Shocking crimes robbed Britons of innocence

 

BRITAIN: The Moors Murders horrified Britain 40 years ago. Frank Millar recalls the crimes of Hindley and Brady

It is often said that the crimes of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady robbed Britons of their innocence. Much the same would be said years later, as a barely-believing British public recoiled in horror at the murder of Jamie Bulger.

But for 1960s Britain the abduction, sexual abuse and torture unto death of five youngsters - one of whom lies still in an undiscovered grave - did brutally foretell the end of an age of innocence in which children were cheerfully left unsupervised at play.

That a woman could be complicit in such barbarity and cruelty seemed only to carry the Moors murders still further beyond the public comprehension, earning Hindley - who died last night in the 36th year of her imprisonment - the demonising tabloid title "most evil woman in Britain."

Throughout their 15-day trial Brady and Hindley refused to admit their guilt. Though she would later describe herself as "wicked and evil", conceding that without her "these crimes could probably not have been committed", until her death, aged 60, public debate endured as to whether these were expressions of true remorse, or merely part of a public campaign for freedom.

Despite their denials, Hindley and Brady were jailed for life in 1966, forming part of the small coterie of prisoners whom successive British Home Secretaries have determined should serve the full life term - a determination now facing challenge in the European Courts. Brady was jailed for the murder of three children, Hindley for two murders and as an accessory in the third. Twenty-one years later they would each admit the murders of another two.

Pauline Read, then 16, was their first victim. She knew Hindley as a neighbour, and was lured to Saddleworth Moor to help Hindley find a pair of gloves she claimed to have lost there. Once there she was raped and beaten, her throat cut with such force that her spinal cord was severed, then buried beneath the black peaty soil where her body would remain unrecovered for more than two decades.

Three months later, in October 1963, a "kind lady" offered John Kilbride a lift. He was found two years later, strangled with a piece of string, his trousers around his knees. Hindley posed on the edge of his makeshift grave with her pet dog while Brady took a photograph which would eventually help police identify the grave.

Twelve-year-old Keith Bennett disappeared on June 16th, 1964. Like the parents of Pauline Read the worst fears of his family were only confirmed in the 1980s as Brady and Hindley attempted to wipe the slate clean. But his body has never been found.

The youngest victim of the murderous duo - 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey - was enticed from a fairground on Boxing Day the same year. The child was sexually abused, tortured and forced to pose for pornographic photographs in a vile attack recorded on audio tape. The trial heard the child's last moments, pleading with her tormentors: "Please God, help me. I want to see my mummy."

But if this secured their public reputation as the embodiment of evil, it was Brady's attempt to entrap Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith, into becoming an accomplice which brought their reign of terror to an end.

They lured 17-year-old Edward Evans to the house and attacked him with a hatchet, securing Smith's promise to help dispose of the body. But instead he told his wife and went to the police.

Hindley and Brady exchanged love letters during their early years in prison, although he would later accuse her of being a manipulative liar who had been as committed to the murders as he.