COLUMNIST: Half a century of suffering

Ian Brady
Ian Brady

On July 12, 1963, 16-year-old Pauline Reade was on her way to a dance at the local Railway Club in Gorton, Manchester, when she was abducted, taken against her will to Saddleworth Moor, assaulted, murdered and buried in a shallow grave.

Four months later, in November 1963, 12-year-old John Kilbride was abducted from a market in Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire.

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley

He was also taken to Saddleworth Moor, which straddles Yorkshire and Lancashire, assaulted and eventually strangled with a shoelace before being buried.

Seven months would pass until another 12-year-old, Keith Bennett, would meet the same fate in the same way as John Kilbride – abducted, assaulted, strangled, and buried on Saddleworth Moor.

On Boxing Day in 1964, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey visited a fairground near to her home where she was enticed to help carry some packages to a house where a tape recording was made of her being assaulted and killed as Christmas carols played in the background.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were arrested following the murder of a fifth victim, to which there was a witness, in October 1965.

Intensive police inquiries began and evidence was found linking the pair to Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride and also indicating that they may have been involved in the unsolved disappearances of other youngsters.

Numerous photographs were found of Saddleworth Moor and 150 police officers began a search of locations identified from the images. This search discovered the remains of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride, but the area was vast and the onset of winter was making it increasingly difficult.

In an effort to expedite matters, and for the first time in British police history, an RAF Canberra bomber fitted with sophisticated imaging technology made low-level passes over the moor in an attempt to locate further bodies and the US Government used a satellite to scan the area for soil movement, but unfortunately both initiatives proved to be unsuccessful.

Brady and Hindley were eventually brought for trial at Chester Assizes in April 1966, 50 years ago this month, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson and at the conclusion of the evidence it took the jury less than two hours to find Brady guilty of the three murders he had been charged with and Hindley guilty of two of them.

The death penalty for murder had been abolished during their time on remand and Mr Justice Atkinson passed the only sentence that the law allowed – life imprisonment.

In his closing remarks, the judge described the accused as ‘two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity’.

In 1985, Brady allegedly confessed to a journalist working for The Sunday People that he had also been responsible for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett; a confession he retracted when confronted by the police, but nevertheless the case was reactivated and police resumed their search of Saddleworth Moor. Alas it again proved to be unsuccessful.

In February 1987, Hindley was interviewed in prison and over a period of 17 hours she admitted involvement in all five murders.

When confronted with this evidence, Brady indicated that he would also confess in return for a bizarre demand to be allowed to commit suicide.

On the afternoon of July 1, 1987, after more than 100 days of further searching, police found the body of Pauline Reade in a shallow grave only 100 yards from where Lesley Ann Downey had been discovered.

In August of that year, police called off the search of Saddleworth Moor, despite not having found the body of Keith Bennett.

While the last searches of Saddleworth Moor were being carried out, Winnie Johnson, Keith Bennett’s mother, wrote a letter to Hindley begging to know what had happened.

It ended: ‘I am a simple woman; I work in the kitchen of Christie’s Hospital. It has taken me five weeks 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’.

Despite a campaign by Lord Longworth for her release, Hindley died in prison, aged 60, on November 15, 2002, from bronchial pneumonia caused by heart disease.

Following his conviction, Brady spent 19 years in mainstream prisons before being diagnosed as a psychopath and transferred to the high-security Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital at Sefton where he remains to this day.

Keith Bennett’s mother died in August 2012, and the body of her son has never been found.

Tony Willis, who lives in Beadnell, has published one novel, Dark Flame, and is writing a second, Dead Reckoning.

He is also writing his memoirs which include his time working as a police detective in Yorkshire, during which he was involved in the inquiry into the Moors murders because it was not known if one of the murders had been committed in Lancashire or Yorkshire and he spent some days up on the moors.