Moors Murders – Not So Secret Obsession

The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The murders are so named because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor, with a third grave also being discovered there in 1987, over 20 years after Brady and Hindley’s trial in 1966. The body of a fourth victim, Keith Bennett, is also suspected to be buried there, but despite repeated searches it remains undiscovered.

The police were initially aware of only three killings, those of Edward Evans, Lesley Ann Downey, and John Kilbride. The investigation was reopened in 1985, after Brady was reported in the press as having confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett. Brady and Hindley were taken separately to Saddleworth Moor to assist the police in their search for the graves, both by then having confessed to the additional murders.
Characterised by the press as “the most evil woman in Britain”, Hindley made several appeals against her life sentence, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but she was never released. She died in 2002, aged 60. Brady was declared criminally insane in 1985, since when he has been confined in the high-security Ashworth Hospital. He has made it clear that he never wants to be released, and has repeatedly asked that he be allowed to die.

The murders, reported in almost every English-language newspaper in the world, were the result of what Malcolm MacCulloch, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, called a “concatenation of circumstances”, which brought together a “young woman with a tough personality, taught to hand out and receive violence from an early age” and a “sexually sadistic psychopath”.

Suffer Little Children” is a song by the English alternative rock band The Smiths, that was included on their eponymous debut album in 1984. The song is about the Moors murders. It was one of the first songs that Morrissey and Johnny Marr wrote together. After the song was re-released as the B-side of the single, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now“, the Manchester Evening News reported that relatives of the Moors murder victims had taken exception to the lyrics, in which three of the victims are mentioned by name. Some newspapers also claimed that the single’s sleeve photo of pools winner Viv Nicholson was intended to resemble Myra Hindley.

Subsequently the high street chains Boots and Woolworths withdrew both the album and single from sale. However, Morrissey later established a friendship with Ann West, the mother of Moors victim Lesley Ann Downey, after she accepted that the band’s intentions were honourable.

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