Saddleworth Moors Murders: 50 years on

FIFTY YEARS ago, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Britain’s first serial child killers, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the notorious ‘moors murders’ in Saddleworth.

Here, KEN BENNETT, who reported the macabre events from the start of the initial hunt to find the missing children, provides some personal cameos on the killings.

Winnie Johnson

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Winnie Johnson

THE homely, bespectacled lady stood ankle deep in the grasses, a bunch of bright flowers cradled in her arms.

Somewhere beyond the rocks, twisted knolls, gullies and bracken lies the body of her son Keith Bennett, the only remaining unclaimed victim of the killers. For Winnie, this became a yearly tragic pilgrimage without end.

Keith vanished just four days after his 12th birthday in June, 1964. He was the third of Brady and Hindley’s victims but unlike the others – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans – Keith’s remains have never been found.

Brady, who only confessed to Keith’s murder in 1987, still refuses despite relentless appeals to reveal where he buried the lad. Hindley died in 2002.

Winnie’s solicitor, John Ainley, senior partner in an Oldham-based legal firm, handled the determined mother’s private matters until her death four years ago, aged 78.

He said: “I sat with Winnie shortly before her death and she was convinced Ian Brady had information that would identify where Keith’s body was located.

“I agreed to continue to help the family and press Ian Brady for information. Despite having written to him on several occasions over recent years he has never responded.”

Joe Mounsey

I am focussed on the blank, unfathomable eyes of two people sitting side by side in a courtroom with blood on their hands.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were on remand for killing Edward Evans at their home in Hattersley, Cheshire.

Looking back, it was a frightening and surreal scenario. Legal restrictions meant the couple’s remand appearances were dismissed in couple of paragraphs, consigned to the bottom of a page.

But page one and centre spreads of newspapers worldwide screamed every minute detail of a relentless search on Saddleworth Moor for missing children.

For me, the overriding reality was first brought home after John Kilbride went missing from Ashton.

It was here in 1964 I was to renew a long-standing friendship with CID chief Joe Mounsey who was determined to crack the case.

After one meeting, I asked him to share his thoughts. His response still sends a chill down my spine: “He’s dead and he’s been bloody murdered.”

John’s body was discovered by the tenacious detective as part of the ongoing investigation in 1965.

The story was played out in acclaimed ITV 1 drama ‘See No Evil: The Moors Murders’ shown in 2007 and at the time the film’s writer Neil McKay, said: “The attention paid to the children who went missing was much less than would be the case today.

“Without Mounsey, it is unlikely any of the children would ever have been found or Brady convicted or indeed that Hindley would ever have gone to jail at all.”

Pauline Reade

The body of Pauline Reade, the couple’s first victim in July 1963, was ironically the last recovered on July 1, 1987 – almost a year after Brady and Hindley admitted her murder.

Barrie Williams, deputy coroner at the time, vividly remembers the day the 16-year-old’s body was found in a shallow grave on the moor.

He recalls: “Those who watched the grainy black and white TV pictures of a body being stretchered off a misty Saddleworth Moor are unlikely to forget the scene.

“I was contacted by Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Topping to confirm the finding of a further body on the moor.

“Although she clearly had been murdered, a prosecution was decreed ‘not to be in the public interest’ as the perpetrators were in prison for life and could not have expected a fair trial.

“A verdict of ‘ unlawful killing’ was constrained by law from naming the offenders but that was unimportant because everyone could easily recall the names of the murderers.”

 

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