True Crime Tuesday: The Moors Murders

Finally another #TCT! I know, I know, I knowwww. It’s been a while since I’ve posted one. I wanted to have this story up last week, but I’ve been super busy both personally and in terms of the reading I’m trying to get done (my goals this year have been lofty so far,) so the draft I’d been working on for the last couple of weeks never saw its way to publication. Whomp whomp.

Another thing I’ve wanted to get posted is a Book Nook Sunday where I finally share images of my finished (for a second time) basement. That’s right! The water damage is repaired, new floors are down and I’ve finally gotten it all put back together. I’ve been down there, under blankets on my nice couches playing Assasin’s Creed: Odyssey all weekend and it’s been glorious!

There are still lots of finishing touches that I want to get done – pictures on the walls, etc. And basically, two of my four bookshelves are totally empty, but trust me I am rapidly correcting that and spending too much money in the process. This includes a trip to Book Outlet’s Box Sale next Friday! It’s the most wonderful time of the year for any booknerds within travel distance!

But enough about me and my bullshit. Let’s talk about Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Together, between July 1963 and October of 1965, in Manchester, England, they sexually assaulted and killed five children together.

You know what they say: the couple that kills together goes to prison in separate locations and never gets to see each other ever again!

This is The Moors Murders.


For twenty years after their arrests, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley had maintained their innocence in the homicides of five children. But who were they kidding really? At the time of their arrests, the police were only aware of (and they had only been convicted of ) the killing of three victims: Lesley Ann Downey, 10, John Kilbride, 12 and Edward Evans, 17.

Then in 1985, Brady made a confession to Fred Harrison, a journalist working for The Sunday People. And it was about damn time. Brady told Harrison that he was responsible not only for the deaths of Downey, Kilbride and Evans, but had also taken the lives of Pauline Reade, 16 and Keith Bennett, 12.

When the confession was published, it prompted the Greater Machester Police to reopen the case. Since the Moors Murders were discovered in 1965, the police, the public and the media were eager to link any other missing Manchester children to Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. And here was there chance!

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Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

Once upon a time, in 1961, 18-year-old Myra Hindley was working as a typist at Millwards, a wholesale chemical distribution company. It was here that she met 22-year-old Ian Brady, who was working at Millwards in a clerical position.

Hindley became infatuated with the pompadoured bad-boy. She knew he had a criminal record for things like break-and-enter, theft, disorderly conduct and threatening bodily harm to a previous girlfriend. She knew that Brady’s colleagues had described him as “short-tempered,” and that he was on probation after his last time facing court with nine charges against him. But the young woman was completely infatuated.

Hindley wrote in her diary about Brady, detailing her fascination with him. And by December of that year, Brady asked Hindley out. Their dates grew more frequent and eventually followed a predictable pattern – they would go watch an x-rated movie and then head back to Hindley’s house to drink German wine. Fancy-schmancy stuff.

Brady gave Hindley reading material and over their lunch breaks, they would read Nazi atrocities aloud to each other. Aw, romance. Hindley began to emulate an ideal of Aryan perfection – bleaching her hair, wearing red lipstick at all times and filling her wardrobe with “risque” clothing (for the time.)

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More and more Brady and Hindley withdrew from their social circles and colleagues. They spent a great deal of time at the library, checking out books on war, crime and torture. They read the works of Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche and Crime and Punishment. They started planning bank robberies and grew an interest in guns. Nothing ever came of their plans to hold up a bank, but Hindley was eventually asked to leave a pistol club she was interested in joining after being told she had a bad temperament that wasn’t suitable for membership.

Since her relationship with Brady began, friends and family were concerned about Hindley’s change in behaviour. She was once a shy and prudish girl, but had turned into a darker, more disturbing version of herself. In a letter to a childhood friend, Hindley expressed some of her own concerns about the relationship, but said she was too obsessed with Brady to leave him. She mentioned in the letter that Brady had drugged her once. After sending the letter, she quickly regretted it and asked the friend to destroy it.

During a plea for parole in 1978, Hindley wrote in a 30,000-word essay:

Within months, [Brady] had me convinced that there was no god at all. He could have told me that the earth was flat, the moon was made of green cheese and the sun rose in the west, I would have believed him, such was his power of persuasion.

In June of 1963, Brady moved in with Hindley at her grandmother’s house.

In her own confession, Hindley claims that in early July of 1963, Brady started to talk about “committing the perfect murder.” He was fascinated with the novel Compulsion by Meyer Levin. The book tells the story of two young men from well-to-do families who attempt to commit the perfect murder of a 12-year-old boy and escape the death penalty because of their young age. Murder By Numbers, anyone?

On July 12, 1963, Hindley and Brady murdered their first victim, 16-year-old Pauline Reade.

Driving down Gorton Lane, Brady saw a young girl walking towards them and he signalled Hindley to stop their van, but Hindley refused. She recognized the girl as 8-year-old Marie Ruck and thought the outcry over a girl her age going missing would be too dangerous. Which, I guess is accurate, but like, that a person even weighs that information in their head is fucked up. Anyway, Marie Ruck was spared and further along in their ride, Hindley spotted Pauline Reade whom she knew as a friend of her younger sister, Maureen. She pulled over and offered Reade a lift.

Pauline Reade
Pauline Reade

Reade got into the van and Hindley asked if, before she drove Reade home, she would mind helping her find an expensive glove that she’d lost in Saddleworth Moor. Hindley introduced Reade to Brady as her boyfriend and said he was going to help them find the glove, too. The trio drove out to the Saddleworth Moor where Brady and Reade went to the look for the glove and Hindley waited in the van. After thirty or so minutes, Hindley claims Brady came back to the van and asked her to come with him to see what he’d done to Reade.

Brady walked Hindley out to the spot where Reade lay dying, her throat sliced twice by a large knife Brady carried on him. The larger of the two wounds was a four-inch incision to her voicebox, and the collar of Reade’s coat had been deliberately pushed into the wound. In Hindley’s recounting of the crime, she says she noticed Reade’s clothes were in disarray and she guessed that Brady had sexually assaulted her.

Brady told Hindley to wait with Reade while he went for the shovel he’d brought with him so he could bury Reade in the Moor. On the way home in the van, the couple passed Reade’s mother and brother, Joan and Paul, who were searching for Pauline.


John Kilbride, age 12
John Kilbride

Months later, on the evening of November 23rd, Hindley approached 12-year-old John Kilbride at a market and offered him a ride home. She told him his parents would be worried about him since he was out so late. For extra measure, Hindley tempted Kilbride with a bottle of brandy. She said he could drink with her. Kilbride agreed and got into the van with Hindley. Brady was waiting in the back. While they drove, Hindley asked if Kilbride would mind helping her search for an expensive glove that she lost in the moor and Kilbride agreed.

Once at the moor, Brady took Kilbride out into the moor with him while Hindley, once again, waited in the van. Brady sexually assaulted the boy, then stabbed him and tried to slit his throat before strangling him with a shoelace.


Keither Bennet was 12-years-old when he vanished on his way home to his grandmother’s house on the evening of June 16, 1964. Only four days after his birthday. With Brady in the back of the van, Hindley asked Bennet to help her load in some boxes and as a reward, she’d drive him home. Once they were on their way home, Hindley once again used the lost glove ruse on the young boy. And once at the moor, Brady and Bennet went looking for the glove while Hindley waited in the van.

After thirty or so minutes, Brady reappeared and got into the van. Hindley asked him how he killed the boy, and Brady told her he’d sexually assaulted him and then strangled him with a piece of string.


Lesley Ann Downey, aged 10, whose body was found in a shallow grave on Saddleworth Moors near Manchester in 1966
Lesley Ann Downey

On Boxing Day in 1964, Brady and Hindley were at a fairground, scouting for another victim, when they saw Lesley Ann Downey alone by a ride. When it became apparent that the 10-year-old was by herself, the couple approached the young girl and deliberately dropped some of the shopping they were carrying. They asked for the girl’s help to carry the packages back to their car, and then into their home.

Once inside their house, they undressed Downey, gagged her and forced her to pose for photographs. She was then raped and killed, again strangled with a piece of string or shoelace. Hindley has always maintained that she left to run a bath and when she returned Brady had killed the young girl. But Brady contradicted this in his confession and said it was Hindley who killed Downey.

The following morning, the couple drove out to Saddleworth Moor and buried Downey in a shallow grave, naked, and with her clothes at her feet.


Edward Evans, 17-year-old murder victim of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
Edward Evans

On October 6, 1965, Hindley drove Brady to the Manchester Central railway station so that he could pick out a new victim. She waited in the car while Brady approached 17-year-old Edward Evans and invited him back to their house. Once at the house, they drank a bottle of wine and relaxed, just hanging out. Brady told Hindley to call up her brother-in-law and invite him over, too.

Hindley’s 17-year-old brother-in-law, David Smith, was the husband of her younger sister, Maureen. The Hindley family did not approve of Maureen’s marriage to Smith because he had several criminal convictions, including bodily harm and break & enter. Hindley herself didn’t approve either and didn’t attend the hasty wedding that took place when Maureen was seven-months pregnant. Brady and Smith got along, though. Brady gave Smith books to read, and the two discussed robbery and murder regularly. Smith was apparently “impressed” with Brady and enjoyed the frequent couples dates they would go on with the sisters. Brady considered Smith a friend, someone who could be a partner in his crimes along with Hindley. She, however, was increasingly worried that Brady’s insistence to include Smith in their crimes could compromise their safety.

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David and Maureen Smith

Smith arrived at their house, and while in the kitchen he heard Hindley screaming for him to come help Brady. Smith entered the living room to find Brady repeatedly hitting Evans with the flat end of an axe. He watched as Brady throttled Evans and strangled him with an electrical cord.

Brady asked Smith to get rid of the body for him, and in the moment, Smith agreed. But the body was too heavy for him to carry on his own, and Brady had sprained his ankle during the murder. They agreed to wrap Evans’ body in plastic sheeting and leave it in the spare bedroom until the following evening.

After he returned home, Smith told Maureen everything that he’d seen and she insisted that they call the police. They went to a nearby phone box, bringing a knife with them in case Brady should appear to confront them. Smith told the police:

[Brady] opened the door…and he led me into the kitchen… When I first walked into the house, the door to the living room … was closed. … Ian went into the living room and I waited in the kitchen. I waited about a minute or two then suddenly I heard a hell of a scream; it sounded like a woman, really high-pitched. Then the screams carried on, one after another really loud. Then I heard Myra shout, “Dave, help him,” very loud. When I ran in I just stood inside the living room and I saw a young lad. He was lying with his head and shoulders on the couch and his legs were on the floor. He was facing upwards. Ian was standing over him, facing him, with his legs on either side of the young lad’s legs. The lad was still screaming … Ian had a hatchet in his hand … he was holding it above his head and he hit the lad on the left side of his head with the hatchet. I heard the blow, it was a terrible hard blow, it sounded horrible.

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Early in the morning of October 7, 1965, shortly after Smith’s call to the police, the cops arrived at Hindley and Brady’s house to find Brady writing a letter to his employer that he couldn’t come to work because of his ankle injury.

The police explained that they were there to investigate “an act of violence” and needed to look around. Hindley denied anything had happened, and allowed the police to check out the house. The room which stored Evans’ body was locked. They demanded Hindley and Brady hand over the key.

After discovering the plastic wrapped body, the police returned to the living room and arrested Brady on suspicion of murder. He told the police, “Eddie and I had a row and the situation got out of hand.”

Hindley was not arrested with Brady, but demanded to go to the police station with him. She refused to make any statements about Evans’ murder during her questioning, saying only that it was an accident. Because police had no evidence that Hindley was involved in Evans’ murder, she was allowed to go home on the condition that she return the next day for additional questioning.

During his questioning after the arrest, Brady admitted that he and Evans fought, but insisted Hindley had nothing to do with it, that she was “just doing what she was told.”

On October 11, Hindley was charged as an accessory to the murder of Edward Evans and was remanded to Risley Prison after new evidence emerged during the investigation that directly tied her to the murder of Evans.

Hindley in the moor with her dog Puppet. Photo taken by Brady.

David Smith, during questioning, said that he knew Brady had packed up “dodgy books” into suitcases, as if he was scared of what the cops would think when they saw them. Smith had no idea what else was in the suitcases, or where they were, but he said Brady “had a thing for railway stations.”

The police requested a search of all Manchester’s left-luggage offices for any suitcases belonging to Brady and on October 15, they found a suitcase belonging to Brady that contained pornographic photographs taken of a young girl, naked and with a scarf tied across her mouth. There was also a 16-minute recording of the girl screaming and begging for help. Ann Downey, Lesley Ann Downey’s mother, later listened to the recording and confirmed that it was of her daughter’s voice.

During the police’s search of Brady and Hindley’s home, the found a notebook with the name John Kilbride written in it. They knew Kilbride to be an open missing persons case. The police immediately became convinced that Hindley and Brady could be involved in other unsolved disappearances of children.

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A body being taken out of the moor.

A collection of photographs taken on Saddleworth Moor directed the cops where to begin their search to confirm their suspicions.

The first body to be discovered was that of Lesley Ann Downey. Five days later, John Kilbride was identified by his clothing. He was too badly decomposed to be identified any other way. Police suspected there were more bodies buried in the moor, but as winter settled in the search was called off.

Presented with the evidence discovered in the suitcase at the train station, Brady admitted to taking the photographs of Downey, but denied killing her. He claimed two men brought her to the house to have the pictures taken, and they left with her, still alive. Police didn’t buy it.

Brady was charged with murders of Downey, Evans and Kilbride. Hindley was charged with the murders of Evans and Downey, and charged as an accessory in the murder of Kilbride.

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It took 14 days, beginning on April 19, 1966, for the trails of Hindley and Brady to wrap up. Both Brady and Hindley gave testimony in court. Some interesting points being their not guilty pleas and Brady’s denial of killing Evans, despite his body being wrapped up in plastic in his house.

The pathologist’s report from autopsy of Evans stated that his death was “accelerated by strangulation.” Brady would only admit to hitting Evans with the axe and stated, “If he died from axe blows, then I killed him.” He was trying to be clever, but it didn’t work in his favour.

The recording of Leslie Ann Downey was played in court. Brady and Hindley’s voices were clearly audible, but Hindley said she was “looking out a window” in a different room when the photos of Downey were taken and that she was “running a bath” when Downey was strangled. She had, apparently, no idea what had happened.

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David and Maureen smith head to court for the trail.

It only took two hours for the jury to find them both guilty on all counts.

The death penalty had been abolished during the time that the couple was being held in jail awaiting trial, so the judge passed the only sentence newly allowed: life imprisonment.


After Brady’s interview in 1985 confessing to the murders, including the then unknown murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, police actively started trying to find the bodies buried in the Moor. Keith Bennett’s mother wrote Hindley a letter and pleaded with her to tell the police where her son was buried.

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Although Hindley still refused to acknowledge her involvement in the deaths, she did offer to show the police places in the moor that she said her and Brady had frequently visited. The police tried to have her identify these locations through photographs, but Hindley said the only way to be sure was the be taken out into the moor physically.

DCS Topping, now lead on the case, said he was “quite cynical” about Hindley’s motivations in helping the police, but he secured her approval for two visits to the moor anyhow. During her first visit in December of 1986, Hindley wasn’t helpful and even claimed she was too scared from the helicopter ride in to remember anything.

Only a couple of months later, with her solicitor at her side, Hindley made a formal confession to all five of the murders. The tape recording of her statement is over 17 hours long.

Topping described the confession as a “very well worked out performance in which, I believe, she told me just as much as she wanted me to know, and no more.” He added that he “was struck by the fact that she was never there when the killings took place. She was in the car, over the brow of the hill, in the bathroom and even, in the case of the Evans murder, in the kitchen.” Topping concluded that he felt he “had witnessed a great performance rather than a genuine confession.”

Police took Hindley’s confession and went to visit Brady in prison. They wanted a confession from him, too. A formal one, not one only given to a journalist. Brady, at first, refused to believe Hindley would have confessed against him, but when presented with the evidence he decided that he was prepared to give his side of the confession as well. But he required one thing. After his confession, he wanted to be provided the means to take his own life by suicide. Police couldn’t comply with this request.


In March of 1987, Hindley made her second trip to the Moors, and this time she was able to show the police two places where they should concentrate their search – Hollin Brown Knoll and Hoe Grain. She wasn’t able to locate the graves, but she was able to recall details like being able to see the rocks of Hollin Brown Knoll silhouetted against the night sky.

On July 1, 1987, a body was found buried three feet down and only 100 yards from the place where Leslie Ann Downey had been found. This body was later identified as Pauline Reade.

Brady had been withholding his confession for months since the denial of his suicide request, but when he was told that Reade’s body had been found he changed his mind and offered Topping a full confession and help in located Bennett’s body. Brady also wrote a letter to the media, through his solicitor, saying that he was prepared to follow Hindley’s lead and help the police in any way he could.

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On July 3rd, Brady made his first trip out to the Moors but quickly seemed to lose his bearings of his surrounding, blaming it on geographical changes that had happened over twenty years. The search was called off, Topping of the opinion that Brady was full of it. And rightfully so. When Topping refused to let Brady go out to the moors a second time, Brady wrote a letter to BBC television, detailing to them five additional murders that he’d been apart of and that the police weren’t taking seriously – one of a Piccadilly man in Manchester, another victim in the Saddleworth Moor, two victims from Scotland and one woman who he said he through into a canal, but he refused to name. The police could not find sufficient evidence that the vague information Brady provided was accurate and declined to investigate the so-called crimes.

On December 1st, police still had not found Keith Bennett’s body and agreed to take Brady out one last time with the hope of finding the boy and returning him to his mother. Brady once again couldn’t find the grave. The search for Keith Bennett was officially called off.


12 year old Keith Bennett
Keith Bennett.

In 2003, police launched Operation Maida to search the moor for the body of Keith Bennett. They used the personal photographs taken by Hindley and Brady as well as new scientific equipment, including a US satellite used to look for evidence of soil movement. They found nothing.

In 2009, the Greater Manchester Police officially gave up any search efforts to find Keith Bennett, saying that it would take a “major scientific breakthrough or fresh evidence” for the search of the boy’s body to be restarted.

As of this writing, Keith Bennett’s body has never been found. His family can still be found searching the moor for him.

In the 1990s, Hindley opened up personally about the murders and claimed that she took part in them only because Brady drugged her, was blackmailing her with pornographic pictures and had threatened to kill her sister, Maureen and her beloved dog Puppet. In a 2008 interview, Hindley’s solicitor reported that she had said to him:

I ought to have been hanged. I deserved it. My crime was worse than Brady’s because I enticed the children and they would never have entered the car without my role … I have always regarded myself as worse than Brady.

When Hindley’s dog, Puppet, died during an oral exam that required a general anaesthetic, Hindley, who was awaiting trial, accused the police of murdering her pet. The police had been trying to determine the dog’s real age in order to accurately date the personal photographs taken by Brady and Hindley in the moor. Puppet died due to an undiagnosed kidney issue aggravated by the anaesthetic.

In a letter to her mother, Hindley wrote of Puppet’s death:

I feel as though my heart’s been torn to pieces. I don’t think anything could hurt me more than this has. The only consolation is that some moron might have got hold of Puppet and hurt him.


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Ian Brady in 2017.

Brady spent 19 years in mainstream prisons before being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1985 and transferred to a high-security psychiatric hospital. This is where he would die of restrictive pulmonary disease on May 15, 2017 at the age of 79.

Before his death he spent many years attempting to take his own life by way of hunger strikes. Every time he was fitted with a feeding tube. He had spent 48 hours refusing food before his death, but it was ruled to not have been a contributing factor to his death. In March of 2000, he asked for a judicial review of the legality of being force fed, but was denied.

I have to fight simply to die. I have had enough. I want nothing, my objective is to die and release myself from this once and for all. So you see my death strike is rational and pragmatic. I’m only sorry I didn’t do it decades ago, and I’m eager to leave this cesspit in a coffin.

In 2001, Brady wrote The Gates of Janus, which was Brady’s analysis of serial murder and specific serial killers. It was published by Feral House, an underground US publisher.


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Myra Hindley before she died.

Unlike Brady, Hindley lodged appeals of her conviction but was continually denied.

In 1971, she officially ended her relationship with Brady, whom she was communicating with by letter still. She told him she had fallen in love with a female guard at the prison, Patricia Cairns.

A prison escape plan hatched by Hindley and Cairns was discovered when an off-duty policeman intercepted impression of prison keys. Cairns was sentenced to six years in jail for her part in the plot.

On November 15, 2002, Hindley died from bronchial pneumonia at 60 years old. She was a 40-a-day smoker and had been diagnosed with angina in 1999.

Her ashes were scattered by Patricia Cairns less than 10 miles from the Saddleworth Moor.


I love stories like this because there’s this inherent question as to weather the “weaker” of the two killers really had no other choice but to do what they did, that they were tricked/scared/blackmailed into it. And in some instances, that may be true. But in my opinion, if Myra Hindley had been doing this against her will, the moment Ian Brady was arrested for his crimes, she would have spilled her guts out of guilt or sadness or relief to finally be free of this nightmare.

But she didn’t.

She continued to deny either one of them had anything to do with the murders for twenty years. And when she finally did confess, she was never in the room, never there to witness anything. And that says to me, her guilty conscience was alive and well, trying to protect her from the realities of her actions.

I will say this though, if you believably threatened my dog and I thought you had the option to follow through on that threat, I would pretty much do anything. Those are just the facts.

What do you guys think of these killer couple? What would you do to protect a pet?

Until next time, Booknerds…

10 thoughts on “True Crime Tuesday: The Moors Murders

  1. I absolutely love these posts! I recently found a book called 501 Notorious Crimes and there are so many good murder stories in it… If you’d be alright with it, could I jump on this bandwagon and make similar posts? Credit would be given, as always! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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