Ian Brady died yesterday at the age of 79, but his crimes will live on as one of the briefest but darkest chapters of British history.
The story that has fascinated the British press for over fifty years began in January of 1961 when Myra Hindley, 18-years-old, started working at Millwards, workplace of Ian Brady. Hindley quicky became interested in Ian, having detailed her infatuation in her diaries.
Hindley and Brady spoke for the first time in July 1961, and Hindley’s crush continued to intensify until that December when Brady invited her on their first date.
As the pair grew closer, Hindley reportedly confided in her friend her concerns about some aspects of Brady’s personality, claiming that on one occasion, Brady drugged Hindley. Despite this, Hindley’s obsession with Brady continued.
The pair developed a joint interest in photography, with Brady eventually purchasing professional lighting and photography equipment which he and Hindley used to create pornographic material. Outside of the house, Hindley’s style also began to change, taking a more risqué direction.
According to Hindley, Brady first started talking about murder in the summer of 1963. Inspired by Compulsion, a novel adapting the real-life story of Leopold and Loeb, a pair of young American men who, in 1924, kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks in an attempt to commit the “perfect murder.” Brady reportedly shared the same desire to commit the perfect murder and evade being caught.
On July 12th 1963, Brady decided the time had come to finally commit the perfect murder.
The evening of July 12th, Brady instructed Hindley to drive her van around the neighbourhood while he followed on his motorcycle, looking out for potential victims. When he found the one, he would flash his lights, Hindley would pull over the van, and the abduction would begin.
When Brady spotted a young girl walking alone, he signalled Hindley to stop, but she passed the girl. When she finally stopped and Brady drew up beside her, Hindley explained that she had recognised the girl as Marie Ruck, a neighbour of her mother’s, and that the disappearance of a teenager would be less suspicious than that of someone Ruck’s age.
Brady and Hindley set off again on their search and soon Brady signalled for Hindley to stop beside a girl that Hindley recognised as 16-year-old Pauline Reade, a friend of her sister Maureen’s.
Reade got into the van and Hindley asked for her help searching for an expensive glove she had lost on Saddleworth Moor. Reade agreed and Hindley drove her to the moor, where Brady arrived shortly afterwards. Hindley introduced him as her boyfriend.
According to Hindley, Brady next took Reade out into the moor while Hindley waited in the van. After thirty minutes, Brady returned, and took Hindley to the spot where Reade lay dying.
She had been hit with a blunt instrument and her throat had been cut twice. One cut was small, another long and gaping. The collar of her outfit had been forced into the wound, presumably in an attempt to slow the bleeding and prolong the victim’s suffering. Hindley concluded from the dishevelled state of her clothing that the victim had been sexually assaulted.
Hindley waited with Reade while Brady retrieved a shovel he had previously hidden on the moor in order to bury the body. After the burial, the pair drove home.
Brady’s version of events differed from Hindley’s. Whereas Hindley claimed to have waited in the van, Brady claimed that she was in fact present at the murder and that she assissted him with the sexual assault.
More than four months later, on November 23rd 1963, Hindley offered a ride home to 12-year-old John Kilbride, telling him that his parents would be worried about him being out so late. After also offering him a bottle of sherry, he accepted and got into Hindley’s rented Ford Anglia, where Brady was also seated.
Brady told Kilbride that they would have to make a stop at their home where the sherry was, and on the way, they took a detour to the moor, again on the pretense of needing to search for Hindley’s missing glove.
On the moor, Hindley once again waited in the car while Brady took Kilbride. Brady once again sexually assaulted his victim and attempted to slash his throat before ultimately strangling him with a piece of string.
On June 16th 1964, Hindley asked 12-year-old Keith Bennett for help loading boxes, before offering a ride home, which he accepted. They drove him to Saddleworth Moor where Brady lured him away with the same story of Hindley’s lost glove. Hindley waited in the car.
Brady returned with a shovel thirty minutes later and told Hindley that he had sexually assaulted Bennett before strangling him with a piece of string.
On December 26th 1964, Brady noticed 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey at a fairground he and Hindley had visited in search of their next victim. They asked Downey for help loading packages into the car, which she was happy to do, and for help taking them home and unloading them. Downey agreed, and got into the car.
Back at the house, Downey was undressed and gagged, then forced to pose in sexually explicit photographs before she was raped and strangled to death.
Here Brady and Hindley’s reports once again differ. According to Hindley, she was running a bath for the victim while Brady killed her. According to Brady, it was Hindly herself who killed Downey.
On December 27th, Brady and Hindley drove Downey’s body to the moor and buried her in a shallow grave—naked, with her clothes at her feet.
More than a year prior to the final murder, Brady and Hindley embarked on a trip to Windermere with Hindley’s sister, Maureen, and her new husband, 17-year-old David Smith. This was the first of many outings as Brady and Smith developed a friendship and a mutual admiration of each other.
On October 6th 1965, Hindley drove Brady to Manchester Central railway station, where he intended to find his next victim. He returned with 17-year-old Edward Evans, who joined them for wine back at their house.
At this point, Brady asked Hindley to bring Smith to the house, which she agreed to do. Hindley led Smith to the house and instructed him to wait outside for her signal, a flashing light. When the signal came, Smith knocked on the door and was greeted by Brady.
Brady led him to the kitchen then left under the pretense that he was going to retrieve several bottles of wine that he intended to give to Smith.
Minutes later, Smith heard a scream and rushed to the living room where he found Brady hovering above Edward Evans, an axe in his hand. Evans was still screaming and Brady hit him with the blunt side of the axe before strangling him to death with an electrical cord.
Brady had injured his ankle in the struggle with Evans and so Smith helped him to carry the body. The wrapped it in a plastic sheet and placed it in the spare bedroom.
Smith agreed to meet Brady and Hindley the next day in order to help them dispose of the body, but on returning home, he immediately told his wife what he had witnessed, and she insisted that he call the police.
Carrying a knife and a screwdriver in case he needed to defend himself against Brady, should he run into him, Smith walked to the nearby phone box and called the police to tell them what he had witnessed.
The next day, on October 7th, police visted Brady and Hindley’s home claiming to be investigating an act of violence. Brady denied knowledge of any violence and allowed the officer to look around the house.
Upon finding the door to the spare bedroom locked, the officer offered to drive Hindley to the office, where she claimed the only key was kept. Brady interrupted, and told Hindley to simply hand over the key.
The police soon returned to the living room where they informed Hindley and Brady that they had found the body and that Brady was being arrested on suspicion of murder. Brady claimed at this point that an argument between himself and Evans had gotten out of hand and he had been killed in the heat of the moment.
Hindley remained free for several days, but on October 11th, she was arrested and charged as an accessory to the murder of Edward Evans.
Brady continued to insist to the police that he and Edwards had fought, and that Smith had also been responsible for the murder. But only with Smith’s help did the first piece of concrete evidence come to light.
Smith told police how he had packed various items into a suitcase as Brady had asked him to do, and that he didn’t know what else was in the suitcases, or where they were now, but that Brady had an affinity for train stations.
This led police to search the left luggage offices of Manchester Central station, where they eventually found a suitcase belonging to Brady. Inside were nine pornographic pictures of an underage girl with a gag in her mouth.
The suitcase also contained a 13-minute tape recording of the girl screaming for help. Ann Downey would later identify the voice on the tape as belonging to her daughter, Lesley Ann Downey.
After discovering among Brady’s possessions a notebook with the name “John Kilbride” written in it, and a collection of photographs taken at Saddleworth Moor, Police became suspicious that Brady was responsible for more deaths and began a search of the moor, using the photographs as reference points.
The search would ultimately lead to the discovery of the bodies of John Kilbride and Lesley Ann Downey.
As Brady and Hindley went to trial, they were charged with the murders of Downey, Kilbride and Evans. Despite claiming innocence, Brady was found guilty of all three counts, and Hindley of the murders of Evans and Downey.
Brady was sentenced to three life sentences, and Hindley to two, with an additional seven years for harbouring Brady in the knowledge on his involvement in the murder of John Kilbride.
The pair would continue to claim their innocence for two decades.
They remained in contact until 1971, when Hindley ended their relationship after falling in love with a prison officer, Patricia Cairns. Together, Hindley and Cairns would eventually plan a prison escape, but the plan was dicovered and Cairns was sentenced to six years in jail.
In 1985, Fred Harrison of The Sunday People claimed that Brady had confessed to him that he was also responsible for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett. Brady would later claim that no such confession had taken place.
However, Greater Manchester Police had already suspected that Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett had been among Brady and Hindley’s victims, and decided to reopen the case in light of Brady’s supposed confession.
They resumed their search of the moor.
That same year, Brady was diagnosed as a psychopath and moved to a high-security hospital, where he remained for the rest of his life.
In 1986, Winnie Johnson, the mother of victim Keith Bennett, wrote to Hindley, begging her to reveal the truth about what had happened to her son. Hindley refused to admit any part in his murder, but began co-operating with police by helping them identify key areas of the moor where she suggested they focus their search.
On December 16th, Hindley was allowed to visit the moor with the police in order to help with the search in person. Nothing came of this search, which was widely criticised, and many questioned Hindley’s motivations for taking part.
On February 10th 1987, Hindley officially confessed to her involvement in all five murders.
When police informed Brady of Hindley’s confession, he agreed that he, too, would confess, on the condition that afterwards he would be given the means to commit suicide. Police refused the offer.
Hindley made her second visit to the moor in March of 1987 and helped police focus their search in two areas of the moor in particular. This information proved useful and on July 1st 1987, they found the body of Pauline Reade buried three feet deep just 90 metres from the spot where Lesley Ann Downey’s body had been found.
After learning of the discovery of Reade’s body, Brady confessed and states that he, too, would be willing to assist the police in their search. He visited the moor on July 3rd, but was unable to give the police any information, blaming the changing landscape.
A second visit to the moor took place in December, but once again, Brady was unable to locate the burial site.
A fresh search for Bennett’s body began in 2003, with new technologies providing hope of a breakthrough. None came, however, and the search ended unsuccessfully in 2009, with police stating that they would not reopen the search a fourth time without fresh evidence.
Bennett’s mother, Winnie Johnson, died in 2012. She never discovered the whereabouts of her son’s remains, and was never given the opportunity to lay him to rest.
During Hindley’s time in prison, her tarriff was repeatedly increased by successive Home Secretaries. Initially, she was told that she would need to serve 25 years in prison before she would be eligible for parole. In 1985, this was increased to 30 years and in 1990, a whole-life tarrif was imposed, ensuring that Hindley would never be released.
However, in 2002, the Home Secretary’s power to set minimum terms was brought into question, and release became a real possibility for Hindley for the first time, with supporters already asking for her to be given a new identity.
Upon her confession fifteen years earlier, it was decided not to charge Brady and Hindley with the murders of Keith Bennett and Pauline Reade. Both were already serving life sentences and so no additonal punishment could be given; the stress on the families and the expense of a new trial were not considered enough to justify the charges.
As Hindley’s release seemed imminent, however, Greater Manchester Police considered finally charging Hindley with the final two murders in order to ensure she stayed in prison. It was advised, however, that following the decision fifteen years earlier, a new trial would be considered abuse of process, and the final two charges were never brought against Hindley.
On November 15th, 2002, the Law Lords agreed that judges, not politicans, should be the ones to decide how long a criminal would serve in jail, stripping the Home Secretary of his power to keep Hindley under a life warrant.
Unfortunately for Hindley, the news came ten days after her death from bronchial pneumonia at the age of 60.
Since 1999, Brady took part in several hunger strikes in an attempt to end his own life. While most patients are allowed to refuse treatment, Brady had been diagnosed as mentally ill and so, under the Mental Health Act 1983, was unable to refuse treatment and was force-fed through a tube to keep him alive.
Brady fought for many years for his right to die, always unsuccessfully. In 2006, he was sent a potentially lethal dose of paracetamol hidden in a hollowed out book with which he could commit suicide, but the package was intercepted before it reached him.
In 2012, Brady fought to be returned to prison, where he would be free to starve himself to death, but his application was rejected and he remained at Ashworth hospital where, in 2017, he finally died at the age of 79.
Ashworth hospital continued to administer life-extending treatment to the very end.
Brady took the location of Keith Bennett’s burial to his grave.