The errand that turned into family nightmare

7 November 2006
Rochdale Observer

When 11-year-old Lesley Molseed went on a shopping errand for her mum 31 years ago, no-one could have foreseen the tragic, sickening events that would follow. Her last days are still shrouded in mystery, with many questions unanswered.

Little Lesley went missing at around noon on Sunday 5 October 1975 after she left her home in Delamere Road, Turf Hill, on an errand for her mother to buy a loaf of bread and an air freshener from a local shop. She never returned home and three days later her fully clothed body was discovered by a motorist who stopped at a lay-by on the A672 Oldham-Halifax road. She had been stabbed 12 times and sexually assaulted.

So began the North West's biggest murder hunt.

Police from Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire launched a joint operation to find her killer, which involved 300 officers. A witness claimed to have seen a bronze Saluki or tawny brown Cortina driving along Turf Hill Road early in the afternoon on the day Lesley disappeared. Police were not in a position to rule out a link and Turf Hill was sealed off while officers questioned local residents. Meanwhile, over 7,000 drivers were stopped and interviewed on the bleak moorland road in a search for vital evidence. Police said that they were looking for a man with a 'sexual link' and that he was in urgent need of mental treatment.

The nation was still in a state of shock one month later as Lesley's funeral was held at Rochdale Cemetery. Her father, Fred Anderson and stepfather, Danny Molseed, helped to carry her coffin.

Then followed one of the worst miscarriages of justice the country has experienced.

On 24 December 1975 Rochdale tax clerk Stefan Kiszko, of Kingsway, was charged with Lesley Molseed's murder and appeared before Calder Magistrates Court. By the following summer, 21 July 1976, jurors returned a 10-2 majority verdict after five hours of deliberation and found Mr Kiszko guilty.

He was jailed for life, but his mother Charlotte protested his innocence outside the courtroom and said that her son had 'signed away his life' by making a confession in a bid to get home and see her. Mr Kiszko silently served time in prison for 16 years until, on the 20 December 1991, three appeal court judges in London released him on bail to Prestwich Hospital pending a full appeal.

In January 1992 Stefan Kiszko was cleared of murder following the production of crucial forensic evidence which proved he could not have carried out the attack on the girl. He described how he confessed because the police had assured him he could go home to his mother if he told them what had happened.

Stefan was a large child-man: although apparently of average intelligence, he was highly immature because of hypogonadism - his testes were completely undeveloped. This condition was not diagnosed until he was 23.

Both as a student and later during his working life, he often became the butt of his peers' jokes and his social circle consisted of his parents and aunt Alfreda. Then his father died and he had only his mother and aunt - but he wanted nothing more.

Over a year after he was cleared of Lesley's murder, on 23 December 1993, Stefan Kiszko died of a heart attack.

Lancashire Police wanted an investigation into why the forensic evidence was not produced at trial, as this would have prevented Mr Kiszko's false confession. Their colleagues in West Yorkshire launched a new inquiry and two months after Mr Kiszko was released, a reconstruction of the crime was carried for BBC programme, 'Crimewatch'.

The journey took an unexpected turn in October of 1997, when new prime suspect, Raymond Hewlett, came to the surface.

A book by Manchester Evening News reporter Steve Panter, Jonathon Rose and former policeman Trevor Wilkinson named paedophile Hewlett as Lesley's killer.

However, in February 2003, detectives presented a new DNA profile of the murderer after a police forensic team used pioneering new techniques to test semen which had been recovered at the scene. Mr Hewlett didn't match the DNA profile that they had and his innocence was confirmed.

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