See caption
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, October 1965

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, more than twenty 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 despite several searches it remains undiscovered.

While Brady and Hindley were in prison awaiting trial, the death penalty for murder was suspended, and so the pair – who would undoubtedly have been executed a few months earlier – were sentenced instead to life imprisonment. The police were initially aware of only three killings – those of Edward Evans, Lesley Ann Downey, and John Kilbride, but their 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, but they did not formally confess to the additional murders until 1987.

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 and confined in the high-security Ashworth Hospital. He asked repeatedly to be allowed to die, and made it clear that he wanted never to be released. Brady died in 2017, at Ashworth, aged 79.

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] The trial judge, Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson, described Brady and Hindley in his closing remarks as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”.[4]


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Saddleworth Moor, viewed from Hollin Brown Knoll. The bodies of three of the victims were found in this area.
Wikimedia Commons

The full extent of Brady and Hindley’s killing spree did not come to light until their formal confessions in 1987.[5] Their first victim was 16-year-old Pauline Reade, a neighbour of Hindley’s who disappeared on her way to a dance 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.[6]

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.[7] Shortly after 8:00 pm,[8] continuing down Froxmer Street,[9] 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.[7] Hindley recognised the girl as Pauline Reade, a friend of her younger sister, Maureen.[10] 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 thirty 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 during a previous visit to the moor, to bury the body. According to Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Topping,[a]Topping was the police officer in overall charge of the investigation into the moors murders. 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.”[6] 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.[11]

Brady and Hindley approached 12-year-old John Kilbride in the early evening of 23 November 1963 at a market in Ashton-under-Lyne, and offered him a lift home on the pretext that his parents would be worried about him being out so late. With the additional inducement of a bottle of sherry they claimed to have won in a raffle, Kilbride readily climbed into the Ford Anglia they had hired that morning. Brady told Kilbride that the sherry was at their home, and they would have to make a detour to collect it. On the way he suggested that they take another detour, to search for a glove he said that Hindley had lost on the moor.[12] When they reached the moor, Brady took Kilbride with him while Hindley drove on to an unlit parking spot opposite a nearby public house, returning to collect Brady half an hour later.[13] 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.[14]

Twelve-year-old Keith Bennett vanished on his way to visit his grandmother on 16 June 1964.[5] 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 thirty 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.[15]

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,[16] where she was buried, naked with her clothes at her feet, in a shallow grave.[17][18]

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,[19][20] where Brady beat him with an axe and strangled him to death.[5]

Murder of Edward Evans

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The empty plot where 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in Hattersley, once stood. The house was demolished by the local council.
Wikimedia Commons

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.[5] Hindley’s mother “loathed” Smith, who had four criminal convictions for actual bodily harm the first of which occurred when he was aged eleven, and had refused to attend their wedding.[21] Smith was “in awe” of Brady, which increasingly worried Hindley, as she felt it compromised their safety. Shortly before Evans’ murder, Brady had announced to her that he and Smith intended “to roll over a queer”.[22]

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 Brady sent Hindley to call on her brother-in-law, which she did, purportedly to deliver a message for her mother. As it was late, Hindley asked Smith to walk her home. When they got back to the house, Hindley told Smith that Brady had some miniature wine bottles for him, and asked him 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 miniatures. Brady led Smith into the kitchen and left him there, saying that he was going to collect the wine. A few minutes later, Smith heard a scream, followed by Hindley shouting loudly for him to come and help.[23] 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.[20] 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.[24]

Smith agreed to meet Brady the following evening to dispose of Evans’ body,[24] 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 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.[25][26] 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.[27]


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.[28][29]

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.[30] As Brady was getting dressed, he said “Eddie and I had a row and the situation got out of hand.”[31]

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.[32] 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.[33]

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”.[34] 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,[35] and on 15 October found what they were looking for[36] – police later found the left-luggage ticket in the back of Hindley’s prayer book.[37] Inside one of the cases were nine pornographic photographs taken of a young girl, naked and with a scarf tied across her mouth,[38][39] and a 13-minute tape recording of her screaming and pleading for help.[35] 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.[40]

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.[41] 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.[17] 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.[42] 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.[43] She was shown clothing recovered from the grave and identified it as belonging to her missing daughter.[44] The following day she identified her daughter’s body at a local mortuary.[45]

See caption
A photograph taken by Ian Brady of Myra Hindley with her dog, Puppet, kneeling 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.[39] 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.[46] They made a two-minute appearance again on 28 October, and were remanded for a further week.[47]

The search for bodies continued, but with winter setting in it was called off in November.[39] 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.[48] 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,[49] and the defence asked for a similar stipulation, but was refused.[50] 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.[5]

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. 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.[39] In a letter to her mother shortly afterwards[b]Written less than thirty days after the murder of Edward Evans, the letter was dated 5 November 1965.[51] Hindley wrote:


Brady and Hindley’s trial was held at Chester Assizes during April and May 1966, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.[5] Modifications to the court room, including the installation of microphones, speakers and security screens to protect Brady and Hindley from assassination, were reported in the press.[53] The pair were each charged with three murders, those of Evans, Downey, and Kilbride. The Attorney General, Frederick Elwyn Jones led the prosecution,[5] Brady was defended by Emlyn Hooson,[54] and Hindley by Godfrey Heilpern, recorder of Salford from 1964 – both experienced QCs.[55][56] 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 £18,000 in 2018[c]Using the retail price index.[57]) 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”.[58] 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.[59]

Brady and Hindley pleaded not guilty to the charges against them;[60] both were called to give evidence, Brady for more than eight hours and Hindley for six.[61] 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.”[62] Hindley denied any knowledge that the photographs of Saddleworth Moor found by police had been taken near the graves of their victims.[63]

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.[64] 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”.[65]

On 6 May, after having deliberated for a little over two hours,[66] 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.[5] Brady was taken to Durham Prison and Hindley was sent to Holloway Prison.[63]

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”.[4] 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”.[67] Throughout the trial Brady and Hindley “stuck rigidly to their strategy of lying”;[68] Hindley was later described as “a quiet, controlled, impassive witness who lied remorselessly”.[5]

Later investigation

Young boy wearing spectacles
Keith Bennett
Manchester Evening News

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,[69] 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.[70]

On 3 July 1985 Topping visited Brady at Gartree Prison, but found him “scornful of any suggestion that he had confessed to more murders”.[71] 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.[72] 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.[73]

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.[74] 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.[75] 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.[76] 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.[77]

Hindley made her first visit to assist the police search of Saddleworth Moor on 16 December 1986.[78] 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 two hundred officers, forty 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.[79] Topping was criticised by the press, who described the visit as a “fiasco”, a “publicity stunt”, and a “mindless waste of money”.[80] 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.[80]

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.[81] She made a formal confession to police in a series of interviews conducted between 19 February and 24 February 1987, admitting her involvement in all five murders,[82] but news of her confession was not made public for more than a month.[83] The tape recording of her statement was more than seventeen 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”.[84] 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.”[85] Topping concluded that he felt he “had witnessed a great performance rather than a genuine confession”.[86]

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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.
Wikimedia Commons

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.[87]

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 fourteen years earlier, she would have confessed and helped the police. She also paid tribute to Topping, and thanked Johnson for her sincerity.[88] Hindley returned to the moor on 23 March 1987,[89] this time with a heightened level of security surrounding her visit. 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.[88] 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.[90] 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.[91]

News of Hindley’s confession became public in April 1987. Amid strong media interest, Lord Longford pleaded for her release, writing that her continuing detention to satisfy “mob emotion” was not right. Fisher convinced 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.[92]

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 a hundred days of searching, they found a body lying in a shallow grave 3 feet (1 m) below the surface, only 100 yards (91 m) from where Lesley Ann Downey had been found.[93][94][95] 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.[96] He also issued a statement to the press, through his solicitor, saying that he too was prepared to help the police in their search.[97] 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.[98]

Topping refused to allow Brady a second visit to the moors,[99] 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.[100] Brady refused to identify his alleged victims, however, and the police failed to discover any unsolved crimes matching the few details that he supplied.[101] Hindley told Topping that she knew nothing of these killings.[99]

See caption
Hoe Grain leading to Shiny Brook, the area in which Bennett’s undiscovered body is believed by the police to be buried[102]

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.[103]

On 24 August 1987 police called off their search of Saddleworth Moor.[104] Keith Bennett’s body remains undiscovered, despite repeated searches by members of his family.[95]

The BBC reported on 1 July 2009 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”.[105]

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.[106] 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.[107] 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.[108] As he grew older Brady’s “brutality escalated”, and soon he was hurting children smaller than himself.[107] 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,[109] and shortly before his 17th birthday a Scottish court put him on probation on the condition that he went to live with his mother,[110] 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.[111]

Within a year of moving to Manchester Brady was caught with a sack full of lead seals he had stolen and was trying smuggle out of the market, but because he was still under 18 he was sentenced to two years in borstal for “training”.[112] 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.[110] 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, which he “astonished” his parents by studying alone in his room for hours.[113] In early 1958, 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.[114] 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, and visited the Pennines on his Tiger Cub motorcycle.[115]

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley (born 23 July 1942)[116] 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.[117]

Hindley’s father had fought in North Africa, Cyprus, and Italy during the Second World War, and had served with the Parachute Regiment.[118] 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”.[119]

Malcolm MacCulloch, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, has suggested that the fight, and the role 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.[120]

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[121] – the church where Hindley had been baptised a Catholic on 16 August 1942[122] – had a lasting effect on her.[121] 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”.[122] 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.[123] It was also at about this time that Hindley first began bleaching her hair.[124]

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.[125] She had a short relationship with Ronnie Sinclair from Christmas 1958, and became engaged aged seventeen. 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.[126]

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.[127]

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.[128][129] 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.[130] 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[131] where they watched a film about the Nuremberg Trials.[5] 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.[132] Brady then gave her reading material,[132] 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.[5] 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.[133] 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.[134]

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.[135] 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.[136] 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 visited two local shooting ranges on several occasions. 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.[137] Brady and Hindley’s plans for robbery came to nothing, but they became interested in photography. Brady already owned a small box camera which he used to take photographs of Hindley and her dog, Lassie, 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.[138]

As murderers

Hindley claimed that Brady began to talk about “committing the perfect murder” in July 1963,[139] 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,[140] a fictionalised account of the Leopold and Loeb case of 1924.[141]

What they were doing was so out of the scope of most people’s understanding, beyond the comprehension of the workaday neighbours who were more interested in how they were going to pay their gas bill or what might happen in the next episode of Coronation Street or Doctor Who. In 1960s Britain, people did not kidnap and murder children for fun. It was simply beyond the realms of most people’s comprehension, and this is why they managed to get away with it for so long.
— Chris Cowley [142]

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 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 became a suspect, although he was cleared of any involvement in her death.[143] Brady and Hindley’s next victim, John Kilbride, was killed on 23 November 1963. A huge search was undertaken, with more than 700 statements taken, and 500 “missing” posters printed. Eight days after he failed to return home, 2000 volunteers scoured waste ground and derelict buildings.[144]

Hindley hired a vehicle a week after Kilbride’s disappearance, and again on 21 December 1963, apparently to make sure that 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 step-father, 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.[145]

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.[146]

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.[147] 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.[148][149] She remained unharmed; living only a few doors away, her disappearance would have been easily solved.[150]

In the early afternoon 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.[151] On the same day, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey disappeared from a funfair in Miles Platting.[152] Despite a huge search she was not found. The following day Hindley brought her grandmother back home.[153] 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.[154] 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.[155]

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,[156] and had threatened to kill her younger sister, Maureen.[157] 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.
— Myra Hindley[158]



See caption
Ashworth Hospital, where Ian Brady was incarcerated from 1985
Wikimedia Commons

Following his conviction, Brady was moved to Durham Prison, where he asked to live in solitary confinement.[159] He spent nineteen years in mainstream prisons before being diagnosed as a psychopath in November 1985 and sent to the high-security Park Lane Hospital, now Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital, in Sefton;[160] he made it clear that he never wanted to be released.[161]

The trial judge recommended that his life sentence should mean life, and successive Home Secretaries 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”.[162] The death, in November 2007, of John Straffen, who had spent fifty-five years in prison for murdering three children meant that Brady became the longest serving prisoner in England and Wales.[163]

Although he refused to work with Ashworth’s psychiatrists, Brady occasionally corresponded with people outside the hospital,[d]His communications were sometimes censored by the prison authorities.[164] including Lord Longford, writer Colin Wilson and various journalists.[165] In one letter, written in 2005, he claimed that the 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.[166][e]Forensic psychologist Chris Cowley writes “So there was a gap in the murder cycle, this is not unusual with serial killers, but in most cases the gaps between murders get shorter, not longer. The so-called ‘cooling-off’ periods diminish on a timeline. In Brady’s case, this did not happen: it went the other way. So their next killing [Edward Evans] was out of sequence and it went badly wrong for pretty much everyone concerned, not least their victim.[167]

During several years of interactions with forensic psychologist Chris Cowley, including face-to-face meetings,[168] Brady told him of an “aesthetic fascination [he had] with guns”,[169] despite his never having used one to kill. He complained bitterly about conditions at Ashworth, which he hated.[170] In 1999, his right wrist was broken in what he claimed was an “hour-long, unprovoked attack” by staff.[171] Brady subsequently went on hunger strike, but while English law allows patients to refuse treatment, those being treated for mental disorders under the Mental Health Act 1983 have no such right if the treatment is for their mental disorder.[172][173] He was therefore force-fed and transferred to another hospital for tests, after he fell ill.[174] He recovered, and in March 2000 asked for a judicial review of the legality of the decision to force-feed him, but was refused permission.[172]

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.
— Ian Brady[175]

While at Ashworth, in 2001 Brady wrote The Gates of Janus, which was published by Feral House, an underground US publisher. The book, Brady’s analysis of serial murder and specific serial killers, sparked outrage when announced in Britain.[176] According to Chris Cowley, Brady regretted Hindley’s imprisonment and the consequences of their actions, but not necessarily the crimes themselves. He saw no point in making any kind of public apology; instead, he “expresse[d] remorse through actions”.[177] Twenty years of transcribing classical texts into Braille came to an end when the authorities confiscated his translation machine, for fear it might be used as a weapon. He once offered to donate one of his kidneys to “someone, anyone who needed one”,[178] but was blocked from doing so. According to Colin Wilson, “it was because these attempts to express remorse were thrown back at him that he began to contemplate suicide”.[173] He might have achieved this in 2006, when a female friend sent him fifty paracetamol pills, stored in two Smarties tubes hidden inside a hollowed-out crime novel. The potentially lethal dose of tablets was intercepted.[173][179]

Winnie Johnson, the mother of the sole remaining 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. 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.[180]

In 2012, Brady applied to be returned to prison, reiterating his desire to starve himself to death.[181] At a mental health tribunal in June the following year, Brady claimed that he suffered not from paranoid schizophrenia, as his doctors at Ashworth maintained, but a personality disorder. His application was rejected and the judge stated that Brady “continues to suffer from a mental disorder which is of a nature and degree which makes it appropriate for him to continue to receive medical treatment”.[182]

After receiving end-of-life care, Brady died of restrictive pulmonary disease at Ashworth Hospital on 15 May 2017.[183] On 21 September 2017, the inquest found that he died of natural causes and his hunger strike had not been a contributory factor.[184] Brady had refused food and fluids for more than forty-eight hours on various occasions, causing him to be fitted with a nasogastric tube, although his inquest noted that his body mass index was not a cause for concern.[185] Brady was cremated without ceremony by Sefton Borough Council on 25 October 2017 and his ashes were disposed of at sea during the night.[186]


Immediately following the trial Hindley lodged an unsuccessful appeal against her conviction.[187] Brady and Hindley corresponded by letter until 1971, when she ended their relationship. The two remained in sporadic contact for several months,[188] but 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”.[189] 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 an official rebuke from the then Home Secretary, Robert Carr.[190] 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.[191]

Hindley was told that she should spend twenty-five 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 thirty years.[162] 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.[192]

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.[162] 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.[193] In 1997 the Parole Board ruled that Hindley was low risk and should be moved to an open prison.[162] 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.[194][195]

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.[[196] Hindley’s release seemed imminent and plans were made by supporters for her to be given a new identity.[197] 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”.[198] 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 fifteen years earlier a new trial would probably be considered an abuse of process.[199]


See caption
Part of Stalybridge Country Park, where Hindley’s ashes were scattered
Wikimedia Commons

David Smith became “reviled by the people of Manchester”, despite having been instrumental in bringing Brady and Hindley to justice,[200] 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.”[201]

After stabbing 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.[200] 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 which she lived, she received no support from her family Part of Stalybridge Country Park, where Hindley’s ashes were scattered in 2003 – 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,[165] and married a lorry driver, Bill Scott, with whom she had a daughter.[167]

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.[202] Sheila and Patrick Kilbride, who were by then divorced,[203] were present at Maureen’s funeral, believing that Hindley might make an appearance. Patrick mistook Bill Scott’s daughter from a previous relationship, Ann Wallace, for Hindley and tried to attack her before being knocked to the ground by another mourner; the police were called to restore order.[204] Shortly before her death at the age of 70, Sheila said: “If she [Hindley] ever comes out of jail I’ll kill her”.[205] It was a threat repeated by her son Danny, and Ann West.[206][207]

In 1972 Smith was acquitted of the murder of his father, who had been suffering from terminal cancer. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to two days’ detention.[208] He remarried and moved to Lincolnshire with his three sons,[200][209] and was exonerated of any participation in the Moors murders by Hindley’s confession in 1987. In 2011 he co-authored the book Witness with biographer Carol Ann Lee.[210] He died in Ireland in 2012.[211]

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.[212] 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.[213] Winnie Johnson, mother of Keith Bennett, continues to visit Saddleworth Moor, where it is believed that the body of her son is buried.[214]

The house in which Brady and Hindley lived on Wardle Brook Avenue, and where Edward Evans was murdered, was demolished by the local council.[215]

Hindley died as a result of bronchial pneumonia caused by heart disease, at the age of 60, on 15 November 2002.[216] 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.[217] Such was the strength of feeling more than thirty-five years after the murders that a reported twenty local undertakers refused to handle her cremation.[218] Later Hindley’s ashes were scattered by a former lover, a woman she had met in prison;[217] four months later, at the end of February 2003, newspaper accounts reported claims the ashes were scattered less than ten 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.[219] 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.[220]

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.[221] 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 was was rarely mentioned in the news, but until her death Hindley’s repeated insistence on her innocence, and attempts to secure her release from prison, resulted in her becoming a figure of hate in the national media.[222] Retribution was a common theme among 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 a relative might kill her. Some commentators expressed the view that of the two, Hindley was the “more evil”.[223] 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”,[224][f]Topping clarifies these interviews were taking place in 1987 on page 71.[225] 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”.[222]

Lord Longford, a Catholic convert, 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”.[198] The tabloid press branded him a “loony” and a “do-gooder” for supporting Hindley, describing her as “evil”. She became a long-running source of material for the press, which printed embellished tales of her “cushy” life at the “5-star” Cookham Wood Prison and her liaisons with prison staff and other inmates.[226]


a Topping was the police officer in overall charge of the investigation into the moors murders.
b Written less than thirty days after the murder of Edward Evans, the letter was dated 5 November 1965.[51]
c Using the retail price index.[57]
d His communications were sometimes censored by the prison authorities.[164]
e Forensic psychologist Chris Cowley writes “So there was a gap in the murder cycle, this is not unusual with serial killers, but in most cases the gaps between murders get shorter, not longer. The so-called ‘cooling-off’ periods diminish on a timeline. In Brady’s case, this did not happen: it went the other way. So their next killing [Edward Evans] was out of sequence and it went badly wrong for pretty much everyone concerned, not least their victim.[167]
f Topping clarifies these interviews were taking place in 1987 on page 71.[225]