a previous ‘similar fact’ 1976 conviction for abducting, in the very street where Stefan Kiszko had lived, and a young female, 9 years old, and performing a sex act in front of her. He also had a conviction, in 1978, for sexually assaulting a 7 year old boy. The abduction of that child being close to where Lesley had been taken, but no alarm bells rang in the minds of the local police.
Both, extraordinarily, dealt with summarily before magistrates, rather than a committal to Crown Court. Particularly in respect of the second offence. In the 1970’s, he had worked as a part-time taxi driver and used the London Black Cab style vehicle to lure his victims to their respective fates.
In each of those cases, the punishment he received was a fine that was less than one often handed down to a speeding motorist in the same court: Castree’s wealthy father, also a paedophile, was a close friend of, and donor to, Cyril Smith and it is said, by by one of the former’s sons, that Smith not only assisted in getting Castree off lightly for those offences over which he was prosecuted, other offending went completely unpunished following the intervention of the local MP and, allegedly, his friends in the local police force which, of course, in that era included the prosecuting service amongst its civilian ranks.
At the time of Lesley’s abduction and murder, he had lived less than a mile away on the same Turf Hill Estate in Rochdale as the Molseed family.
Despite DNA evidence that established there was a billion-to-one chance that Castree was not the killer, he continued to protest his innocence after he was sentenced. “I didn’t do it” he shouted out, as he was led down the steps to the cells beneath the dock.
Liverpool-based Mr Justice Openshaw (also twice Recorder of Preston) told him:
“You approached her, you would have no difficulty in luring her away for she was trusting…You repeatedly stabbed her. You left her for dead, drove back to Rochdale and carried on with the rest of your life as if nothing had happened…it was a pretence you kept up for years…You then kept quiet while an entirely innocent man was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced for her murder. He served 16 years before his conviction was set aside, living only a couple of years after his release. I am surely entitled to take into account not only the effect on Mr Kizsko’s family, but also the effect on the family of your victim. They have had to endure long years of uncertainty, and after his release come to terms with the knowledge that the guilty man was still at large. I have no doubt that the memory of this dreadful murder is and always will be a burden they must endure for the rest of their lives”.
As Sir Peter Openshaw DL, he sat as the judge in the conjoined Hillsborough criminal trials, R v Duckenfield and R v Mackrell, at Preston Crown Court between January 2018 and April 2019, and the R v Duckenfield re-trial which concluded in November, 2019. He was the subject of fierce criticism from Hillsborough campaigners after David Duckenfield, the South Yorkshire Police Match Commander on the day of the Disaster, was cleared by the jury.
Outside Bradford Crown Court, April Garrett said: “I’m just so relieved justice has been done for Lesley. I’ll never get over her death, but I think I can begin to accept it a little more. She is at peace now.”
One of Stefan’s last remaining relative in this country, Ann Kiszko, his father’s sister-in-law, was more forthright: “The poor family of Lesley Molseed suffered 32 years before finally getting justice, while Stefan spent the best years of his life in prison.
“He has ruined a lot of lives. If you are capable of doing such a despicable act then you just don’t stop.”
Castree innocence campaign
Justice campaigners continue to protest Ronald Castree’s innocence saying he was the second person fitted up for Lesley Molseed’s murder by West Yorkshire Police. But I have, so far, not been given sight of any materials that support their campaign and there is little, if anything, of substance in the public domain.
One of the grounds appears to be that, at the Castree trial, it was said that Lesley’s knickers had been pulled down whilst he masturbated and then returned to their normal position. Which, apparently, explains the presence of Castree’s DNA inside the knickers, but this movement of the little girl’s underwear had never been part of any evidence advanced by the police, or prosecutors, previously.
Another ground mentioned by those campaigning for Castree concerns the provenance of the DNA sample, LCN has proved controversial in other jurisdictions, and the fact that no counterpart sample was provided to the defence team for independent checking.
Castree’s appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division in July, 2008, although the judgment appears to have gone unreported on BAILII.
Whilst writing to his eldest natural son, Nick Castree, in October 2013, seeking reconciliation and inviting a prison visit, Ronald Castree said that it had taken six years for the case file, containing only the used materials at trial, to be disclosed to him (read here). The schedule of unused material (MG6c) was still absent.
Nick, in his harrowing but enlightening, book, ‘Did You Never Suspect‘, published in 2017, is absolutely adamant that his permanently abusive, violent, sexually deviant father with a well known predilection for very young and/or vulnerable older schoolgirls, was, quite correctly, found guilty and sentenced appropriately.
At the other end of the guilt spectrum, in 1997, a book written by Jonathan Rose, now a circuit judge based at Bradford Crown Court, journalist Steve Panter and retired WYP detective, Trevor Wilkinson named a Todmorden man, Raymond Hewlett as the likely murderer of Lesley Molseed. Hewlett was interviewed by GMP detectives in February, 1992, shortly after the successful Kiszko appeal, but there was insufficient evidence to proceed, they said at the time. Hewlett, a determined and persistent paedophile, was serving a six-year prison sentence for a sexual offence committed in 1988, at the time of that new GMP investigation.
In a highly forensic account, the book provides significant background detail and witness statements. The book also identified a previously unknown link between Hewlett’s family and friends of the Molseed family. He had, more crucially, been convicted in the 1970s, of a number of offences including sex attacks on young girls. He had targeted child victims several times, and in 1972 used paint thinner to knock-out a young girl he had abducted, taking her to Widdop Moor between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, where he tried to rape her. In 1978 Hewlett attempted to sexually assault another girl in her Todmorden home.
In a curious twist of fate, after Campbell Malone had petitioned the Home Office, original Molseed case notes were found in a locked room at a police station in Todmorden, barely 200 yards from Mr Malone’s home. They led, ultimately, to the crucial evidence which showed that Stefan Kiszko was unable to produce sperm and, therefore, could not be the killer as the prosecution’s case was put, in terms, that whoever stained Lesley’s skirt and knickers was the murderer.
In 2002, when Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean was leading the new investigation into the Molseed murder, he reported that he was confident he would find Raymond Hewlett, who remained the prime suspect at that time. His Morris 1000 van, according to one witness, had been seen in the lay-by below which Lesley’s body had been found. It was said it had a tartan blanket over the windscreen and side windows.
Hewlett was a drifter, at the time busking his way across the sunnier spots of Europe and North Africa. He was later captured and interviewed by police over the Molseed murder but released after a no reply interview through lack of evidence.
In 2009, Hewlett was, it is said, still being investigated by Max McLean, who travelled to Aachen in Germany to see him, over an attack almost 35 years previously: “West Yorkshire Police are also investigating his possible involvement with an indecent assault in 1975.”
As Castree continues to proclaim his innocence, it should be borne in mind that his defence counsel, Rodney Jameson QC (since 2012 a circuit judge based at Leeds Combined Court Centre), told the jury at Bradford Crown Court that there was “an overwhelming possibility” that the man who sexually assaulted Lesley and stabbed her 12 times was Hewlett.
There is controversy over the proposition advanced by some of Castree’s campaigners that his DNA was planted by police on the piece of tape used to convict him. Lesley’s clothing had been destroyed by the Forensic Science Services in 1985.
Extraordinary, particularly when one considers the vociferous, and persistent, campaign mounted by Stefan’s mother and aunt over his wrongful conviction.
Will there be other miscarriages of justice in West Yorkshire?
Could a case as shocking as the Stefan Kiszko fiasco happen today? I say, emphatically, ‘yes’. Because you have the same West Yorkshire Police force completely enamoured with its own sense of invincibility.
The man who helped to prove Stefan’s innocence, and who acted as his mother’s staunch ally, believed at the time that there was just as much danger of ignoring equally egregious miscarriages of justice. “In the current climate more miscarriages will take place,” said Campbell Malone. “It is nonsense to suggest miscarriages of justice are less likely to happen now. We are more at risk – the climate is just as bad as it was in the 1970s when you had all the Irish cases (including Judith Ward featured here). I am profoundly gloomy about the situation.”
Mr Malone accepted that changes in the law through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) had removed some of the dangers. Stefan Kiszko was, for instance, initially questioned without a lawyer and made his confession after being told by West Yorkshire Police detectives that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home. Under PACE both those events would now be unlawful.
The bad news here is that West Yorkshire Police treat PACE with almost complete disdain. In almost every misconduct case I examine, that features one of their officers, breaches of PACE are blatant and manifest. But, for context, those cases are often flowing from complaints on that very issue.
It is hoped, with Danny Major’s case still being wrestled over by the Criminal Case Review Commission and, possibly, headed back to the Court of Appeal, that it will give people the opportunity to think about the wide scale misery that can be caused by concealing the truth about such cases – and remind people that the real perpetrator can be free to carry out other offences.
The relentless drive by West Yorkshire Police (and aided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission) to keep their star witness, against Danny Major, ‘clean’ allowed PC Kevin Liston free licence to go and out and commit a sustained and appalling string of sex, drug and violence offences.
Since the Birmingham-based CCRC opened its doors in 1997, it has received 10,288 applications for cases to be reviewed. Of these, 376 were referred back to the court of appeal and 241 convictions were quashed.
Anecdotally, the CCRC presents a higher evidential hurdle than the Court of Appeal to which it refers those cases it deems have sufficient merit. It is an area of our judicial system which many believe requires urgent review and a much a higher level of funding to reduce the interminable delays.
Some applicants have waited ten years before their cases were referred to the law lords. It is now 12 years since the Major family filed their first application with the CCRC and 8 years since an outside police force was appointed to investigate the miscarriage of justice.
That can’t be right, surely?
Tragedy was to visit a family, that had suffered unutterable sadness at the death of their beloved ‘Lel’, for a second time in March, 2005. Her youngest brother, Freddie, a year older at the time of her death, and after thirty years of unremitting grief, took his own life at his family home in Rochdale in a dark state of depression. He was married, and left behind a wife and three children.
The Coroner heard, at the subsequent inquest, that he was deeply affected by the loss of his sister. Freddie blamed himself for her murder, as it was his turn to go to the shops for his mother on that fateful Sunday lunchtime, but he was busy practicing with a football. Lesley ran the errand for him, instead, and the family were never to see her again. Her purse and her mother’s blue linen shopping bag were found near her body three days later. She never made it to the local store.
Her mother, April Garrett passed away in March, 2014. Having lived the latter part of her life as a virtual recluse in a remote moorland village. She is survived by Lesley’s two sisters Julie and Laura.
In a 2010 television interview April said: “When Lesley died, I died a kind of death. It just completely and utterly killed every emotion that I had. And I’m still the same today.”
A plight not in any way assisted by the institutionalised corruption and rank incompetence of both the police forces in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
Page last updated at 0625hrs on Friday 19th November, 2021.
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Photo credits: West Yorkshire Police, Ray Bradbury.
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