19 November 2007

Castree, Kiszko and other criminals

Not exactly hot news I know, but this post was inspired by Mark Hodkinson's thoughtful article in today’s Observer . It concerns the effect of the Lesley Molseed murder on his home town of Rochdale

Last week, Ronald Castree (above)was jailed for life for murder of schoolgirl Lesley Molseed in October 1975. Castree, who was convicted by a majority verdict, claimed in tears from the dock that he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Castree was identified as Molseed’s killer after a DNA sample taken following an alleged sex attack on a woman matched the DNA found on the Molseed’s knickers (the knickers had been carefully stored so it was possible to obtain reliable DNA samples many years later).

Castree’s conviction should have been viewed as a triumph of forensics and “cold case” work had not the Lesley Molseed case previously seen one of the most atrocious miscarriages of justice in British legal history. It is a matter of record that Stefan Kiszko spent sixteen years in prison having been convicted of Molseed’s murder in 1976. West Yorkshire Police Officers and pathologists criminally suppressed information that would have seen Kiszko cleared instantly. Kiszko was represented by a QC of such gross incompetence that his defence could not be described as half-baked.

On 5 October 1975 Lesley Molseed (above) went off to perform an errand for her mother. Her body was found three days later. She had been stabbed and her murderer had ejaculated on her knickers. The following month three teenage girls claimed to police that one Stefan Kiszko had exposed himself to them the day before Lesley’s murder. One also claimed that Kiszko had exposed himself to her after the murder and had been stalking her. The West Yorkshire Police immediately decided that Kiszko (below) was their man.

The West Yorkshire Police had chosen a quiet loner with the mental age of a 12 year old who worked in a lowly position for the Inland Revenue and who had never previously been in trouble with the law. They stopped all other lines of enquiry, and arrested him. After two days of relentless questioning he confessed to the murder. The police did not tell him of his right to have a solicitor present and refused his request to let have his mother present when being questioned.

At his murder trial Kiszko was defended by David Waddington. Waddington and his team made a series of errors that can only be described as laziness and gross incompetence:

  • Waddington (The blame for all of the errors must lie solely with him in that he led the defence team) did not seek an adjournment when the Crown delivered thousands of pages of additional unused material on the first morning of the trial.

  • He based the defence (without Kiszko’s authority) on diminished responsibility on the grounds that the testosterone he was receiving for hypogonadism might have been responsible for his behaviour. Waddington does not seem to have bothered consulting Kiszko’s endocrinologist who would have correctly testified that the treatment could not have caused such behaviour. Waddington failed to call the endocrinologist to testify

  • Waddington did not use other evidence that would have dented the prosecution: Kiszko had broken his ankle a while before Molseed’s and would have found it virtually impossible to take her body (even though she was little more than 42lb) to the place where it was discovered.

The prosecution suppressed a key piece of evidence that would have exonerated Kiszko. Forensic examination of the semen stains showed that there were sperm in the semen stains on Molseed’s knickers. Semen samples showed that Kiszko was sterile. He simply could not have been the murderer.

Kiszko was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge, Hugh Park praised the teenage girls who made the exposure claims for their "Bravery and honesty" and "Sharp observations". 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". To be fair to Park he could not have known that the prosecution’s case was a tissue of lies.

Stefan Kiszko spent the next 16 years in prison. As a convicted child murderer his life was an utter misery. Although he was “on the numbers” - a segregated prisoner – he was still subjected to vicious assaults, one of which resulted in a broken leg. Had he accepted a false guilt he would almost certainly have been released on parole by the late 1980’s. Yet he continued to maintain his innocence even though this meant he stood a very good chance of remaining in prison until his death. His mother Charlotte never stopped protesting his innocence. Lawyer Campbell Malone took up the case and prepared a petition to the Home Secretary in October 1989. By then the Home Secretary was.... David Waddington (who proved during his short tenure to be the most incompetent holder of that office in the past several decades - (believe me, there’s been some bloody stiff competition!). Unsurprisingly he did absolutely nothing.

In 1991 Waddington (above) was gone. Malone urged the Home Office to reopen the case. The Home Office did so. Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson of the West Yorkshire Police was assigned to the case and immediately found that Kiszko's innocence was apparent. Not only did he unearth the suppressed evidence over Kiszko’s infertility. He found three witnesses who could have provided Kiszko with a cast iron alibi. Finally the three girls, who told the police that Kiszko had indecently exposed himself, admitted they were liars; they had given the story for a “laugh”. In August 1991, the then Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker referred the case to the Court of Appeal. In February 1992 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 released from prison the following day. Sadly Kiszko had developed schizophrenia during his imprisonment

To his credit Park, who had praised the police and the girls for bringing Kiszko to justice at the trial, apologised for what had happened to Kiszko although he wasn't sorry for how he had handled the court case. This is quite correct as Park’s handling of the trial was beyond reproach. The Molseed family publicly apologised for the terrible things they had said about Kiszko after the conviction (again to their great credit. The Molseed’s had been given false closure by the criminal behaviour of the investigating officers) On the other hand, Maxine Buckley and the other girls who had lied to the police the West Yorkshire police and the forensic scientists all refused to apologise to Kiszko for his wrongful conviction. Waddington refused to acknowledge that his handling of Kiszko’s defence was in any way defective. Other people who had vilified Kiszko inundated Charlotte, Kiszko with letters of apology. She was made Rochdale’s Woman of the Year in 1993.

Sadly, Kiszko’s freedom was short lived. He died of massive heart attack on 23 December 1993. He was just 41 but he died the innocent man he always was. Lesley Molseed's sister attended his funeral and paid tribute to him. Charlotte Kiszko died vindicated just four months later. Fortunately (I am being sarcastic here) for the Home Office their deaths meant that it did not have to pay out most of the £500,000 compensation awarded for the 16 years stolen from Stefan.

The deputy head of the Kiszko case, DCI Dick Holland (the head, Chief Superintendent Jack Dibb had already died) of the , and Home Office scientist Ronald Outteridge were summonsed after Kiszko's acquittal for suppressing evidence. In 1995, however, a magistrate decided that too much time had passed to root out who was to blame. Holland cheated justice and died in February. Outteridge is in retirement but testified in the Castree case, this time there were no lies. Waddington is still alive. He is a life peer

I hope that Castree’s conviction will give Lesley Molseed’s family proper closure they so rightly deserve. They were lied to in 1976. It is a tragedy that Kiszko is not alive to see Castree go to jail. As for Waddington, surviving officers from the original case, Maxine Buckley and the other two girls from 1975, if they have not yet apologised for their roles in this disgraceful miscarriage then they should go down on their knees and beg Lesley’s and Stefan’s remaining family for forgiveness. Otherwise I wish them very long, very miserable lives.


Siani said...

I hope Castree rots in hell for all the misery he's caused to the families of Lesley Molseed and Stefan Kiszko. If Waddington and those three silly cows don't apologise, I hope they rot with him, especially the girls. What they did was malicious beyond belief, and they could have so easily withdrawn their statements.

Anonymous said...

As an investigator this is the worst of the worst kind of case, when the police decide who's guilty and then look for evidence to prove it, rather than looking for evidence which should lead you to the guilty party.

Not only are the innocent jailed, but the guilty go free.

MC Fanon said...

I just saw the Coen Brothers' new film, "No Country for Old Men". Central to the film was the idea that the modern age has spawned reasonless and irrational psychopaths. Where before there were cowboys and bandits, cops and robbers, now we have psychotic child molesters who will murder children for the hell of it and then try to justify their crimes. Unfortunately stories such as these are far too common. I was on the verge of tears in the movie for this very reason. I guess your post really hit the nail on the head.

My prayers go out to all of the victim's families. May justice be served.

jams o donnell said...

Siani my anger goes out to a lot of people in this case. This is one of the biggest stains on our justice system. It started with three lying bitches, it was firmed up by police officers who were worse than criminal, it was sealed by lawyer who obviously could not have cared less about his client.

Bryan I could not agree more. When evidence is cut to fit the officers show their utter contempt for the justice system.

I've not seen the new Coen Brothers film, sadly it won't be released here until January. It looks like we'll be in for a treat when it is released. I have a love/hate relationship. Their comedies are usually dreadful, their more serious films are usually excellent. I take it that No Country for Old Men tends towards the latter in style?

The case shows how a basically good justice system can be cynically subverted by those who are meant to uphold the law.

The police officers concerned showed an utter contempt for the law. They demonstrated utter callousness in targetting the vulnerable. Worst of all they showed their utter disregard for Lesley Molseed's family. They did not cate that their lies provided false comfort to her family. The officers committed a terrible crime.

Agnes said...

"Where before there were cowboys and bandits, cops and robbers, now we have psychotic child molesters' - hmm. A bit romantic. See Kraft -Ebing. It is also a result of urbanization.

On the other hand, maybe nowadays we have a more advanced technology, and such cases have publicity?

Will watch the movie. I like the Coen-brothers.

Bryan, unfortunately often this is the procedure. And is pretty difficult to prove that one has NOT committed something.

MC Fanon said...

It is a lot like Fargo in terms of tone but I feel it is superior. It's their best film yet, maybe the best film of 2007 (American Gangster, of which I posted a response to on my blog, is a contender also).

Sorry for briefly hijacking this post. :)

jams o donnell said...

I'm not familiar with Kraft-Ebbing's work, Red. He is only a name to me. Urbanisation increases the effect, better communication highlights.

Ah, better than one of my favourite films Dave? I will be watching it, no doubt about that!

Liz Hinds said...

That's a very clear and complete telling of the story. How tragic for Kiszko and his mother, and how despicable to make up such stories. or to conceal evidence.

jams o donnell said...

Thanks Liz. It truly is a stain on out British justice

Anonymous said...

In 1975 three then thirteen year-old girls said that Stefan Kiszko had exposed himself to them around the time Lesley Molseed was murdered. Even though they were 13 years old, they were old enough to know what they were doing and why they were doing it. One of them also claimed he had been stalking them for weeks beforehand. This led to the Police to arrest him, and he served sixteen years in Prison for something he didn't do and he was beaten up twice by other prisoners. He almost certainly would never have been released if it hadn't been for the investigation into his conviction.

In 1991 the girls, by now, mature women, admitted that what they said about Kiszko was false and he had neither stalked them or exposed himself to them at any time, and that they said it for a "laugh". They should now be arrested and charged and put on trial with perverting the course of justice. If found guilty, they should be made to serve 15 years in prison to see how much of a laugh it is. Also, any surviving police officers involved in Kiszko's wrongful conviction and the Forensic Scientist should also be charged with perverting the course of justice and put on trial, now we definitely now Kiszko didn't do it? Why hasn't any of them being charged?

jams o donnell said...

Anonymous, the most senior surviving officer and the forensic scientist were charged but the charges were thrown out by a stipendary magistrate, sadly.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous. While everyone else involved in the conviction of Stefan was guilty of cock-up, rather than conspiracy, the three evil little girls, now women, acted maliciously and should have been charged. If Castree could be convicted 30 years after the event, why couldn't these three women?

Anonymous said...

Has Castree been convicted on the basis of the DNA evidence or is there additional evidence that places him at the scene (eg witnesses) or corroborated confession? We need to remember that DNA evidence is not an *exact* match as only certain sections of the DNA are compared. Whilst my DNA is different from your DNA, many sections will be common to both of us...with this in mind, just how true is the claim 'one in a gazillion chance of a match'?

Anonymous said...
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moorthorpesouthelmsallman said...

This was all a long time ago now, but it still turns my stomach with anger to think about what Stefan went through, how the real murderer allowed someone else to pay for their crime, and how the police lied and lied and set up a childlike, vulnerable man. Waddington has proved that someone can become rich and successful without intelligence or competence and I have little hope that he thinks about what happened to a gentle giant of a man for whom he was the only defence. The names of those lying girls,Maxine Buckley, Catherine Burke, Debbie Brown and Pamela Hind, should be printed in every newspaper and blog from here to the North Pole. They should forever regret what they did, but I doubt they ever do. Justice and his life cannot now be given back to Stefan, who lived in hell for 16 years and by the end even hated himself. That is the worst of it. Running it a close second is the fact that if police deception and corruption pinned the crime on an innocent man, how can we be certain the real murderer is now in prison? I've read allegations that the Yorkshire Ripper was responsible, and in view of what's happened in the past, how can we be sure he wasn't? All that's another aspect of this horrific crime against Stefan; by their actions those responsible have cast doubt on every subsequent murder inquiry. I for one have no confidence in the police's ability to root out murderers by detective work. Unless someone is caught red handed or practically so,there's always that doubt in my mind. The cases of Barry George and Colin Stagg have shown that it still goes on, and I fear it always will. I hope Castree is guilty, but I have doubts...

marc said...

I interviewed Ronald Castree in 1992 for an advertising feature for his comic shop in Ashton, he seemed quite pleasant though given the stories that have emerged since, clearly he had a very dark side. Í am not convinced he is guilty though and the only thing that would convince me would be if he confessed.