DNA evidence could nail Lesley's killer

4 February 2003
Yorkshire Post

Detectives hunting the killer of a schoolgirl who was murdered 27 years ago announced a dramatic breakthrough in their investigation yesterday. They now have a DNA profile from semen left at the scene of the crime by, police believe, the killer of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed. And they revealed that their prime suspect, convicted child abuser Raymond Hewlett, formerly of Todmorden, was no longer being investigated in connection with the inquiry. The DNA profile has categorically ruled him out. The senior investigating officer in charge of the investigation, Det Chief Supt Max Mclean, of West Yorkshire Police, said he was hoping the development would catch the killer.

The Rochdale schoolgirl was stabbed 12 times and sexually assaulted after leaving her home on Sunday, October 5, 1975, to buy a loaf of bread and an air freshener from a local shop. Her body was discovered three days later on open moorland above the A672 Oldham to Halifax road at Ripponden, West Yorkshire. Tonight detectives will make a fresh appeal on the BBC Crimewatch UK programme in a bid to catch the killer. The DNA breakthrough came as a surprise as most of the evidence had been disposed of in the 1970s and just a few fragments remained in storage.

Mr Mclean will appeal to the public for assistance in identifying the killer. He said: "We now have the ability, through the development of scientific methods, to eliminate people from the inquiry once and for all.

"It may be that someone has harboured a suspicion for 27 years that a friend, relative or acquaintance could have killed this little girl. "This is an extremely simple process and I would implore people to contact the police and tell us of their suspicions. "We will never have a better opportunity to catch her killer. The likelihood of finding any further forensic evidence is close to negligible. This is a murder investigation West Yorkshire Police would dearly love to solve." 

He added: "I think the killer had good local knowledge. He might have been out for a Sunday lunchtime pint... I personally think he will be 60 to 70 years old and a car driver. He might have struck again. There is also the possibility that he is dead." He said he was not too surprised to find that Mr Hewlett was not the killer, saying the evidence relating to him was circumstantial.   

(Blogger note: And the evidence against Castree, other than the questionable DNA results, was also entirely circumstantial.)

Lesley's mother, April Garrett, of Littleborough near Rochdale, will speak about the loss of her daughter on TV tonight. She says: "When we heard the police had found DNA we were absolutely elated. It's like all our Christmases rolled into one - it gives us great hope."

She says of her daughter: "She was such a chatty little thing. "Most people knew Lesley because she was such a chatty, friendly child. "She was eleven but she looked smaller. "She looked about nine in height - very small, very tiny."

On Lesley's disappearance she adds: "After two hours, I knew she was gone - I could feel it in the whole of my body. "And I never lost that feeling, it just grew stronger and stronger and I thought 'I'm never going to see her again'. "After two hours I knew that Lesley was gone. "And after three hours I just turned to my husband and I looked at him and said: 'Lesley is dead'."

Mrs Garrett also talks movingly about identifying Lesley's body. She says: "My husband woke me up and said 'The detectives think they've found Lesley'. "They wanted us to go to Halifax. "They took me down a corridor, into a room, and she was lying on the table as though she was asleep. And for one wonderful moment I thought she was asleep."

After a major investigation, Stefan Kizsko, a tax clerk from Rochdale, was convicted of her murder and spent 19 years in jail but following an appeal was released from prison in 1992. He died shortly afterwards. The murder investigation was reopened but without success in tracing Lesley's killer.

In 1999 West Yorkshire Police approached the forensic science service to review the case and any material left from the original inquiry. After experimenting with new techniques, forensic scientists were able to generate a DNA profile from semen found on Lesley's body.

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