Luck runs out for predator who boasted of exploits

13 November 2007
The Times
Russell Jenkins

While an innocent man languished in jail for the murder of Lesley Molseed her real killer ran a business selling American superhero comics. When it was finally conceded that Stefan Kiszko could not have murdered the child, the real killer was posing in a Batman baseball cap and telling one national newspaper that "the timeless appeal of the comic is escapism".

Ronald Castree, who earned more than Pounds 50,000 a year running comic stores in Ashton-under-Lyne and Rochdale, believed that he in turn had escaped from the possibility of ever being caught for Lesley's murder. His belief that he was safe from capture possibly had its roots in the treatment he received after he was arrested for indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl less than a year after he murdered Lesley in October 1975.

By then police were convinced that Mr Kiszko was Lesley's killer, even though the two attacks involved girls who attended the same special school and Castree had lived and worked within a mile of where the two attacks happened. Fortunately for Castree, his second victim had no reliable recollections of an attack by the then taxi driver. Castree, accompanied by his first wife Beverley, presented himself at Rochdale Magistrates' Court and pleaded guilty to gross indecency. He had abducted the nine-year-old in his taxi, driven to a derelict house and indecently assaulted her. He was let off with a fine and few learned about his darker side. It is understandable if his appearance in court went unnoticed.

It was roasting hot in Rochdale in the summer of 1976, with temperatures higher than Majorca. The Oldham Chronicle was more interested in a local woman giving birth to the world's first test-tube baby and, across the Pennines, Mr Kiszko was stepping into the witness box to become the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.

Castree, the son of an export clerk, was born in Littleborough, where Lesley Molseed's family still live, and went to school in nearby Rochdale. He was 19 years old when he married Beverley in 1973. The couple settled in Rochdale, and Beverley gave birth to a son, Jason, the result of an extramarital affair, two week before Castree killed Lesley. His wife was in hospital following complications from the birth when Castree abducted Lesley. The couple went on to have two sons together, Nicholas, now 27, and Daniel, 22.

Beverley acknowledges that she never knew where her husband was much of the time. By day, he worked as a clerk in a cotton mill and worked evening and weekend shifts as a taxi driver. He rarely talked to his wife about his life outside the marital home but she knew him to be an inveterate womaniser who was unfaithful throughout their marriage. Their divorce was finalised in 1997. Last night she said: "As you get older you learn that a leopard never changes its spots. He has always been a vile monster and he always will be."

Castree was in the habit of picking up drunk young women from clubs in town and offering them the option of having sex with him on the back seat instead of paying the fare. "Most weekends something occurred," he boasted. In the 1980s Castree opened a market stall selling secondhand books and subsequently specialised in collectible comics, particularly American superhero comics. He opened shops called Arcadia in Ashton-under-Lyne and Rochdale. In 1994 he posed for a national newspaper in a Batman baseball camp surrounded by hundreds of his comics.

Castree married for a second time to a middle-aged divorcee, Karen Curtin, who had five children by two previous relationships. By this time Castree had given up his shops and was selling his comics on eBay. Staff in the local post office remember him as "smarmy" but otherwise unremarkable. Some said he could be aggressive and recalled a street fight with another resident.


October 5, 1975 Lesley Molseed reported missing after running errand to shops

October 8 Lesley's body found 8 miles away on moorland. She had been stabbed 12 times December Stefan Kiszko, a former Inland Revenue clerk, arrested. His confession to Lesley's murder is later retracted

July 3, 1976 Ronald Castree abducts and assaults girl, 9, at derelict house in Rochdale

July 21 Kiszko convicted and sentenced to life at Leeds Crown Court

May 1978 Kiszko's appeal fails

February 1992 Conviction quashed by three appeal judges after scientific evidence rules him out as the killer

December 23, 1993 Kiszko collapses and dies at home

May 11, 1994 Dick Holland, a former Detective Superintendent, and Ronald Outteridge, a retired forensic scientist, are "summoned with charges of doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice" following an inquiry by Lancashire Police into the apparent failure to disclose crucial evidence

May 1995 Court rules out prospect of prosecution for the two men 1999-2000 New forensic evidence rules out Kiszko

May 8, 2001 West Yorkshire Police relaunch the murder investigation into Lesley's death

February 5, 2003 Fresh appeal for information on the BBC One programme Crimewatch UK

April 8, 2003 Police reveal they have 90 new suspects as a result

October 1, 2005 Ronald Castree gives DNA sample after his arrest for unrelated offence. It proves a complete match with sperm found on Lesley's underwear

November 6, 2006 Castree charged with murder November 12, 2007 Castree convicted at Bradford Crown Court

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