Information rights ‘watchdog’ vexed by recent Tribunal findings

However, very recently the tide may well have turned back in favour of requesters, and the information rights ‘watchdog’ put back on its leash.
Two First Tier Tribunal appeals, decided within two months of one another, both resulted in ICO Decision Notices, upholding section 14 exemptions, being overturned (the legal terminology is ‘disturbed’).
The first, Paul Arnold -v- ICO and Department of Business and Energy (EA/2018/0061) was heard before Judge Stephen Cragg QC [1] and two lay panel members in July 2018.
The second, Roger Good -v- ICO and Sedgemoor District Council (EA/2017/0228) was heard before Judge Brian Kennedy QC [2] and, by a quirk of fate, the same two lay panel members as heard the Arnold appeal.
In the Arnold appeal the key parts of the judgment are set out here:
[22] In this case we are of the view that the Commissioner has wrongly labelled the Appellant’s request of 22 June 2016 as vexatious. We should say first of all that it may well be that the Appellant has been overly persistent over the years, that it may well be that continuing to try to persuade the Department to take action is now futile, and it is certainly the case that there have been occasions when the Appellant has used aggressive and abusive language to which officials should not be subjected.
[23] Additionally, we accept that it is right to look at the current request in the context of the almost 20 years of correspondence and contact (including a number of FOIA requests) which the Appellant has generated.
[24] But we do remind ourselves that we have to take all the circumstances surrounding the request into account, and that having done so we have to find that it is the request (and not the requester) that is vexatious.
[27] We should emphasise that our decision is based on the particular nature and circumstances of this request. Our decision does not mean that the Department would be necessarily be unsuccessful in relying on s14 FOIA if further requests are made by the Appellant in pursuing the issues which are important to him. As the case-law set out above demonstrates, the decision on each FOIA request has to take all the circumstances in relation to that particular request into account, when considering whether it is vexatious.
In the Good appeal these are identified as the key passages in Judge Kennedy’s findings:

[27] The Tribunal was provided with correspondence sent to the Commissioner, in which the Council laid out it’s reasoning as to why it considered the request to be vexatious. In it the Council confirmed that it had not sought clarification about the scope of the request, nor conducted any investigations into whether it was a repeat request. It explained that the Appellant had previously been warned that further requests for information would be considered vexatious, and the request itself appeared to be a ‘fishing’ expedition designed to damage the Council.

[28] A letter from the public authority dated 7 July 2017 was effectively a pre-warning that any further request would be regarded as vexatious and pre-empted the necessary assessment of the request.

[29] The Tribunal notes that there was no attempt by the Council to establish whether this was actually a repeat request. Page 96 of the Bundle before us demonstrates there was no reasoning to establish this is a repeat request. In fact, on the evidence before us, the Tribunal believes that the subject request is a fresh request.

[30] We do not concur with the Commissioner’s assertion that this request has no value. In fact we find it is a request that has value and on a specific subject which, on the evidence before us, has not been the subject of a previous request.

[31] The Tribunal accepts the request has value because the subject is correspondence relating to a specific planning application. We have heard the Appellants personally explain the detail and we are persuaded there is value to this request. He refers to information provided by the LGO to the Appellant at page 581 of the Bundle before us, which appears to reveal that specific instructions to delay the process of investigating the breach of planning control leading ultimately to the grant of permission were given by a planning officer at the Council. It appears this information was not supplied by LGO with the letter that is at page 130 of the Bundle before us. The Council did not provide it to the Appellant. It may provide information that would support a complaint, justify litigation or even end the need for further requests from the Appellant, or others in the circumstances of this subject matter.

[32] It is in the public interest that any possible fault on the part of the public authority in dealing with this planning issue is fully explored. Even though the decision in Dransfield suggests that an authority does not need to consider every part of a request in certain circumstances, we find that this case is not such as would fall into that category. On the evidence before us we do not accept that the request was “manifestly unreasonable”.

It should be noted that First Tier Tribunal judgments are not binding authorities, but the fact that, in these particular cases, the two judges were widely experienced, very highly rated QC’s will, no doubt, raise eyebrows at the ICO, and in public authorities up and down the country.

Journalists, seen as very much ‘the enemy‘ in my own specialist field of challenging policing bodies, can also take heart from these judgments – and live in hope that a more balanced view will be taken by the watchdog when assessing complaints against public authorities that have simply resorted to a ‘vexatious‘ label as a means to avoid deeper scrutiny of malpractice and wasteful use of public funds.

The only public body to label me ‘vexatious‘ – the joint Civil Disclosure Unit of North Yorkshire Police and its Police Commissioner – face me at a Tribunal hearing early next next year. On advice from my barrister, I was quietly confident of overturning the ICO’s Decision Notice before these latest Tribunal findings. Now that confidence has grown further.

I defeated the same Civil Disclosure Unit at a Tribunal hearing in September, 2017 (EA/2017/0076). But that concerned a section 40 exemption, not section 14. Heard before David Farrer QC and two lay panel members at Barnsley Magistrates Court, Elizabeth Kelsey of counsel represented the ICO and Alex Ustych appeared for the North Yorkshire Police Commissioner (NYPCC).

I have also succeeded against NYPCC in a county court claim over data protection breaches.

Page last updated Wednesday 24th September, 2018 at 2120hrs

[1] Stephen Cragg QC. Doughty Street Chambers bio:

[2] Brian Kennedy QC. 4 KBW Chambers bio:

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2018. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

David Oluwale: A scandal that stains the history of the grand old city of Leeds

Remember Oluwale

This is an updated version of a piece I first wrote in 2013 for the uPSD police whistleblower website.

A condensed version also featured on the widely acclaimed Justice Gap website in 2014, during the period when I assisted fellow journalist and justice campaigner, Jon Robins, in research for his book about the appalling Tony Stock miscarriage of justice. One of a number of common threads being outrageous misconduct by the notorious Leeds City Police.

The story of David Oluwale is a compelling one with many twists, turns and surprising links to other people, and places, that have formed the subjects of some of my other investigations into police misconduct. But Oluwale is best known as one of the biggest stains on the history of the grand old city of Leeds and a significant, indelible black mark on the police service in Yorkshire – and beyond.

Oluwale’s death in 1969 was the first known incident of racist policing leading to the death of a black person. It is also the only time in contemporary British history that police officers involved in brutality that directly, or indirectly, led to the death of a suspect have received criminal sentences.

Oluwale, whose nickname locally was “Uggy”, cut a familiar figure in Leeds city centre in the 1960s. A black man, short (5′ 5″) in stature, shuffling around Kirkgate Market, close to where the ‘new’ Millgarth Police Station stood.

Regular drinkers at nearby The Market Tavern – a legendary pub known locally as ‘The Madhouse’ – knew him as a solitary person, lost in his daydreams and his usual pint of popular local brew, Tetley’s Mild. At night, he buried himself in shop doorways, steering clear of the places favoured by most other street dwellers.

When his bruised and beaten body was pulled from the River Aire by police frogman Ian Hastie and two officers from Gipton police station, PC’s Albert Sedman and Steve Hall, on 4th May 1969, he had not been missed and no questions had been asked concerning his disappearance.

Even questions that should have been asked by Superintendent Michael Wilson and Chief Inspector Len Bradley, who attended the scene by the river at Knostrop, were brushed over. Particularly about the bruises on Oluwale’s head and arms. No photographs were taken of the body. Clothes that should have been retained for forensic purposes were incinerated. It is reported that PC Hall, to his credit, wanted CID called in but was overruled by Wilson.

The only mourners at the pauper’s grave, in which nine others were buried alongside David Oluwale, were the undertakers who had stuffed his coffin with discarded telephone directories and the gravediggers who would also assist in the exhumation of his body two years later.

Another Leeds police officer to emerge with credit was PC Dave Stanton (later invalided out of the force as a detective sergeant). He would stop on his rounds and check if Oluwale was okay, then try to direct him to shelter. I’ve met Dave Stanton through his campaigning for injured on duty police pensioners – and spoken to him on the phone a number of  times – but he didn’t tell me of his kindness to a man rejected by virtually everyone else in Leeds. His modesty was not lost on me and strengthened my faith in good coppers who don’t stop helping others, both during service and long after retirement.

Oluwale, a Yoruban by origin and educated at a Christian grammar school, was almost 20 years old when he came from Nigeria in August 1949, stowing away on a cargo ship, the Temple Bar, carrying groundnuts from Lagos to Kingston-upon-Hull. At least two others had stowed away with Oluwale on that same voyage. One of whom was known to have been Johnny Omaghomi.

Another vessel, the MV Apapa, also left the port of Lagos that day in 1949 with, amongst it’s official passengers, the first ever Nigerian national football team to visit these shores. They played, incredibly, throughout their tour of England, in stockinged feet.

David left behind his doting mother, Alice, and a work-scarce, poverty-stricken British colony, in the hope of a better future in the ‘Mother Country’. Instead, half of his 20 years in England was spent on the secure ward of a mental hospital and he soon became familiar with the inside of the notorious Armley prison. Starting with his capture after docking at Hull, following which he (and Omaghomi) was sentenced to 28 days in jail for breaching maritime regulations (by not buying a ticket).

The long-serving magistrate at the old Hull police court, Mr J H Tarbitten JP, told Oluwale that he “would have been better off staying home (in Nigeria) digging groundnuts“.

After his release from Northallerton jail, where he had ended the short sentence, he made his way back to Leeds and a new life in the city hoping, eventually, to study engineering. He got a job, after short spells working for local tailors, at West Yorkshire Foundries in Clarence Road, Hunslet, just south of the river in which he was to later perish. At work, he was noted for reading “educated” newspapers such as The Times. Some reports say that, after a short time, he married a Sheffield woman, Gladys, and they had two children.

In 1953, Oluwale was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on constable following what was believed to be an incident over the price of a cup of tea in a city centre hotel, The King Edward. He subsequently served a two month jail sentence. In prison it was reported he suffered from hallucinations, possibly because of damage sustained from a blow from a police truncheon during arrest. He was then labelled schizophrenic and transferred to the Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Menston near Otley (now called High Royds Hospital), where he spent the next eight years.

Whilst at Menston he was treated with a variety of medical techniques, including the ‘liquid cosh’ Largactil, and electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Hospital records were destroyed in a flood, but staff working at the institution have said that ECT left Oluwale confused and disorientated for much of the time, and he was often found asleep under radiators.

After his release Oluwale was unable to hold down a job and a permanent residence, and soon became homeless. The relationship with Gladys had broken down and friends reported that he was a shadow of his former self, and had lost all his trademark ‘Yankee’ swagger. As a black man in a still overtly-racist Britain, his choices of lodging and employment were also limited. During this time he regularly moved between London, Sheffield and Leeds but always gravitated back to his adopted home city.

But he soon found himself in regular trouble with the Leeds police again, and accused them of harassing him. In late 1965 he was returned to High Royds Hospital, where he spent another mind-numbing two years in the asylum.

Following his release, he was once again forced to live on the street. He was the only homeless black man in the entire city and it raises the wider context of Oluwale’s story, and that of the city of Leeds, as virtually all immigrants (including Irish) at the time faced a slammed door when searching for accommodation or hostel sanctuary, and a “colour bar” in various pubs around Leeds.

menston asylum 1910 admin bigg best sm

Another Nigerian stowaway, John Otse, who was only 12 years old when he left his homeland, knew Oluwale through good times and bad. He was very fond of ‘Yankee’, a nickname given to Oluwale because of his passion for Western movies, his swaggering walk and trousers with his trademark twin pockets to the rear. Otse remembers him as a sharp dresser who frequented the fashionable Mecca Locarno ballroom, managed at the time by none other than  Jimmy Savile. Who, quite apart from his infamy as a rapist and child abuser, was known to tie up clubbers in the Mecca boilerhouse and subject ‘miscreants’ in his dance hall to punishment beatings. There are, however, no records or verbal accounts of Oluwale being such a victim.

David Oluwale was frustrated with his life in Leeds, his menial jobs and shabby lodgings. “He talked of going to night school to improve his writing, but he was more interested in partying.” says Otse. He just didn’t submit to the subservient role then expected of black people. He hated being pushed around and over-reacted to situations where others might have walked away. That chippiness and impatience for success did also, undoubtedly, contribute to Oluwale’s own difficulties.

His friend, Otse, lost touch with Oluwale when he was first sent to High Royds and that was, undoubtedly, a brutalising experience. He did not receive a single visitor there in ten years of incarceration. When Otse next saw Oluwale in Leeds he was in a sad way. “He’d started to disintegrate. Even his English had deteriorated. He tried hard to look decent but struggled to keep himself clean.”

Otse tried, but failed, to get Oluwale back on his feet. Most of his other West African friends had disowned him. “The blame should rest squarely on us as well, because we didn’t do what we should have done for him, all living in a foreign country,” Otse says, candidly if a little harshly, of the city’s small Nigerian community. “If we had only got ourselves together we could have been able to save Oluwale’s life.”

In 1968, to add to Oluwale’s thoroughly miserable existence, he became the target of a sustained and violent campaign of physical and mental cruelty. His principal tormenters were two  officers based at Millgarth police station, housing some of the worst of the ‘punch first, ask questions later’ Leeds City Police. Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and ruthless ‘hardman’ Sergeant Kenneth Kitching took perverse pleasure in making Oluwale’s life a misery. Once the doors of Leeds bars and clubs were shut (the front ones at least) they went looking for him, tormenting and humiliating him.

After one particular incident in September 1968, during which Ellerker alleged David had bitten him, the Inspector promised to get revenge. The two out-of-control police officers forced him to bow down in front of them and then banged his head on the pavement. They called this his ‘penance’. Kitching was also seen urinating on Oluwale in the doorway of a Headrow shop called the Bridal House, as Ellerker shone his torch on him. The witness was another Millgarth police officer, Cyril Batty. The police persecutors even once assaulted him by kicking him repeatedly in the genitals and then drove him to the city limits and dumped him at Middleton Woods at 3.30am, joking afterwards that he would ‘feel at home in the jungle’.

At the subsequent criminal trial of Ellerker and Kitching, PC Batty said he didn’t report what he had seen on The Headrow ‘in order to protect his career’. Which is as good a commentary as you will get on the warped values of the officers at the heart of the Leeds City Police.

Another experienced officer, radio operator PC Ken Bennett, with almost 20 years service, and Sgt Dougie Carter were other Millgarth men who knew of the abusive treatment of Oluwale and chose to remain silent. Sadly, that type of tribalism, and mis-placed loyalty, still exists in the Leeds Division of West Yorkshire Police today.

A few weeks before his death, Oluwale had told his probation officer that he wanted to return to Nigeria. The police harassment had almost broken him. In the early hours of 18th April 1969, just a week after the very last time he was released from a prison cell, he was beaten with truncheons in the doorway of John Peters Furniture store in Lands Lane, Leeds (now a Miss Selfridge outlet). The store was just off The Headrow, then Leeds’ main shopping thoroughfare. Oluwale fled for his life down Lands Lane towards Leeds Bridge screaming and holding the back of his head.

A local petty criminal later came forward to say that he had been on the parapet of the ornate, green-painted Leeds Bridge and saw two uniformed police officers “silver buttons and cap and helmet badges clearly visible” inflict a terrible beating on a smaller, dark man and then kick him into the river after they had smashed him unconscious. The witness added: “I recall saying to myself ‘jump in and swim for it’, as the blows rained down on him, but he just took it all before going down.”

Another witness, a Leeds City Transport bus conductor, told the police inquiry that he had seen, from a distance, two police officers chasing someone towards the same section of the River Aire from which David’s body was pulled two weeks later. George Merrion, a local postman, had seen a police vehicle parked on an alleyway off Call Lane facing the river at the material time.


In 1970 a young Leeds City Police cadet Gavin Galvin, reported first to ‘old hand’ SOCO officer Detective Sergeant Jock McLeod and then a senior officer, believed to be Inspector John Puddefoot (a former British Colonial Police officer in Rhodesia who received a BEM for gallantry whilst serving with South Wales Police), that he’d heard police station gossip from colleagues about the horrendous treatment Kitching and Ellerker had meted out to Oluwale.

This report may have been prompted by perverting the course of justice charges that were ongoing against Ellerker. This was ‘The Big Red scandal’ and concerned the death of an elderly woman, Minnie Wein, struck by the drunk driver of an unmarked police car on a pedestrian crossing near the Skyrack pub in Headingley. Ellerker was later found guilty, sentenced to nine months in prison and dismissed from Leeds City Police. The driver was alleged to be Superintendent Derek Holmes.

An enquiry was launched following the Oluwale intelligence provided by Galvin and McLeod, carried out by the Metropolitan Police, and sufficient evidence was gathered to prompt manslaughter, perjury and grevious bodily harm (GBH) charges being brought against Kitching and Ellerker.

During the Scotland Yard enquiry, led by dour, dogged, determined Detective Chief Superintendent John Perkins and his more affable ‘bagman’ Detective Sergeant Basil Haddrell, and at the subsequent trial in November 1971, a catalogue of sustained physical abuse came to light, mostly carried out by Kitching and Ellerker.

The meticulous ‘Polly’ Perkins was obsessive in his pursuit for justice and was the first person in authority, even though he never knew David Oluwale, who related to him as a person, rather than a problem, in the city of Leeds. It was Perkins’ investigations that revealed Kitching and Ellerker had taken special interest in Oluwale and asked colleagues to let them personally handle incidents relating to him. They specifically targeted him in the early hours of the morning, when there was nobody about and he could usually be found sleeping in shop doorways.

Kitching, in his first interview with the Scotland Yard detectives, made comments such as: ‘I have put him out of doorways and kicked his behind’, ‘tickled him with my boot’, ‘never hit him really hard’, ‘kicked him gently’, ‘just a slap’, ‘booted his backside out of it’, and described David Oluwale as ‘a wild animal, not a human being’. He never denied being rough with Oluwale.

Ellerker, already convicted of perverting the course of justice on what he claimed was rumour and hearsay, refused to co-operate with the Perkins inquiry. He also conveniently lost his duty book covering the night when Oluwale was believed to have ended up in the river.

The enquiry also found that racist terms were used on paperwork relating to Oluwale, such as scribbling “wog” in the space reserved for nationality on charge sheets. However, despite this, the trial made no mention of racism and was centred around police brutality.

Several trial witnesses described Oluwale as a dangerous man, and the trial judge said: “I would have thought that had been established a thousand times. It is accepted on all hands that he was dirty, filthy, violent vagrant“.

However, this extraordinary and partial pronouncement is contrary to the statements of witnesses collected during the earlier enquiry, who described Oluwale as unassuming – and even cheerful. One of these witnesses was Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Tony Harney who gave a heartfelt account completely at odds with the picture painted by the police and prosecutors.

However, their statements were not featured in the trial. It was later alleged that Judge Hinchliffe was a member of the same Masonic Lodge as Ellerker and that the judge, a short stocky septuganarian, had also been seen as a passenger alighting from the car that had killed the old lady outside the pub in Headingley on Christmas Eve, 1969. It was suggested that Hinchliffe was swiftly removed from the scene by another police car and continued his journey to Castle Grove Masonic Hall at Far Headingley.

Coincidentally, Mr Justice Hinchliffe had tried Tony Stock in the same Leeds Assizes courtroom seventeen months earlier. By a another curious coincidence, Harry Ognall was junior defence counsel at both trials, appearing behind the legendary Gilbert Gray QC, for Kitching.

Ellerker and Kitching were jailed for a series of assaults on Oluwale at the old Leeds Assizes, but found not guilty of manslaughter at the direction of Judge Hinchcliffe, who concluded that there was no evidence to place them at the alleged scene of the crime, by the river at Warehouse Hill. Ellerker was sentenced to three years in prison, and Kitching received 27 months. Throughout the trial, Judge Hinchliffe, the most powerful judge on the North-Eastern circuit at the time, could neither conceal his distate for the victim or his disappointment that two serving police officers were up before him.

Those two officers, the heavy-drinking Ellerker and Kitching, maintained an arrogant attitude throughout Court proceedings on the premise that Oluwale was a vagrant and they were entitled to move him on using whatever force they deemed necessary.

One of the prosecuting counsel, Donald Herrod, wrote afterwards that the other police witnesses gave a sorry impression, that the full truth was not being told and that there was a scarcely-concealed conspiracy to protect the two officers on trial. He singled out Sgt Frank Atkinson as ‘a thoroughly unimpressive witness’ and PC Keith Seager as ‘reluctant throughout’. Seager was the third officer often seen with the other two assaulting Oluwale and the driver on the ‘trips’ when Oluwale was deliberately dumped far from Leeds city centre.

Beyond that appalling disposition before and at Court, neither Ellerker nor Kitchen admitted to making the racist alterations to the charge sheets and, at a subsequent internal police inquiry, no other officer admitted any knowledge of the those deeply offensive amendments . Kitching, who worked in a cloth warehouse in Leeds after his release from prison, is now dead and Ellerker, represented by Basil Wigoder QC and his junior, Arthur Myerson, has consistently refused to comment to anyone publicly on his role in the hounding of David Oluwale.

At the time of the Oluwale tragedy, there were several other scandals involving Leeds City Police which almost led to the Home Secretary of the day, Reginald Maudling, taking over the running of the force. It merged three years later with Bradford Police and West Yorkshire Constabulary (which had come into being after the four ‘Borough’ forces had merged with Wakefield City and West Riding in 1968) to become West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police. The word Metropolitan was dropped from the force’s title in 1986.

Apart from Oluwale’s savage death, the committing of at least two armed robberies by firearms crackshot DCI Roy Caisley was, probably, the worst of the other crimes committed by what came to be regarded as a ‘bandit’ police force. Caisley was arrested by a subordinate and close colleague DC John Stockwell whose brother, Dave, was a star rugby league player of that era and played for the famous Bradford Northern team.

A highly visible nobody in life, Oluwale entered popular culture in the city soon after the trial. His name was chanted enthusiastically at Leeds United’s football ground at Elland Road during that team’s heydays. To the tune of Michael Row The Boat Ashore, the Kop heartily sang: ‘The River Aire is chilly and deep, Ol-u-wale. Never trust the Leeds policeOl-u-wale

The darling of that same Kop for a decade before had been the black South African, skilful and fleet-footed winger, Albert Johannesen. The first black player to play at the highest level of English football. The Johanneson adulation and the antipathy towards the hated local police were probably equal in the motivation of the overt support of Oluwale. There was also a widely held sense amongst the ordinary people of Leeds of deep embarrassment that such indignities, and violence, could have been inflicted on a vulnerable man by two of their policemen, on the most well known of their own city streets. They knew the police had gone too far, had acted illegitimately and targeted a small, helpless, unwell man with no means of defending himself .


Yet there was very little soul-searching amongst the Leeds police in the aftermath of the Oluwale  case. It was easy to blame Oluwale’s fate entirely on ‘two rotten apples’ within the police. But social services also failed Oluwale, shunting him from one department to another. After his long incarceration, High Royds mental hospital released him into the community with scant thought as to how he might cope (a few months after being discharged he bit a park-keeper’s finger, but instead of being returned to hospital was jailed for malicious wounding).

An interesting footnote to the sense of outrage surrounding Judge Hinchliffe’s partiality at the trial of Ellerker and Kitching was the role his son-in-law, Judge David Savill QC, played many years later in the fate of the homeless in Leeds. He spent much of his retirement as a successful fundraiser for The Friends of Leeds and, as twice a former Honorary Recorder of Leeds, gave the charity welcome gravitas. He was also a passionate champion for those who often could not speak up for themselves – and went on to become a patron of  the Church Housing Trust, another charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and resettlement of homeless people.

These activities were an incredible contribution by Judge Savill to the city of Leeds and seen by some as atonement for the Oluwale affair. Interestingly, both Donald Herrod (see above) and David Savill were members of the same barristers’ chambers in Leeds. Judge Savill latterly as Head of Chambers. He sadly passed away in 2011 and was the subject of a fitting Yorkshire Post obituary. Herrod, after taking silk and unsuccessfully defending disgraced architect John Poulson three years after the Oluwale trial, also went on to became a highly respected circuit judge. As did, Arthur Myerson and Donald Herrod. Harry Ognall took Silk in 1973, and was appointed a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division in 1986. He retired in 1999 and, in 2017, published a highly readable book  charting his legal career (more details here).

John Cobb QC who had successfully prosecuted Ellerker and Kitching, also led for the Crown against Poulson.

Although Oluwale’s story caused a national scandal at the time (thanks in part to the radio play ‘Smiling David‘ written by Jeremy Sandford, it had been all but forgotten until police paperwork detailing the case was declassified under the Thirty Year Rule. This was used by Kester Aspden to write the book Nationality:Wog, The Hounding of David Oluwale, published in 2007, which returned the story to the public eye. It won the crime writer’s Golden Dagger award the following year.

A Memorial Garden in Leeds is planned on the likely site of David Olulwale’s death near Leeds Bridge. The David Oluwale Memorial Association (DOMA) is working on the land on Water Lane, in the city centre. There is presently a hold up with the lease for the necessary land,  ASDA plc having gone cold on DOMA after previously being very enthusiastic.

Among those of a younger generation to become fascinated by the case is Mahalia France. She was born in 1976, years after Oluwale’s bloated body was dragged from the river near the sewerage works at Knostrop after being spotted by a group of boys which included Wayne Batley and Martin Thorpe, but as a young girl growing up in the Chapeltown area of Leeds remembers the name being in the background. “Remember Oluwale,” was one bit of graffiti scrawled near the Hayfield Hotel. Ms France is now involved in the memorial campaign as a fundraiser and her hope for a life-affirming urban garden is on the cusp of being realised. “He didn’t ask for much, only a place to live. And who doesn’t deserve that as a human being?” she says.

John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, who has also pledged his support to the campaign, wants to secure that memory as a warning of where racial hatred leads. “It’s important to show how sorry we are that this happened within our own culture,” he said.

Author and former Leeds University crime lecturer Kester Aspden’s book was adapted by Oladipo Agboluaje into a stage play. It was first performed in Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in February 2009 and starred Daniel Francis (pictured below), and theatre critics described it as ‘a richly emotional play which proves its point without coming across like it has a point to prove’. Many of the direct quotes in this article are drawn from Kester’s book.

Agboluaje, whose work is known for its anarchic spirit and subversive humour, said at the time of the play’s first production: “The aim of this adaptation is to discover the man buried beneath the pile of official records. My intention is to paint a human story putting David at its centre. To say that David was an angel whose name has been sullied is incorrect. He was a person, which makes it easy to empathise with his story.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse production of THE HOUNDING OF DAVID OLUWALE adapted from the book by Kester Aspden by Olapido Agboluaje Directed by Dawn Walton

A link to the DOMA website can be found by clicking here. It is a cause well worth supporting as homelessness is still an issue in Leeds, as in most other major cities in the UK, and a high police priority, according to the Leeds City NPT website, is to deal with vagrancy.

A recent Yorkshire Evening Post story also helped raised the profile of the fundraising and memorial project. read more here.

Another David Oluwale tragedy must never be allowed to happen. In Leeds or in any other town or city within our shores.


Page last updated Friday 22nd June, 2019 at 0805hrs

© Neil Wilby 2015-2019. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Picture credits: Yourlocalweb; Wakefield Asylum; DOMA;

The case of Stefan Kiszko and a police force enamoured by its own sense of invincibility

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 BuckleyPamela HindDebbie 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

© Neil Wilby 2015-2016. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credits: uPSD WYP,  The Justice Gap and Manchester Evening News