'Ultimate Vindication' for wrongly-jailed loner

12 November 2007
Press Association
Dave Higgens

The conviction of Ronald Castree marks the ultimate vindication of Stefan Kiszko - the man who needlessly spent 16 years in prison for Lesley Molseed's murder. The former Inland Revenue clerk was jailed for life at Leeds Crown Court on July 21 1976.

He was a giant, 23-year-old loner who lived with his mother Charlotte at their home in Kings Road, Rochdale, and had little life beyond their relationship. Some said he was the butt of jokes about his social circle, which simply consisted of his mother and his aunt Alfreda. His father had died some time before.

Mr Kiszko was described as immature - a "child man" - despite being of average intelligence and of very large build. But he did not have any serious mental issues at the time of his arrest as he held down a steady job and spoke several languages. His immaturity was put down to a condition called hypogonadism, meaning his testicles were undeveloped. Mr Kiszko had started receiving treatment for this condition in the form of hormone injections only a short time before Lesley was killed.

He was arrested two months after Lesley's death by police who were convinced he was the killer they had described as having a "sexual kink". The officers' belief was encouraged by three teenage girls who claimed Mr Kiszko had exposed himself to them just before Lesley went missing - a claim they retracted years later.

Mr Kiszko confessed to police after two days of questioning without a solicitor present. He later retracted his confession but when he stood trial his barrister David Waddington, who went on to become Home Secretary, ran a defence of manslaughter through diminished responsibility, despite his client never having met the victim. Mr Waddington (now Lord Waddington) based the defence on an "uncontrollable sex urge" brought on by the hormone drug treatment.

Stefan Kiszko was jailed for life at the end of the eight-day trial after jurors returned a majority verdict following five hours of deliberation. His mother protested his innocence outside the court - the beginning of a her long-running campaign which was to see him released 16 years later. As a convicted child sex killer in prison, Mr Kiszko was beaten up twice and held in solitary confinement for his own protection. He launched an appeal which failed in May 1978 but the campaign continued with the help of lawyer Campbell Malone.

Lord Waddington ordered a police inquiry into the case in 1990.

In 1992, at the age of 40, Mr Kiszko's conviction was quashed by three appeal judges, headed by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane. Lord Lane declared his conviction "unsafe and unsatisfactory" after hearing scientific evidence which positively ruled him out as the killer. The court heard from four medical experts who said Mr Kiszko was "constitutionally infertile" - or incapable of producing sperm. They said he could not have been the source of seminal staining on Lesley's clothing. Lord Lane said: "The result is that this man cannot have been the person responsible for the ejaculation and, consequently, cannot have been the murderer."

An investigation was launched into why this information was not disclosed to the defence in the 1976 trial. The appeal court also heard that a slide taken from forensic examination of Lesley's clothing had disappeared.

Kiszko was released on February 18 1992 but, having developed schizophrenia, he remained in hospital until he finally arrived home nine months later. Speaking for the first time after his release, he said: "I always believed the courts would come on my side." He added: "Mum has given me every confidence."

Mr Kiszko's successful appeal rocked the British justice system. Tory MP Anthony Beaumont-Dark said at the time: "This must be the worst miscarriage of justice of all time."

The impact of the case was huge and not only because of the length of time Mr Kizsko had spent in prison and the clear-cut proof of his innocence. It was also because it came amid a seemingly endless stream of high-profile convictions which were being overturned at the time by the appeal court judges. Among the more infamous of these cases were those of the Guildford Four in 1989 and the Birmingham Six in 1991.

On December 23 1993 Mr Kiszko was found collapsed at his home by his mother. He died from a heart condition a year after he returned home. Five months later his exhausted mother also died.

Lord Waddington fiercely defended his handling of the 1976 trial. He denied putting forward the alternative plea of manslaughter without the defendant's authority. The judge who jailed Mr Kiszko for life, Sir Hugh Park, said the mistake "was a dreadful thing" but also defended his handling of the trial.

In 1994 former detective superintendent Dick Holland and retired forensic scientist Ronald Outteridge were "summoned with charges of doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice". This move followed the inquiry by Lancashire Police into the apparent failure to disclose crucial evidence during Mr Kiszko's prosecution. But a stipendiary magistrate ruled that the case should not proceed because it amounted to an "abuse of process". The reasons for the ruling were not given. Mr Holland, who was also one of the most senior officers in the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry, died earlier this year.

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