Lesley Molseed murder trial: Finger pointed at ex-Tod man

6 November 2007 
Halifax Evening Courier

The jury in the Lesley Molseed murder trial has heard that her killer could have been a former Todmorden man. Ronald Castree, 54, denies murdering the 11-year-old schoolgirl on moorland above Ripponden in October 1975. And yesterday, defence counsel Rodney Jameson QC told Bradford Crown Court that there was "an overwhelming possibility" that the man who sexually assaulted her and stabbed her 12 times was convicted paedophile, Raymond Hewlett.

Hewlett, 62, had targeted child victims several times and in 1972 used paint thinner to knock-out a young girl he had abducted and taken to Widdup Moor near Todmorden where he tried to rape her.

In 1978 Hewlett attempted to sexually assault another girl in her Todmorden home.

Mr Jameson said on October 5, 1975 - the day of Lesley's disappearance - Hewlett's turquoise Morris 1000 van was seen parked in the lay-by on the A672 Oldham-Halifax Road next to the isolated spot where Lesley's body was found.

It had a tartan blanket, that Hewlett had stolen in Scotland, wrapped around its windscreen and side windows so that passers-by believed there was a courting couple inside.

One witness, Christopher Coverdale, has described seeing a man with a girl matching Lesley's description walking up the hillside next to the lay-by.

Hewlett arrived back in Todmorden at 5pm and told his teenage girlfriend, with whom he was having a passionate affair, to provide him with a false alibi.

He told Rosalee Dolan, who according to Mr Jameson saw Hewlett as a "James Dean figure" and her "hero", that he was in trouble and he needed to go away. The pair first fled to Burnley where they stayed with two friends, Michael and John Goodall.

During that time, Hewlett drove them on to the moors and later he and his girlfriend went to Liverpool.

The van was dumped and the pair fled to Ireland but on October 22, 1975, they returned and Hewlett abandoned the teenager in Dover.

She subsequently confirmed Hewlett's story that he had been in Centre Vale Park, Todmorden, with her on the afternoon of Lesley's abduction.

Seventeen years later, after the release of Stefan Kiszko, who was wrongly convicted of Lesley's murder, Hewlett was interviewed again while serving a six-year prison sentence for a sexual offence committed in 1988.

He went on to tell fellow inmates about Lesley's murder and told one, David Seaman, that he did it.

He always referred to Lesley as a woman and prisoners believed this was because of the stigma attached to being labelled a child killer when in prison.

Castree, of Brandon Crescent, Shaw, Oldham, told the court that he could not explain how his DNA was found inside Lesley's knickers.

He told the court that he was unfaithful to his first wife and had casual sex regularly in the back of the London style taxi he drove at the time of the murder.

He said he had never had sexual relations with Lesley or any member of the Molseed family.

When asked about his previous convictions of indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl and inciting her to commit an act of gross indecency in 1976, Castree said: "I have no clear memory of what happened that evening - it has caused me many sleepless nights.

"It's so out of character for me. I have regretted it ever since but I have no clear memory. I am still ashamed of it - I can no more explain it today than I could then."

When cross-examined, Julian Goose QC, prosecuting, said: "I suggest your plain loss of memory is pure convenience."

Castree said he subsequently saw his GP who referred him to a psychiatrist.

He was diagnosed with exhaustion and Castree said it was this that made him act out of character.

Mr Goose said Castree's explanation that he had been "framed" for the murder since crossing swords with police officers in 1979 was absurd.

Mr Goose asked: "You are lying aren't you because you cannot bring yourself to admit what you know to be true - that you abused her and murdered her?"

Castree replied: "I did not sir."

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