Stefan Kiszko: A Life For A Life

THE guilty verdict and life sentence for killer Ronald Castree today finally brings justice for Lesley Molseed’s family.
But it comes too late for the innocent man who spent 16 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
I was at the Appeal Court in London on Friday Dec 20 1991 when a judge ordered the release of Stefan Kiszko – pictured.
The MEN front page that night was headlined: “Kidnap Case ‘Killer’ Freed”
But there was to be no happy ending for Stefan.
Some seven years later, ITV screened an acclaimed film about the former tax clerk.
It was called A Life For A Life.
Below is one of the features I wrote about the drama, telling just part of a heartbreaking story for two families.

MEN Aug 21 1998:
CHRISTMAS was just five days away as the silence of the Gothic courtroom was broken by a judge’s concerned questions.
Outside the Appeal Court, shoppers hurried to buy presents.

Inside, the closing chapter of an appalling miscarriage of justice was about to unfold.
The men in wigs spoke with regret in their voices as they outlined the sad story of Stefan Kiszko.
As we scribbled down the words in the press box, the scale of the errors made in his case became clear.
Within minutes, it was obvious to all that the Rochdale tax clerk could never have been the killer of schoolgirl Lesley Molseed.
Medical evidence proved it.
Judge Lord Justice Russell looked sombre and wasted no time.
He immediately ordered that Stefan be released on bail pending a full appeal hearing.
The 17-stone immature child was not in court to see the faces of the men who had set him free.
He was in the secure wing of Ashworth Hospital on Merseyside awaiting the outcome.
Sixteen years of his life had been taken away for a crime he did not commit.
The nightmare of being an innocent man, locked away as a child killer, had taken its toll on his mental health.
He was later transferred to Prestwich Hospital and treated alongside non-offenders.
Actor Tony Maudsley remembers seeing a news report of Stefan finally going home in March 1992.
Now he has re-created that moment for a new ITV film.
A Life For A Life will tell Stefan’s story, in a two-hour drama to be screened later this year.

Tony was performing in South Pacific at Manchester’s Opera House when he was asked about playing the role of the man jailed for life for the 1975 murder of 11-year-old Lesley.
Later, walking through Manchester before going to an audition, he spotted the book Innocents co-written by Manchester Evening News crime reporter Steve Panter which tells the story of two victims.
“For the first time I learned about Stefan Kiszko.
“When I saw a picture inside the book I remembered a TV report of him being released, walking out with his white training shoes on, with his mum and aunt flanking him either side.
“The film starts with his interrogation, and then it flashes back to happy times and shows you how he got there.
“Then it goes on into the trial, the prison and ends with his release.
“It’s a hell of a role to get. I thought I had a certain responsibility to be as truthful to Stefan as I possibly could.
“The facts of the story are harrowing enough, without me adding anything extra to it.”
Liverpool-born Tony 30, drove up to Kiszko’s former home in Rochdale on New Year’s Day and was deeply moved by both his plight and his elderly mother Charlotte’s fight for justice.
She is played by Oscar-winning American star Olympia Dukakis.
Tony admits to several emotional moments during scenes set at the original trial.
“I was being brought up into the arena of the courtroom for the first time, after waiting downstairs in the holding cell.
“As they brought me up there was this mumble and then they saw my head appear and there was a deathly silence.
“I just felt the hair on my back stand up and thought: ‘Oh, my God.’
“And I really did cry when I was being cross-examined.
“All the time Olympia was sat up in the public gallery and was looking at me with this pained face.
“I also cried when we filmed Stefan’s return to his house after he’d been away for 16 years.
“But what’s surprising about him is that there was so little anger when he was released.
“He said he still had his trust in the system, which baffled me.”
After being jailed, Stefan wrote to a family friend:
“I am in Her Majesty’s Prison for a crime which I have not committed.
“I am missing my mother very much, and mum is missing me, too. I hope there will be a happy ending.”
Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Just over two years to the day since his release was ordered, Stefan collapsed and died from heart failure, as he got ready for bed.
He had earlier asked his mother if he could open his presents before Christmas Day.
Five months later, Charlotte, 70, also died.
Life Term For Molseed Killer