Stefan Kiszko

Chapter twenty-nine of The Authority of the Boot-Maker by Mal Content.

I could have titled this chapter ‘Miscarriages of Justice’ and produced another tedious catalogue, but we could all come up with our own. These things are accepted, understood, apologised for, part of the social contract, why? Instead I’ve chosen to focus on a case which affected me profoundly when I first became aware of it, and which ever since, has informed my view of the relationship between the individual and the state, which is the realm of justice and law enforcement. In fact, they were all just doing their jobs.

Stefan Kiszko was wronged, not by individuals, though many exploited his situation for their own ends, but by an entire society, at every level. I find it instructive that none of the people who participated in this horror has ever apologised, as if it would be too much to admit. It would require acceptance of the structural nature of this wrong, and that renders it impossible for anyone to be made specifically accountable, not one of us is innocent. Judge Hugh Park expressed his sorrow at having presided over the “worst miscarriage of justice of all time”* but maintained he did nothing wrong.

* Anthony Beaumont-Dark, a Member of Parliament, and like Park, of the establishment. Dark added that “it brings shame on everyone involved” no, it brings shame on your society – away with it.

Kiszko was born with few advantages in life, the son of mill-workers of Ukrainian, Slovakian and German heritage, who fled Eastern Europe after the Second World War. His father Iwan, who had helped to build the M62 motorway, died of an unexpected heart attack in 1970 when young Stefan was eighteen. A rare genetic disorder left him with chronic health problems; according to the medical profession his mental and emotional age was twelve years. Considering the conduct of the great and the good in this case it’s hard to imagine what measure of maturity applies here.

After school Stefan entered the tax office as a clerk, the first white-collar worker in his family. At twenty-three he was diagnosed with anaemia, hypogonadism, given a blood transfusion and prescribed testosterone to correct a deficiency, this medication caused him to go through a sudden, belated form of puberty, with all that entails. So, a profoundly disabled man, who nevertheless held down a job and ran a car, by all accounts a blameless individual of simple tastes, most deserving of our mutual aid.

The loss of a child is a terrible thing; Lesley Molseed was eleven years old when she was abducted from an estate in Rochdale, driven to moorland and stabbed to death. Before he left, the killer ejaculated on her clothing. I mention this act only because it ruled out Kiszko as a suspect; the perpetrator, unlike Kiszko had a normal sperm count.

Police took more than six thousand statements, including four teenage girls who claimed they had seen Kiszko exposing himself. He attended Rochdale police station voluntarily, in his own car. It’s usual where a suspect’s mental capacity is in question for an ‘appropriate adult’ to accompany them in interview, but this has only been a statutory requirement since 1984. Stefan was not cautioned, nor told he was under arrest, he was questioned aggressively for three days without a solicitor, and his request for his mother to be present was refused. Detective Dick Holland wrote a confession and induced him to sign it by promising he could “go home” if he did so*, instead he was remanded to Armley prison. He retracted it as soon as he realised he had been lied to.

* This is standard police practice the world over when dealing with vulnerable suspects.

Stefan naively believed the police were seeking the truth, and that the facts would quickly exonerate him. He insisted he had never met Molseed, and didn’t kill her. He had been in Halifax with his aunt tending his father’s grave on the day in question; there were witnesses to this, who were never called. Evidence that Kiszko had a broken ankle, and being very heavily built would have struggled to climb the forty-foot bank to where the body was found, was not heard either. Anyone who has ever been through a Crown Court trial will be aware that it is a species of theatre, in which the facts play a supporting role at best.

By the time the case came to trial police had all the necessary evidence to prove Kiszko’s innocence, his alibi, and crucially that he was infertile and sperm was found at the scene, but the state, as always, was under pressure to get a conviction, so that was neither shared with the defence nor disclosed to the court. Kiszko was convicted by the dishonesty of the police and the incompetence of his barrister David Waddington. The prosecutor was Peter Taylor.

Waddington’s first mistake was not calling for an adjournment on the first morning of the trial when the Crown unexpectedly delivered six thousand unused witness statements. It included one by Chistopher Coverdale, who had seen a man and a girl at the lay-by on the A672 beneath the crime scene, that afternoon. The description of the girl and her clothing fitted Lesley, but the man bore no resemblance to the accused. Another came from a driver who admitted inadvertently exposing himself to the girls*. Had this witness been called it is unlikely the girls would have lied in court “for a laugh”, and if they had, may well have collapsed under cross-examination.

* The judge praised the girls for their “sharp observations, bravery and honesty”. In 1990 after the case was re-opened, they admitted they had made up the ‘flasher’ story after watching the man urinating behind a bush. As adults they were cautioned for perjury.

It was this one allegation that led to Kiszko’s arrest, there were no other grounds for suspicion. It was in his confession, which gave the defence good reason to exclude the whole thing as unreliable, instead they chose to challenge it during the course of the trial. This meant not only that the jury read the confession, but also that they formed an opinion of Kiszko himself as an unreliable witness. One piece of circumstantial evidence was Stefan’s habit of noting car registration numbers, he had written down one that had been spotted near the lay-by on the A672. The prosecution relied on this to place the defendant at the scene, but the least effort by his solicitor Albert Wright would have shown that the vehicle was regularly parked adjacent to his place of work.

Wright believed he was guilty so Waddington hedged his bets, exaggerating the effects of the hormone treatment*. If the trial went against them he might get the verdict reduced to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. The line was “he didn’t do it, but if he did, it was because he was on drugs”. That’s a fairly standard kind of defence for a politician, but doesn’t much appeal to juries with the media baying for blood. Indeed, Waddington later became Home Secretary, and ended up as Governor of Bermuda.

* Kiszko’s endocrinologist strongly denied that his medication could have caused him to act violently, out of character, but was not called as a witness.

The tabloids published their lurid fictions about the “monster” Kiszko with the customary clamour for the death penalty. In prison, Stefan fell into the trap of all the maliciously prosecuted, being ineligible for parole without a confession. He was repeatedly attacked by staff and inmates, and when he defended himself he was disciplined. He refused treatment for sex offending on the grounds that he had never offended. His conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal on 18th February 1992, the day Peter Taylor was appointed Lord Chief Justice. Seventeen years after his forced confession Stefan was finally allowed to ‘go home’.

Judge Park enthused: “I would like all the officers responsible for the result to be specially commended and these observations conveyed to the Chief Constable”. In 1994 Detective Chief Inspector Dick Holland, Chief Superintendent Jack Dibb and forensic scientist Ronald Outteridge were charged with perverting the course of justice by suppressing evidence, namely the test results on semen samples from the victim’s clothing and the accused.

Holland and Outteridge put the blame on Dibb, who died the following year. The case was abandoned owing to the passage of time and never put before a jury. Holland also led the disastrous Yorkshire ripper inquiry and participated in the false conviction of the fantasist Judith Ward for PIRA’s M62 coach bomb. In 1978 Hugh Park sentenced fifteen defendants to a total of a hundred and twenty years for the ‘crime’ of producing cheap, clean lysergic acid. Afterwards the price of a trip rocketed and it stood a fair chance of making you ill.

During Stefan’s incarceration only his mother Charlotte and aunt Alfreda campaigned against his conviction, they were rebuffed by their M.P. the obese, drug-addicted paedophile and asbestos industry stooge Cyril Smith. Their first appeal was dismissed on 25th May 1978 by the infamous Lord Justice Bridge, the judge who expressed regret at not being able to pass a death sentence on the Birmingham Six.

In July 1979 Stefan was formally dismissed by the Inland Revenue and began to develop schizophrenia, believing he was the subject of an experiment to test the effects of imprisonment on the innocent. Henceforth his declarations of innocence were labelled as schizophrenic symptoms. One prison psychiatrist made a note of Kiszko’s “delusions of innocence”. He reported receiving coded messages from the radio. Eventually even his mother was woven into his paranoid conspiracy theory. His mental health so deteriorated that he was was transferred to Ashworth hospital in March 1991.

Late in the day the case was taken up by solicitor Campbell Malone, who spent two years unravelling the web of deceit surrounding it. Working with Philip Clegg, who had been Waddington’s assistant at the trial, he prepared a petition to the Home Office; unfortunately it landed on the desk of David Waddington who took over the same day. Fearing for his own reputation Waddington sat on the file until his career path moved on to Leader of the House of Lords in November 1990, so it was a full sixteen months before it was referred back to West Yorkshire Police.

Stefan Kiszko may indeed have suffered from delusions, but there was nothing implausible about them. As we’ve seen the British state has done far worse things for more bizarre reasons, and it was clear that the authorities did not mean him to survive prison. Less than two years after his release the bum hand he had been dealt at birth, aggravated by systematic abuse at the hands of the state’s agents and their proxies, claimed his life as it had his father before him. He died of a heart attack and never received the half a million pounds he had been promised in compensation, nor did his mother, who passed away six months later. The state kept its money. In 2006, Ronald Castree was convicted of Molseed’s murder on DNA evidence.