Myra Hindley: Wikis

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Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

Hindley (left) and Brady, 1965
Background information
Birth name: Ian Duncan Stewart
Myra Hindley
Also known as: The Moors Murderers
Born: 2 January 1938 (1938-01-02) (age 72)(I.B.)
23 July 1942 (M.H.)
Glasgow, Scotland (I.B.)
Crumpsall, Manchester, England (M.H.)
Died: 15 November 2002 (aged 60) (M.H.)
Cause of death: Bronchial pneumonia caused by Heart disease (M.H.)
Conviction: Murder
Sentence: Life imprisonment
Number of victims: 5
Span of killings: 12 July 1963 – 6 October 1965
Country: England
Date apprehended: 7 October 1965 (I.B.)
11 October 1965 (M.H.)

The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The murders are so named because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor; a third grave was discovered on the moor in 1987, over 20 years after Brady and Hindley's trial in 1966. The body of a fourth victim, Keith Bennett, is also suspected to be buried there, but as of 2010 it remains undiscovered.

The police were initially aware of only three killings—those of Edward Evans, Lesley Ann Downey, and John Kilbride. The investigation was reopened in 1985, after Brady was reported in the press as having confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett. Brady and Hindley were taken separately to Saddleworth Moor to assist the police in their search for the graves, both by then having confessed to the additional murders.

Described by the press as "the most evil woman in Britain",[1] Hindley made several appeals against her life sentence, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but she was never released. She died in 2002, aged 60. Brady was declared criminally insane in 1985, since when he has been confined in the high-security Ashworth Hospital. He has made it clear that he never wants to be released, and has repeatedly asked that he be allowed to die.

The murders, reported in almost every English-language newspaper in the world,[2] were the result of what Malcolm MacCulloch, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, called a "concatenation of circumstances", which brought together a "young woman with a tough personality, taught to hand out and receive violence from an early age" and a "sexually sadistic psychopath".[3]



Rolling hills covered in grass is bisected by a single carriageway road. Two reservoirs are visible in the distance, under a blue, cloudy sky.
Saddleworth Moor, viewed from Hollin Brown Knoll. The bodies of three of the murdered children were found in this area.

The full extent of Brady and Hindley's killing spree did not come to light until their confessions in 1985, as both had until then maintained their innocence. Their first victim was 16-year-old Pauline Reade, a neighbour of Hindley's who disappeared on her way to a dance in Crumpsall on 12 July 1963. That evening, Brady told Hindley that he wanted to "commit his perfect murder". He told her to drive her van around the local area while he followed behind on his motorcycle; when he spotted a likely victim he would flash his headlight, and Hindley was to stop and offer that person a lift.[4]

Driving down Gorton Lane, Brady saw a young girl walking towards them, and signalled Hindley to stop, which she did not do until she had passed the girl. Brady drew up alongside on his motorbike, demanding to know why she had not offered the girl a lift, to which Hindley replied that she recognised her as Marie Ruck, a near neighbour of her mother. Shortly after 8:00 pm, continuing down Froxmer Street,[5] Brady spotted a girl wearing a pale blue coat and white high heeled shoes walking away from them, and once again signalled for the van to stop.[4] Hindley recognised the girl as Pauline Reade, a friend of her younger sister, Maureen.[6] Reade got into the van with Hindley, who then asked if she would mind helping to search for an expensive glove she had lost on Saddleworth Moor. Reade said she was in no great hurry, and agreed. At 16, Pauline Reade was older than Marie Ruck, and Hindley realised that there would be less of a hue and cry over the disappearance of a teenager than there would over a seven or eight-year-old child. When the van reached the moor, Hindley stopped and Brady arrived shortly afterwards on his motorcycle. She introduced him to Reade as her boyfriend, and said that he had also come to help find the missing glove. Brady took Reade onto the moor while Hindley waited in the van. After about 30 minutes Brady returned alone, and took Hindley to the spot where Reade lay dying, her throat cut. He told her to stay with Reade while he fetched a spade he had hidden nearby on a previous visit to the moor, to bury the body. Hindley noticed that "Pauline's coat was undone and her clothes were in disarray [...] She had guessed from the time he had taken that Brady had sexually assaulted her."[4] Returning home from the moor in the van—they had loaded the motorcycle into the back—Brady and Hindley passed Reade's mother, Joan, accompanied by her son, Paul, searching the streets for Pauline.[7]

Hindley approached twelve-year-old John Kilbride on 23 November 1963, at a market in Ashton-under-Lyne, and asked him to help her carry some boxes. Brady was sitting in the back of a Ford Anglia car that Hindley had hired. When they reached the moor, Brady took the child with him while Hindley waited in the car. Brady sexually assaulted Kilbride and attempted to slit his throat with a six-inch serrated blade before fatally strangling him with a piece of string, possibly a shoelace.[8]

Twelve-year-old Keith Bennett vanished on his way to his grandmother's house in Gorton during the early evening of 16 June 1964,[9] four days after his birthday. Hindley lured him into her Mini pick-up—which Brady was sitting in the back of—by asking for the boy's help in loading some boxes, after which she said she would drive him home. She drove to a lay-by on Saddleworth Moor as she and Brady had previously arranged, and Brady went off with Bennett, supposedly looking for a lost glove. Hindley kept watch, and after about 30 minutes or so Brady reappeared, alone and carrying a spade that he had hidden there earlier. When Hindley asked how he had killed Bennett, Brady said that he had sexually assaulted the boy and strangled him with a piece of string.[10]

Brady and Hindley visited a fairground on 26 December 1964 in search of another victim, and noticed 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey standing beside one of the rides. When it became apparent that she was on her own, they approached her and deliberately dropped some of the shopping they were carrying close to her, before asking for the girl's help to carry some of the packages to their car, and then to their home. Once inside the house Downey was undressed, gagged, and forced to pose for photographs before being raped and fatally strangled with a piece of string. Hindley maintained that she went to draw a bath for the child and found the girl dead (presumably killed by Brady) when she returned. The following morning Brady and Hindley drove with Downey's body to Saddleworth Moor,[11] where she was buried, naked with her clothes at her feet, in a shallow grave.[12]

On 6 October 1965 Brady met 17-year-old apprentice engineer Edward Evans at Manchester Central railway station and invited him to his home at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in Hattersley, where Brady beat him to death with an axe.[13]

Initial report

A roadside view of several 20th-century British houses. The houses are set high above the roadside. A grass slope is visible to the lower left of the image, and a tall brick wall to the lower right. A gap in the centre of the image indicates the absence of a single house
The empty plot where 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in Hattersley, once stood. The house was demolished by the local council.

The attack on Edward Evans was witnessed by Hindley's 17-year-old brother-in-law, David Smith, the husband of her younger sister Maureen. The Hindley family had not approved of Maureen's marriage to Smith, who had several criminal convictions, including actual bodily harm and housebreaking, the first of which, wounding with intent, occurred when he was aged eleven.[14] Throughout the previous year Brady had been cultivating a friendship with Smith, who had become "in awe" of the older man, something that increasingly worried Hindley, as she felt it compromised their safety. Shortly before Evans' murder Brady announced to her that he and Smith intended "to roll over a queer".[15]

On the evening of 6 October 1965 Hindley drove Brady to Manchester Central Station, where she waited outside in the car while he selected their victim; after a few minutes Brady reappeared in the company of Edward Evans, to whom he introduced Hindley as his sister. After they had driven back home and relaxed over a bottle of wine, Brady sent Hindley to fetch her brother-in-law. When they got back to the house Hindley told Smith to wait outside for her signal, a flashing light. When the signal came Smith knocked on the door and was met by Brady, who asked if he had come for "the miniature wine bottles". A few minutes later Hindley, who had gone into the kitchen to feed her dogs, heard Brady struggling with Evans and saw Smith standing by the front door.[13] She shouted for him to go and help, and Smith entered the room to find Brady repeatedly striking Evans with the flat of an axe. He watched as Brady then throttled Evans with a length of electrical cord.[16] Evans' body was too heavy for Smith to carry to the car on his own—Brady had sprained his ankle in the struggle—so they wrapped it in plastic sheeting and put it in the spare bedroom.[17]

Smith agreed to meet Brady the following evening to dispose of Evans' body,[17] but after returning home he woke his wife and told her what he had seen. Maureen told him that he must call the police. Three hours later the couple cautiously made their way to a public phone box in the street below their flat, Smith taking the precaution of arming himself with a screwdriver and a kitchen knife to defend them in the event that Brady suddenly appeared and confronted them. At 6:07 am Smith made an emergency services call to the police station in nearby Hyde and told his story to the officer on duty.[18] In his statement to the police Smith claimed that:

[Brady] opened the door and he said in a very loud voice for him [...] "Do you want those miniatures?" I nodded my head to say yes and he led me into the kitchen [...] and he gave me three miniature bottles of spirits and said: "Do you want the rest?" When I first walked into the house, the door to the living room [...] was closed. [...] Ian went into the living room and I waited in the kitchen. I waited about a minute or two then suddenly I heard a hell of a scream; it sounded like a woman, really high-pitched. Then the screams carried on, one after another really loud. Then I heard Myra shout, "Dave, help him," very loud. When I ran in I just stood inside the living room and I saw a young lad. He was lying with his head and shoulders on the couch and his legs were on the floor. He was facing upwards. Ian was standing over him, facing him, with his legs on either side of the young lad's legs. The lad was still screaming. [...] Ian had a hatchet in his hand [...] he was holding it above his head and he hit the lad on the left side of his head with the hatchet. I heard the blow, it was a terrible hard blow, it sounded horrible."[19]


Early on the morning of 7 October, shortly after Smith's call, Superintendent Bob Talbot of the Cheshire Police arrived at the back door of 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, wearing a borrowed baker's overall to cover his uniform. Talbot identified himself to Hindley as a police officer when she opened the door, and told her that he wanted to speak to her boyfriend. Hindley led him into the living room, where Brady was sitting up in a divan writing a note to his employer explaining that he would not be able to get into work because of his ankle injury. Talbot explained that he was investigating "an act of violence involving guns" that was reported to have taken place the previous evening.[20] Hindley denied that there had been any violence, and allowed police to look around the house. When they came to the upstairs room in which Evans' body was stored the police found the door locked, and asked Brady for the key. Hindley claimed that the key was at work, but after the police offered to drive her to her employer's premises to retrieve it, Brady told her to hand the key over. When they returned to the living room the police told Brady that they had discovered a trussed up body, and that he was being arrested on suspicion of murder.[21] As Brady was getting dressed, he said "Eddie and I had a row and the situation got out of hand."[22]

Hindley was not arrested with Brady, but she demanded to go with him to the police station, accompanied by her dog Puppet, to which the police agreed.[23] Hindley was questioned about the events surrounding Evans' death, but she refused to make any statement beyond claiming that it had been an accident. As the police had no evidence that Hindley was involved in Evans' murder she was allowed to go home, on condition that she return the next day for further questioning. Hindley was at liberty for four days following Brady's arrest, during which time she went to her employer's premises and asked to be dismissed, so that she would be eligible for unemployment benefits. While in the office where Brady worked she found some papers belonging to him in an envelope that she claimed she did not open, which she burned in an ashtray. She believed that they were plans for bank robberies, nothing to do with the murders. On 11 October Hindley was charged as an accessory to the murder of Edward Evans and was remanded at Risley.[24]

Initial investigation

Brady admitted under police questioning that he and Evans had fought, but insisted that he and Smith had murdered Evans between them; Hindley, he said, had "only done what she had been told".[25] Smith told police that Brady and Hindley had hidden evidence in two suitcases stored in a left-luggage office somewhere in Manchester. British Transport Police were asked to search all of Manchester's stations, and on 15 October found what they were looking for—police later found the left-luggage ticket in the back of Hindley's prayer book.[26] Inside one of the cases were nine pornographic photographs taken of a young girl, naked and with a scarf tied across her mouth, and a 13-minute tape recording of her screaming and pleading for help.[27] Ann Downey, Lesley Ann Downey's mother, later listened to the tape after police had discovered the body of her missing 10-year-old daughter, and confirmed that it was a recording of her daughter's voice.[28]

Police searching the house at Wardle Brook Avenue also found an old exercise book in which the name "John Kilbride" had been scribbled, which made them suspicious that Brady and Hindley may have been involved in the unsolved disappearances of other youngsters.[29] A large collection of photographs was discovered in the house, many of which seemed to have been taken on Saddleworth Moor. One hundred and fifty officers were drafted to search the moor, looking for locations that matched the photographs. Initially the search was concentrated along the A628 road near Woodhead, but a close neighbour, 11-year-old Pat Hodges, had on several occasions been taken to the moor by Brady and Hindley and she was able to point out their favourite sites along the A635 road.[30] On 16 October police found an arm bone sticking out of the peat; officers presumed that they'd found the body of John Kilbride, but soon discovered that the body was that of Lesley Ann Downey. Ann Downey—later Ann West after her marriage to Alan West—had been on the moor watching as the police conducted their search, but was not present when the body was found.[31] She was shown clothing recovered from the grave, and identified it as belonging to her missing daughter.[32]

A crouched blonde woman in thick jacket, trousers, and boots, holding a small dog.
A photograph taken by Ian Brady of Myra Hindley with her dog, Puppet, crouching over John Kilbride's grave on Saddleworth Moor

Detectives were able to locate another site on the opposite side of the A635 road from where Downey's body was discovered, and five days later they found the "badly decomposed" body of John Kilbride, whom they identified by his clothing.[33] That same day, already being held for the murder of Evans, Brady and Hindley appeared at Hyde Magistrate's Court charged with Lesley Ann Downey's murder. Each was brought before the court separately and remanded into custody for a week.[34] They made a two-minute appearance again on 28 October, and were remanded for a further week.[35]

The search for bodies continued, but with winter setting in it was called off in November.[33] Presented with the evidence of the tape recording Brady admitted to taking the photographs of Lesley Ann Downey, but insisted that she had been brought to Wardle Brook Avenue by two men who had subsequently taken her away again, alive. Brady was further charged with the murder of John Kilbride, and Hindley with the murder of Edward Evans, on 2 December.[36] At the committal hearing on 6 December Brady was charged with the murders of Edward Evans, John Kilbride, and Lesley Ann Downey, and Hindley with the murders of Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey, as well as with harbouring Brady in the knowledge that he had killed John Kilbride. The prosecution's opening statement was held in camera,[37] and the defence asked for a similar stipulation, but was refused.[38] The proceedings continued in front of three magistrates in Hyde over an 11-day period during December, at the end of which the pair were committed for trial at Chester Assizes.[39]

Many of the photographs taken by Brady and Hindley on the moor featured Hindley's dog Puppet, sometimes as a puppy. Detectives arranged for the animal to be examined by a vet, to determine its age, from which they could date when the pictures were taken. The examination involved an analysis of the dog's teeth, which required a general anaesthetic from which Puppet did not recover, as he suffered from an undiagnosed kidney complaint. On hearing the news of her dog's death Hindley became furious, and accused the police of murdering Puppet, one of the few occasions detectives witnessed any emotional response from her.[33] In a letter to her mother shortly afterwards Hindley wrote:

I feel as though my heart's been torn to pieces. I don't think anything could hurt me more than this has. The only consolation is that some moron might have got hold of Puppet and hurt him.[40]


The trial was held over 14 days beginning on 19 April 1966, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.[39] Such was the public interest that the courtroom was fitted with security screens to protect Brady and Hindley.[41] The pair were each charged with three murders, those of Evans, Downey, and Kilbride, as it was considered that there was by then sufficient evidence to implicate Hindley in Kilbride's death. The prosecution was led by the Attorney General, Frederick Elwyn Jones.[39] Brady was defended by the Liberal Member of Parliament Emlyn Hooson,[42] and Hindley was defended by Godfrey Heilpern, recorder of Salford from 1964—both experienced QCs.[43][44] David Smith was the chief prosecution witness, but during the trial it was discovered that he had agreed a deal with a newspaper that he refused to name—even under intense questioning—guaranteeing him £1,000 (equivalent to about £10,000 as of 2010) for the syndication rights to his story if Brady and Hindley were convicted, something the trial judge described as a "gross interference with the course of justice".[45][46] By the time of the trial Smith had already enjoyed a foreign holiday, and was accommodated at a five-star hotel for the duration of the trial, both at the newspaper's expense.[47]

Brady and Hindley pleaded not guilty to the charges against them; both were called to give evidence, Brady for over eight hours and Hindley for six.[48] Although Brady admitted to hitting Evans with an axe, he did not admit to killing him, arguing that the pathologist in his report had stated that Evans' death was "accelerated by strangulation". Under cross-examination by the prosecuting counsel, all Brady would admit was that "I hit Evans with the axe. If he died from axe blows, I killed him."[49] Hindley denied any knowledge that the photographs of Saddleworth Moor found by police had been taken near the graves of their victims.[50]

The tape recording of Lesley Anne Downey, on which the voices of Brady and Hindley were clearly audible, was played in open court. Hindley admitted that her attitude towards the child was "brusque and cruel", but claimed that was only because she was afraid that someone might hear Downey screaming.[50] Hindley claimed that when Downey was being undressed she herself was "downstairs"; when the pornographic photographs were taken she was "looking out the window"; and that when the child was being strangled she "was running a bath".

On 6 May, after having deliberated for a little over two hours,[51] the jury found Brady guilty of all three murders and Hindley guilty of the murders of Downey and Evans. The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act had come into force during the time that Brady and Hindley were held in prison, abolishing the death penalty for murder, and so the judge passed the only sentence that the law allowed: life imprisonment. Brady was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences and Hindley was given two, plus a concurrent seven-year term for harbouring Brady in the knowledge that he had murdered John Kilbride.[39] Brady was taken to Durham Prison and Hindley was sent to Holloway Prison.[50]

In his closing remarks Mr Justice Atkinson described the murders as a "truly horrible case" and condemned the accused as "two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity".[52] He recommended that both Brady and Hindley spend "a very long time" in prison before being considered for parole but did not stipulate a tariff. He stated that Brady was "wicked beyond belief" and that he saw no reasonable possibility of reform. He did not consider that the same was necessarily true of Hindley, however, "once she is removed from [Brady's] influence".[53] Throughout the trial Brady and Hindley "stuck rigidly to their strategy of lying",[54] and Hindley was later described as "a quiet, controlled, impassive witness who lied remorselessly".[39]

Later investigation

Head and shoulders monochrome photograph of a smiling short-haired young boy wearing spectacles.
Keith Bennett

In 1985 Brady allegedly confessed to Fred Harrison—a journalist working for The Sunday People—that he had also been responsible for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett,[55] something that the police already suspected, as both children lived in the same area as Brady and Hindley and had disappeared at about the same time as their other victims. The subsequent newspaper reports prompted the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to reopen the case, in an investigation headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Topping, who had been appointed Head of GMP's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) the previous year.[56]

On 3 July 1985 Topping visited Brady, then being held at Gartree Prison, but found him "scornful of any suggestion that he had confessed to more murders".[57] Police nevertheless decided to resume their search of Saddleworth Moor, once more using the photographs taken by Brady and Hindley to help them identify possible burial sites. Meanwhile, in November 1986 Winnie Johnson, Keith Bennett's mother, wrote a letter to Hindley begging to know what had happened to her son, a letter that Hindley seemed to be "genuinely moved" by.[58] It ended:

I am a simple woman, I work in the kitchens of Christie's Hospital. It has taken me five weeks labour to write this letter because it is so important to me that it is understood by you for what it is, a plea for help. Please, Miss Hindley, help me.[59]

Police visited Hindley, then being held in Cookham Wood, a few days after she had received the letter, and although she refused to admit any involvement in the killings, she agreed to help by looking at photographs and maps to try to identify spots that she had visited with Brady.[60] She showed particular interest in photographs of the area around Hollin Brown Knoll and Shiny Brook, but said that it was impossible to be sure of the locations without visiting the moor.[61] The security considerations for such a visit were significant; there were threats made against her should she visit the moors, but Home Secretary Douglas Hurd agreed with Topping that it would be worth the risk.[62] Writing in 1989, Topping said that he felt "quite cynical" about Hindley's motivation in helping the police. Although the letter from Winnie Johnson may have played a part, he believed that Hindley's real concern was that, knowing of Brady's "precarious" mental state, she was afraid that he might decide to co-operate with the police, and wanted to make certain that she, and not Brady, was the one to gain whatever benefit there may have been in terms of public approval.[63]

Hindley made the first of two visits to assist the police search of Saddleworth Moor on 16 December 1986.[64] Four police cars left Cookham Wood at 4.30 am. At about the same time, police closed all roads onto the moor, which was patrolled by 200 officers, 40 of them armed. Hindley and her solicitor arrived by helicopter from an airfield near Maidstone, touching down at 8.30 am. Wearing a donkey jacket and balaclava, she was driven, and walked around the area. It was difficult for Hindley to make a connection between her memories of the area and what she saw on the day, and she was apparently nervous of the helicopters flying overhead. At 3:00 pm she was returned to the helicopter, and taken back to Cookham Wood.[62] Topping was criticised by the press, who described the visit as a "fiasco", a "publicity stunt", and a "mindless waste of money".[65] He was forced to defend the visit, pointing out its benefits:

We had taken the view that we needed a thorough systematic search of the moor [...] It would never have been possible to carry out such a search in private.[65]

Topping continued to visit Hindley in prison, along with her solicitor Michael Fisher and her spiritual counsellor, the Reverend Peter Timms, who had been a prison governor before resigning to join the Methodist Church.[65] She made a formal confession to police on 10 February 1987, admitting her involvement in all five murders,[66] but news of her confession was not made public for more than a month.[67] The tape recording of her statement was over 17 hours long; Topping described it as a "very well worked out performance in which, I believe, she told me just as much as she wanted me to know, and no more".[68] He also commented that he "was struck by the fact that she was never there when the killings took place. She was in the car, over the brow of the hill, in the bathroom and even, in the case of the Evans murder, in the kitchen."[69] Topping concluded that he felt he "had witnessed a great performance rather than a genuine confession".[70]

A flat, desolate, moorland under a cloudy sky, covered in long grass. A road divides the image, from the foreground to the horizon.
During the 1987 search for Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, Hindley recalled that she had seen the rocks of Hollin Brown Knoll silhouetted against the night sky

Police visited Brady in prison again and told him of Hindley's confession, which at first he refused to believe. Once presented with some of the details that Hindley had provided of Pauline Reade's abduction, however, Brady decided that he too was prepared to confess, but on one condition: that immediately afterwards he be given the means to commit suicide, a request that was impossible for the authorities to comply with.[71]

At about the same time, Winnie Johnson sent Hindley another letter, again pleading with her to assist the police in finding the body of her son Keith. In the letter, Johnson was sympathetic to Hindley over the criticism surrounding her first visit. Hindley, who had not replied to the first letter, responded by thanking Johnson for both letters, explaining that her decision not to reply to the first resulted from the negative publicity that surrounded it. She claimed that, had Johnson written to her 14 years earlier, she would have confessed and helped the police. She also paid tribute to Topping, and thanked Johnson for her sincerity.[72] Hindley made her second visit to the moor in March 1987. This time, the level of security surrounding her visit was considerably higher. She stayed overnight in Manchester, at the flat of the police chief in charge of GMP training at Sedgley Park, and visited the moor twice.[72] She confirmed to police that the two areas in which they were concentrating their search—Hollin Brown Knoll and Hoe Grain—were correct, although she was unable to locate either of the graves.[73] She did later remember, though, that as Pauline Reade was being buried she had been sitting next to her on a patch of grass and could see the rocks of Hollin Brown Knoll silhouetted against the night sky.[74]

In April 1987 news of Hindley's confession became public. Amidst strong media interest Lord Longford pleaded for her release, writing that her continuing detention to satisfy "mob emotion" was not right. Fisher persuaded Hindley to release a public statement, in which she explained her reasons for denying her complicity in the murders, her religious experiences in prison, the letter from Johnson, and that she saw no possibility of release. She also exonerated David Smith from any part in the murders, except that of Edward Evans.[75]

A map of the area in which the bodies of three of the children were found
A map of Saddleworth Moor, showing the areas in which the bodies of three of the children were found, and the general area in which police searched for the body of Keith Bennett

Over the next few months interest in the search waned, but Hindley's clue had directed the police to focus their efforts on a specific area. On the afternoon of 1 July 1987, after more than 100 days of searching, they found a body lying in a shallow grave 3 feet (0.91 m) below the surface, only 100 yards (91 m) from the place where Lesley Ann Downey had been found.[74][76] Brady had been co-operating with the police for some time, and when news reached him that Reade's body had been discovered he made a formal confession to Topping.[77] He also issued a statement to the press, through his solicitor, saying that he too was prepared to help the police in their search. Brady was taken to the moor on 3 July, but he seemed to lose his bearings, blaming changes that had taken place in the intervening years, and the search was called off at 3:00 pm, by which time a large crowd of press and television reporters had gathered on the moor.[78]

Topping refused to allow Brady a second visit to the moors,[77] and a few days after his visit Brady wrote a letter to BBC television reporter Peter Gould, giving some sketchy details of five additional murders that he claimed to have carried out.[79] Brady refused to identify his alleged victims, however, and the police failed to discover any unsolved crimes matching the few details that he supplied.[80] Hindley told Topping that she knew nothing of these killings.[77]

A small valley cuts through desolate moorland, under a blue sky
Hoe Grain leading to Shiny Brook, the area in which Bennett's undiscovered body is believed by the police to be buried[81]

On 24 August 1987 police called off their search of Saddleworth Moor, despite not having found Keith Bennett's body.[82] Brady was taken to the moor for a second time on 1 December, but he was once again unable to locate the burial site. Keith Bennett's body remains undiscovered as of 2010, although his family continues to search the moor, over 40 years after his disappearance.[83]

Although Brady and Hindley had confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided that nothing would be gained by a further trial; as both were already serving life sentences no further punishment could be inflicted, and a second trial might even have helped Hindley's case for parole by giving her a platform from which to make a public confession.[84]

In 2003 the police launched Operation Maida, and again searched the moor for the body of Keith Bennett. They read statements from Brady and Hindley, and also studied photographs taken by the pair. Their search was aided by the use of sophisticated modern equipment, including a US satellite used to look for evidence of soil movement.[85] The BBC reported on 1 July 2009 however that Greater Manchester Police had officially given up the search for Keith Bennett, saying that "only a major scientific breakthrough or fresh evidence would see the hunt for his body restart".[86] Detectives were also reported as saying that they would never again give Brady the attention or the thrill of leading another fruitless search on the moor where they believe Keith Bennett's remains are buried.[87]

Perpetrators' backgrounds

Ian Brady

Ian Brady was born in Glasgow as Ian Duncan Stewart on 2 January 1938 to Maggie Stewart, an unmarried 28-year-old tea room waitress. The identity of Brady's father has never been reliably ascertained, although his mother claimed he was a reporter working for a Glasgow newspaper, who died three months before Brady was born. Stewart had little support, and after a few months was forced to give her son into the care of Mary and John Sloan, a local couple with four children of their own. Brady took their name, and became known as Ian Sloan. His mother continued to visit him throughout his childhood.[88] As a young child he took pleasure in torturing animals; he broke the hind legs of one dog, set fire to another, and decapitated a cat.[89] Aged nine, Brady visited Loch Lomond with his family, where he reportedly discovered an affinity for the outdoors, and a few months later the family moved to a new council house on an overspill estate at Pollok. He was accepted for the Shawlands Academy, a school for above average pupils.[90] As he grew older Brady's "brutality escalated", and soon he was hurting children smaller than himself.[89] At Shawlands his behaviour worsened; as a teenager he twice appeared before a juvenile court for housebreaking. He left the academy aged 15, and took a job as a teaboy at a Harland and Wolff shipyard in Govan. Nine months later he began working as a butcher's messenger boy. He had a girlfriend, Evelyn Grant, but their relationship ended when he threatened her with a flick knife after she visited a dance with another boy. He again appeared before the court, this time with nine charges against him,[91] and shortly before his 17th birthday a Scottish court put him on probation on the condition that he went to live with his mother,[92] who had by then moved to Manchester and married an Irish fruit merchant called Pat Brady, who got him a job as a fruit porter at Smithfield Market.[93]

Within a year of moving to Manchester Brady was caught with a sack full of lead seals he had stolen and was trying to smuggle out of the market. Because he was still under 18, he was sentenced to two years in borstal for "training".[94] He was initially sent to Hatfield but after being discovered drunk on alcohol he had brewed he was moved to the much tougher unit at Hull.[92] Released on 14 November 1957 Brady returned to Manchester, where he took a labouring job, which he hated, and was dismissed from another job in a brewery. Deciding to "better himself", Brady obtained a set of instruction manuals on book-keeping from a local public library, with which he "astonished" his parents by studying alone in his room for hours.[95] In early 1959, just three months after being released from borstal, Brady applied for and was offered a clerical job at Millwards Merchandising, a wholesale chemical distribution company based in Gorton. He was regarded by his work colleagues as a quiet, punctual, but short-tempered young man. He read books like Teach Yourself German, and also Mein Kampf, as well as works on Nazi atrocities. He rode a Tiger Cub motorcycle, which he used to visit the Pennines.[96]

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley (23 July 1942-15 November 2002)[97] was brought up in Gorton, then a tough, working class area of Manchester, the daughter of Nellie and Bob Hindley. Her mother and alcoholic father beat her regularly as a young child. The small house the family lived in was in such poor condition that Hindley and her parents had to sleep in the only available bedroom, she in a single bed next to her parents' double. The family's living conditions deteriorated further when Hindley's sister, Maureen, was born in 1946. Shortly after the birth, Hindley, then aged five, was sent by her parents to live with her grandmother, who lived nearby.[98]

Hindley's father had fought in North Africa, Cyprus, and Italy during the Second World War, and had served with the Parachute Regiment.[99] He had been known in the army as a "hard man" and he expected his daughter to be equally tough; he taught her how to fight, and insisted that she "stick up for herself". When Hindley was aged 8, a local boy approached her in the street and scratched both of her cheeks with his fingernails, drawing blood. She burst into tears and ran into her parents' house, to be met by her father who demanded that she "Go and punch him [the boy], because if you don't I'll leather you!" Hindley found the boy and succeeded in knocking him down with a sequence of punches, as her father had taught her. As she wrote later, "at eight years old I'd scored my first victory".[100]

Malcolm MacCulloch, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, has suggested that the fight, and the part that Hindley's father played in it, may be "key pieces of evidence" in trying to understand Hindley's role in the Moors murders:

The relationship with her father brutalized her [...] She was not only used to violence in the home but rewarded for it outside. When this happens at a young age it can distort a person's reaction to such situations for life.[101]

One of her closest friends was 13-year old Michael Higgins, who lived in a nearby street. In June 1957 he invited her to go swimming with friends at a local disused reservoir. A good swimmer, Hindley chose not to go and instead went out with a friend, Pat Jepson. Higgins drowned in the reservoir, and upon learning of his fate Hindley was deeply upset, and blamed herself for his death. She collected for a funeral wreath, and his funeral at St Francis' Monastery in Gorton Lane—the church where Hindley had been baptised a Catholic on 16 August 1942—had a lasting effect on her.[102] Hindley's mother had only agreed to her father's insistence that she be baptised a Catholic on the condition that she was not sent to a Catholic school, as her mother believed that "all the monks taught was the catechism".[103] Hindley was increasingly drawn to the Catholic Church after she started at Ryder Brow Secondary Modern, and began taking instruction for formal reception into the Church soon after Higgins' funeral. She took the confirmation name of Veronica, and received her first communion in November 1958. She also became a Godparent to Michael's nephew, Anthony John.[104][105] It was also at about this time that Hindley first began bleaching her hair.[106]

Hindley's first job was as a junior clerk at a local electrical engineering firm. She ran errands, made tea, and typed. She was well liked at the firm, enough so that when she lost her first week's wage packet, the other girls had a collection to replace it.[107] She had a short relationship with Ronnie Sinclair from Christmas 1958, and became engaged aged 17. The engagement was called off several months later; Hindley apparently thought Sinclair immature, and unable to provide her with the life she envisioned for herself.[108]

Shortly after her 17th birthday she changed her hair colour, with a pink rinse. She took judo lessons once a week at a local school, but found partners reluctant to train with her, as she was often slow to release her grip. She took a job at Bratby and Hinchliffe, an engineering company in Gorton, but was sacked for absenteeism after six months.[109]

As a couple

In 1961, the 18-year-old Myra Hindley joined Millwards as a typist. She soon became infatuated with Brady, despite learning that he had a criminal record.[110] Hindley started to keep a diary and, although she had dates with other men, some of the entries detail her fascination with Brady, whom she eventually spoke to for the first time on 27 July 1961.[111] Over the next few months she continued to make entries, and grew increasingly disillusioned with him, until 22 December when Brady asked her on a date to the cinema[112] where they watched a film about the Nuremberg Trials.[39] Their dates together followed a regular pattern; a trip to the cinema, usually to watch an adult film, and then back to Hindley's house to drink German wine.[113] Brady then gave her reading material, and the pair spent their work lunch breaks reading aloud to one another from accounts of Nazi atrocities. Hindley began to emulate an ideal of Aryan perfection, dying her hair blonde and applying thick crimson lipstick.[39] Hindley expressed concern at some aspects of Brady's character; in a letter to a childhood friend she mentioned an incident where she had been drugged by Brady, but also wrote of her obsession with him. A few months later, however, she asked her friend to destroy the letter.[114] In her 30,000-word plea for parole, written in 1978 and 1979, submitted to Home Secretary Merlyn Rees, Hindley said:

Within months he [Brady] had convinced me that there was no God at all: he could have told me that the earth was flat, the moon was made of green cheese and the sun rose in the west, I would have believed him, such was his power of persuasion.[115]

Hindley began to change her appearance further, wearing clothing considered risqué such as high boots, short skirts, and leather jackets, and the two became less sociable to their work colleagues.[116] The couple were regulars at the library, borrowing books on philosophy, as well as crime and torture. They also read works by the Marquis de Sade, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment.[39][117] Although she was not a qualified driver (she passed her test on the third attempt, late in 1963) Hindley often hired a van, in which the two planned bank robberies. Hindley befriended George Clitheroe, the President of the Cheadle Rifle Club, and on several occasions visited two local shooting ranges. Clitheroe, although puzzled by her interest, arranged for her to buy a .22 rifle from a gun merchant in Manchester. She also asked to join a pistol club, but she was a poor shot and allegedly often bad-tempered, so Clitheroe told her that she was unsuitable; she did though manage to purchase a Webley .45 and a Smith and Wesson .38 from other members of the club.[118] Brady and Hindley's plans for robbery came to nothing, but they became interested in photography. Brady already owned a Box Brownie which he used to take photographs of Hindley and her dog, Puppet, but he upgraded to a more sophisticated model, and also purchased lights, and darkroom equipment. The pair took photographs of each other that for the time would have been considered explicit. For Hindley, this demonstrated a marked change from her earlier, more shy nature.[119]

As murderers

Hindley claimed that Brady began to talk about "committing the perfect murder" in July 1963,[120] and often spoke to her about Meyer Levin's novel Compulsion, published in 1956. The book tells the story of two children from well-to-do families who attempt to carry out the perfect murder of a 12-year-old boy, and who escape the death penalty because of their age,[121] a fictionalised account of the Leopold and Loeb case of 1924.

By June 1963 Brady had moved in with Hindley at her grandmother's house in Bannock Street, and on 12 July 1963 the two murdered their first victim, 16-year-old Pauline Reade. Reade had been at school with Hindley's younger sister, Maureen, and had also been in a short relationship with David Smith, a local boy with three criminal convictions for minor crimes. Police could find nobody who had seen Reade before she disappeared, and the 15-year-old Smith fell under their suspicion, although he was cleared of any involvement in her death.[122] Their next victim, John Kilbride, was killed on 23 November 1963. A huge search was undertaken, with over 700 statements taken, and 500 "missing" posters printed. Eight days after he failed to return home, 2,000 volunteers scoured waste ground and derelict buildings.[123]

Hindley hired a vehicle a week after Kilbride went missing, and again on 21 December 1963; apparently to make sure the burial sites had not been disturbed. In February 1964 she bought a second-hand Austin Traveller, but soon after traded it for a Mini van. On 16 June 1964 twelve-year old Keith Bennett disappeared. His stepfather, Jimmy Johnson, became a suspect; in the two years following Bennett's disappearance, he was taken for questioning on four occasions. Detectives searched under the floorboards of the Johnsons' house, and on discovering that the houses in the row were connected, extended the search to the entire street.[124]

A young man and woman, in 1960s fashion, stand for a monochrome photograph. The man has a neutral expression on his face, the woman has a slight smile.
David and Maureen Smith, pictured around the time of the murders. David Smith's statement to the police led to Brady's arrest.

Maureen Hindley married David Smith on 15 August 1964. The marriage was hastily arranged and performed at a registry office, but none of Hindley's relatives attended; Myra did not approve of the marriage, and her mother was too embarrassed—Maureen was seven months pregnant. The newly-weds moved into Smith's father's house. The next day Brady suggested that the four take a day-trip to Lake Windermere. This was the first time that Brady and Smith had met properly, and Brady was apparently impressed by Smith's demeanour. The two talked about society, the distribution of wealth, and the possibility of robbing a bank. The young Smith was similarly impressed by Brady, who throughout the day had paid for his food and wine. The trip to the Lake District was the first of many outings. Hindley was apparently jealous of their relationship, but became closer to her sister.[125]

In 1964 Hindley, her grandmother, and Brady, were rehoused as part of the post-war slum clearances in Manchester, to 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in the new overspill estate of Hattersley. Brady and Hindley became friendly with Patricia Hodges, an 11-year old girl who lived at 12 Wardle Brook Avenue. Hodges accompanied the two on their trips to Saddleworth Moor to collect peat, something that many of the householders on the new estate did, to improve the soil in their gardens, which was full of clay and builder's rubble.[126] She remained unharmed; living only a few doors away, her disappearance would have been easily solved.[127]

Early on Boxing Day 1964 Hindley left her grandmother at a relative's house, and refused to allow her back to Wardle Brook Avenue that night.[128] On the same day, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey disappeared from a funfair in Ancoats.[129] Despite a huge search she was not found. The following day Hindley brought her grandmother back home.[130] By February 1965 Patricia Hodges had stopped visiting 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, but David Smith was still a regular visitor. Brady gave Smith books to read, and the two discussed robbery and murder.[131] On Hindley's 23rd birthday, her sister and brother-in-law, who had until then been living with relatives, were rehoused in Underwood Court, a block of flats not far from Wardle Brook Avenue. The two couples began to see each other more regularly, but usually only on Brady's terms.[132][133]

During the 1990s, Hindley claimed that she only took part in the killings because Brady had drugged her, was blackmailing her with pornographic pictures he had taken of her, and had threatened to kill her younger sister, Maureen.[110] In a 2008 television documentary series on female serial killers broadcast on ITV3, Hindley's solicitor, Andrew McCooey, reported that she had said to him:

I ought to have been hanged. I deserved it. My crime was worse than Brady's because I enticed the children and they would never have entered the car without my role [...] I have always regarded myself as worse than Brady.[134]



A tall wire fence separates the viewer from a long red brick multi-storey building, set in parkland.
Ashworth Hospital, where Ian Brady is incarcerated as of 2010

Following his conviction, Brady was moved to Durham prison, where he asked to live in solitary confinement.[135] He spent 19 years in mainstream prisons before he was declared criminally insane in November 1985 and sent to the high-security Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital;[136] he has since made it clear that he never wants to be released.[137] The trial judge had recommended that his life sentence should mean life, and successive Home Secretaries have agreed with that decision. In 1982, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane said of Brady: "this is the case if ever there is to be one when a man should stay in prison till he dies".[138]

In contrast to the common belief that serial killers often continue with their crimes until they are caught, Brady claimed in 2005 that the Moors murders were "merely an existential exercise of just over a year, which was concluded in December 1964". By then, he went on to claim, he and Hindley had turned their attention to armed robbery, for which they had begun to prepare by acquiring guns and vehicles.[139] In 2001 Brady wrote a book called The Gates of Janus, which was published by the underground American publishing firm Feral House. The book, Brady's analysis of serial murder and specific serial killers, sparked outrage when announced in Britain.[140]

Winnie Johnson, the mother of undiscovered victim 12-year-old Keith Bennett, received a letter from Brady at the end of 2005 in which she said he claimed that he could take police to within 20 yards (18 m) of her son's body, but the authorities would not allow it. However, Brady did not refer directly to Keith by name and did not claim he could take investigators directly to the grave but spoke of the "clarity" of his recollections.[141] In early 2006, prison authorities intercepted a package addressed to Brady from a female friend, containing 50 paracetamol pills—a potentially lethal dose—hidden inside a hollowed out crime novel.[142]

The death in November 2007 of John Straffen, who had spent 55 years in prison for a triple child murder, meant that Brady became the longest serving prisoner in England and Wales.[143] As of 2010, he remains incarcerated in Ashworth. After Brady began a hunger strike in 1999 he was force fed, fell ill, and was transferred to another hospital for tests.[144] He recovered, and in March 2000 asked for a judicial review of the decision to force-feed him, but was refused permission.[145]

Myra gets the potentially fatal brain condition, whilst I have to fight simply to die. I have had enough. I want nothing, my objective is to die and release myself from this once and for all. So you see my death strike is rational and pragmatic. I'm only sorry I didn't do it decades ago, and I'm eager to leave this cesspit in a coffin.[145]


Immediately following the trial Hindley lodged an unsuccessful appeal against her conviction.[146] Brady and Hindley corresponded by letter until 1971, when she ended their relationship. The two remained in sporadic contact for several months,[147] however Hindley had met and fallen in love with one of her prison officers, Patricia Cairns. A former assistant governor claimed that such relationships were not unusual in Holloway at that time, as "many of the officers were gay, and involved in relationships either with one another or with inmates".[148] Hindley successfully petitioned to have her status as a category A prisoner changed to category B, which enabled Governor Dorothy Wing to take her on a walk round Hampstead Heath, part of her unofficial policy of reintroducing her charges to the outside world when she felt they were ready. The excursion caused a furore in the national press and earned Wing an official rebuke from the then Home Secretary, Robert Carr.[149] With Cairns' assistance and the outside contacts of another prisoner, Maxine Croft, Hindley planned a prison escape, but it was thwarted when impressions of the prison keys were intercepted by an off-duty policeman. Cairns was sentenced to six years in jail for her part in the plot.[150] While in prison, Hindley wrote her autobiography, which remains unpublished.[151]

Hindley was told that she should spend 25 years in prison before being considered for parole. The Lord Chief Justice agreed with that recommendation in 1982, but in January 1985 Home Secretary Leon Brittan increased her tariff to 30 years.[138] By that time, Hindley claimed to be a reformed Roman Catholic. Ann West, the mother of Lesley Ann Downey, was at the centre of a campaign to ensure that Hindley was never released from prison, and until West's death in February 1999 she regularly gave television and newspaper interviews whenever Hindley's release was rumoured.[152]

In 1990, then Home Secretary David Waddington imposed a whole life tariff on Hindley, after she confessed to having a greater involvement in the murders than she had previously admitted.[138] Hindley was not informed of the decision until 1994, when a Law Lords ruling obliged the Prison Service to inform all life sentence prisoners of the minimum period they must serve in prison before being considered for parole.[153] In 1997 the Parole Board ruled that Hindley was low risk and should be moved to an open prison.[138] She rejected the idea and was moved to a medium security prison, however the House of Lords ruling left open the possibility of later freedom. Between December 1997 and March 2000 Hindley made three separate appeals against her life tariff, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but each was rejected by the courts.[154][155]

When in 2002 another life sentence prisoner challenged the Home Secretary's power to set minimum terms, Hindley and hundreds of others whose tariffs had been increased by politicians, looked likely to be released from prison.[156] Hindley's release seemed imminent and plans were made by supporters for her to be given a new identity.[157] Lord Longford, a devout Roman Catholic, campaigned to secure the release of "celebrated" criminals, and Myra Hindley in particular, which earned him constant derision from the public and the press. He described Hindley as a "delightful" person and said "you could loathe what people did but should not loathe what they were because human personality was sacred even though human behaviour was very often appalling".[158] Home Secretary David Blunkett ordered Greater Manchester Police to find new charges against her, to prevent her release from prison. The investigation was headed by Superintendent Tony Brett, and initially looked at charging Hindley with the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, but the advice given by government lawyers was that because of the DPP's decision taken 15 years earlier a new trial would probably be considered an abuse of process.[159]


Looking down a grassy valley with a wooden bridge over a small stream in the foreground.
Part of Stalybridge Country Park, where Hindley's ashes were scattered in 2003

David Smith became "reviled by the people of Manchester", despite having been instrumental in bringing Brady and Hindley to justice,[160] and while her sister was on trial, Maureen—eight months pregnant—was attacked in the lift of the building in which she and David lived. Their home was vandalised, and hate mail was regularly posted through their letterbox. Maureen feared for her children: "I couldn't let my children out of my sight when they were little. They were too young to tell them why they had to stay in, to explain why they couldn't go out to play like all the other children."[161] After knifing another man during a fight, in an attack he claimed was triggered by the abuse he had suffered since the trial, Smith was sentenced to three years in jail in 1969.[160] In the same year, Maureen asked the local authority to take her children into care; she moved from Underwood Court to a single-bedroom property, and found work in a department store. Subjected to whispering campaigns and petitions to remove her from the estate where she lived, she received no support from her family—her mother had supported Myra during the trial. Her father left home when he discovered that his wife had been having an affair with another man, whom she later married. On his release from prison, David Smith moved in with the girl who later became his second wife, and won custody of his three sons. Maureen managed to repair the relationship with her mother, and moved into her council property in Gorton. She divorced Smith in 1973,[162] and married a lorry driver, Bill Scott, with whom she had a daughter.[163]

Maureen and her immediate family made regular visits to see Hindley, who reportedly adored her niece. In 1980 Maureen suffered a brain haemorrhage; Hindley was granted permission to visit her sister in hospital, but she arrived an hour after Maureen's death.[164] In 1972 David Smith was acquitted of the murder of his father, who was suffering from an incurable cancer. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to two days detention.[165] He remarried and moved to Lincolnshire with his three sons, in an attempt to rebuild his life.[160][166] He was exonerated of any participation in the Moors murders by Hindley's confession in 1987.

Joan Reade, Pauline Reade's mother, became an inpatient at Springfield Mental Hospital in Manchester. She attended the funeral of her daughter on 7 August 1987, under heavy sedation. Her husband Amos lived alone.[167] Five years after their son was murdered, Sheila and Patrick Kilbride divorced.[168] The Kilbrides, along with Ann West, were present at the funeral of Maureen Smith, believing that Hindley might make an appearance. Patrick Kilbride mistook Bill Scott's daughter from a previous relationship, Ann Wallace, for Hindley. He tried to attack her, but was knocked to the ground by another mourner. Police reinforcements were called to restore order.[169] Before her death, aged 70, Sheila Kilbride said: "If she [Hindley] ever comes out of jail I'll kill her."[170] Ann West, mother of Lesley Ann Downey, died in 1999 from cancer of the liver. Since her daughter's death she had campaigned to ensure that Hindley remained in prison, and doctors said that the stress had contributed to the severity of her illness.[171] Winnie Johnson, mother of Keith Bennett, continues to visit Saddleworth Moor, where it is believed that the body of her son is buried.[172]

The house in which Brady and Hindley lived on Wardle Brook Avenue, and where Edward Evans was murdered, was demolished by the local council.[173]

Hindley died as a result of bronchial pneumonia caused by heart disease, at the age of 60, on 15 November 2002.[174] Cameras "crowded the pavement" outside, but none of Hindley's relatives were among the congregation of six who attended a short service at Cambridge crematorium, as they were living anonymously in Manchester under assumed names. Such was the strength of feeling more than 35 years after the murders that a reported 20 local undertakers refused to handle her cremation.[175] Four months later Hindley's ashes were scattered by a former lover, a woman she had met in prison,[176] less than 10 miles (16 km) from Saddleworth Moor in Stalybridge Country Park. Fears were expressed that the news might result in visitors choosing to avoid the park, a local beauty spot, or even to the park being vandalised.[177] Less than two weeks after Hindley's death, on 25 November 2002, the Law Lords agreed that judges, not politicians, should decide how long a criminal spends behind bars, and thus stripped the Home Secretary of the power to set minimum sentences.[178]

A 1977 BBC television debate discussed arguments for and against Myra Hindley's release, with contributions from the parents of some of the murdered children.[179] The case has been dramatised on television twice; in Longford (2006), and See No Evil: The Moors Murders (2006).

Lasting notoriety

The murders might have remained a footnote in criminal history but for the fact that one of the perpetrators was a young woman. The photographs and tape recording of the torture of Lesley Ann Downey, demonstrated in court to a disbelieving audience, and the cool responses of Brady and Hindley, have helped ensure the lasting notoriety of their crimes. Brady, who says he does not want to be released, is rarely mentioned in the news, but Hindley's repeated insistence on her innocence, and attempts to secure her release from prison before her death, resulted in her becoming a figure of hate in the national media.[180] Retribution was a common theme amongst those who sought to keep her locked away, and even Hindley's mother insisted that she should die in prison—although out of fear for her daughter's safety, and the desire to avoid the possibility that one of the victims' relatives might kill her. Some commentators expressed the view that of the two, Hindley was the "more evil".[181] In 1987 she admitted that the plea for parole she had submitted to the Home Secretary eight years earlier was "on the whole [...] a pack of lies",[182] and to some reporters her co-operation in the searches on Saddleworth Moor "appeared a cynical gesture aimed at ingratiating herself to the parole authorities".[180]


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  177. ^ "Hindley's ashes "scattered in park"" (subscription required), Manchester Evening News, 27 February 2003,, retrieved 8 August 2009 
  178. ^ Raising killers' hopes of freedom,, 25 November 2002,, retrieved 12 June 2007 
  179. ^ "No Way To Consider Clemency" (subscription required), The Times (Times Digital Archive) (60052): 13, 11 July 1977,!xrn_90_0_CS218333419&hst_1?sw_aep=mclib, retrieved 25 September 2009 
  180. ^ a b Stanford, Peter (16 November 2002), Myra Hindley,,, retrieved 25 September 2009 
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  • Carmichael, Kay (2003), Sin and Forgiveness: New Responses in a Changing World, Ashgate Publishing, ISBN 0-7546-3406-X 
  • Furio, Jennifer (2001), Team killers, Algora Publishing, ISBN 978-1-892941-62-6 
  • Gibson, Dirk Cameron; Wilcox, Dennis L. (2006), Serial murder and media circuses, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-275-99064-0 
  • Ritchie, Jean (1988), Myra Hindley—Inside the Mind of a Murderess, Angus & Robertson, ISBN 0-207-15882-7 
  • Staff, Duncan (2007), The lost boy, London: Bantam Press, ISBN 978-0-593056-92-9 
  • Topping, Peter (1989), Topping: The Autobiography of the Police Chief in the Moors Murder Case, Angus & Robertson, ISBN 0-207-16480-0 
Further reading
  • Boar, Roger; Blundell, Nigel (1988), The World's Most Infamous Murders, Mass Market Paperback, ISBN 0-425-10887-2 
  • Goodman, Jonathan (1986), The Moors Murders: The Trial of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-9064-3 
  • Hansford Johnson, Pamela (1967), On Iniquity, Macmillan 
  • Harrison, Fred (1986), Brady and Hindley: The Genesis of the Moors Murders, Grafton, ISBN 0-906798-70-1 
  • Potter, John Deane (1967), The Monsters Of The Moors, Ballantine Books 
  • Robins, Joyce (1993), Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: 100 Tales of Infamy, Barbarism and Horrible Crime, Bounty Books, ISBN 1-85152-363-4 
  • Williams, Emlyn (1992), Beyond Belief: A Chronicle of Murder and its Detection, Pan, ISBN 0-330-02088-9 

External links

Myra Hindley
Born: 23 July 1942(1942-07-23)
Crumpsall, Manchester, England
Died: November 15, 2002 (aged 60)
Cause of death: Heart attack
Penalty: Life imprisonment
Number of victims: 5
Span of killings: 1963–1965
Country: England
Date apprehended: 7 October 1965

Myra Hindley (23 July 1942 – 15 November 2002) was an English serial killer convicted, along with her lover Ian Brady, of murdering children between 1963 and 1965 in the so called "Moors murders" (Brady was convicted on three counts of murder, Hindley on two counts of murder and one count of being an accessory to murder; both subsequently confessed to two additional murders).


Early life

Hindley was born in Crumpsall, Manchester, and brought up by her grandmother, Ellen Maybury, near her parents' house in Gorton. Her younger sister, Maureen, was born in August 1946. It is believed that Hindley may have been physically abused by her alcoholic father, Bob Hindley, a paratrooper during World War II, who was also alleged to have been violent towards his wife, Nellie. Bob and Nellie Hindley divorced in 1965, around the time of Myra's arrest, and Nellie subsequently married a man named Bill Moulton.

Hindley had an I.Q. of 107, and failed her eleven-plus exam, and therefore attended the Ryder Brow Secondary Modern school, where she was in the top streams despite poor attendance. When Hindley was 15, her close friend Michael Higgins, 13, drowned in a reservoir. She had been asked, but had been unable, to go swimming with Higgins that day; she believed that she could have saved him had she been with him, and was then plagued by guilt. Hindley converted to Roman Catholicism in honour of her friend, who had been Catholic, and neglected her schoolwork. She was depressed for months after Higgins' death, lighting candles daily in her friend's memory. Hindley left school in 1957. Her first job was as a junior clerk at Lawrence Scott and Electromoters, an electrical engineering firm. In 1959, she became engaged to a local boy named Ronnie Sinclair, but she later called the engagement off. On 16 January 1961, she started work as a typist for a chemical firm called Millward's, also based in Manchester.

At Millward's, she met Ian Brady, a Scottish-born man four years her senior with a history of violence and a string of burglary convictions, for which he had spent time in a borstal during the early 1950s. Brady was the stock clerk, having been with the company since February 1959. Hindley was immediately attracted to him, but Brady steadfastly ignored her for nearly 12 months. During 1961, she kept a diary in which she chronicled her growing infatuation with Brady; it was later discovered by police following their arrest in October 1965.

At the Christmas office party, on 22 December 1961, Brady, his tongue loosened by a few drinks, asked Hindley out; she accepted immediately. That first night he took her to see Judgment at Nuremberg. As the weeks passed, he played her records of Nazi marching songs and encouraged her to read some of his favourite books: Mein Kampf, Crime and Punishment, and the works of the Marquis de Sade. Brady apparently encouraged Hindley to help him with bank robberies (although no known bank robberies committed by the two are recorded), asking her to join a shooting club and purchase firearms for him, since he could not obtain a gun license due to his criminal record. Hindley was also told to learn to drive as Brady needed a get-away driver. She began driving lessons, joined the Cheadle Rifle Club, and purchased two guns. Brady convinced Hindley that there was no God. She absorbed his philosophies, adopted his interests, and altered her appearance to suit him, bleaching her hair and wearing Germanic clothes. Brady nicknamed her "Hessy" - a pun on pianist Myra Hess, and Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Moors Murders

By mid-1963, Brady had lost interest in bank robberies and was now intent on becoming a murderer for his own sexual gratification. Together, Brady and Hindley took part in the abduction, sexual abuse, torture, and murder of five children between July 1963 and October 1965.


Brady was arrested after the discovery of the body of their final victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans, at the house he shared with Hindley at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hyde. Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith, witnessed the murder and notified the police, and Brady admitted in a police statement that he had murdered Evans. Hindley was arrested five days later when a suitcase containing incriminating evidence was recovered from the left-luggage depot at Manchester Central Station. During the time of the police investigation as well as her subsequent trial, Hindley's demeanor was one of resolute arrogance and defiance. The police detectives, court officials, newspaper reporters and other observers all noted that Hindley remained steadfastly loyal to Brady, and she even seemed to share his apparent confidence that she would not be convicted of any crime. She consistently denied any wrongdoing, made repeated efforts to incriminate Smith and exculpate Brady, and even continued to endorse Brady's version of events as her own for nearly five years after the two of them were found guilty at Chester Assizes and sentenced to life imprisonment in May 1966. In a 2006 television documentary about Hindley's years behind bars, police secretary Sandra Wilkinson said that she distinctly remembered Hindley and her mother Nellie, leaning against the wall of the courthouse and eating a cream cake. While her mother appeared to be in obvious distress, Hindley seemed to be almost indifferent to her situation.

The evidence recovered from the suitcase proved to be sensational. It was recovered only because of the observation of a police officer who, while searching the house, had spotted the luggage claim ticket hidden in the spine of Hindley's prayer book. In the locker were two suitcases containing sadistic pornography. These included nine photographs of 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey, showing her naked, bound and gagged in Myra Hindley's bedroom. The details of the bed seen in some of the pictures established their location and Hindley's fingerprints were present on the surface of the photographs themselves. A tape recording was also found. On it, the voice of a young girl could be heard screaming, crying, and begging for her life. Two other voices, one male and one female, could be heard threatening the child. Police identified the adult voices as belonging to Brady and Hindley, but they needed the assistance of Lesley Ann's mother, Ann West, to identify the voice of the child. When asked later why he had kept such an incriminating tape, Brady responded only that he had done so because "it was unusual".

By the end of the month, the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride had been discovered, and Brady and Hindley were charged on three counts of murder. The police had overwhelming evidence for the Lesley Ann Downey murder charge, as the suitcase had contained the pornographic photographs and the tape recording. The Chester Assizes judge, Mr. Justice Fenton Atkinson, ordered all women to leave the court while the tape was played in evidence. John Kilbride's name had been written in one of Brady's notebooks (on a page entitled "murder plan"), and a photograph of Hindley with her dog was later identified as having been taken at John Kilbride's grave.


On 21 April 1966, the trial began at Chester Assizes. Prosecuting counsel was Sir Elwyn Jones. It ended on 6 May. Brady was convicted on all three murder charges and sentenced to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment. The judge described Brady as "wicked beyond belief" and "beyond hope of redemption", suggesting that he should never be released. However, Jones also stated his belief that this was not necessarily true of Hindley — and that, with the removal of Brady's presence and his influence over her, she might indeed be capable of a measure of rehabilitation at some point in the future. Hindley was convicted of murdering Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey and received two life sentences. She further received a concurrent seven-year sentence for being an accessory in the John Kilbride murder. Atkinson recommended that Hindley should serve a "very long time".

Further Confessions and Campaigns

Hindley was sent to Holloway prison. Although she and Brady wrote to each other during their first few years in prison, and at one stage were refused a request to marry each other, in May 1972 Hindley broke off all contact with Brady. A year later, Hindley attempted to escape, with the help of Patricia Cairns, a lesbian warder who was said to have fallen in love with her. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Hindley was transferred to HM Prison Durham in 1971. In November 1986 — more than 20 years after the crimes — Brady and Hindley confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, who had both gone missing during the first half of the 1960s. Shortly afterwards, they returned to the moors, under heavy guard, to help police locate the graves. Pauline Reade's body was discovered the following July. Keith Bennett's has never been found. Brady and Hindley were never charged in connection with the Reade/Bennett murders, but Home Secretary Leon Brittan increased Hindley's minimum term to 30 years, which would keep her behind bars until at least 1995.

In 1994, a Law Lords' ruling stated that life sentence prisoners should be informed of the minimum period they must spend in prison before being considered for parole. This announcement was welcomed by victims' families and backed by the majority of the public, but Hindley challenged the ruling. In December 1997, November 1998, and March 2000, she made appeals to the House of Lords to be released, claiming that she was no longer a danger to the public and that she had been acting under Brady's influence. When the third of these appeals was rejected, she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Reports by prison officials and the parole board commented on Hindley's progress during incarceration, suggesting that she was repentant and no longer a danger. Her hopes of release were given a boost in May 2002, when the House of Lords ruled that the Home Secretary could no longer overrule the parole board's recommendations concerning release dates. It seemed likely that the Home Secretary would also lose his power to set minimum sentences and that an estimated 270 prisoners, including Hindley, whose minimum terms had been increased by politicians, would be released earlier than expected. Hindley was also one of about 70 life sentence prisoners who had served longer than their original minimum sentence.


On 15 November 2002, at the age of 60 and after several previous health problems, Hindley died in West Suffolk Hospital after a heart attack. She had spent 37 years in custody. During that time, she had earned an Open University degree and claimed to have returned to Roman Catholicism, to which she had ostensibly converted at the age of 15. She was Britain's longest-detained female prisoner, and one of just two women (the other being Rose West) to receive whole life tariffs. She was given the last rites before she died. Her lawyers told the press that Hindley had been truly sorry for her crimes. She had always portrayed herself as a remorseful sinner but understood that few people were willing to forgive her. Those who had campaigned for her release said that she should not have ended her life behind bars. Heading this group was a former prison governor, Peter Timms, who admitted that there was no question that Hindley's crimes had been terrible but felt the real issue was that she had been treated differently from any other life-sentence prisoner.

None of Hindley's relatives — not even her elderly mother — were among the dozen or so mourners at her funeral at Cambridge City Crematorium on 20 November. Apart from one woman from nearby Soham — a community that had only recently endured a double child murder — who left a sign reading "Burn in Hell" at the crematorium entrance, the public stayed away from the funeral, which had tight police security. Hindley was cremated, and her ashes scattered at an undisclosed location. An inquest was held into her death in January 2003, and it was revealed that she had asked doctors not to resuscitate her if she stopped breathing.

Three days after Hindley's death, Greater Manchester Police revealed that they had been considering bringing charges against her for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, to which Hindley had confessed but for which she had not been charged. The police believed that a successful prosecution for these murders would have kept her in prison no matter how long she had lived.[1] In March 2003, the Crown Prosecution Service said that there was no realistic prospect of Brady being charged with the two murders, since it was extremely unlikely that he would ever be released. Brady himself has always insisted that he never wants to be released.

Among many such programmes, the pair's crimes were dramatised in May 2006 for an ITV drama See No Evil: The Moors Murders, in which she was portrayed by Maxine Peake. In October the same year, Hindley's relationship with Lord Longford played a prominent part in a dramatisation of the latter's life story, Longford, in which she was portrayed by Samantha Morton. On Christmas Day 2006, Channel 5 aired a show detailing Hindley's years in prison entitled Myra Hindley — The Prison Years. It was the first time ever that a few of Hindley's former prison mates had spoken openly about her. The programme revealed that Hindley had, according to an inmate, "used and abused religion as a trick to earn more points on her parole hearing".[2]

Home Office Update

In June 2008, the Home Office released thousands of documents previously unobtainable to the public, written by and about Hindley during the decades of her imprisonment.[3] Some portions of the documents remain censored. Among other revelations, these papers disclosed that Hindley and Brady had continued to correspond by letters while in prison. After meeting a woman called Patricia Cairns, who worked as an officer at her prison, Hindley broke off all contact with Brady as best as she could. She planned to escape from Holloway with "Anne" , but they got caught, and "Anne" was sentenced to six years in jail. After that, Hindley didn't see "Anne" again. Brady was outraged that Hindley had reverted to Catholicism in prison.

She had hoped eventually to be released and permitted to live quietly on the European continent. In November 1995, Hindley filed a request form asking that a specific male resident in another prison, who had previously corresponded with her, be permitted to visit her: the inmate's name has been censored. It is not known how many relatives she has left alive; some fled the United Kingdom to start a new life in neighbouring Ireland.

Fictional portrayals

Hindley was portrayed by Samantha Morton in the 2005 BBC film Longford, and by Maxine Peake in the 2006 ITV film See No Evil: The Moors Murders.

Modern Popular Culture

  • Anarcho Punk band Crass recorded a song entitled "Mother Earth" on their album Stations of the Crass that espoused that the Moors murders were a trial by press release [4] and that Myra Hindley was given an unfair trial based on publications produced by The Star newspaper.
"It's Myra Hindley on the cover/ Your very own sweet anti-mother/ There she is on the pages of The Star/ Ain't that just the place you wish you were?/ Let her rot in hell is what you said/ Let her rot, let her starve, you'd see her dead/ Let her out but don't forget to tell you where she is/ The chance to screw her is a chance you wouldn't miss/ Let her suffer, give her pain is the verdict you gave/ You just can't wait to piss on her grave/ You pretend that you're horrified, make out that you care/ But really you wish that you had been there."
  • Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers mention Hindley twice in the seemingly song "Archives of Pain", with the line "A drained white body hangs from the gallows, it's more righteous than one of Hindley's crochet lectures", as well as including her and Brady's names in the chorus which lists a number of serial killers before declaring "give them the respect they deserve".
  • The Industrial band Throbbing Gristle recorded and occasionally performed a lengthy piece entitled "Very Friendly", describing the final murder in narrative detail.
  • Fashion designer Patrik Rzepski cited Myra Hindley as the inspiration for his 2005 womenswear collection, which included tops and dresses printed with the message, "I Want Moor Myra."'
  • The Sex Pistols song "No One Is Innocent" contains the couplet "God save Myra Hindley, God save Ian Brady/ Even though he's horrible and she ain't what you call a lady".
  • "The Devil's Wife", found in the collection The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy, is based on Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. It makes reference to their meeting, killing and capture, as well as Hindley's religious conversion.
  • The 2007 novel Death of a Murderer by the British writer Rupert Thomson tells the story of Billy Tyler, a policeman who is assigned to guard Myra Hindley's corpse in the hospital morgue on the night after her death. Although the Moors Murders and the trial are not depicted (and Hindley's name is never mentioned), their legacy in general and the role of Myra Hindley in particular color Tyler's thoughts as he considers the moral choices in his own life.
  • On their 1984 self-titled debut album, Manchester band The Smiths included the elegy "Suffer Little Children", which refers to the Moors Murders in general and Hindley specifically. The song elicited some uproar and led to the band's singer, Morrissey, establishing a friendship with Ann West, the mother of victim Lesley Ann Downey, who is mentioned by name in the song.
  • Australian musical comedy group Doug Anthony All Stars made reference to Myra Hindley in their song "Friends" from their Dead and Alive show, released to CD and video. In the freestyle verse near the end of the song, they claim "Myra Hindley was my baby-sitter."
  • A gigantic painting of Myra Hindley's mug shot, made up of small, child-sized handprints, was part of the Saatchi Collection exhibit "Sensation" that appeared in the 1990s at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Famous for protests by then Mayor Rudy Giuliani for including a depiction of the Virgin Mary that used elephant dung as one material, the Hindley piece was said to have induced much more consternation during the exhibit's tour in England.


Further reading

External links

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