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article imageThe Moors Murders — A Retrospective

By Alexander Baron     Aug 19, 2012 in Crime
Gorton - The Moors Murders are back in the news again, and there have been two developments in the case, one slightly disturbing, the other, sad.
If you are either too young to remember the Moors Murders or are domiciled outside the UK, you can find some basic information here. Although there have been other killer couples before and since, including Fred and Rose West, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley hold an especial fascination for the British public. There is probably no single reason for this, but the gratuitous and sadistic abduction, torture and murder of anyone has a lurid fascination for many people, and when the victims are so young, it is difficult for even the most hardened individuals not to show a sense of revulsion.
The Moors Murderers plumbed new depths of depravity, photographing and taping their victims as they were tortured, and then in a final act of contempt, posing on their graves, as Hindley is shown doing below.
The classic mugshots of Moors Murderers: psychopath Ian Brady and blonde she devil Myra Hindley as i...
The classic mugshots of Moors Murderers: psychopath Ian Brady and blonde she devil Myra Hindley as issued by Manchester Police.
Manchester Police
There were other factors too. Their trial at Chester Assizes took place shortly after the abolition of capital punishment in Britain - in practice if not in theory. Two men were hanged for murder on August 13, 1964, the last two ever in Britain; the crimes of Brady and Hindley dated from July 1963, so if they had been apprehended earlier, they too could have faced the rope.
Then there is the classic photograph of Hindley, above, and the ludicrous campaign by Lord Longford to have her parolled. If Hindley was not already the most hated woman in Britain, she certainly was after that.
The tabloids have of course had a field day over the years, milking public outrage, but for once it is difficult to criticise them.
Scotsman Ian Brady met Myra Hindley at Millwards Merchandising in Gorton, Manchester where he worked as a clerk, she as a typist. He had not had the best start in life, but after early troubles with the law had decided to put his criminal past behind him and make something of himself, which he might have done had their paths not crossed.
She was a local girl, and had had a decent start in life. She had been briefly engaged aged 17 but by the time she went to work for Millwards, she was a free agent. After they became lovers, Brady moved in with Hindley, who lived with her grandmother in Bannock Street. It was while they were living here that they murdered their first victim, 16 year old Pauline Reade. On November 23, 1963, they kidnapped and murdered schoolboy John Kilbride. This was the day after the Kennedy Assassination. None of the usual conspiracy cranks appears to have noticed this, but one is entitled to ask if Oswald's handiwork might not have been some sort of bizarre inspiration for the killer couple's second murder.
Shortly, Hindley moved with her grandmother and her lover to 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, where they were to murder 10 year old Lesley Ann Downey. She was snatched off the street, and there can be little doubt that without Hindley, this crime, and quite likely the other child murders would not have been committed, because even in the 1960s parents warned their young ones not to talk to much less go with strange men.
Their last murder was committed in October 1965, and they might have got away with that and all the others had Brady not decided to recruit an understudy, David Smith, a youth of poor character who had married Hindley's sister, Maureen, the previous year. Their 17 year old victim, Edward Evans, was lured to Wardle Brook Avenue by the killer couple where he was hacked and strangled to death by Brady with Hindley's assistance.
Fortunately for any future victims, Brady had been a poor judge of character; after witnessing the murder and agreeing to help them dispose of the body the following day, Smith went home to his wife, and together they walked to a phone box where they called the police.
Brady was arrested, but initially Hindley remained at liberty; a remark by David Smith and a search of 16 Wardle Brook Avenue turned what might have been a routine case of murder or even manslaughter into something unthinkable. Smith's remark led the police to search Manchester left luggage offices, and a search of the house led to an old exercise book in which the name of the missing schoolboy "John Kilbride" had been scribbled.
At a left luggage office, the police found pornographic photographs of Lesley Ann Downey and a tape recording of her screaming. There were also photographs of Saddleworth Moor, the implication being that this was where the bodies were buried.
Both Brady and Hindley denied everything, or at least as much as they could, and were tried the following year at Chester Assizes before Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson. They were charged with only three murders: Lesley Ann Downey, John Kilbride and Edward Evans. David Smith was the star prosecution witness, so it was essential to discredit him, which was easily done, especially as he had taken money and been promised more by the now defunct News Of The World three years before it was bought by Rupert Murdoch.
In spite of Smith's poor character and his deal with the Sunday broadsheet (as it then was), the evidence against Brady and Hindley was absolutely overwhelming, and it took the jury a little over 2 hours to convict Brady of all three murders, and Hindley of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans. Among the evidence adduced at this trial was the tape of Lesley Ann Downey crying and pleading for her mother.
By a terrible coincidence, the woman who owned 18 Westmoreland Street, where Brady lived before moving in with Hindley, was also the landlady of Alfred Bailey, who lived at number 10. In 1964, Bailey was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a 6 year old girl. The house at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue was demolished in 1987.
David Smith, who died three months ago, was smeared with guilt by association - even though he was the person responsible for bringing the Moors Murderers to book. In 1972, he found himself in the dock charged with murder, although under very different circumstances. His father, Jack, was dying of cancer, and Smith gave him a lethal cocktail, ie a mercy killing. He was convicted of manslaughter, but released immediately.
In 1985, Brady was declared criminally insane and moved to the high security Ashworth Hospital, Merseyside, where he remains to this day. Unlike Hindley - who died in November 2002 - Brady has long since come to terms with what he is, and longs only for death. This has been denied him by a legal system that is as insane as he is, if not more so.
Hindley though was a different kettle of fish entirely, and sought her release almost from the off, and, incredibly, there were those who were willing to assist her. Unlike the admirers of Casey Anthony - white males of a certain age who keep their brains inside their trousers - her willing helpers came from a wide selection of backgrounds. Only 6 years into her life sentence, she was allowed out of Holloway Prison for a supervised walk, an incident that led to questions being raised in Parliament.
In one of those stories you couldn't make up, Hindley had a lesbian love affair with a prison officer and former nun, Patricia Cairns, who plotted to help her escape, an act of utter foolishness on the part of a woman who was clearly being used by Hindley for her own purposes.
Hindley's most infamous relationship however was with a much older man, and was anything but sexual. Lord Longford (1905–2001) was a high profile advocate of prison reform, among other things. About the only thing he had in common with Hindley was Catholicism, though it remains to be seen how sincere her beliefs were, even though she was raised in the Catholic Church. He visited Hindley many times, and called for her release. As part of her ultimately futile campaign for parole, Hindley distanced herself from Brady, his one-time more than willing accomplice becoming herself a victim, mesmerised by a powerful, psychopathic personality. The tabloids wouldn't wear it, neither would the public, and any Home Secretary who even considered her for parole would be jeopardising his party's chances at the next general election.
Probably as a result of that, Brady, who by then had developed a seething hatred of his former lover, told a visiting journalist that they had committed two more murders. There had of course long been intelligent speculation that he and Hindley were responsible for the deaths of Pauline Reade (see above) and 12 year old Keith Bennett, who disappeared in June 1964, but the police were never able to forge a definite connection.
Brady appears to have told the press one thing and the police something entirely different, or perhaps the journalist concerned made it up, whatever, the police began to take a renewed interest in finding the bodies of these two probable victims, and this led to Hindley confessing to both murders on the record. On December 16, 1986, Hindley was taken under high security to Saddleworth Moor, but the search turned up nothing. In July the following year, after intensive searching, the police found the body of Pauline Reade.
This led to Brady being taken to Saddleworth Moor, but like Hindley, he too was unable to find the body of Keith Bennett. That remains the position to this day.
Keith Bennett  who was murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. His body has never been found.
Keith Bennett, who was murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. His body has never been found.
Creative Commons
In 2002, the European Court of Human Rights made a ruling in the case of self-styled fun-loving criminal Dennis Stafford that would affect many life sentence prisoners. In a typically lengthy judgment, the Court said the Home Secretary had no right to increase the tariff of a life sentence prisoner. This ruling led to the parole of convicted murderer Satpal Ram, and there was concern that Hindley would some day be able to use the same ruling to her advantage. This led to then Home Secretary David Blunkett ordering the framing of new murder charges against Hindley, but fortunately she died in November the same year aged 60.
Last week there was a genuine development in this case when one of Brady's professional visitors, Jackie Powell, was arrested. He was said to have handed her a letter to be opened only in the event of his death, one addressed to Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett. Miss Powell was appointed as a mental health worker, which raises issues of professional privilege and confidentiality, or should do. She was arrested on suspicion of preventing a lawful burial, an absolutely ludicrous charge.
With typical over-zealousness, the police seized a large quantity of documents from her home. It is now uncertain if any such letter exists, or if Brady has been playing games with the authorities, who are keeping him alive against his will.
Whatever the truth about this letter, and whether or not Keith's body will ever be found, it is now too late for Winnie Johnson, who died on Friday aged 78.
More about Ian Brady, Myra Hindley, Serial killers, Murder, saddleworth moor
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