Unlocking the mysteries of a trail gone cold

14 November 2007
Rochdale Observer

Cracking a cold case first thrust into the public eye over three decades ago was naturally a difficult task for police investigating Lesley Molseed’s killing. After all, they would have to have concrete evidence against the real killer, particularly in a case described as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in UK history. Fortunately the West Yorkshire Police team had the groundbreaking scientific techniques to finally catch the 11-year-old Turf Hill schoolgirl’s killer. And the evidence was almost infallible. A DNA profile obtained from semen on the victim’s clothes matched Ronald Castree – the chance it could have been someone else was a billion to one.

Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean was called in to re-open the case in 1999 – the investigation had virtually ground to a halt after the release of Stefan Kiszko, the man wrongly convicted of the killing. Making fresh appeals for information, the Halifax-based team was able to follow up new leads, as well as revisiting information taken from the original inquiry in 1975 in which nearly more than 6,000 statements were taken and nearly 2,000 people were questioned.

The investigation was featured on BBC’s ‘Crimewatch’ programme in February 2003, triggering over 250 calls, while the officers also had to travel across the UK and also other parts of the world to narrow down their list of potential suspects.

It was a scientific breakthrough, however, which helped them find their man.

The team had recovered items from the original investigation, including tapings of the fibres taken from Lesley’s clothes which, following stringent tests, were found to contain traces of semen. This enabled them to build up a DNA profile of the murderer, allowing them to exclude hundreds of men as suspects, among them the paedophile Raymond Hewlett.

It was when Ronald Castree was arrested for a seperate offence that this evidence would prove the key in solving Lesley’s horrific murder – he was the perfect match.

Welcoming Monday’s verdict, Mr McLean said: “West Yorkshire Police has never given up on this investigation. “We are pleased for Lesley’s family that this case has at last been resolved.” “Lesley was abducted and brutally killed. She was taken from the safety of her home and community, subjected to a terrifying and frenzied attack and then abandoned in the bleakest of resting places. “No-one deserves the kind of anxiety that Lesley’s family have endured over the years not knowing until now who killed her. “They have been extremely supportive of the work that we have done and I am delighted that Castree has been brought to justice for their sake.”

He added: “We recognise that there were other victims in this investigation including the dreadful miscarriage of justice in relation to Stefan Kiszko. “We are pleased to see the real murderer finally brought to justice. “Ronald Castree allowed an innocent man to go to prison for a crime he did not commit. “ Despite repeated appeals for information – including when the investigation was relaunched, the anniversary of Lesley’s death and on what would have been Lesley’s 40th birthday as well as the BBC Crimewatch appeal – he never came forward. “We have worked very closely with the Forensic Science Service on this inquiry and greatly value the contribution they have made.”

Cathy Turner, who is from the service, echoed DCI Mclean’s comments. “This has been a very long-running investigation and we are delighted that the offender has now been brought to justice,” she said. “The initial forensic review of the case revealed very few opportunities. “However, with the application of new, world-leading scientific techniques that the FSS has developed in the time since the crime was committed, we obtained a result that was the turning point in the investigation.”

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