Murder of Lesley Molseed

Murder of Lesley Molseed

Lesley Susan Molseed (14 August 1964 – 5 October 1975) was an eleven-year old girl from Turf Hill, Rochdale, Greater Manchester, who was murdered on Rishworth Moor in West Yorkshire.

Stefan Ivan Kiszko (24 March 1952 – 23 December 1993), a 23-year-old local tax clerk of Ukrainian/Slovenian parentage, served 16 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of her sexual assault and murder. His ordeal was described by one MP as "the worst miscarriage of justice of all time."[1] Kiszko was released in 1992 after forensic evidence showed that he could not have committed the murder. He died in December 1993. Ronald Castree was eventually found guilty of the crime on 12 November 2007.[2]


Crime and subsequent developments

Lesley Molseed, born Lesley Susan Anderson, was a frail child: small for her age, she had been born with a congenital cardiac condition. She was known as "Lel" to her brother and two sisters. Early in the Sunday afternoon of her murder she had volunteered to go from her home at 11, Delamere Road, to the local shop to buy bread. She was last seen in Stiups Lane, but she never returned. A search around the town and the adjacent M62 area was immediately begun. Lesley's body was found three days later lying on a natural turf shelf 30 ft above a remote layby on the trans-Pennine A672 near Rishworth Moor. She had been stabbed twelve times in the upper shoulder and back. Some of the wounds were very deep and one had penetrated her heart. None of her clothing was disturbed but her body had been posed and killer had ejaculated on her underwear.

At the time of the hunt, four teenage girls, Maxine Buckley, Catherine Burke, Debbie Brown and Pamela Hind, claimed that Kiszko had indecently exposed himself to them the day before the murder. One of them also said he had exposed himself to her a month after the murder, on Bonfire night and that had been stalking her for some time previous to that. West Yorkshire Police quickly formed the view that Kiszko fitted their profile of the sort of person likely to have killed Lesley Molseed even though he had never been in trouble with the law and had no social life beyond his mother and aunt. (His father Ivan had died of a heart attack, in the street, at Kiszko's feet, on 29 September 1970). Kiszko also had an unusual hobby of writing down registration numbers of cars that annoyed him, which supported police suspicions. The police now pursued evidence which might incriminate him, and ignored other leads that might have taken them in other directions.

Acting upon the teenage girls' information and their suspicions of Kiszko's idiosyncratic lifestyle—and having allegedly found girlie magazines and a bag of sweets in his car—the police arrested him on 21 December 1975. During questioning, the interviewing detectives seized upon every apparent inconsistency between his varying accounts of the relevant days as further demonstration of his likely guilt. Kiszko confessed to the crime after three days of intensive questioning. Prior to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984, suspects did not have the right to have a solicitor present during interviews, and the police did not ask Kiszko if he wanted one. His request to have his mother present whilst he was being questioned was refused and, crucially, the police did not caution him until long after they had decided he was the prime – indeed, only – suspect.

After admitting to the murder to police, Kiszko was charged with Molseed's murder on Christmas Eve 1975. When he entered Armley Jail, following his being charged, he was nicknamed "Oliver Laurel" because he had the girth of Oliver Hardy and the perplexed air of Oliver's comedy sidekick Stan Laurel. Later, in the presence of a solicitor, Kiszko retracted his confession.

Kiszko was remanded until his murder trial, which began on 7 July 1976 under Sir Hugh Park. He was defended by David Waddington QC, who later became Home Secretary. The prosecuting QC, Peter Taylor, later became Lord Chief Justice the day after Kiszko was cleared of the murder in 1992. Taylor was most noted for his reports into the Hillsborough Disaster at the Sheffield Wednesday FC football stadium at Hillsborough, Sheffield.

Poor defence

Kiszko's defence team made significant mistakes. Firstly, they did not seek an adjournment when the Crown delivered thousands of pages of additional unused material on the first morning of the trial.

Then there was the inconsistent defence of diminished responsibility which Kiszko never authorised, on the grounds that the testosterone he was receiving for his hypogonadism might have made him behave unusually.[3] Kiszko's endocrinologist, if called, would have said that his treatment could not have caused him to act such a way that would make him carry out murder. He was never called.

The manslaughter claim undermined Kiszko's claims that he was totally innocent and destroyed his alibis (a defence known in legal parlance as 'riding two horses'). In fact, his innocence could have been demonstrated at the trial. The pathologist who examined Molseed's clothes found traces of sperm, whereas the sample taken from Kiszko by the police contained no sperm. There was medical evidence that Kiszko had broken his ankle some months before the murder and, in view of that and his being overweight, he would have found it difficult to scale the slope to the murder spot. The sperm findings were suppressed by the police and never disclosed to the defence team or the jury: neither was the medical evidence of his broken ankle disclosed to the court.

Kiszko gave evidence that in July 1975 he had had become ill and had been admitted to Birch Hill Hospital, where he was given a blood transfusion. In August he was transferred to a Manchester hospital and diagnosed as being anaemic and having a hormone deficiency.[4] He agreed to injections to rectify the latter problems and was discharged in September 1975. He said correctly that he had never met Molseed and therefore could never have murdered her and claimed he was with his Aunt tending to his father's grave in Halifax at the time of the murder before visiting a garden centre and then going home. His denials of murder were not believed by most of the jury, nor were his claims that the confession was bullied out of him by the police. When asked why he had confessed, Kiszko replied that "I started to tell these lies and they seemed to please them and the pressure was off as far as I was concerned. I thought if I admitted what I did to the police they would check out what I had said, find it untrue and would then let me go".[4]

His conviction was secured by a 10-2 majority verdict on 21 July 1976 at Leeds Crown Court after five hours and 35 minutes deliberation. He was given a life sentence for committing Molseed's murder. The judge told praised the three girls, but Buckley in particular, who made the exposure claims for their "bravery and honesty" in giving evidence in court and "sharp observations". Pamela Hind's evidence was read out in court. Park said that Buckley's "Sharp eyes set this train of enquiry into motion". He also praised the police officers involved in the case "..for their great skill in bringing to justice the person responsible for this dreadful crime and their expertise in sifting through masses of material" and said that "I would like all the officers responsible for the result to be specially commended and these observations conveyed to the Chief Constable". DS John Akeroyd and DSupt Holland were singled out for praise.

Sheila Buckley, whose daughter Maxine played a major part in securing Kiszko's conviction, blasted the police for not arresting him earlier and told the Manchester Evening News that "Children are a lot safer now this monster has been put away".[5] She also demanded Kiszko's hanging. Even Albert Wright, Kiszko's solicitor, thought that his client was guilty, but that it was a case of diminished responsibility, and as a result, Kiszko should not have been convicted outright of murder.

Unsuccessful appeal

After a month in Armley prison, Kiszko was transferred to Wakefield Prison and immediately placed on Rule 43 to protect him from other inmates as in the eyes of the law he was now a convicted sex offender. Kiszko launched an appeal, but it was dismissed on 25 May 1978, when Lord Justice Bridge said "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".[4]

Years in prison as a convicted child killer

After his conviction Kiszko was bitterly detested by the majority of inmates, receiving taunts and several death threats, both verbal and written. He was physically attacked four times during the first four and a half years of his sentence. The first time was on 24 August 1976, just after being transferred to Wakefield prison, when he was set upon by six prisoners who punched and kicked him repeatedly, cutting his mouth and injuring his leg. Guards had to pull the prisoners away to prevent further injury. When asked why they did it, the attackers replied that it was for "Lesley and her family". He was then attacked on 11 May 1977 by another inmate, who hit him over the head with a mop handle, leaving Kiszko in need of three stitches to a head wound. The next attack came 19 months later, in December 1978, when he was punched in the face by another prisoner in an unprovoked attack, whilst in the prison chapel. On each occasion, the attacks on Kiszko earned him little sympathy, amongst either other prisoners or guards, because of the crime for which he had been jailed.

In March 1981 he was involved in a fight with another prisoner, when he was punched in an unprovoked attack, but this time Kiszko retaliated, and the two had to be separated by guards. They both were given a loss of privileges for 28 days. Kiszko was never physically attacked again during the remainder of his time in prison as he was better protected and was often in the hospital wing of prisons he was held in. When he wasn't, he was placed among less violent offenders.

From 1979 onwards, Kiszko developed schizophrenia whilst in prison and began to suffer from delusions, one being that he was the victim of a plot to incarcerate an innocent tax-office employee so the effects of imprisonment would be tested on him. Over the next 11 years any of Kiszko's claims of innocence were labelled by prisons he was held in as symptoms of his schizophrenic delusions, or because they felt he was in a mental state of denial over the murder. One forensic psychiatrist in prison made a note of Kiszko suffering from "delusions of innocence".

On 11 November 1981 Kiszko was transferred to Gloucester Prison and in April 1983 was told that he would only ever be eligible for parole if he admitted to having carried out the murder. If he continued to deny being a child killer, then he would spend the rest of his natural life behind bars, but this made no difference to Kiszko's stance. Thirteen months later, while still denying having carried out the murder, he was moved to Bristol Prison. Such was his mental deterioration that a month later, in June 1984, it was recommended by a forensic psychiatrist that he should be moved to either Broadmoor, Park Lane (Liverpool), Rampton, or Ashworth Hospitals, but nothing came of it. Six months later, in December 1984, Kiszko was returned to Wakefield prison.

In August 1987 he was transferred again from Wakefield to Grendon Underwood Prison, where in 1988, the Governor tried to persuade Kiszko to enroll on a sex offenders' treatment programme, in which he would have had to admit having committed the rape and murder. Having done that, he would then discuss what motivated him. Kiszko refused to take part and repeatedly and persistently refused to "address his offending behaviour" on the grounds that he had done nothing that needed addressing. After this, he was left in Grendon Underwood until May 1989, when he was moved back to Wakefield Prison, and finally, on 15 March 1991 Kiszko was transferred to Ashworth Hospital, under Section 47 of the Mental Health Act 1983, after six months of delay, on the grounds of deteriorating mental health.

Case reopened

After eight years of being ignored and stonewalled by both politicians (including Margaret Thatcher) and the legal system, in 1984 Kiszko's mother contacted JUSTICE, the UK human rights organisation which at the time investigated many miscarriages of justice. Three years later, she was also then put in touch with solicitor Campbell Malone, who agreed to take a look at the case when it seemed almost certain that Kiszko would never be released.

Malone consulted Philip Clegg, who had been Waddington's junior at the July 1976 trial. Clegg had expressed his own doubts about the confession and conviction at the time, and over the next two years, Clegg and Malone prepared a petition to the Home Secretary. The draft was finally ready to be sent on 26 October 1989. On the same day, by coincidence, a new Home Secretary was announced: David Waddington. Perhaps due to Waddington's delicate position in the matter, sixteen months passed before a police investigation into the conduct of the original trial began. Waddington resigned as Home Secretary in November 1990 to take up a peerage and to serve as Leader of the House of Lords. He was replaced by Kenneth Baker.

In February 1991 Campbell Malone, with the help of a private detective named Peter Jackson finally urged the Home Office to reopen the case, which was then referred back to the West Yorkshire Police. Detective Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson was assigned to the job. He immediately found several glaring errors. Kiszko's innocence was demonstrated conclusively through medical evidence; he had male hypogonadism, which rendered him infertile, contradicting forensic evidence obtained at the time of the murder. In 1975 his testes had measured 4 to 5 mm, whereas the average male testicular size was 15 to 20 mm. During his research, Jackson found someone who said correctly that Kiszko had been seen with his aunt tending his father's grave. They said they couldn't understand why they hadn't been called to give evidence at the trial. Someone else said he was in a shop around the time of the murder.

Also in February 1991, the three females involved in the court trial admitted that the evidence they gave which led to Kiszko's arrest and conviction was false, and that they had lied for "a laugh" and because "At the time it was funny". Burke said she wished she hadn't said anything but refused to apologise, saying she didn't think it would have gone as far as it did. Buckley said it wasn't Kiszko who had exposed himself to her and hadn't been stalking them, but that they had seen a taxi driver (not Ronald Castree) urinating behind a bush on the day of Molseed's murder. She also refused to apologise. Brown refused to make a statement. Hind was the most remorseful of the four, and said what they did was "Foolish but we were young" and had she appeared in court, she would have told the truth about Kiszko and not perjured herself, unlike her friends, and that she also didn't think Kiszko would be convicted.

In August 1991, the new findings in Kiszko's case were referred to Kenneth Baker, who immediately passed them on to the Court of Appeal. On 8 January 1992, Kiszko was moved from Ashworth to Prestwich Hospital.

Cleared of murder

Although he had been told in 1983 that he would only be eligible for parole if he admitted having murdered Lesley Molseed, the Home Office apparently changed its view and, in February 1990, privately disclosed that Kiszko's first parole hearing would take place in December 1992, by which time he would have served 17 years in custody, but he would only be released if he could convince the Parole Board if he wouldn't be a danger if ever released and only if he admitted to having murdered Lesley Molseed.

However, ten months before his parole hearing, on 17 February 1992, the judicial investigation into Kiszko's conviction began. It was heard by three judges, Lord Lane, Mr. Justice Rose and Mr. Justice Potts. Present at the hearing were Franz Muller QC and William Boyce for the Crown, who were going to argue that Kiszko was guilty of murder and therefore must remain in prison custody for at least another ten months, and Stephen Sedley QC and Jim Gregory, to state that Kiszko was innocent. However, Muller and Boyce did not put up any contrary argument after hearing the new evidence from Sedley and Gregory, and immediately accepted its validity.

After hearing the new evidence, Lord Chief Justice Lane said: "It has been shown that this man cannot produce sperm. This man cannot have been the person responsible for ejaculating over the girl's knickers and skirt, and consequently cannot have been the murderer". Kiszko was cleared and Lane ordered his immediate release from prison custody. 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.

The 1976 trial judge Sir Hugh Park, who had praised the police and the 13-year-old girls at the original trial for bringing Kiszko to justice, apologised for what had happened to Kiszko but said he wasn't sorry for how he had handled the court case. The Molseed family, who were convinced of Kiszko guilt up to the very moment of him being cleared, also publicly apologised for the things they had said after his conviction such as demanding that he be hanged in public. In 1976 Lesley Molseed's father, Fred Anderson, had hurled a volley of verbal abuse at Charlotte Kiszko outside the court after her son was convicted. Anderson had also told the media that he would be outside the prison gates waiting for Kiszko should he be ever released. In February 1992, Kiszko's mother 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.

Despite the overwhelming and obvious evidence that Kiszko was innocent, the West Yorkshire police and Ronald Outteridge, the original forensic scientist, refused to apologise to Kiszko over his wrongful conviction. In 1991 Outteridge was angry when questioned over his role in the trial. Neither did David Waddington, Sheila Buckley, her daughter Maxine, Hind, Brown and Burke, whose perjured evidence helped convict Kiszko, or prosecution barrister Peter Taylor offer any apology or expressed one word of regret for what had happened. All refused to comment when Kiszko was released. West Yorkshire Police even tried to justify its position they took in 1975 while accepting and admitting they were wrong.

Release and death

Kiszko needed further psychiatric treatment and continued to remain in Prestwich hospital though he was allowed home at weekends and occasionally during the week. He was finally allowed home fully in May 1992, three months after being cleared, but the years of incarceration for something he hadn't done had both mentally and emotionally destroyed him. Kiszko became a virtual recluse and showed little interest in anything or anyone. He drove his car again on short journeys, but other people's apologies for what had happened, encouragement and support seemed to frighten him on the rare occasions he ventured out. His mental health had deteriorated over the years, now did his physical health; in October 1993 he was diagnosed as suffering from angina.

Stefan Kiszko died of a massive heart attack, in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, on 23 December 1993, at home, 18 years and two days after he made the confession that helped lead to wrongful conviction for murder. He was 41 years old. Lesley Molseed's sister was one of those who attended his funeral two weeks later on 5 January 1994. His mother, Charlotte Hedwig Kiszko, died four months later, in Rochdale, on 3 May 1994, at the age of 70. The two are buried together in Rochdale Cemetery.[6]

After release from prison Kiszko had been told he would receive £500,000 in compensation for the years spent in prison. He had received an interim payment, but neither he nor his mother ever received the full amount they were awarded, since both died before Kiszko was due to receive it.

A TV film adaptation of the tragic story of Stefan Kiszko was made in 1998, A Life for a Life, directed by Stephen Whittaker, featuring Tony Maudsley as Kiszko and Olympia Dukakis as his mother Charlotte. A documentary about the case, Real Crime: The 30 Year Secret, was broadcast by ITV1 on 29 September 2008.

Police cleared of any wrongdoing

In 1994 the surviving senior officer in charge of the original investigation Detective Superintendent Dick Holland and the forensic scientist who worked on the case Ronald Outteridge (retired), were formally charged with "doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice" by allegedly suppressing evidence against Kiszko, namely the results of scientific tests on semen taken from the victim's body and from the accused. On May Day, 1995 the case was challenged by defence barristers, arguing that the case was an abuse of process and that charges should be stayed as the passage of time had made a fair trial impossible. The presiding magistrate agreed and as the case was never presented before a jury, the law regards the accused as presumed innocent.[7]

Holland, who came to public prominence as a senior officer on the flawed investigation into the murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper, retired in 1988, at a time when he viewed the conviction of both Kiszko and of Judith Ward (In May 1992 her conviction was also viewed as unsafe by the High Court) as being among his finest hours during his 35 years in the police force. However, Holland was demoted during the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry four years after Kiszko's conviction. He died in February 2007 at the age of 74.

Castree's arrest and conviction

In February 2003 a television appeal for new information was made by McLean on the BBC Crimewatch programme, publicly announcing the existence of a DNA profile of the killer for the first time, but no new leads were forthcoming.

On Sunday 5 November 2006, it was announced that a 53-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the murder.[8] DNA evidence was alleged to have shown a "direct hit" with a sample found at the scene of the murder. In 2000 forensic scientists had developed a ground-breaking technique especially for this investigation, allowing them to re-examine the tapings taken from the victim’s clothes.[9] Ronald Castree of Shaw and Crompton, Greater Manchester,[10][11] was charged with the murder of Lesley Molseed and made his first court appearance on 7 November 2006 where he was remanded in custody. On 3 July 1976, Castree had been charged with a sexual assault on a nine year-old girl, less than mile from where Lesley Molseed had been abducted, and had that same night confessed this crime to his wife. Castree was duly arrested and charged, but was later fined only £25 for his crime at Rochdale Magistrate's Court.

On 1 October 2005 Castree was arrested for allegedly committing a violent rape against a prostitute in Oldham. When arrested, his DNA was routinely taken. Although innocent of the offence, and later released without charge, the DNA matched that on sperm heads that had been left on Lesley Molseed's pants thirty years earlier. At a court hearing on 19 April 2007, Castree pleaded not guilty[12] but on 23 April his application for bail was refused.[13] Castree's trial began at Bradford Crown Court on 22 October 2007.[14] and on 12 November Castree was found guilty.[15] He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 30 years.[16] Ronald Castree was found guilty of Molseed's murder by a 10-2 majority.

Outteridge, having not been charged over Kiszko's wrongful conviction, gave evidence at the trial of Castree. The West Yorkshire Police finally apologised for Kiszko's wrongful arrest and imprisonment, on the day the Castree verdict was announced, when Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean said of Kiszko's wrongful imprisonment: "We are very sorry. I think everybody regrets enormously what happened to Stefan Kiszko. It was a dreadful miscarriage of justice. I am so pleased that today we have finally put things right."[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Jenkins, Russell (13 November 2007). "Conviction too late for victim of worst miscarriage of justice of all time". The Times (London). Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Man guilty of 1975 child murder". BBC News. 12 November 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Rose, Jonathan; Panter, Steve; Wilkinson, Trevor (1997). Innocents : How justice failed Stefan Kiszko and Lesley Molseed. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-85702-402-8. 
  4. ^ a b c Rochdale Observer – 14 November 2007
  5. ^ Manchester Evening News – 21 July 1976
  6. ^ "Stark reminder of how an innocent man can be railroaded into spending years in jail" at
  7. ^ Rose, Panter and Wilkinson, Innocents – How justice failed Stefen Kiszko and Lesley Molseed, Fourth Estate, London, 1997, pp 337-338
  8. ^ "Man held over 1975 child murder". BBC News. 2006-11-06. 
  9. ^ Lesley Molseed at
  10. ^ Hooton, Richard (2007-11-13), "Castree: 'A monster in our midst'", Oldham Evening Chronicle (Hirst, Kidd & Rennie): 1 
  11. ^ Anon (2006-11-07). "Man remanded over 1975 murder" (http). BBC News. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  12. ^ "Man denies 1975 schoolgirl murder". BBC News. 2007-04-19. 
  13. ^ "Molseed charge man refused bail". BBC News. 2007-04-23. 
  14. ^ "Man on trial for Molseed murder". BBC News. 2007-10-22. 
  15. ^ "Man convicted of Molseed murder". BBC News. 2007-11-12. 
  16. ^ "Man Jailed For Life Over Girl's 1975 Murder". Sky News. 2007-10-22.,,30100-1292531,00.html. 

External links

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