Agony never ended after little girl was murdered

19 March 1999
Manchester Evening News
Neal Snowdon and Steve Panter
Torment of two tragic families for 24 years

The murder of Lesley Molseed was a tragedy which has devastated the lives of two families for 24 years. Lesley's family has faced unimaginable suffering since her body was found on moorland on October 8, 1975. Their agony has never ended, because they know that Lesley's brutal murderer remains free.

Parallel to the Molseeds' torment was that of Stefan Kiszko and his family. He was innocent, but served 16 years in different jails, while his courageous mother Charlotte fought a tireless campaign to prove he was not a murderer. Stefan always resisted invitations to make a later confession - the only way he could ever get a release date, unless he was proved innocent.

Both Lesley and Stefan were born victims. Frail Lesley was born with a heart defect which affected her growth and health. Stefan was also born with physical defects and his strange appearance, characterised by a waddling walk, made him easy prey for bullies. Their lives - and deaths - were destined to become intertwined on October 5 1975, when Lesley left home on Rochdale's Turf Hill estate to buy bread. She never returned. Three days later, her body found at Rishworth Moor between Oldham and Ripponden. She had been stabbed many times and sexually assaulted.

The following day, Raymond Hewlett left the North West for Ireland with his under-age girlfriend. One month later, when Hewlett had returned to the Rochdale area, he was interviewed by police as a "modus operandi" suspect, a man who had sexually abused children.

He claimed he had been in a Todmorden park with his 15-year-old lover when Lesley was killed. The lover was traced 20 years later to Australia by a second police inquiry set up after Stefan was declared innocent - and the woman confirmed Hewlett's alibi was a lie.

On December 21, 1975, some 10 weeks after Lesley's body was found, tax clerk Stefan was arrested. Two days later, after making a confession he subsequently retracted, Stefan was charged with Lesley's murder.

On July 7, 1976, a trial at Leeds Crown Court ended with Stefan being jailed for life for the murder and sexual assault of Lesley.

In 1978, Raymond Hewlett was jailed for four years for forcing a 14-year-old girl to undress at gunpoint in her Todmorden home. He served 16 months of the sentence before he fled to Ireland in 1989 after kidnapping a 14-year-old girl and sexually assaulting her at knifepoint. He was captured and sentenced to six years.

Since the day of Stefan's arrest, his widowed mother Charlotte tried to persuade whoever would listen that her son was innocent. She found a sympathetic ear in Todmorden solicitor Campbell Malone.

In 1990, after a painstaking re-examination of the case, Malone petitioned Home Secretary David Waddington for a new hearing.

West Yorkshire police appointed Det Supt Trevor Wilkinson to investigate and his team discovered forensic evidence the trial jury never heard which cleared Stefan Kiszko - and on February 18, 1992, the Court of Appeal granted his appeal against conviction.

In November 1992, police arrested Hewlett and questioned him over Lesley's murder. He was released without charge and the Crown Prosecution Service said it did not have enough evidence to prosecute him.

On December 21, 1993, Stefan Kiszko died of heart failure, 18 years to the day of his arrest. Six months later, his sick mother Charlotte died.

Then on October 16, 1997, the book Innocents, co-authored by M.E.N. journalist Steve Panter, was published and named Hewlett as prime suspect for Lesley Molseed's murder.

Hewlett has maintained he was not the murderer.

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