Names like Ashton-under-Lynne, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Ancoats and Hattersley conjure up scenes of genteel people eating dainty cucumber sandwiches and drinking steaming cups of tea. They certainly do not reek of murder and mayhem but, unfortunately, due to the actions of two of Britain’s most notorious criminals, murder and mayhem is exactly what they are associated with.
During the years 1963 through 1965, a series of five abductions and murders took place in Manchester, England, with the bodies of four of the five victims being dumped on Saddleworth Moor in Lancashire. These killings became known as the Moors Murders and the killers were later found to be Ian Brady and Myra Hindley: partners in both crime and romance.
The savage nature of the abuses suffered by the victims would cause Brady and Hindley to become the most hated people in Britain. It all began with the abduction, rape and murder of 16 year old Pauline Reade during July 1963. 12 year old John Kilbride was next and, in November 1963, he was kidnapped and dispatched in the same way as Reade. The murders of Keith Bennett, also 12 years old, and Leslie Downey, 10 years old, followed in quick succession. What was different about Bennett was that his body was never found. And what was different about Downey, was that the killers made an audiotape of their assault on her. This was very similar to the actions of Bernardo and Homolka thirty years later when they videotaped their torture and rape of young Leslie Mahaffy.
It can only be surmised how long Brady and Hindley would have continued their grisly work if they had not been apprehended after their murder of 17 year old Edward Evans in October 1965. For reasons known only to themselves, they had asked Hindley’s brother in law, Dave Smith, to help them kill Evans. Afraid for his own life, Smith helped. Then Smith left. Then Smith went straight to the police.
The police arrived early on the morning of October 7th, discovered Evans’s body and immediately took both Hindley and Brady into custody. They also discovered something else: a baggage claim ticket that led them to two suitcases stored at the Manchester Central Station luggage depot. It was their lucky day because these suitcases contained evidence – including the Downey audiotape – that linked Brady and Hindley to the murders of Kilbride and Downey.
The death penalty for murder had been abolished by the time Brady and Hindley went to trial. Under the new law, if you were found guilty, you were sentenced to life in prison and this literally meant you would spend the rest of your natural life in jail. The only way you would get out was if you were judged no longer a risk to society and released in terms of a ‘life license’ and, all things considered, it was unlikely that this would happen to the Moors Murderers.
The upshot of the trial was that Brady was found guilty of all three murders while Hindley was found guilty of only the murders of Evans and Downey. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Twenty years later, in November 1986, Brady finally confessed to the murders of Reade and Bennett and he and Hindley helped the police find Reade’s body. They also tried to find Bennett’s body but had, unfortunately, forgotten exactly where they had buried him…
Brady met The Teacup Poisoner, Graham Young, while they were both serving their sentences at Parkhurst Prison and they found they had in common a long standing and abiding interest in the Nazi regime. Brady was also a lifelong fan of the Marquis de Sade and it has been presumed that it was this, combined with the Germanic influence, which pushed him over the edge. He is also accredited with having a Svengali-like hold over Hindley as it later came to be believed that Hindley – a former babysitter – would never have been involved in such heinous crimes if she had not been under Brady’s influence.
Today, 40 years later, Brady busily tries to starve himself to death in prison but Hindley has passed away, dying in 2002 at the age of 60 after becoming the longest detained female prisoner in Britain. Given all the atrocious crimes that have been committed since they were jailed, Brady and Hindley no longer seem to deserve being called the “most hated couple”.
Schechter, Harold. The Serial Killer Files. New York: Ballantine Books (2003)
Jones, Richard G. Editor. Woman Who Kill. Edison: Castle Books (2004)
Wilson, Colin. The History of Murder. Edison: Castle Books (2004)
Ian Brady Wikipedia
Myra Hindley Wikipedia
Fiona Steel Murder on the Moors: The Ian Brady and Myra Hindley Story TruTV Crime Library