Police release new pictures of suspect in Molseed case

31 December 2001
Ian Herbert
The Independent

One of Britain's most ill-fated murder inquiries, which has already sent an innocent man to jail for 16 years, is piling more frustration on detectives who have now identified a prime suspect but cannot locate him.

The Lesley Molseed case has become better known for the Inland Revenue clerk who was wrongfully jailed for it – Stefan Kiszko – than the 11-year-old girl who set off to fetch a loaf of bread at Rochdale, Lancashire, on 5 October 1975 and never came back. She was sexually assaulted, stabbed 12 times and dumped on moors at Ripponden. In 1992, DNA from semen, found on Lesley's body but not revealed in court, proved Mr Kiszko's innocence. He was set free but died a year later.

Renewed belief that DNA could unlock the mystery prompted a second re-opening of the inquiry seven months ago. Since then a list of 103 potential suspects has been drawn up. The prime suspect is Raymond Hewlett, 56, a former Scots Guardsman, trawlerman and fairground worker. Two photographs of him have just been published by detectives – a step which reflects their desperation to find him.

Mr Hewlett was living in Todmorden – 10 miles from Rochdale – when Lesley was killed. He fled west Yorkshire for the Republic of Ireland soon after the murder. He had a record of crimes against girls for which he had served 18-month and four-year sentences. It was only after his release from a later, six-year, sentence for kidnapping a 14-year-old girl on a paper round in Cheshire, that police, realising the Kisko conviction was flawed, questioned Mr Hewlett in 1993. Most of his answers consisted of: "No reply."

He was linked to the scene of the crime as he owned a blue Morris 1000 van which matched the descriptions of 14 people who saw one parked in a lay-by at Ripponden on the day of Lesley's abduction. But it was insufficient evidence to charge him and he was released. The van has never been found and he has remained at large.

Investigations in the early 1990s and published in Innocents, a book on the case written by a retired police officer and a local journalist, also established a previously unknown link between Mr Hewlett's family and friends of the Molseed family. This raised the possibility that Lesley had known her killer and might have got into his car without fear.

The two new photographs of Mr Hewlett – one, taken in Forres on Scotland's Moray Firth in October 1997 with his then girlfriend, a 25-year-old German national; the other used as a passport picture in 1995 in Milan – demonstrate his mobility and powers of evasion.

He has spent much of the last eight years in the Irish Republic – attractive to criminals like him because there are no passport controls or sex offenders' register – but he has also escaped detection by moving around continental Europe. His many relationships have yielded eight children. But despite several close shaves, he has evaded detection by British police, the Irish Gardai and Interpol.

After he was spotted cruising remote areas of Ireland in a van, a circular distributed to Garda stations warned that Mr Hewlett was a danger to children and should be kept under observation. The Irish Gardai, who want to question him in connection with a series of attempted abductions, know he has also claimed social welfare benefits in at least six places. Mr Hewlett is cunning, according to Irish officers. "[He] poses as an undercover police officer to search for young girls or befriends their families to gain access to children," said one. "To say we need to trace this man is an understatement," said Det Supt Max McClean, who leads the inquiry.

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