This is a piece I first wrote for the uPSD website three years ago (2013). It has been updated with some recent developments, particularly relating to the ex-PC Danny Major miscarriage of justice case, in which I have been closely involved:
On the gravestone that marks the burial place of Charlotte Hedwig Kiszko, and her son Stefan (pictured above), the inscription is carved on blackened Pennine rock: “A loving wife and a very devoted mother“. That 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 to prove the innocence of her son. Much in the way that the relatives, and friends, of the many who perished in the Hillsborough Disaster have fought relentlessly for justice – and the parents of Danny Major who have battled for so long to clear their own son’s name after he was fitted up by the police force that faetures centrally in this shocking story.
Stefan Ivan Kiszko was convicted, after a diabolical West Yorkshire Police investigation, of the murder of a frail, 11-year-old Rochdale girl, Lesley Molseed, in 1975. She had been brutally stabbed to death on Rishworth Moor, close to the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. The killer had ejaculated on her underclothes.
The murder probe, and subsequent persistently unlawful, and relentless, three day interrogation of Kiszko, was led by Detective Sergeant John Akeroyd and, later, his boss, Detective Chief Inspector, Dick Holland, both of whom were commended at the subsequent trial.
As was the senior investigating officer, 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 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 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. Holland died in 2007.
The repeated request to have 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. He ultimately “confessed” after being told he could go home to his mother if he did so. He retracted the confession almost immediately. Stefan had attended Rochdale police station voluntarily, and had, in fact, driven himself there in the bronze coloured Hillman Avenger that was his pride and joy. He was not arrested until his third day in custody.
That 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.
Holland was later to achieve notoriety in the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, after which he was demoted following an internal inquiry. He 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, after a similarly brutalising WYP interrogation.
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.
It is over 40 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 highly experienced ‘red’ judge, Sir Hugh Park; and 20 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. His beloved mother, of Slovenian descent, died just a few months later.
Charlotte had buried her husband, the giant Ukrainian-born Iwan Kiszko, 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. His parents had met in migrant accommodation in 1951, married a year later and were a devoted, happy couple. Iwan, a road construction worker had helped build the M62 trans-Pennine motorway that swept past the spot at which Lesley Molseed’s body was foun d 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 Stefan’s “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 jotted down the number of a car seen near the scene of the crime on the Oldham – Halifax A672 road 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.
Also, as a symptom of his medical conditions, Stefan Kiszko would have been physically incapable of producing the the type of sperm that covered Lesley’s knickers, 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. 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 the accused, the description of the girl, and what she was wearing, was uncannily close to Lesley. Helm was a local milkman who admitted inadvertly 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 the crown court, in what was perversely described as ‘similar fact evidence’ to a brutal murder. Had 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. In his summing up, the judge gave a clear direction to the jury that the latter bore no relevance to the murder. It follows, therefore, that an application to exclude it would have succeeded
Thirdly, 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. Stefan was adamant that he had never seen nor touched Lesley Molseed and they were his instructions to Mr Wright and instucted 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.
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 now sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords as Baron Waddington.
Albert Wright had, in fact, initially instructed George Carman QC, the best 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 one day after 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 almost 30 years later.
Taylor is, of course, is now 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 96 lives at the Sheffield Wednesday football stadium, in April, 1989 .
After a month in the notorious Armley Jail, following his conviction, Stefan Kiszko was transferred to the 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’. He suffered a number of assaults during the first five years of incarceration but, after striking back at his assailaint on the fifth occasion he was attacked, the beatings ceased.
Stefan’s mother launched an 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”. 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 being able to pass a sentence that would see those convicted, hanged.
Stefan had insisted that Waddington and Clegg represent him at appeal. The former should, arguably, have returned the brief as he was compromised by the grounds of that appeal.
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, 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 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.
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 sixteen months to refer the matter back to West Yorkshire Police for re-investigation. Detective Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson was asked by his chief constable, Peter Nobes, 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, who discovered that Stefan had strong alibis at the time of the original trial.
On 17 February 1992, a fresh appeal against Stefan Kiszko’s conviction was heard 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.
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.
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 conviction.
Fifteen years after Stefan was vindicated and released, justice was finally done for the victim’s family. Ronald Castree, a comic-book dealer from Oldham (pictured above), was eventually caught after he gave a DNA sample in connection with what is understood to have been a serious sexual assault in 2005. No action was taken over that complaint, but the body sample provided a match with semen found on Lesley Molseed’s underwear. The sexually deviant Castree was found by the jury 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.
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 at Bradford Crown Court. “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 kept quiet whilst an entirely innocent man was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced for this murder. He served 16 years before his conviction was fully set aside, living only a couple of years after his release before he died.”
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.
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 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, 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, 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.
In 1997, a book written by Jonathan Rose, now a judge based at Bradford Crown Court, journalist Steve Panter and retired WYP detective, Trevor Wilkinson named Raymond Hewlett as the likely murderer of Lesley Molseed. In a highly forensic account, it 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.
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.
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 told 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.
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 case I examine, that features one of their officers, breaches of PACE are blatant and manifest.
It is hoped, with Danny Major’s case back in the national newspapers, on network television and, possibly, headed back to the Court of Appeal, that it will give people the opportunity to think about the widescale 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 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 string of sex, drug and violence offences.
Since the Birmingham-based Criminal Case Review Commission 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, uPSD believe, requires urgent review.
Page last updated Tuesday 30th August, 2016 at 1935hrs
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Photo credits: uPSD WYP, The Justice Gap and Manchester Evening News