Ian Brady & Myra Hindley
Born on January 2, 1938, Ian Stewart was the illegitimate son of a Scottish waitress. He never met his father, and despite sporadic visits from his mother he was raised by foster parents in Gorbals, Glasgow’s toughest slum. In early years, he earned a reputation as a budding sadist, torturing other children and maiming animals “for fun.” He also tried his hand at petty crime, earning several terms of probation on charges that included housebreaking and theft. In 1954, the courts sent him to Manchester, to live with his mother and her new husband, Patrick Brady. Ian would use his stepfather’s surname in the future, continuing his criminal activities as he blossomed into a full-fledged teenage alcoholic. A week after his eighteenth birthday, Ian was sentenced to two years on conviction for theft. His last arrest, before indictment on murder charges, was settled by payment of a fine for drunk and disorderly conduct, in 1958. Along the way, he had acquired new interests, building up a library of books on Nazi Germany, sadism, and sexual perversion. Born in July 1942, Myra Hindley was sent to live with her grandmother after the birth of her younger sister. Homely and shy, she was still a virgin in January 1961, when she found work as a typist for a chemical supply company in Gorbals. Ian Brady was the invoice clerk, and Myra fell for him on sight, penning endless professions of love in her diary, afraid to approach him directly. Brady impressed her as an intellectual, reading Mein Kampf at lunch in the original German, and she was thrilled when he finally asked her out. They took in a movie — about the Nuremburg war crimes tribunal — and then returned to her grandmother’s house, where Brady introduced her to sex.
Soon, they were inseparable, Myra bleaching her hair to please Ian, dressing in Nazi-style boots and leather, with Brady dubbing her “Myra Hess.” They used Ian’s automatic camera to pose for obscene photos — complete with hoods, whips, and a dog — but Brady was unsuccessful in his efforts to crack the local pornography market. Next, they toyed with the idea of armed robbery, but Brady’s nerve failed in the crunch, leaving Myra to take shooting lessons, purchase two pistols, and pass a driver’s test in expectation of wheeling the getaway car. Finally, unable to go through with the plan, they turned their attention to kidnapping, child molestation, and murder. Police did not connect the crimes, at first. Pauline Reade, 16, was the first to vanish, missing from her Gorton home — two doors from the residence of Myra Hindley’s brother-in-law — on July 12, 1963. Four months later, on November 23, 12-year-old John Kilbride disappeared from Ashton-under-Lyne. Keith Bennett, also 12, was reported missing from Manchester on June 16, 1964, last seen near the home occupied by Brady’s mother. Another Manchester victim, 10-year-old Leslie Ann Downey, disappeared without a trace on December 26, 1964.
Authorities were baffled by the “unrelated” cases, left without a single piece of solid evidence. The twisted lovers, meanwhile, were intent on a campaign to corrupt Myra’s brother-in-law, David Smith, and recruit him into their circle. A petty criminal with several arrests of his own, Smith was amused when the conversation turned to murder, and he questioned Brady’s ability to follow through. On October 6, 1965, Brady offered a practical demonstration with Edward Evans, a 17-year-old homosexual, striking him fourteen times with a hatchet before finishing the job by means of strangulation. Horrified, Smith phoned police next morning, directing them to Brady’s address. The raiders caught Ian and Myra at home, retrieving a fresh corpse from the bedroom, along with the bloody hatchet and Brady’s library of volumes on perversion and sadism. A 12-year-old neighbor girl recalled several trips she had made with the couple to Saddleworth Moor, northeast of Manchester, near the Penine Way, and authorities launched a search which uncovered the body of Leslie Ann Downey on October 16. Four days later, another search of Brady’s flat turned up two left luggage tickets for Manchester Central Station, leading police to a pair of hidden suitcases. Inside, they found nude photographs of Leslie Ann, along with tape recordings of her final tortured moments, pleading for her life as she was brutally abused. A series of seemingly innocent snapshots depicted portions of Saddleworth Moor, and detectives paid another visit to the desolate region on October 21, unearthing the body of John Kilbride.
In custody, Brady seemed proud of his crimes, boasting of “three or four” victims planted on the moors. Police announced that they were opening their files on eight missing persons, lost over the past four years, but no new charges had been added by the time Ian and Myra went to trial. Jurors were stunned by the Downey tape, and by Brady’s bland description of the recording as “unusual.” On May 6, 1966, both defendants were convicted of killing Edward Evans and Leslie Ann Downey; Brady was also convicted of murdering John Kilbride, while Myra was convicted as an accessory after the fact. Brady was sentenced to concurrent life terms on each count, while Hindley received two life terms plus seven years in the Kilbride case. Nineteen years later, in November 1985, Brady was transferred from prison to a maximum-security hospital, there confessing the Reade-Bennett murders in an interview with tabloid reporters. Another year passed before searchers returned to the moors, with Myra Hindley joining them for an abortive outing on December 15, 1986. The remains of Pauline Reade were uncovered on June 30, 1987, nearly a quarter-century after her disappearance. It took pathologists a month to decide that the girl had been sexually assaulted, her throat slashed from behind. In August 1987, Brady mailed a letter to the BBC, containing sketchy information on five “new” murders. In the letter, Brady claimed another victim buried on the moor, a man murdered in Manchester, a woman dumped in a canal, and two victims gunned down in Scotland, at Glasgow and Loch Long. None of the victims were identified, but police announced that they were reopening the files on two ancient murders, including the 1963 beating death of 55-year-old Veronica Bondi in Manchester , and the 1965 strangulation of Edith Gleave, a 38-year-old prostitute, in Stockport. No further information is forthcoming in those cases, but it was announced — on January 14, 1988 — that no prosecution is anticipated in the cases of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett.