Defendant denies murdering girl 30 years ago

5 November 2007
Press Association
Dave Higgens

The man accused of murdering schoolgirl Lesley Molseed more than 30 years ago told a jury today that he did not kill the 11-year-old. Ronald Castree, 54, was asked if he was guilty almost as soon as he took to the witness box at Bradford Crown Court. Rodney Jameson QC, defending, asked him: "Did you murder Lesley Molseed?" Standing with his hands clasped in front on him, bald-headed Castree replied: "No, sir. I did not kill Lesley Molseed."

Wearing a grey suit and a white shirt with a blue tie, he was giving evidence at the start of the third week of his trial. Earlier Mr Jameson told the jury it was "overwhelmingly probable" a "dangerous and violent paedophile" called Raymond Hewlett killed little Lesley.

A jury has heard how Lesley went missing from her home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, as she was running an errand for her mother on October 5, 1975. Her body was found three days later on the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester border, on moors near to the A672 Oldham to Ripponden road.

She had been stabbed 12 times during a "frenzied attack", the jury has heard. The jury has already heard how an innocent man - tax clerk Stefan Kiszko - was wrongly convicted of Lesley's murder and spent 16 years in prison.

After Mr Kiszko's release scientists built up a DNA profile of whoever left the semen which was found in Lesley's pants. The court has been told how a DNA sample taken from Castree when he was arrested on an unrelated matter in 2005 was a direct match with the sample from the 1975 murder scene.

Castree, of Shaw, Oldham, denies one count of murder.

Castree told the jury how he had numerous affairs during his marriage of more than 20 years to his first wife, Beverley. He said that in the early years after his wedding this was mainly a series of casual relationships. The defendant said this was standard behaviour in the taxi trade at that time.

"There was an awful lot of casual sex to be had," he said. Asked how many partners he had in that time, he said he did not know exactly. "Most weekends something would occur," he said. "There were no sexual diseases prevailing in those days." Castree went on: "Like a lot of young lads at the time, casual sex ensued, basically." He said his wife knew about most of his affairs. Castree also told the jury he knew he was not the father of his first son, Jason, who was born shortly before Lesley went missing. The couple went on to have two more sons. He said he and Beverley stayed together until about 1996 or 1997, mainly for the sake of the children.

The jury has heard how Castree admitted a sex attack on a nine-year-old girl in 1976. Today he told the court he was still ashamed of what he did to her. "I have no clear memory of what happened. It's caused me many sleepless nights since," Castree told the jury. "It was so out of character for me." He went on: "I'm still ashamed of it. "I can no more explain it today than I could then." Castree told the court: "I have never hidden the conviction from anyone I have known." He said he was so confused about why he assaulted the girl he went to see a psychiatrist.

Castree then told the jury how he was arrested in 1979 after he reported a robbery at his workplace but police believed he was involved in the crime. He described how he was punched in the stomach by police officers at the station. He said the officers then threatened to "fit him up for something more serious" if he did not confess to the robbery. Castree told the jury: "The Lesley Molseed case was mentioned then."

Under cross examination, Castree repeatedly said he had no explanation for why his DNA was found on adhesive tape used to take samples from Lesley's pants. Julian Goose QC, prosecuting, said to him: "Do you say the reason your DNA profile matches a sample from the tapings is because you've been framed?" Castree replied: "I'm not saying that's what's happened. I can't explain how my DNA has been found."

Mr Goose pressed Castree on how the police could have made sure his DNA ended up at the Forensic Science Service's laboratory. But the defendant continued to state he had no idea how his DNA ended up on the tape. He told the jury: "I can't explain how my sperm or DNA could have been found at the scene of Lesley's death. "I didn't do it."

Under further questioning, Castree continued to assert he had little or no memory of the events which led to his 1976 conviction for sexually assaulting the young girl. He also refused to admit he had made up the story about police threatening to "fit him up" in 1979, despite Mr Goose pointing out the police already believed they had the right man in prison at that time.

The case was later adjourned until tomorrow.

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