Ian Brady died last night taking his murderous secrets to the grave.
The 79-year-old, who killed five children with lover Myra Hindley in the 1960s, had been receiving palliative care at a secure mental health hospital.
He was suffering from untreatable cancer and emphysema. The death of the Moors Murderer leaves unresolved the issue of where he dumped the body of 12-year-old Keith Bennett.
Keith’s mother, Winnie Johnson, died in 2012 after battling cancer and fought tirelessly for decades to find her son and provide a Christian burial.
Her son disappeared on the way to his grandmother’s house on June 16, 1964, and Hindley lured him into her car and drove him to the Moors.
Brady, from Glasgow, Scotland, died just after 6pm on Monday and police informed relatives of the children who were killed.
They included Terry West, whose sister Lesley Ann Downey was murdered aged ten in 1964. He said: ‘I poured myself a glass of wine when I found out – we’ve been waiting for this day for such a long time. It’s closure for our family.
‘But I really feel for Keith Bennett’s brother Alan and the rest of his family – this probably means they’ll never know where his body was buried.
‘He’s taken it to the grave. There’s still one poor kiddie up there on the Moors. My heart goes out to Alan – at least I’ve got somewhere that I can visit our Les, he hasn’t even got that.’
Mr West, 66, added: ‘What Brady did will never be forgotten – it’s had such an effect on all our lives.
‘I had to protect my children when they were growing up, I wouldn’t let them play out in the street.’
At a court hearing in February lawyers said Brady had been bedridden for two years and was terminally ill, with emphysema and cancer among his illnesses.
Speaking yesterday before Brady’s death, Terry Kilbride, whose 12-year-old brother John was murdered, begged Brady to reveal where his final victim’s body was.
‘I would beg him to do the right thing on his deathbed and tell us where Keith is,’ he said. ‘Now is the time for him to stop playing tricks and come clean. If he takes it to the grave, I will feel so sorry for Keith’s family.
There will only ever be another search if there’s fresh evidence. That has to come from him. When Brady dies I truly hope he rots in hell. That’s the only place he’s going.’
Brady and Hindley, who died in prison in 2002, tortured and murdered five children.
Their two other victims were Pauline Reade, 16, and Edward Evans, 17. Four of the victims were buried on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester.
Brady was jailed for three murders in 1966 and has been at Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside since 1985. He and Hindley later confessed to another two killings.
He campaigned for several years to be moved from the secure unit to a Scottish prison so he could not be force-fed – as at Ashworth – and where he would have been allowed to die had he wished.
His request was rejected after Ashworth medical experts said he had chronic mental illness and needed continued care in hospital.
A further review was due in September last year, but Brady refused to take part after it was ruled that his solicitor Robin Makin could not be involved.
His legal challenge to that ban was rejected in February. At that point, his legal team said he was terminally ill. In December, Brady wrote to Channel 5 journalist Julian Drucker to reveal his fatal condition.
He wrote: ‘I’m still bedridden and have been for over two years.
‘The lung and chest condition is terminal.’
A Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: ‘We can confirm a 79-year-old patient in long term care at Ashworth High Secure Hospital has died after becoming physically unwell.’
The spokesman added that Brady died at 6.03pm on Monday and they were unable to say what Brady died of, but said he had been on oxygen for a while.
Brady was not found dead in his room, the spokesman said, but he was unable to confirm if anyone was with him when he died, adding: ‘Quite possibly. I don’t know.’
Now that Ian Brady is dead, most people will shrug and say: ‘About time too!’ But if Brady’s spirit is hanging around somewhere in the psychic ether, he will be saying exactly the same thing.
He told me many times that he wished he had been executed in 1966 – as he would have been if capital punishment had not been abolished the year before.
It was on April 19, 1966, that Brady and Myra Hindley went on trial at Chester Assizes, charged with three murders: Lesley Ann Downey, aged ten, John Kilbride, 12, and Edward Evans, a 17-year-old homosexual who was the last of the victims. The police were also fairly certain that the couple had been responsible for at least two more murders: a 16-year-old girl named Pauline Reade, and 12-year-old Keith Bennett.
The evidence against them was overwhelming.
On Boxing Day 1964, they had driven to a fair in Hulme Hall Lane, Manchester, and had picked up Lesley Ann Downey, offering her a lift home.
The child had been warned not to speak to strange men, but had no reason to suspect a young couple.
They drove her back to the home of Hindley’s grandmother in Wardle Brook Avenue – they had already taken the precaution of making sure the old lady was away, staying with an uncle at Dukinfeld.
There, Lesley was ordered to undress, and Brady and Hindley did the same. A tape recorder was switched on, as well as the radio. Lesley, with a gag in her mouth, was then made to pose naked in a number of semi-pornographic positions. As she cried and tried to scream, Hindley is heard snarling: ‘Shut up or I’ll hit you one.’
After that, the recorder was switched off, and Lesley was raped and strangled.
The next day, the couple buried her on Saddleworth Moor.
Brady later told me that it was Hindley herself who strangled her with a cord, and that afterwards she enjoyed toying with the cord when other people were present.
When the tape was played in court, it destroyed any chance that the jury might find extenuating circumstances. A policeman who had heard it told me it was one of the most harrowing experiences of his life, and that he would gladly have killed them both with his bare hands.
One week after the jury had heard the tape, the Moors Murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Hindley died in prison 36 years later in 2002. Now Brady – who said repeatedly he wanted to commit suicide – has followed her to the grave.
As a writer with an interest in criminology, I had always found the case fascinating but incomprehensible.
Before she met Brady at the age of 18, Hindley had been a perfectly normal teenager. She loved animals and children, and had a strong religious streak.
What had driven her to kill? What kind of mesmeric hold did Brady have over her?
I began to understand more when, in November 1991, Brady wrote to me out of the blue. He wanted to know whether I was collaborating on a book about him with a girl who had been to visit him in prison. I answered that I was not.
But we began to correspond, with an average of one or two letters a month, and this went on for more than a decade. In time, he came to trust me, and told me many things.
For my part, there was intense hostility in my side of the correspondence. As a father, I obviously found his crimes unforgiveable. I felt that a man who murdered children deserved everything he got.
What was really striking was his obvious feeling that society was somehow to blame for his predicament. He particularly loathed the upper classes which, he felt, were full of liars and hypocrites.
Cases such as the Guinness scandal in the 1980s, where four City big-wigs manipulated share prices, and the 1990s downfall of former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken who was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice, excited a stream of bitterly satirical – and, incidentally, funny – invective from him.
To the end, he refused to acknowledge the slightest touch of guilt. Yet I do believe that he came to feel remorse.
I once asked if he ever thought about the feelings of the victims, and he replied: ‘That would be a psychological suicide pill.’ In other words, he dared not do so.
For some reason I could not at first explain, Brady was full of rage. I asked him if it was because he had been born illegitimate (in 1938), and fostered when he was still a baby. He denied this, saying he continued to see a great deal of his mother, and had a pleasant childhood on a Glasgow estate.
But as a child, he won a scholarship to a ‘posh’ school, where most of his classmates had far more money than he had. Yet he was intelligent, and a natural leader. It may have been because he felt fate had treated him unfairly in comparison to his richer peers that he started on a career of burglary in his teens that led to probation, then to an enforced move to Manchester to join his mother.
The real turning point came when he was 17, and working in the fruit market. A lorry driver asked him to help load some stolen goods, and Brady did it for nothing, simply to oblige. But the driver was caught, and Brady was sentenced to Borstal.
I came to realise that this two-year sentence was the key to Brady. Mad with rage at the injustice, he vowed he would make society pay. And from then on, he never lost his power to hate.
By the time he came out of prison, he had decided to become a career criminal. He vowed to become rich, then retire to some pleasant tropical climate such as in Bermuda.
Although he never told me fully about this period, I gather that he joined a gang that specialised in car theft, and that he occasionally broke his parole and went abroad to deliver stolen vehicles: he even went – on ‘business’ – to America.
He loved travel and wandering in lonely places – which helps explains why he later came to select Saddleworth Moor to bury his victims. Meanwhile, he had taken a job as an office clerk, and spent his evenings reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and books by the amoral and brutally libidinous Marquis de Sade. One of his favourite novels was Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment. Brady claimed he could identify with the novel’s intelligent hero who considers himself above the law and chooses to murder someone rather than remain a nonentity.
It was at this point, when he was a clerk in 1961, that an 18-year-old Myra Hindley arrived to work in the same firm. She was four and a half years his junior, and with her Lancashire accent, her dyed blonde hair and bright lipstick, she was not his type – too ordinary.
Yet she was fascinated by his sulky good looks, reminiscent of Elvis Presley, and by his air of sardonic self-sufficiency. And as it became obvious to Brady, who was something of a control freak, that she was totally infatuated, he began to eye her with predatory interest. Finally, when she had been in the office for a year, he invited her out, and lost no time in taking her virginity on her grandmother’s divan bed in the front room of her home.
The next day, he seemed as bored and indifferent as ever. But Hindley was totally hooked. She once said: ‘If he had told me the moon was made of green cheese, I would have believed him’.
To him, her total adoration was more intoxicating than the German wine he loved to drink on the moor. Suddenly, he felt he was capable of achieving anything.
Hindley’s infatuation meant she was untroubled when she discovered his criminal past. They bought a home together in Hattersley, east of Manchester, and he would take her for rides on the back of his motorcycle to Saddleworth Moor where they would get drunk.
She bought a revolver and joined a gun club and they would daydream about getting rich by robbing building societies. Her family disapproved but it was too late: Hindley was his slave and Brady enjoyed seeing how far he could make her do his will, getting her to pose for pornographic pictures with him.
When that day came in July 1963 when Brady told her he wanted her to help him kidnap and rape Pauline Reade, she agreed without hesitation. For weeks afterwards she carried on saying hello to Pauline’s mother.
In October 1963 they drove to the market at Ashton-under-Lyne, where 12-year-old John Kilbride was earning pocket money by doing odd jobs for stall-holders. As it became dark and foggy, a ‘kind lady’ asked if he wanted a lift. When his body was found two years later, strangled with a piece of string, his trousers were round his knees.
In June 1964, Keith Bennett vanished on the way to visit his grandmother in Manchester. His body was never found, and his broken mother Winnie Johnson died some 50 years later aged 78 still begging Brady to tell her where he had been buried. The couple picked up Lesley Ann Downey at a fairground on Boxing Day 1964. No one at the pair’s subsequent trial who heard that 16-minute tape recording of Lesley’s last moments will ever forget how, at one point, she pleaded: ‘Please, God, help me…I want to see my mummy’.
Yet, after four rape-murders, a mawkish thing happened to Brady. Although the Marquis de Sade’s writings had convinced him that it was no crime to kill for pleasure, he suddenly felt empty and drained. ‘I felt old at 26. Everything was ashes.’ He felt he had done everything, and there was nothing more to strive for.
This, I suspect, is why, although he had killed as regularly as clockwork every six months, he let the next ‘killing time’ go by without a murder.
And when he killed again, it was simply to try to involve Hindley’s brother in law, David Smith, in his plans to rob a bank. He wanted to gain a hold over Smith, who, like Hindley, admired him to the point of idolatry, by making him an accomplice.
In October 1965, the couple lured a 17-year-old, Edward Evans, to the house and attacked him with a hatchet in front of Smith, who pretended he would help them dispose of the body.
But he miscalculated. Smith was horrified. He and his wife went to the police. Brady and Hindley were arrested the next morning. Brady told me he had always intended to kill any police who came to arrest him, then shoot himself. But when he reached cautiously under the bed for the concealed revolver, he remembered he had left it upstairs with the corpse of Edward Evans. That was the end of his freedom.
He was never an easy prisoner. Although he never physically attacked anyone, his rage and contempt for the guards and authorities made him hated by them. At one point he was reduced to a seven stone skeleton, and had a nervous breakdown. He was declared insane in 1985 and put into Ashworth high security psychiatric hospital near Liverpool. Still he continued to denounce the prison authorities.
In September 1999, guards burst into his cell, twisted his arms behind his back, and accused him of taping a knife under a sink out on the ward. Brady insists it was a set-up – a deliberate effort to get him off the ward so he would become someone else’s problem.
Removed to a general ward where he was put under 24-hour watch, with two warders by his bed and four more outside the door, he went on hunger strike, and had to be force fed. I knew then that he was determined to cheat his captors by dying.
Had he not been in a hospital, he would long ago have starved himself to death, for the prison service has no right to force feed inmates. But at Ashworth the rules dictated that, as a patient, he had to be kept alive.
Which is why, with obsessive determination, he spent his last years fighting to prove his sanity so that he could be transferred back to prison and die. It never happened.
Although Ian Brady was a ‘monster’, I felt he should have been allowed to end the misery and futility of his totally wasted life. Even my wife, who at first could not bear to touch his letters because she felt they might contaminate her, admitted to feeling sorry for the way he was kept alive.
A truly moral society would recognise that very little purpose is served by keeping such a man inside. By doing so leaves them as the object of target-practice for other bloodthirsty prisoners and a psychotic maelstrom of their own suicidal fantasies. I am convinced that hanging Ian Brady would have been more humane.