Murder of Lesley Molseed
The murder of Lesley Molseed, an 11-year-old British girl, occurred on 5 October 1975 in West Yorkshire, England. Stefan Kiszko, an intellectually disabled man who lived near Molseed in Greater Manchester, was wrongly convicted of sexual assaulting and murdering her, and served 16 years in prison before the conviction was overturned. Kiszko's mental and physical condition deteriorated while he was in prison, and he died 18 months after his release in 1992, before he could collect money owed to him for his suffering. His ordeal was described by one British MP as "the worst miscarriage of justice of all time." Evidence that Kiszko could not have done the crime was suppressed by three members of the investigation team, who were initially arrested in 1993 before charges were dropped.
Murder of Molseed
|Born||Lesley Susan Anderson
14 August 1964
|Disappeared||Turf Hill, Rochdale, Greater Manchester|
|Died||5 October 1975
Near Rishworth Moor in West Yorkshire
|Cause of death||Stabbing|
|Body discovered||8 October 1975|
Lesley Molseed was a frail child from Rochdale, Greater Manchester. 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 5 October 1975, 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 in West Yorkshire. She had been stabbed a dozen 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 the 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 Stefan 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 he had been stalking her for some time previous to that.
Stefan Kiszko (// KEESH-koh; 24 March 1952 – 23 December 1993) was then a 23-year-old local tax clerk of Eastern European descent. His father, Ivan (spelled Iwan and also called John), had emigrated from Soviet Ukraine and his mother, Charlotte (née Slavič), from Yugoslavia (modern-day Slovenia) after the Second World War to work in the cotton mills of Rochdale. 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 had died of a heart attack in the street, at Kiszko's feet, on 29 September 1970. Evaluation showed Kiszko had a mental and emotional age of just 12. 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: he believed that by doing so he would be allowed to go home, and that the ensuing investigations would prove him innocent and his confession false. 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 while 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, the only – suspect.
After admitting to the murder to police, Kiszko was charged with Molseed's murder on Christmas Eve 1975. When he entered Armley Gaol 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 at Leeds Crown Court (then at Leeds Town Hall). He was defended by David Waddington QC, who later became Home Secretary. The prosecuting QC, Peter Taylor, 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.
Kiszko's defence team led by Waddington 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. Kiszko's endocrinologist strongly disagreed with this theory, and if called to testify would have said that his treatment could not have caused him to act in such a way that would make him carry out a 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 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 as having a hormone deficiency. He agreed to injections to rectify the latter problem and was discharged in September 1975. He said correctly that he had never met Molseed and therefore could not have murdered her, and he 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. When asked why he had confessed, Kiszko replied, "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".
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 praised the three girls who had made the exposure claims, Buckley in particular, for their "bravery and honesty" in giving evidence in court and their "sharp observations". Pamela Hind's evidence was read out in court. Park said that Buckley's "[s]harp eyes set this train of inquiry 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", adding, "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, criticised 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". 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 that therefore he should not have been convicted outright of murder.
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". (Coincidentally, Kiszko's ultimately successful later appeal was first lodged on the day his defence barrister David Waddington QC was announced as the new Home Secretary in 1989.)
Attacks in prison
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After his conviction Kiszko was bitterly detested by the majority of inmates, receiving taunts and several death threats. He was physically attacked four times in total. 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. 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 attacker was placed in solitary confinement for 28 days. The next attack came 19 months later, in December 1978, when he was punched once in the face by another prisoner in an opportunist and unprovoked attack, whilst in the prison chapel. The prisoner walked away after striking Kiszko.
In March 1981 he was involved in a fight with another prisoner, when he was again punched in the face in an unprovoked attack, but this time Kiszko retaliated and fought back. The two had to be separated by guards. Both men were given a loss of privileges for 28 days.
On each occasion, the attacks on Kiszko earned him little sympathy, among either other prisoners or guards, because of the crime for which he had been jailed.
Kiszko was not physically attacked or threatened again during his remaining eleven years in prison. During that time he was often in the hospital wing of prisons. When he was not, 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 decade any of Kiszko's claims of innocence were labelled as symptoms of his schizophrenic delusions, or attributed to his being in a state of denial. One forensic psychiatrist made a note of Kiszko suffering from "delusions of innocence". In January 1980 he said that coded messages on BBC Radio Two's Jimmy Young Show were being sent to him. In 1982 he claimed that his parents had a tape recorder hidden in the kitchen and made him sing after turning it on, later selling the songs to Barry Manilow to make money out of his talent.
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/Moss Side Hospital (later Ashworth Hospital, Liverpool) or Rampton, 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 enrol 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. He was left in Grendon Underwood until May 1989, when he was moved back to Wakefield Prison. In July 1990 he said he was striking out a ghost who was trying to sexually abuse him, 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 his deteriorating mental health.
Kiszko's mother was ignored and stonewalled both by politicians, including her local MP Cyril Smith and Prime Ministers James Callaghan (1976 to 1979) and Margaret Thatcher (from 1979), and by the legal system. In 1984 she contacted JUSTICE, the UK human rights organisation which at the time investigated many miscarriages of justice. Three years later, she was 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. 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 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 adult testicular size was 15 to 20 mm. During his research, Jackson found someone who confirmed that Kiszko had been seen with his aunt tending his father's grave on the day the murder took place. They said they could not understand why they had not been called to give evidence at the trial. Someone else said that Kiszko had been in a shop around the time of the murder.
Also that month, the four girls involved in the court trial admitted that the evidence they had given which had 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 had not said anything but refused to apologise, saying she did not think it would go as far as it did. Buckley said it was not Kiszko who had exposed himself to her and that he had not been stalking them, but 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, saying that what they did was "foolish but we were young" and that, had she appeared in court, she would have told the truth about Kiszko, unlike her friends, who all had committed perjury. She herself did not 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 20 December 1991, Kiszko was moved from Ashworth to Prestwich Hospital.
Cleared of murder
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Although Kiszko 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. In February 1990, the Home Office 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. However, he would only be released if he admitted to having murdered Lesley Molseed and if he could convince the Parole Board that he would not be a danger to children or the public.
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 there 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, there to state that Kiszko was innocent. After hearing the new evidence presented by Sedley and Gregory, Muller and Boyce did not put up any contrary argument and immediately accepted its validity.
Also 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 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 was not sorry for how he had handled the court case.
The Molseed family, who were convinced of Kiszko's 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 angry verbal abuse at Kiszko's mother Charlotte 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 ever be 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.
David Waddington, Sheila Buckley, Maxine Buckley, Hind, Brown and Burke, Ronald Outteridge and prosecution barrister Peter Taylor all offered no apology, nor expressed any regret for what had happened. All refused to comment when Kiszko was released. Even the West Yorkshire police, while accepting and admitting they had been wrong, tried to justify the position they had taken in 1975. All Waddington would say was that if this evidence had been available in July 1976, the trial would have taken a very different course.
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 had not 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. As his mental health had deteriorated over the years, so now did his physical health; in October 1993 he was diagnosed as suffering from angina.
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. 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.
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.
Kiszko's depiction in the media
A TV film adaptation of Kiszko's story 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.
In the Channel 4 television series Red Riding, the character of Michael Myshkin is based on Kiszko, being a simple-minded immigrant who is coerced into confessing the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl before eventually being exonerated.
Police cleared of any wrongdoing
In 1994 the surviving senior officer in charge of the original investigation, Detective Superintendent Dick Holland, and the retired forensic scientist who had worked on the case, Ronald Outteridge, were formally charged with "doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice" by allegedly suppressing evidence in Kiszko's favour, 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.
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 Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean of West Yorkshire Police 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 5 November 2006, it was announced that a 53-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the murder of Lesley Molseed that had taken place in 1975. DNA evidence was alleged to have shown a "direct hit" with a sample found at the scene of the murder. Ronald Castree (born 18 October 1953 in Littleborough, Lancashire), a comic bookshop dealer, of Shaw and Crompton, Greater Manchester, was charged with the murder of Molseed and made his first court appearance on 7 November 2006 where he was remanded in custody. At a court hearing on 19 April 2007, Castree pleaded not guilty. On 23 April 2007 he was refused bail.
Castree's trial began at Bradford Crown Court on 22 October 2007. He was found guilty on 12 November 2007 and jailed for life, with a recommendation to serve a minimum of 30 years, which is expected to keep him in prison until the age of 83.
A DNA sample from Castree, taken on 1 October 2005 when he was arrested but not charged in connection with another sex attack, was a direct match with a semen sample found on Molseed's underwear, although Castree was not charged with this offence as it was later dropped. During the trial a scientist told a jury how DNA taken from the underwear of Molseed were linked to the man accused of her murder. Dr. Gemma Escott explained to Bradford Crown Court the chances of the semen samples belonging to anyone other than the defendant were one in a billion.
Two weeks before Castree killed Molseed, his wife had given birth to a son. Castree was not the baby's biological father; his wife had been involved in an affair. On 3 October 1975 Castree's wife went back into hospital with deep vein thrombosis, leaving Castree home alone on the day of the murder. She remained there for the following week. The birth of the illegitimate child may have been a trigger for Castree's murder of Molseed. Castree and his wife had two more children together, but the couple split up in 1996 and divorced a year later.
Originally from the Turf Hill estate of Rochdale, Castree lived in nearby Shaw and Crompton and was a taxi driver for many years. He was unpopular with his neighbours, who said he had a very nasty temper. His former wife said "he was foul with his mouth, and foul with his fists".
As revealed in the ITV television documentary Real Crime: The 30 Year Secret, Castree was convicted in 1976 of gross indecency and indecent assault against a nine-year-old girl in Rochdale. He was fined £25 (equivalent to £165 in 2016).
- Murder of Teresa de Simone
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- List of miscarriage of justice cases
- Innocent prisoner's dilemma
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