Moors murderer Ian Brady killed for ‘existential experience’, he tells tribunal

Murderer says he and accomplice Myra Hindley engaged in ‘recreational killing’ of children

Court artist sketch of moors murderer Ian Brady appearing via video link at Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Photograph: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire

Moors murderer Ian Brady, who is seeking a transfer from a mental hospital to a prison, has said the five children whom he and Myra Hindley killed in the 1960s died so that he could enjoy "the existential experience" of killing.

Now aged 75, Brady gave evidence yesterday to a mental health tribunal at Ashworth high-security mental hospital – a hearing which was shown on TV screens in a Manchester court building to some of the families of the children he killed.

Victims Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans, who were aged between 10 and 19, were tortured and murdered between July 1963 and October 1965. Some were buried on Saddleworth Moor, outside Manchester.

Insisting yesterday that he was not insane at the time, or now, Brady described himself as a “comparatively petty criminal” in comparison to “global serial killers and thieves like [Tony] Blair or [George] Bush. He said he and Hindley had been involved in “recreational killing”, saying: “A criminal in a pursuit of crime is going to gain from the crime. He has given a value to the person he is about to kill.”


The Moors murders were remembered 50 years on, he claimed, for the same “theatrical reasons”everyone recalls the Jack the Ripper killings in London of the late 1880s, with Saddleworth Moor evoking images of “Wuthering Heights and all that”.

Brady, who is fed by a tube most, if not all, of the time, is demanding that he be transferred to prison, though he did not repeat past declarations that he will starve himself to death if he is moved.

His lawyers say he is severely narcissistic but not mentally ill, though Ashworth doctors insist that the Scot, who gave his evidence haltingly yesterday, is chronically mentally ill, a paranoid schizophrenic and needs 24-hour observation.

Denying that he suffers hallucinations, Brady argued that he had memorised “whole pages of Shakespeare and Plato and other people” which he recites to himself as he walks up and down in his cell. He rejected doctors’ claims that he stays in his cell because he is paranoid: “That’s not paranoid. That’s sensible precautions. I’m not protecting myself against the other inmates; I’m protecting myself against the staff.”

'Faked mental illness'
Brady was transferred to Ashworth in 1985, though he claimed that he faked mental illness to gain entry by following the method acting teachings of Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavski: "Does that make it clear to you? I am not psychotic."

Quickly contradicting himself, Brady then claimed Margaret Thatcher had ordered his move to Ashworth, adding that her predecessor at No 10, James Callaghan, had spent 15 minutes discussing Russian literature with him. Before Ashworth, Brady had served nearly 20 years in prison, though he retains happy memories of his time in Wormwood Scrubs alongside the Kray twins, along with Buster Edwards, one of those involved in the Great Train Robbery.

“[There] I mixed with IRA terrorists, Arab terrorists, the Iranian embassy siege survivors – it was a very cosmopolitan atmosphere because it was in the middle of a big city, not on an island like Parkhurst,” he told the tribunal.

Saying he would never enjoy such “excellent conditions again”, Brady went on: “Twenty of us. We had conditions which were out of this world. Ronnie Kray was cooking for his landing, I was cooking for mine. We were sick of eating steak.”

Large tracts of Brady's statements are a fiction, as illustrated by the Scot's claim that he beat a Labour government minister, John Stonehouse, in the final of the Wormwood Scrubs chess competition. By the end, one of Brady's own medical witnesses, Prof Kevin Gournay said his evidence was "bizarre".

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is Ireland and Britain Editor with The Irish Times