The Moors Murders – Killer Couple Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

Ian Brady is the closest thing the UK has to a human monster. His infamous mugshot continues to elicit feelings of dread melancholy to anyone familiar with his crimes, and even to those unfamiliar with the Moors Murders, it is clear that Brady’s cold stare is one of a pure psychopath. The case of the Moors Murders were unique at the time they were committed. In 1965, the public had never heard of such horrific crimes, particularly ones involving both a woman and the serial slayings of innocent children.

Between the years of 1963 and 1965, Brady, along with his accomplice Myra Hindley, were responsible for the deaths of five children throughout the Manchester area.

Background of Ian Brady

Brady’s childhood was rife with small crimes. At the age of 17, he was sentenced to two years in borstal for petty theft. He had no father figure to speak of and no real male role models during his crucial years. He worked menial jobs during his teenage years, all of which he felt he was too good for, but eventually secured himself a clerical position in 1959 at the age of 21. Despite his working class and troublesome upbringing, Brady was a highly intelligent young man. He taught himself book-keeping and was particularly fond of literature, in particular Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the subject of Nazi crimes.

Ian Brady’s obsession with the Nazi regime was well-documented throughout his childhood. Around the age of 11 was when his interest in the Second World War began, which had only ended several years prior. Although Brady spent the majority of his time alone as a child, the conversations with his classmates often revolved around the Nazis. Brady even insisted on playing a German role whenever the other children acted out war games in the playground.

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley, Brady’s future accomplice, began working at for the same company as Brady in 1961. Despite their differences in personality, Hindley couldn’t help but feel a powerful attraction towards Brady. During the first six months of her employment, Hindley’s strange obsession with Brady only grew, despite her regularly arranging dates with other men. Hindley mistakenly believed Brady’s quiet demeanour was nothing more than “a sign of intelligence”.

Hindley believed that Brady embodied exactly what she desired in a man. Other men were dull and unambitious, loud-mouthed and foul. Brady was “enigmatic” and “worldly”. Hindley would write of her intense lust for Brady in her diary for around a year before the two would informally meet.

Eventually, Hindley asked Brady out for their first date. He agreed, and in December 1961, the pair spent their first evening together watching The Nuremberg Trials at the cinema. As they met up more over the coming weeks, Brady’s domineering presence over her became obvious. He introduced her to his nihilistic philosophies on life and his transgressive literature. Hindley was well-aware of Brady’s obsession of Nazi Germany, and thus emulated the archetypal Aryan image to appease his fantasies. She dyed her hair bleach blonde and regularly applied thick, red lipstick. She drastically altered her clothing. Her secretarial outfits became short skirts, leather boots and jackets. The two spent their lunch breaks at work together, eventually isolating themselves from their colleagues. Hindley became completely obsessed with Brady and absorbed everything he had to offer; his philosophies, his sexual desires. Brady even told Hindley there was no God to which Hindley immediately stopped attending church. Brady’s influence was clear, yet this was only the beginning of their twisted relationship.

Brady regularly told Hindley that murder was the “supreme pleasure”, and that rape and murder were “not wrong”. He spoke to Hindley of ‘committing the perfect murder’, and Hindley initially took this as fantasy and often played along with Brady’s games. They would plan bank heists and robberies together, despite them never acted upon these desires. On the evening of 12th July 1963, however, Brady told Hindley that they were finally going to commit his perfect murder. Hindley was to drive around in her van while Brady followed on his motorcycle. Brady would flash his headlines when a potential victim was spotted, to which Hindley would offer the person a lift.

First Victim: Pauline Reade

Their chosen victim that night was a young girl Brady spotted on Froxmer Street, Gorton. The girl was 16 year old Pauline Reade, who Hindley recognised as a friend of her younger sister. Hindley offered Pauline a lift to which she agreed, under the pretence of helping Hindley find a glove she had lost on the Saddleworth Moors. Upon arriving at the Moors, they were met by Brady who Hindley introduced to Pauline as her boyfriend. Brady then took Pauline onto the Moors, out of sight of Hindley and beat, raped and stabbed Pauline. Brady then returned to Hindley and took her to the site where Pauline lay with her throat slit, but still alive. The sight of Pauline’s dying body was likely an initiation for Hindley; a test to see if she could handle what it took to play along with Brady’s twisted games. Or alternatively, it was a forensic tactic in order to dispel blame of the crime onto Hindley if ever the need should arise (Brady later claimed that Hindley assisted him with the sexual assault on Pauline). Pauline Reade’s body was then buried on the Manchester moors.

John Kilbride

Using the same tactic as with their first victim, Hindley coaxed 12-year-old John Kilbride into her vehicle with the promises of giving him a lift home on 23rd November 1963. Once John was in the car, they claimed they needed to make a ‘detour’ to their home, and then to again Saddleworth Moor using the same ‘glove’ ruse. John’s death played out the same way as Pauline Reade’s. He was taken out of sight by Brady while Hindley remained in the car. John Kilbride’s throat was then slit with a serrated blade and he was subsequently strangled to death.

A photograph taken by Ian Brady of Myra Hindley with her dog, Puppet, crouching over John Kilbride's grave on Saddleworth Moor in November 1963.
A photograph taken by Ian Brady of Myra Hindley with her dog, Puppet, crouching over John Kilbride’s grave on Saddleworth Moor in November 1963.

Keith Bennett

Keith Bennett, their third victim and a second 12-year-old boy, was lured into Hindley’s vehicle on the evening of 16th June 1964. Hindley asked John if he was able to help her load up some boxes (a technique later adopted by infamous American serial killer Ted Bundy), to which she would return the favour by driving him home. As planned, she drove Keith onto Saddleworth Moor and Brady took him deeper into the desolate plains of the countryside. He was then raped, strangled and buried on the moors.

Lesley Ann Downey

Lesley Ann Downey - Victim of the Moors Murderers
Lesley Ann Downey

Boxing Day, 1964. Brady and Hindley’s youngest victim, 10-year old Lesley Ann Downey was standing alone at a fairground. They both approached her and purposefully dropped some of their bags to manipulate her into helping them. They convinced Lesley Ann Downey to carry some of their packages to their car and then to their home. Lesley Ann Downey’s murder marks a logical escalation in their (or possibly just Brady’s) psychopathology.

Before she was raped and strangled by Brady, Lesley was undressed, gagged and then forced to pose for photographs. This is partly due to the first opportunity of Brady being able to toy with a victim inside the confines of his house as opposed to the outdoors he was used to. The following day, Lesley’s body was taken to Saddleworth Moor and buried.

WARNING: The Transcript of Lesley Ann Downey’s tape is available on this website. You can access it here: Transcript of Lesley Ann Downey’s Tape. Proceed at own caution. Parkaman Magazine made it available only for the sole reasons that we may never forget the crimes done by these individuals and the reason why such killers should remain behind bars.

Edward Evans

Their final victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans marked a deviation from their usual method of luring unwitting children to their homes. Again, possibly due to an escalation of Brady’s desires or the fact that Edward Evans was their oldest victim to date and potentially the one to provide the most resistance to their advances.  On 6th October 1975, Edward Evans willingly entered Brady’s home. Brady had befriended him at Manchester Central train station and simply asked him to return to their residence. Brady’s method of killing also deviated from his normal MO of rape, stabbing and strangulation in this case. Brady beat Edward Evans to death with an axe, and did not commit any act of sexual assault.

The attack on Evans was not only witnessed by Hindley, but also by her 17 year old brother-in-law David Smith. Smith, an unwilling participant, walked in on Brady’s assault and subsequently feared for a similar fate if he resisted. The plan was then for Smith and Brady to dispose of Edward Evan’s body the following evening, however, that opportunity never came.  

Capture

Smith called the police the following morning and told them what had happened. Brady’s house was then searched by the police that same morning to which they uncovered the body of Edward Evans in an upstairs room. Brady confessed under questioning that he and Edward Evans suffered an altercation, but insisted that the murder was committed by both him and David Smith. This was yet another manipulation technique which would become commonplace for Brady.

Upon thorough searching of Brady and Hindley’s possessions, police discovered the photographs the pair had taken of Lesley Ann Downey before her murder, as well as John Kilbride’s name written inside an old exercise book, providing adequate confirmation of their involvement in their disappearances. As well as the photographs of Lesley Ann Downey, police also uncovered a large collection of photographs the pair had taken on Saddleworth Moor.  Police immediately dispatched searchers to moor and eventually came upon the decomposed bodies of both Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride.

Trial

Their trial was held on 19th April 1966. Both pleaded not guilty and were therefore confronted with evidence of their crimes. It surfaced that the pair had made a tape recording of the murder of Lesley Ann Downey, which was played to the judge and jury during their trial. It was a 16-minute harrowing transcript of her death, and served to cement them both as guilty. The horrific content of the tape was said to have traumatised many who were in attendance, including experienced police authorities.  

Even behind bars, Brady’s hold over Hindley continued for a number of years. They wrote to each other regularly and even requested marriage rights. They gradually drifted apart due to their stance regarding their crimes. Brady embraced his new role as the most hated prisoner in England whereas Hindley continued to plead her innocence by claiming Brady and David Smith were the real offenders.

Locating the body of Keith Bennett

It wasn’t until 1985 that Brady further confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, to which Hindley also confirmed was true. Hindley then became compliant with authorities in order to locate the bodies of the final two victims. After a thorough search of the Manchester moors, Pauline Reade’s body was successfully found with the assistance of both Brady and Hindley respectively. However, the body of Keith Bennett is, to this day, a disheartening subject to discuss.

Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, first contacted Hindley in 1986 to request her help in finding her son’s unmarked grave on Saddleworth Moor. Locating Keith’s body became somewhat of a battle between Brady and Hindley, as both were keen to gain whatever benefit there may have been to locating him. Despite allowing Brady, Hindley (and even David Smith) to re-visit the moors to assist finding Keith’s body, he remains unfound to this day.

The subject of Keith Bennett remains Brady’s only real ‘power’ he has left. Brady had been in contact with Winnie Johnson on several occasions to inform her he knew of the whereabouts of her son’s body, yet has been unable to prove his claims. Many psychologists believe that Brady knows exactly where Keith’s body is buried, but has retained the information for the purposes of psychological torment on the victim’s family, the authorities, and even the general public.

[Author’s note: it is interesting to note that I have had personal contact with Ian Brady on numerous occasions. Although Brady’s claims are often to be taken lightly, he once informed me of a chess game he played against the Yorkshire Ripper on a visit to his hospital. He mentioned very specifically the moves he made in order to win the game. Brady’s memory of a largely unimportant event which happened almost 30 years prior is, if true, very revealing, particularly in regards to his claims of not remembering the locations of his victims’ remains. If he remembers an insignificant game of chess, he likely has a detailed recollection of the last few weeks of his free life, including the exact burial sites of his victims].

CAN YOU HELP: Police and relatives are still trying to locate the body. For those interested, a website is online in order to find the missing body and to keep his memory alive: Search for Keith Bennett.

Ian Brady Today

Brady, who, at the time of writing, has been held in Ashworth Hospital in Liverpool since 1985, remains a source of contradictions and outrage for professionals and the public alike. Brady claims to have been protesting the right to die for a number of years and has remained on hunger strike since these claims. He is force-fed each day via tubes and injections by hospital staff, yet, as his expert manipulation tendencies are clear, this may also be a ruse he has used to his advantage. By claiming the “right to die” within the confines of a mental hospital, it is a legal requirement for the staff to then keep him alive as opposed to in a HMP prison where there is no such requirements. Arguments have been ongoing for a number of years to transfer Brady to a HMP prison, but has always been overturned due to his mental state. A mental state which is assumed due to his hunger strike claims. Such a manipulative tactic would not be out of place for Brady as he has shown signs of a high IQ since a young age. He is undoubtedly a highly-manipulative psychopath and, as evident by his attempts to place blame of his crimes onto Hindley and David Smith, he will go to incredible lengths to unburden himself.

To this day, both Brady and Hindley remain figures of detestation in the UK. Hindley passed away in prison in 2002 from pneumonia, and Brady will live out the remainder of his days inside Ashworth Hospital, most likely still harbouring resent towards a world he believes he is too good for. His nihilistic philosophies on life are evident via his correspondence with the outside world (letters to pen-pals, journalists, etc), as well as in his publications (his book The Gates Of Janus (USdeals with the subject of serial murder).

Despite their crimes being committed fifty years ago, the lasting notoriety of the Moors Murders cannot be overstated.

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  • Alex G253

    Well done article, Joe. You stated that you’ve had personal contact with Ian Brady. Does this mean letters, telephone conversations, face to face visits? How was your experience in this?

    • Joe Turner

      Hey Alex, thank you for the kind words. I had face to face contact with Ian Brady for a brief moment around seven years ago. My psychology tutor at the time had a professional relationship with Brady, and after much hassle, she allowed me to accompany her to a visit with him. It was a very surreal experience. Brady appeared with overgrown grey hair and wearing a dressing gown and slippers, a far sight from the folk devil he is regularly portrayed as. Throughout the conversation, he appeared to be more concerned with discrediting my tutor’s academic qualifications than providing any assistance (he had previously agreed to lend his knowledge to a particular subject) and didn’t glance at me once throughout the meeting. His body language was particularly stubborn; he kept an aura of assertiveness despite him being an isolated, weak, scrawny old man. His delusions of grandeur were clear, even fifty years after his crimes.

      The time he told me of his experience with Peter Sutcliffe was in a letter he sent me in August 2012. I had contacted him asking his permission to use some extracts from his book on serial murder in an academic work and we ended up corresponding for a while. I brought up the subject of Broadmoor Hospital, to which Brady sent me a two page essay detailing how badly he beat Sutcliffe at chess. Although, as with most of Brady’s statements, it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  • katalanya

    Ian Brady died on the 15th May 2017 at Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital, aged 79. He died of chest and lung problems. He died without revealing the whereabouts of the remains of Keith Bennett.
    This couple changed the behaviour of UK children forever. I was aged 10 at the time of their convictions of the murders and lived only a few miles away. Prior to this, we were allowed to play out freely. This freedom ceased abruptly when these two were convicted. The disgust at Myra Hindley in being a party to these murders of children cannot be overstated. It was difficult for people to comprehend that a woman would actually assist this sadistic and brutal torture and murder of innocent children.