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The Strange Story Of Myra Hindley And The Moors Murders

Ian Brady (left) and Myra Hindley, the duo convicted of carrying out the moors murders.

She was known as the most evil woman in Britain. But Myra Hindley, who in the 1960s helped sexually assault and murder five children in what would come to be known as the Moors murders, maintained that her abusive lover made her do it. Where does the truth lie?

Between 1963 and 1965, Myra Hindley and her lover Ian Brady lured four children — Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, and Lesley Ann Downey — into their car under the pretense of giving them a ride home. Instead, the pair took them to Saddleworth Moor, an isolated area some 15 miles outside of Manchester.

After they arrived, Hindley would say that she had misplaced an expensive glove, asking her victim to help her search for it. Each one complied, following Brady into the reeds to look for the missing garment.

Once a safe distance away from the road, Brady raped each child and then slit his or her throat. The couple then buried the bodies on the moor. To this day, not all bodies of the slain been found.
  • Making Murderers: The Couple’s Early Days

In her 1988 book on the Moors murders, Myra Hindley: Inside the Mind of a Murderess, author Jean Ritchie writes that Hindley grew up in a repressive, impoverished household, where her father regularly beat her and encouraged her to use violence to solve conflicts.

In 1961, when she was just 18 years old and working as a typist, Hindley met Brady. Despite learning that Brady had a criminal record for string of burglaries, she obsessed over him.

On their first date, Brady took her to see a movie about the Nuremberg trials. Brady was fascinated by the Nazis. He often read about Nazi criminals, and after the pair began dating, they read to each other from a book about Nazi atrocities on their lunch breaks. Hindley altered her appearance to replicate the Aryan ideal, bleaching her hair blonde and wearing dark red lipstick.

The pair then discussed committing crimes together, daydreaming about robberies that would make them rich. But they ultimately decided that murder was more their style, and in 1963 took their first victim: Pauline Reade.

Reade, 16, was on her way to a dance on July 12 when Hindley coaxed her into her car and drove the girl to the moor. Two decades later, her body was finally recovered, still wearing her party dress and blue coat.

Over the next year, two more children — Keith Bennett and John Kilbride — suffered the same fate as Reade. Then, in December 1964, the couple would commit their most heinous crime.

Hindley and Brady found 10-year-old Lesley Anne Downey alone at a fair, and convinced her to help them unload some groceries from their car. They then took her to Hindley’s grandmother’s house.

Inside the house, they undressed Downey, gagged her, and tied her up. They forced her to pose for photographs, and recorded her for 13 minutes as she begged for help. Brady then raped and strangled Downey.

  • The End Of The Killings

Their brutal killing spree came to an end in 1965, when Brady moved in with Hindley at her grandmother’s house.

The couple had become close with David Smith, Hindley’s brother-in-law. One night, Smith came to the house on Brady’s request to pick up some wine bottles. While waiting for Brady to deliver the wine, Smith overheard Brady beating 17-year-old Edward Evans to death with an axe.

Initially, Smith agreed to help get rid of the body. When he got home, he told his wife, Hindley’s younger sister Maureen, what happened, and they agreed to report the crime to the police.

On October 7, police arrested the couple. At first, they both maintained their innocence. But acting on a tip from Smith, police found a suitcase in a railway station containing photographs and the audio recording documenting Downey’s torture. A search of Hindley’s house also revealed a notebook with “John Kilbride” scribbled on the pages.

Police also found photos of the couple on Saddleworth Moor, which led to a search of the area. Police discovered both Downey and Kilbride’s bodies here, and charged Hindley and Brady with three counts of murder.

The trial lasted two weeks, but the jury only needed two hours to find Brady and Hindley guilty.

Justice Fenton Atkinson, who presided over the case, called Brady “wicked beyond belief” but did not believe the same to be true of Hindley, “once she is removed from [Brady’s] influence.” Nevertheless, both received multiple life sentences.

  • Myra Hindely Speaks Out
Floral tributes overlook Saddleworth Moor where the body of missing Keith Bennett may be buried, on June 16, 2014 the 50th anniversary of Bennett’s murder.

Over 30 years later, in 1998, Hindley broke her silence about the abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of Brady.

“People think that I am the arch-villain in this, the instigator, the perpetrator. I just want people to know what was going on … [to] help people to understand how I got involved and why I stayed involved,” she said.

“I was under duress and abuse before the offences, after and during them, and all the time I was with him. He used to threaten me and rape me and whip me and cane me…He threatened to kill my family. He dominated me completely.”

She also claimed to feel great remorse after the killings, at one point “shaking and crying” when she spotted a personal ad Pauline Reade’s parents placed as they searched for their daughter.

Nevertheless, Brady and Hindley didn’t confess to the murder of Reade (and Bennett) until 1985.

Nearly two years later, Hindley accompanied police to the moor, where she led them to Reade’s body. Bennett’s body, however, was never recovered, and police do not have plans to resume the search.

Despite her claims that she was a victim, an earlier psychological assessment of Hindley released to England’s national archive following her death in prison in 2002 revealed that she felt was worse than her accomplice.

“I knew the difference between right and wrong…I didn’t have a compulsion to kill…I wasn’t in charge…but in some ways I was more culpable because I knew better,” she said.

Hindley spent her life in prison. She never received parole, though she always maintained that she did not kill Lesley Anne Downey.

She claimed instead that she went to run a bath for Downey and that when she returned, Brady had murdered the child (however, in the book Face to Face with Evil: Conversations with Ian Brady, Brady insists that Hindley killed the girl herself).

While in prison, Hindley obtained an Open University degree, started going back to church, and cut off contact with Ian Brady (who is now being held at a high security psychiatric hospital in northwest England).

Hindley’s apparent quest to become a better person and insistence on being brainwashed may point to her innocence — at least of a certain kind. Still, when the bodies of five children were stolen and destroyed under her watch, attempts at redemption matter little.
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