Myra Hindley

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Myra Hindley (23 July 194215 November 2002) was an English murderess involved in the Moors murders.


[edit] Early life

Hindley was born in Crumpsall, Manchester, and raised by her grandmother Ellen Maybury. She was believed to have been beaten by her alcoholic father, Bob Hindley, a paratrooper in the RAF during World War II, who was also alleged to have been violent towards her mother Nellie. Bob and Nellie Hindley divorced in 1965, around the time of Myra's arrest, and her mother subsequently married a man named Bill Moulton. Her younger sister Maureen was born in 1946.

She had an IQ of 107 and failed her eleven-plus exam. She attended Ryder Brow Secondary Modern school where she was in the top streams despite poor attendance. Myra could write creatively, was quite sporty and was considered a responsible girl, in demand as a babysitter.

At 15, she had a momentous tragedy in her life. Her close friend Michael Higgins, 13, drowned in a reservoir. Myra's grief was tinged with guilt that she, the strong swimmer who could have saved him, should have been there with him that day. Myra converted to Roman Catholicism, Michael's religion, and neglected her schoolwork. She was devastated, and for months after the death was frequently inconsolable and lit daily candles for his soul. This appeared to be an over-reaction and she was told by her family to control herself.

She left school in 1957. Her first job was as a junior clerk at Lawrence Scott and Electrometers, an electrical engineering firm. Myra had been engaged before to a local boy named Ronnie Sinclair in 1959 but she called the engagement off, seeking something more exciting than a house and a gaggle of children, with no money and no future. In January 1961 she started work as a typist for a chemical firm called Millward's. It was there that she met Ian Brady, a Scottish-born man four years her senior with a history of violence and a string of burglary convictions. Brady was the stock clerk, having been there since February 1959. She was immediately attracted to him, but he was cool and aloof, and would remain so for nearly 12 months.

At the Christmas office party in 1961, Brady, whose tongue was loosened by a few drinks, asked her out and she accepted immediately. That first night he took her to see Judgement at Nuremberg. As the weeks went by, he played her records of National Socialist marching songs and encouraged her to read some of his favourite books – Mein Kampf, and Crime and Punishment, as well as de Sade's works. Straight away, Brady encouraged her to help him with bank robberies. He asked Hindley to join a shooting club and purchase firearms for him, since he could not obtain a gun license himself because of his criminal record. Hindley learned to drive as Brady needed a get away driver. Hindley began driving lessons, joined the Cheadle Rifle club and purchased two guns.

Brady told her there was no God and therefore she stopped going to church. She absorbed his philosophies, took on his interests and changed herself to fit his desires, bleaching her hair and wearing Germanic clothes to please him. She had no qualms about allowing him to take pornographic pictures of her and of them together and of them having sex. They intended to crack the pornographic market but failed. Brady nicknamed her "Myra Hess".

Her belief and adulation fed Brady's own sense of worth and encouraged him to become more paranoid and increased his outrageous fantasies.

[edit] Moors Murders

Main article: Moors murders

By mid-1963, Brady had lost interest in bank robberies (which were never carried out anyway) and was now intent on becoming a murderer for his own sexual gratification.

On July 12, 1963, the couple claimed their first victim. 16-year-old Pauline Reade was enticed into Hindley's minivan while Brady followed behind on his motorcycle. They drove up to Saddleworth Moor where Hindley asked Pauline to help her look for a lost glove. They were busy "searching the moors" when Brady pounced upon Pauline and raped her. He then smashed in her skull with a shovel and slashed her throat so violently that she was almost decapitated. Brady then buried Pauline's body in a grave, where it remained for over 20 years.

On November 23, Hindley lured 12-year-old John Kilbride into her car from a market place in Ashton-under-Lyne, and drove him to Saddleworth Moor. Brady was waiting there and ordered Hindley to wait for him in a nearby village in their hired Ford Anglia. While Hindley waited in her car, Brady attempted to stab the boy with a knife, but the weapon was too blunt. Brady lost his temper and strangled him to death with a string before burying his body in a shallow grave.

On June 16, 1964 their third victim was another 12-year-old boy, Keith Bennett, whom they enticed from a street in Longsight and drove to Saddleworth Moor. Hindley stood and watched from the top of an embankment while Brady sexually assaulted Keith in a ravine before strangling him to death with a piece of string and burying his body. It has never been found.

Brady and Hindley claimed their fourth victim on December 26 (Boxing Day). Ten-year-old Lesley Ann Downey was lured from a fairground in Ancoats and asked to help Brady and Hindley carry boxes back to their home, 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley, being driven there in Hindley's pick-up truck. When they reached the house, Brady pounced upon Lesley in an upstairs bedroom and raped and tortured her before strangling her to death with a cord. Hindley recorded the attack on an audio tape with Lesley pleading for her life while Brady took nine obscene photographs of the child. The following morning, Brady and Hindley drove Lesley's body to Saddleworth Moor where it was buried in a shallow grave.

On October 6, 1965, the couple claimed their fifth and final victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans. They enticed him from Manchester Central Railway Station to their house in Hattersley, where Hindley's 18-year-old brother-in-law David Smith was visiting. Brady then crept up on Edward in the living room and smashed his head in with an axe. He ordered Smith to help him carry the corpse to an upstairs bedroom and tie it up ready for disposal, but Smith then ran home, totally horrified by what he had seen, and contacted the police. Smith explained later that, while apparently giving assistance to cleaning up, his sole concern was to escape the house alive. Brady thought that Smith would join their criminal activities, but he had miscalculated.

[edit] Arrest

Brady was arrested within hours, and admitted in a police statement that he had murdered Edward Evans. Hindley was only arrested five days later when a suitcase containing incriminating evidence was recovered from the left-luggage depot at Manchester Central Station. During her five final days of freedom, she developed an arrogant attitude which she adopted as her trademark. Police secretary Sandra Wilkinson said in a 2006 TV documentary about Hindley's years behind bars that she distinctly remembered Hindley and her mother Nellie leaning against the wall of the courthouse eating a cream cake. While her mother appeared to be in obvious distress, Hindley seemed to be almost indifferent to what had happened.

Without the suitcase evidence the "Moors" trial might never have taken place. It was recovered only because of the keen observation of a police officer who, while searching the house, spotted the retrieval claim ticket hidden down the back of a book binding. Inside were two suitcases containing pornographic and sadistic paraphernalia. Amongst this material were nine photographs of Lesley Ann Downey, showing her naked, bound and gagged, in Myra Hindley's bedroom. A tape recording was also found. The voice of a girl could be heard screaming, crying, and begging for her life. Two other voices, one male and one female, could be heard threatening the child. Police identified the adult voices as Brady's and Hindley's, but they needed Ann Downey's assistance to identify the child. She listened in horror to her daughter at the last moments of her life.

By the end of the month, the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were discovered, and Brady and Hindley were charged on three counts of murder. The police had overwhelming evidence for the Lesley Ann Downey murder charge, as the suitcase had contained pornographic photographs and the tape recording. The Chester Assizes judge, Mr. Justice Fenton Atkinson, ordered all women to leave the court while the tape was played in evidence. John Kilbride's name had been written in one of Brady's notebooks (on a page entitled murder plan), and a photograph of Hindley with her dog was later traced to John Kilbride's grave.

[edit] Trial

On April 21, 1966, the trial began at Chester Assizes. Prosecuting counsel was Sir Elwyn Jones. It ended on May 6. Brady was convicted on all three murder charges, and sentenced to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment. The judge described Brady as "wicked beyond belief" and "beyond hope of redemption," suggesting that he should never be released.

Hindley was convicted of murdering Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey, and received two life sentences. She also received a concurrent seven-year sentence for being an accessory in the John Kilbride murder. Mr Justice Atkinson recommended that Hindley should serve a "very long time" as he believed she had acted under Brady's influence.

[edit] Imprisonment

Hindley was sent to Holloway prison, and quickly won many friends, claiming she had reformed. Although they wrote to each other during their first few years in prison, and at one stage were refused a request to marry each other, in May 1972 Hindley broke off contact with Brady.

A year later Hindley attempted to escape, with the help of Pat Carnes, an officer said to have fallen in love with the murderer. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Hindley was transferred to Durham, Cookham Wood and then finally to Highpoint Prison, where she remained until her death.

In November 1986 – more than 20 years after the crimes – Brady and Hindley confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett. It is thought that the initiative came from Brady. Shortly after, they returned to the moors, under heavy guard, to help police look for the dead children's burial places. Pauline Reade's body was discovered the following July. Keith Bennett's was never found.

Myra Hindley in the 1970s.
Myra Hindley in the 1970s.

Brady and Hindley were never charged in connection with these murders, but Home Secretary Leon Brittan increased Hindley's minimum term to 30 years, which would keep her behind bars until at least 1995.

By now, Hindley claimed to have reformed, and maintained that she had acted under the influence of the sadistic Brady. A small group of supporters, led by Lord Longford, who had championed Hindley's cause almost since her conviction, began campaigning for her release. However, the majority of the British public doubted if Hindley's remorse was genuine, and the families of her victims vowed to kill her if she was released. In 1990, the then Home Secretary David Waddington decided that both Brady and Hindley should never be freed, and, four years later, Waddington's successor Michael Howard concurred.

In 1994, a Law Lords' ruling stated that life sentence prisoners should be informed of the minimum period they must spend in prison before being considered for parole. This announcement was welcomed by victims' families and backed by the majority of the public, but Hindley challenged the ruling. In December 1997, November 1998 and March 2000, she made appeals to the House of Lords to be released, claiming that she was no longer a danger to the public and that she had been acting under Brady's influence. When the third of these appeals was rejected, she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

Reports by prison officials and the parole board commented on Hindley's progress during prison, suggesting that she was repentant and no longer a danger. Her hopes of release were given a boost in May 2002 when the House of Lords ruled that the Home Secretary could no longer overrule the parole board's recommendations concerning release dates. It seemed likely that the Home Secretary would also lose his power to set minimum sentences, and that an estimated 270 prisoners, including Hindley, whose minimum terms had been increased by politicians, would be released earlier than expected. Hindley was also one of about 70 life sentence prisoners who had served longer than their original minimum sentence.

[edit] Death

On November 15, 2002, at the age of 60, Hindley died in West Suffolk Hospital after a heart attack. She had spent 37 years in custody. During that time, she had gained an Open University degree and claimed to have returned to her religious cradle Roman Catholicism with great faith. She was Britain's longest-detained female prisoner. She was given the last rites before she died.

Her lawyers told the press that Hindley was truly sorry for what she did. She had always portrayed herself as a remorseful sinner, but knew that few people were willing to forgive her. Those who campaigned for her release said that she should not have ended her life behind bars. Heading this group was a former prison governor, Peter Timms, who admitted that there was no question that Hindley's crimes were terrible, but said that the real issue was that she was treated differently from any other life sentence prisoner.

None of Hindley's relatives – not even her elderly mother – were among the dozen or so mourners at her funeral at Cambridge City Crematorium on November 20. Apart from one woman from nearby Soham – a community that had only recently endured a double child murder – who left a sign reading "Burn in Hell" at the crematorium entrance, the public stayed away from the funeral, which had tight police security. Hindley was cremated, and her ashes scattered at an undisclosed location. At an inquest into her death, it was revealed that she had asked doctors not to resuscitate her if she stopped breathing. Ironically, Myra Hindley could have been freed under a Law Lords ruling that came two weeks later, which may have embarrassed the government and outraged the public if it had been allowed to come to fruition.

Three days after Hindley's death, Greater Manchester Police revealed that they had been considering bringing charges against her for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, to which Hindley had confessed, but for which she had not been charged. The police believed that a successful prosecution for these murders would have kept her in prison no matter how long she had lived [1]. In May 2003, the Crown Prosecution Service, however, said that there was no realistic prospect of Ian Brady being charged with the two murders, as it was unlikely that he would ever be released. Brady has always insisted that he never wants to be released.

Among many such programmes, the pair's crimes were dramatised in May 2006 for an ITV drama See No Evil. In October the same year, Hindley's relationship with Lord Longford played a prominent part in a dramatisation of the latter's life story, Longford, broadcast on Channel 4.

[edit] Notable facts

Myra by Marcus Harvey.  The mosaic painting sparked a firestorm of controversy when it was shown at the 1997 Sensation exhibition in London.
Myra by Marcus Harvey. The mosaic painting sparked a firestorm of controversy when it was shown at the 1997 Sensation exhibition in London.
  • In 1997 a painting of Hindley composed of stencilled children's handprints by the artist Marcus Harvey was shown as part of the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London. It attracted widespread protest, including from Winnie Johnson, the mother of one of Hindley's victims. It was vandalised with eggs and ink and eventually had to be protected behind Perspex.
  • Manchester-bred pop group the Smiths wrote a song about the Moors murders titled "Suffer Little Children". Lead singer Morrissey was only a few years younger than the murdered children at the time and the murders had a profound effect on him. A relative of one of the victims (John Kilbride) heard the song on a jukebox in a pub and was furious about it. Morrissey wrote the victim's family a letter stating the intentions of the song and they relented.
  • British industrial music group Throbbing Gristle's early live performances featured the piece "Very Friendly", a graphic recounting of the murder of Edward Evans. "Very Friendly" appeared in studio form on the originally unreleased album, The First Annual Report.
  • British Anarchist punk Band Crass' song "Mother Earth" concerned media coverage of Hindley, in particular the tabloid Daily Star, who launched their first edition with the 'readers verdict' headline "Let Her Rot In Hell".
  • Myra Hindley's infamous and widely recognized 1965 mug shot has become something of a cultural icon and has been spoofed in a variety of humorous and satirical contexts, most notably by punk graphic designer, Jamie Reid. In the late 1970s, Reid produced a silkscreen design of the familiar Hindley photograph (à la Warhol's Marilyn) and adorned it with the caption "God Save Myra Hindley" in ransom-note lettering. The image was featured as a poster in the punk movie, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980). Scottish artist Douglas Gordon photographed himself in a wig reminiscent of Hindley's hairstyle in her mug shot. The photo is entitled "Self portrait as Kurt cobain, as Andy Warhol, as Myra Hindley, as Marilyn Monroe"
  • There is a club night in Soho, London called Club Myra.

[edit] Notes

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