Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and the Moors Murders

The Most Grisly Serial Crimes in Great Britain History

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley - The Moors Murders
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Mug Shots

In the 1960s, Ian Brady and his girlfriend, Myra Hindley, sexually abused and murdered young children and teens, then buried their bodies along the Saddleworth Moor, in what became known as the Moors Murders.

Ian Brady's Childhood Years

Ian Brady (birth name, Ian Duncan Stewart) was born on January 2, 1938, in Glasgow, Scotland. His mother, Peggy Stewart, was a 28-year-old single mother who worked as a waitress.

His father's identity is unknown. Unable to afford proper care for her son, Brady was placed in the care of Mary and John Sloan when he was four months old. Stewart continued to visit her son until he was 12, although she did not tell him she was his mother.

Brady was a troublesome child and prone to throwing angry tantrums. The Sloans had four other children, and despite their efforts to make Brady feel he was part of their family, he remained distant and was unable to engage with others.

A Troubled Teen

Early on, despite his disciplinary problems, Brady demonstrated an above average intelligence. At age 12, he was accepted to Shawlands Academy in Glasgow, which was a secondary school for above-average students. Known for its pluralism, the academy offered Brady and environment, where despite his background, he could blend in with the multicultural and diverse student population.

Brady was smart, but his laziness shadowed his academic success.

He continued to detach himself from his peers and the normal activities of his age group. The only subject that seemed to captivate his interest was World War II. He became enthralled by the human atrocities that took place in Nazi Germany. 

A Criminal Emerges

By age 15, Brady had been to juvenile court twice for petty burglary.

Forced to leave Shawlands Academy, he began working at a Govan shipyard. Within a year, he was arrested again for a series of small crimes, including threatening his girlfriend with a knife. To avoid being sent to a reform school, the courts agreed to place Brady on probation, but with the condition that he go and live with his birth mother.

At the time, Peggy Stewart and her new husband Patrick Brady lived in Manchester. Brady moved in with the couple and took on his step-father's name in an effort to solidify the feeling of being part of a family unit. Patrick worked as a fruit merchant and he helped Brady find a job at the Smithfield Market. For Brady, it was his chance to start a new life, but it did not last long.

Brady remained a loner. His interest in sadism intensified by reading books on torture and sadomasochism, particularly the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Marquis de Sade. Within a year, he was arrested again for theft and sentenced to two years in a reformatory. No longer interested in making a legitimate living, he used the time of his incarceration to educate himself about crime. 

Brady and Myra Hindley

Brady was released from the reformatory in November 1957 and he moved back to his mother's home in Manchester.

He had various labor intensive jobs, all of which he hated. Deciding he needed a desk job, he taught himself bookkeeping with training manuals he obtained from the public library. At age 20, he got an entry-level bookkeeping job at Millwards Merchandising in Gorton.

Brady was a reliable, yet a fairly unremarkable employee. Other than being known for having a bad temper, not much office chatter was spilled in his direction, with one exception. One of the secretaries, 20-year-old Myra Hindley, had a deep crush on him and tried various ways to get his attention. He responded to her much like he did everyone around him -- disinterested, detached and somewhat superior.

After a year of being a relentless flirt, Myra finally got Brady to notice her and he asked her out on a date. From that point on, the two were inseparable.

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley was raised in an impoverished home with abusive parents. Her father was an ex-military alcoholic and tough disciplinarian. He believed in an eye-for-an-eye and at an early age taught Hindley how to fight. To win her father's approval, which she desperately wanted, she would physically confront the male bullies at school, often leaving them bruised and with swollen eyes.

As Hindley got older she seemed to break the mold and she gained a reputation as being a somewhat shy and reserved young woman. At the age of 16, she began taking instructions for her formal reception into the Catholic Church and had her first communion in 1958. Friends and neighbors described Hindley as being reliable, good and trustworthy.

The Relationship

It took just one date for Brady and Hindley to realize that they were soul mates. In their relationship, Brady took the role of the teacher and Hindley was the dutiful student. Together they would read Nietzsche, "Mein Kampf" and de Sade. They spent hours watching x-rated movies and looking at pornographic magazines. Hindley quit attending church services when Brady told her there was no God.

Brady was Hindley's first lover and she was often left to tend to her bruises and bite marks that came during their love making sessions. He would occasionally drug her, then pose her body in various pornographic positions and take pictures that he would then share with her later.

Hindley became fixated on being Aryan and dyed her hair blonde. She changed her style of clothing based on Brady's desires. She distanced herself from friends and family and often avoided answering questions about her relationship with Brady.

As Brady's control over Hindley increased, so did his outrages demands, which she would make every effort to satisfy without question. For Brady, it meant he had found a partner who was willing to venture into a sadistic, macabre world where rape and murder was the ultimate pleasure. For Hindley it meant experiencing pleasure from their perverse and brutal world, yet avoiding the guilt for those desires since she was under Brady's control.

July 12, 1963

Pauline Reade, age 16, was walking down the street at around 8 p.m. when Hindley pulled over in a van she was driving and asked her to help her find a glove that she had lost. Reade was friends with Hindley's younger sister and agreed to help.

According to Hindley, she drove to the Saddleworth Moor and Brady met the two shortly afterward. He took Reade onto the moor where he beat, raped and murdered her by slashing her throat, and then together they buried the body. According to Brady, Hindley participated in the sexual assault.

November 23, 1963

John Kilbride, age 12, was at a market in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, when he accepted a ride home from Brady and Hindley. They took him to the moor where Brady raped then strangled the boy to death.

June 16, 1964

Keith Bennett, age 12, was walking to his grandmother's house when Hindley approached him and asked for his help in loading boxes into her truck, and where Brady was waiting. They offered to drive the boy to his grandmother's house, but instead they took him to Saddleworth Moor where Brady led him to a gully, then raped, beat and strangled him to death, then buried him.

December 26, 1964

Lesley Ann Downey, age 10, was celebrating Boxing Day at the fairgrounds when Hindley and Brady approached her and asked her to help them load packages into their car and then into their house. Once inside the house, the couple undressed and gagged the child, forced her to pose for pictures, then raped and strangled her to death. The following day they buried her body on the moors.

Maureen and David Smith

Hindleys younger sister Maureen and her husband David Smith started hanging around with Hindley and Brady, especially after they moved close to one another. Smith was no stranger to crime and he and Brady would often talk about how they could rob banks together.

Smith also admired Brady's political knowledge and Brady enjoyed the attention. He took on the role of mentor and would read Smith passages of "Mein Kampf" much as he had with Myra when they first began dating.

Unknown to Smith, Brady's real intentions went beyond feeding the younger man's intellect. He was actually priming Smith so that he would eventually participate in the couple's ghastly crimes. As it turned out, Brady's belief that he could manipulate Smith into becoming a willing partner was dead wrong.

October 6, 1965

Edward Evans, age 17, was lured from Manchester Central to Hindley and Brady's home with the promise of relaxation and wine. Brady had seen Evans before in a gay bar he had cruised looking for victims. Introducing Hindley as his sister, the three drove to Hindley and Brady's home, which would ultimately become the scene of where Evans would suffer a horrific death.

A Witness Comes Forward

In the early morning hours of October 7, 1965, David Smith, armed with a kitchen knife, walked to a public phone and called the police station to report a murder that he had witnessed earlier in the evening. 

He told the officer on duty that he was in Hindley and Brady's home when he saw Brady attack a young man with an ax, repeatedly striking him while the man screamed in agony. Shocked and frightened that he would become their next victim, Smith helped the couple clean up the blood, then wrapped the victim in a sheet and placed it in an upstairs bedroom. He then promised to return the next evening to help them dispose of the body.

The Evidence

Within hours of Smith's call, the police searched the Brady home and found Evan's body. Under interrogation, Brady insisted that he and Evans got into a fight and that he and Smith murdered Evans and that Hindley was not involved. Brady was arrested for murder and Hindley was arrested four days later as an accessory to murder.

Pictures Don't Lie

David Smith told the investigators that Brady had stuffed items into a suitcase, but that he did not know where it was hidden. He suggested that maybe it was at the railway station. The police searched the lockers at Manchester Central and found the suitcase which contained pornographic pictures of a young girl and a tape recording of her screaming for help. The girl in the pictures and on the tape was identified as Lesley Ann Downey. The name, John Kilbride, was also found written in a book.

There were several hundred pictures in the couple's home, including several taken on Saddleworth Moor. Suspecting that the couple had been involved in some of the cases of missing children, a search party of the moors was organized. During the search, the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were found.

Trial and Sentencing

Brady was charged with murdering Edward Evans, John Kilbride, and Lesley Ann Downey. Hindley was charged with murdering Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey, and for harboring Brady after she knew he had killed John Kilbride. Both Brady and Hindley pleaded not guilty.

David Smith was the prosecutor's number one witness until it was discovered that he had entered into a monetary agreement with a newspaper for the exclusive rights to his story if the couple was found guilty. Prior to the trial, the newspaper had paid for the Smiths to go on a trip to France, and provided them with a weekly income. They also paid for Smith to stay in a five-star hotel during the trial. Under duress, Smith finally disclosed the News of the World as the newspaper.

On the witness stand Brady admitted to hitting Evans with the ax, but not doing it with the intention of murdering him. 

After listening to the tape recording of Lesley Ann Downey and clearly hearing the voices of Brady and Hindley in the background, Hindley admitted that she was "brusque and cruel" in her treatment of the child because she was afraid that someone might hear her screams. As to the other crimes committed on the child, Hindley claimed to be in another room or looking out of the window.

On May 6, 1966, the jury took two hours of deliberation before returning a verdict of guilty of all charges for both Brady and Hindley. Brady was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment and Hindley received two life sentences and a concurrent seven-year sentence.

Later Confessions and Discoveries

After spending almost 20 years in prison, Brady allegedly confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, while he was being interviewed by a newspaper journalist. Based on that information, the police reopened their investigation, but when they went to interview Brady he was described as scornful and uncooperative.

In November 1986, Hindley received a letter from Winnie Johnson, Keith Bennett's mother, in which she begged Hindley to give her any information about what happened to her son. As a result, Hindley agreed to look at photos and maps to identify places she had been with Brady.

Later Hindley was taken to Saddleworth Moor, but was unable to identify anything that helped the investigation of the missing children.

On February 10, 1987, Hindley made a taped confession to her involvement in the murders of Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey, and Edward Evans. She did not confess to being present during the actual murders of any of the victims.

When Brady was told of Hindley's confession he did not believe it.  But once he was given details that only he an Hindley knew, he knew that she had confessed. He also agreed to confess, but with a condition that could not be met, which was a way to kill himself after confessing.

Hindley again visited the moor in March 1987, and although she was able to confirm that the area that was being searched was on target, she could not identify the exact locations of where the children were buried.

On July 1, 1987, Pauline Reade's body was found buried in a shallow grave, close to where Brady had buried Lesley Ann Downey. 

Two days later, Brady was taken to the moor, but claimed that the landscape had changed too much and he was unable to help in the search for Keith Bennett's body. The following month the search was called off indefinitely. 

Aftermath

Ian Brady spent the first 19 years of his incarceration at Durham Prison. In November 1985, he was moved to the Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Myra Hindley suffered a brain aneurysm in 1999 and died in prison on November 15, 2002, from complications brought on by heart disease. Reportedly, over 20 undertakers refused to cremate her remains.

The case of Brady and Hindley is considered one of the most grisly serial crimes in Great Britain history.