Discover more from Just the Facts with Gerald Posner
Closing the case on Britain's Notorious Moors Murders?
Have Manchester police found the remains of a 12-year-old boy missing for 58 years? It might be the final chapter in a case about which I once considered writing a book.
British police may have found the remains of Keith Bennet, a 12-year-old victim — missing since 1964 — of the infamous British child killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. They were called the Moors Murders after two of their young victims were discovered in shallow graves in the Saddleworth Moor, a wild area of high land. It is where police located a skull that might belong to Bennett. [UPDATE October 7, 2022: Police announced that they ended their search after failing to find any human remains]
My wife, author Trisha Posner, had introduced me to the story of the Moors Murders. Trisha grew up in London and was only 15 when the trial fixated the country in 1966. Trisha, and many of her fellow Brits, were infuriated when Brady and Hindley refused to disclose where they had buried all their victims. Over the years, reporters and amateur sleuths raised the possibility that there were more murders that the police had failed to link to the couple. Trisha and I spent several months researching the case in 1990 and 1991. We quickly discovered there were plenty of unanswered questions and possible leads. All prior investigations had failed to uncover conclusive evidence linking Brady and Hindley to other unsolved murders. The key to a book was getting breakthrough cooperation from at least one of the murderers. It was Myra Hindley I chose to go after.
The British tabloids called Myra Hindley “the most evil woman in Britain.” Hindley was only 19 when she met 23-year-old Ian Brady in 1961. He was obsessed with Nazis and sadistic sex. In Hindley, he found a partner eager to enter his dark world. Initially, their compulsions were satisfied by selling on the black market a series of obscene S&M photos that Brady had taken of Hindley. They soon, however, lusted for more violent thrills. In 1963, they kidnapped their first victim, 16-year-old Pauline Reade. She was walking home after a school dance. Brady raped her before slashing her throat (her body was not found until 1987).
Reade's murder kicked off a two-year killing spree that terrorized the greater Manchester area. Four months later, Brady and Hindley abducted John Kilbride, a 12-year-old. Brady sexually assaulted the child before strangling him.
The next victim was 12-year-old, Keith Bennett. Hindley convinced the child to get into her van. Brady suffocated the youngster after raping him.
It was not long before they kidnapped 10-year-old Ann Downey. This time they photographed some of the torture and rape that preceded her strangling.
What led to their capture was the couple's brutal hatchet murder of Edward Evans, a 17-year-old apprentice engineer. Hindley's brother-in-law watched the murder; the duo hoped to recruit him. Instead, revolted by what he witnessed, he turned to the police the following day.
During the 14-day trial in 1966, prosecutors presented evidence of three murders since the police had not found all the bodies. Brady and Hindley took the witness stand in their own defense and denied everything in dissembling and often contradictory accounts. A judge gave them life imprisonment after a jury found them guilty (the UK had abolished the death penalty while the couple had been awaiting their trial).
Hindley gave a 17-hour confession in 1987. While she admitted her role in five murders, she also stuck to a carefully crafted script that portrayed her as the helpless assistant to the Svengali-like Brady. Hindley, who claimed she found God in prison, had by that time garnered prominent public supporters, like the 7th Earl of Longford, to crusade for her release.
It was Lord Longford to whom Trisha and I reached out in 1991 when we wanted to get an interview with Hindley. A precondition was that Hindley was willing to talk about where in the Moors the couple might have buried Keith Bennet. Lord Longford initially assured us that Hindley was willing to have a “frank discussion.” After many discussions and before there was a firm date, however, Hindley changed her mind. No longer, Lord Longford informed us, would she be a victim of "mob justice."
I knew that without full cooperation from Hindley, it was impossible to make a breakthrough on a case that had stumped police and some of the best British investigative reporters. Trisha and I put away our Moors Murder case files.
In subsequent years, I sometimes tried again to get Hindley to talk. She never changed her mind. Both serial killers died in prison, Hindley in 2002 and Brady in 2017.
It would have been a good note to end the sordid story of the Moors Murders if the police had found the remains of the duo’s last missing victim. That would have provided a small measure of closure for Keith Bennett’s long-suffering relatives. Now, with the latest news that it was another false lead, the final chapter is still to be written.