Horror cries out for justice 28 years on

4 February 2003
Yorkshire Post

A simple errand to buy her mum a loaf of bread from a local shop led to one of the biggest manhunts in history. Lesley Molseed, a slightly built 11-year-old girl, was abducted and sexually assaulted before being stabbed to death on a remote moor in 1975. Her death shocked a nation but the conviction of tax clerk Stefan Kiszko drew the matter to a close for a time. However, forensic evidence proved conclusively he could not have been Lesley's killer and he was freed in 1992 after spending 16 years in jail.

The failure by West Yorkshire Police to convict the real killer upset the Molseed family who said they had lost faith and their treatment of them had been "inhuman". The murder investigation was officially relaunched on May 8 2001 with officers working from an incident room at Halifax police station looking at several new lines of inquiry.

At the time Det Chief Supt Max McLean said: "The case has never been closed. Thousands of documents from the original inquiry are being looked at by officers." He named convicted child abuser Raymond Hewlett, formerly of Todmorden, as the prime suspect they wanted to question in connection with her murder. Despite some progress in tracing him nothing concrete emerged until this week with the dramatic news that Hewlett could not have been Lesley's killer.

The people of Rochdale and Calderdale have yet again to face the uncomfortable fact that a killer may still be in their midst though at a Press conference Mr McLean admitted that given the passage of time he may well be dead.

The strain of Lesley's murder has placed an almost unbearable burden on her family's lives. In an interview with the Yorkshire Post in 2001 April Garrett, Lesley's mother, told how it had affected her family. She said: "It has been absolutely dreadful. It didn't split the family but it was like an implosion not an explosion. We imploded and everybody grieved in their separate ways. "I have read of families who grew closer together when something like this happens but we all grieved in our own separate ways. "There was no counselling in those days and I switched off for two or three years and didn't attend to the needs of my family "I always feel that I let them down, I just went my own way. They needed some comfort and I take a lot of the blame for not providing it." Her own health suffered badly too. In recent years she has suffered from depression, a brain hemorrhage and has needed major heart surgery. But she added: "There has got to be a reason for keeping me alive and maybe this is it."

The murder was made all the more poignant when it was revealed that little Lesley had undergone the trauma of open heart surgery and spent the first year of her life in hospital battling for survival. A year after she left hospital she still weighed the same as when she was born - 7lb 40z. For her mother to hear she had been stabbed 12 times and left to die on a bleak moor above Ripponden was too much to bear. "I could have accepted it if she had died on the operating table but not the way it happened. She was a lovely girl, my little angel. She used to sing the shopping lists and I used to send her to the shops just so that I could hear her sing. "When I went to identify her body I did it on my own. My husband Danny couldn't bear to come in, he adored her. "It was like she was sleeping and I went to give her a hug but I couldn't touch her, it was against the rules and that was hard. That was the last time I saw her."

West Yorkshire Police's reputation was not enhanced by the faulty conviction of Stefan Kiszko. Nowadays it is all very different. A police officer has been assigned to keep the family informed and Mrs Garrett says she is impressed by Mr McLean's openness, enthusiasm and honesty. And downstairs in the incident room the advance of technology is all too apparent. Although records from the original investigation are still stored in an antiquated card system, high-powered computers and DNA have given the police the chance to finally identify Lesley's killer.

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