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.
Ian Brady was born on January 2, 1938 in the Gorbals, Glasgow, Scotland at the Rottenrow Maternity Hospital in Glasgow to Margaret (“Peggy”) Stewart and grew up in the tough slum neighbourhood of the Gorbals. Peggy Stewart, a tea-room waitress, found it difficult bringing up a child on her own, she was often unable to afford a babysitter and would sometimes have to leave baby Ian at home alone. She hoped to spare her son the social stigma of his illegitimacy so she gave up young Ian to the nearby Sloane family, who adopted him into their own family and raised him as one of their own. Ian’s father has never been identified; Peggy Stewart claimed that he was a journalist who died a few months before their son was born.
Early on, Ian showed troubling signs of dysfunctional behaviour and moodiness. He would throw violent tantrums, which sometimes ended with him banging his head against the wall. Peggy occasionally came to visit her son and indulged him with gifts but as time passed, Peggy’s visits became less frequent and finally stopped altogether when Ian was twelve years old. Ian soon figured out for himself who Peggy Stewart really was, and likewise deduced that the Sloanes were not his real family.
Others in the neighbourhood also caught on to the boy’s socially unacceptable origins, and this, coupled with his sullen, unsociable personality, and his lack of skill at football, made him unpopular with local children. Ian Sloane (as he was then called) came to resent his illegitimacy, and began to see himself as a rebellious outsider, not bound by the same rules as others.
At school he was a bright student and a handsome, well-dressed boy, but not well-liked. At the age of eleven, Ian passed the entrance exams to Shawlands Academy. His potential was never realised, however, as he was lazy, would not apply himself, and misbehaved. He started smoking, and virtually gave up schoolwork. He developed a fascination with Nazi Germany, Nazi pageantry and Nazi symbolism. He often asked other boys for souvenirs that their fathers brought back from the war, and when playing rough-house war games he would insist on being “the German”. It was at this time that Ian also became known for perverse and sadistic tendencies, including bullying smaller children and torturing animals in a variety of grotesque ways.
The Sloanes and Brady remember an incident when he was nine years old. It was to be Ian’s first outing out of the Gorbals. They went to the moors of Loch Lomond, where they spent the day picnicking. After lunch, the Sloanes napped in the grass. When they awoke, Ian was gone. They saw him standing 500 yards away at the top of a steep slope. For an hour, he stood there, silhouetted against the giant sky. They called and whistled to him but could not attract his attention. When the two Sloane boys climbed the hill to fetch him he told them to go on home without him, he wanted to be alone.By the time he was a teenager, he had been brought before the juvenile courts for incidents of burglary and housebreaking. On the first two occasions he was given probation, but on the third he was deemed incorrigible and the court ordered him to leave Glasgow and live with his mother.
She had since moved to Manchester and had married an Irish labourer named Patrick Brady. In November 1954, two months before his 17th birthday, Ian left the Sloane household and traveled down to join his mother and her new husband. Although he did not get along with Mr Brady, Ian took his stepfather’s name and used it for his own. As a Scot exiled in an English city, Ian Brady’s compounded feelings of isolation and hostility began to manifest in other ways. He would often spend hours in his room, reading and listening to music. He developed an interest in the writings of the Marquis de Sade and Friedrich Nietzsche, focusing particular attention on Nietzsche’s theories of Übermensch and The Will to Power.
He took a job that Patrick found for him as a porter at the local market. The sense that he didn’t belong persisted however, and he searched for direction through his reading. Within books with such titles as “The Kiss of the Whip”, and “The Torture Chamber”, Brady discovered something he could relate to, something exciting. He became increasingly enamoured of a philosophy that championed cruelty and torture, and the idea that superior creatures had the right to control (and destroy, if necessary) weaker ones. Brady avidly collected books about torture and sadomasochism and other paraphilias relating to domination and servitude.
About this time, he worked as a butcher’s assistant, and some commentators have surmised that the experience of regularly cutting meat away from bone may have nurtured his growing interest in the physical acts of mutilation and murder. He also began drinking heavily and frequenting the cinema, and often found himself in need of extra spending money to support these new habits. Brady also gambled on Horse Races. The young man soon resorted again to thieving, and after being convicted several more times (plus being arrested and fined for an incident of public drunkenness), he was sentenced to two years training at a Borstal school as well as a spell at Strangeways Prison.
While incarcerated, Brady learned illegal techniques for acquiring money and entertained grandiose fantasies of becoming a big-time criminal, pulling off lucrative bank heists. He hoped to avoid manual labour and aimed to appear respectable, and so studied bookkeeping. His release led to prolonged stretches of unemployment. He worked as a Labourer for Boddington’s Brewery between April and October 1958 when he was arrested for aiding and abetting, his employers had discovered that he had been stealing lead seals. Brady later found a job in February 1959 as a stock clerk at Millwards Merchandising.
Born on 23 July 1942 in Gorton, an industrial district of Manchester, Myra was the first child of Nellie (Hettie) and Bob Hindley. As her father served in a parachute regiment during the first three years of her life, Myra’s mother raised her alone. They lived with Hettie’s mother, Ellen Maybury, who helped to look after Myra while Hettie went to work as a machinist. When Bob returned they bought their own home just around the corner from Hettie’s mother. Bob had trouble re-adjusting to civilian life and would spend most of the time he wasn’t working as a labourer, in the local pub. When their second child, Maureen, was born in August 1946, Bob and Hettie, who both worked, found the workload to be too much and decided to send Myra to live with her grandmother. While the move to her grandmother’s home solved many of the family’s problems – Ellen was no longer lonely, the pressure on Bob and Hettie was relieved considerably and Myra enjoyed the devoted attention of her grandmother – it meant that Myra and her father’s relationship never fully developed.
He wasn’t an emotionally demonstrative man and his absence during Myra ‘s formative years created a breach that was never filled. Myra started school at Peacock Street Primary School at the age of five. Here she was considered a mature and sensible girl, although her attendance was poor due to her grandmother’s tendency to allow her to stay home on the slightest pretence. Her many absences led to her not gaining the necessary grades to attend the local grammar school. Instead, she went to Ryder Brow Secondary Modern. Although her poor attendance record continued in high school, she was consistently in the ‘A’ stream in all her subjects. During this period, she exhibited some talent for creative writing and poetry. She loved sport and athletics and was a good swimmer. In appearance and personality, Myra was not considered particularly feminine and was given the nickname ‘Square Arse’ because of her broad hips. She was also teased about the shape of her nose.
Her reputation as being a mature and sensible girl meant that she was a popular babysitter during her teens. Parents and children alike were delighted if Myra was to be their babysitter. She was very capable and demonstrated a genuine love of children. At the age of 15, Myra befriended Michael Higgins, a timid and fragile 13-year-old boy whom she looked after and protected as if he were her younger brother. As far as she was concerned, they would be life-long friends. She was devastated when he drowned in a reservoir, often used as a swimming hole by local children. Her grief was made all the worse by her sense of guilt because she had turned down his offer to go swimming with him that day. She believed that as she was a strong swimmer she could have saved him.
Over the next few weeks, Myra was inconsolable, fluctuating between hysteria and depression. She cried, dressed in black, went to church nightly to light a candle for Michael, and collected money from neighbours for a wreath. Her family was troubled by what they perceived as her over-reaction, telling her that she must control herself. Her grief was reflected in her conversion to Roman Catholicism, Michael’s religion, and the deterioration of her schoolwork. It was not long after Michael’s death that she left school, as she was not considered bright enough to stay on to complete her O-levels, despite an IQ of 107. Her first job was as a junior clerk at Lawrence Scott and Electrometers, an electrical engineering firm.
During this time, Myra was much like other Gorton girls in their teens. She would go to dances and cafes, listened to rock ‘n’ roll, flirted with boys and had the occasional cigarette. Her appearance became more important to her, and it was at this time that she began to bleach her hair and wear dark make-up, in an attempt to appear older. On her seventeenth birthday, she became engaged to Ronnie Sinclair, a local boy who worked as a tea-blender at the local Co-op. Myra ‘s apparent contentment with her ordinary life did not last for long. The prospect of her pending marriage caused her to question the lifestyle to which she was expected to conform.
After marriage was the purchase of a small house, then would come the children and the years of trying to make ends meet while her husband spent all of their money at the local pub. Myra knew this was not for her and called off the engagement. She wanted something more exciting. Her search began with an application for entrance forms to the navy and the army, but she never sent them in. She considered working as a nanny in America but never followed it through. She went off to London in search of a job, but that too bore no fruit. Two years had passed before something new and exciting finally came to her. In January 1961, she met Ian Brady for the first time.
In 1961 Ian Brady was a stock clerk who was recently released from prison. Myra Hindley had just been hired at Millwards as a shorthand typist, for nearly 12 months however, he remained disinterested and aloof, whereas she liked him enormously. But at the Christmas office party, relaxed by a few drinks, Brady asked Hindley for a date. That first night he took her to see “The Nuremberg Trials” as the weeks went by, he played her records of Hitler’s marching songs and encouraged her to read some of his favourite books – “Mein Kampf”, “Crime and Punishment”, and De Sade’s works. Hindley happily complied. The relationship between Brady and Hindley developed with Brady’s increasingly rabid identification with Nazi-era atrocities and his growing sadomasochistic sexual appetite.
Hindley was Brady’s eager student. Under his influence, she stopped going to church and started hating children. Soon after they became a couple, Brady and Hindley began planning a series of bank robberies, which they never carried out. When Brady became fascinated with the idea of rape and murder for sexual gratification, Hindley actively participated in procuring child victims, as well as sexually abusing, torturing and murdering them.
Testing her blind allegiance, Brady hatched plans of rape and murder. Their first victim was 16-year-old Pauline Reade, a neighbour of Hindley’s, who disappeared on her way to a dance in the Crumpsall district on 12 July 1963. She got into a car with Hindley while Brady secretly followed behind on his motorbike.
When the van reached Saddleworth Moor, Hindley stopped the van and got out before asking Pauline to help her find a missing glove in exchange for some records. They were busy “searching” the moors when Brady pounced upon Pauline and smashed her skull in with a shovel. He then subjected her to a savage rape before slitting her throat with a knife; her spinal cord was severed and she was almost decapitated. Brady then buried her body in a grave three feet deep. It was not discovered until 1 July 1987.
On November 23, 1963, Brady and Hindley struck again. This time the victim was 12-year-old John Kilbride. Like many children, he had been warned not to go away with strange men but not about strange women. When he was approached by Hindley at a market in Ashton under Lyne, Kilbride agreed to go with her to help carry some boxes, Brady was sitting in the back of the car.
When they reached the moors, he took the child with him while Hindley waited in the car. On the moor, Brady subjected John Kilbride to a sexual assault and attempted to slit his neck with a knife with a six inch serrated blade, but it didn’t work, so Brady strangled him to death with a piece of string, possibly a shoelace, and buried his body in a shallow grave. His body was found there on 21 October 1965. The body was clothed but the jeans and underpants that he had been wearing were pulled down to mid-thigh and the underpants appeared to be knotted at the back.
The third victim was 12-year-old Keith Bennett who vanished on his way to his grandmother’s house in Gorton on June 16, 1964 four days after his 12th birthday. The fair haired boy accepted a lift from Hindley near Stockport Road in Longsight, and she drove to Saddleworth Moor and asked him to help search for a lost glove. Brady then lured Keith into a ravine. There he sexually assaulted the child, and strangled him with a piece of string before burying his body. Hindley stood above the ravine and watched the murder.
Hindley later confessed that she had destroyed the photographs taken at the site of this particular murder, which had been kept at Brady’s workplace at Millwards. Hindley had access to these photographs during the four days between Brady’s arrest and her own in October 1965. Despite a renewed search effort in 1987, Keith Bennett’s body has never been found.
The fourth victim, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey, was abducted from a fairground in Ancoats on Boxing Day, 1964, and taken back to Hindley’s home at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, located on an overspill council estate in Hattersley (Hindley and her grandmother had moved there from Myra’s childhood home in Gorton only three months earlier). There the girl was undressed and forced to pose for pornographic photographs with a gag in her mouth, and in the last four of them with her hands bound – the last kneeling in an attitude of prayer. Brady took the nine obscene photographs of the little girl, and either he or Hindley recorded the scene on a reel-to-reel audio tape for posterity.
The sixteen-minute tape contains the voices of Brady and Hindley relentlessly cajoling and threatening the child, who is heard crying, retching, screaming, and begging to be allowed to return home safe to her mother. As with Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann was raped and strangled with a piece of string at some point thereafter, probably by Brady. However, during their trial in April 1966, Brady made a telling slip of the tongue while being cross-examined in the witness box, telling the prosecutor that “we all got dressed” after the tape had been made, which suggests that Hindley was also actively involved in the sexual molestation of the child, and perhaps the physical killing as well. The following morning, Brady and Hindley drove Lesley’s body to Saddleworth Moor where it was buried in a shallow grave.
The fifth and final victim was 17-year-old Edward Evans on October 6, 1965, who was lured to 16 Wardlebrook Avenue and hacked brutally with an axe before dying from strangulation. Brady claimed that Evans was a homosexual, and on meeting him at Manchester Central Station invited him back to 16 Wardle Brook Avenue with promises of sexual activity. It remains uncertain whether Evans was actually a homosexual or if Brady was merely trying to make a slur on the young man’s character (homosexuality was still illegal in Britain at the time).
The crime was witnessed by Myra Hindley’s brother-in-law David Smith, who had married Myra’s younger sister Maureen in August 1964, and who was himself around the same age as Evans. Brady and Hindley had apparently staged the murder as part of Smith’s initiation into their killing confederacy. The Hindley family had not approved of Maureen’s marriage to Smith, since he was known to many in Gorton as a thug and ne’er-do-well and had already acquired several convictions for violent offenses in the juvenile courts.