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Friday, August 17, 2012

llanblogger man's Moors Murders memories

* Ian Brady.
Late update (Saturday):
We are sad to note that Keith Bennett's
mother, Winnie Johnson, died yesterday
following a long illness.  

Llanblogger editor Phil Robinson gives his personal recollections of the Moors Murders – a case which is sensationally back in the headlines today after it was revealed killer Ian Brady may have finally revealed details of where one of his victims, 12-year-old Keith Bennett, is buried.

Any mention of the Moors Murders takes me right back to Manchester in the mid-1960s.
Because that is the place where I was born and spent the early part of my life.
More specifically I came from Gorton – now a fright of urban decay full of social problems almost indistinguishable from other inner suburbs of that sprawling north western metropolis, but back then a tough but reasonably pleasant self-contained and close-knit satellite town on the edge of the city.
Gorton is the place notorious for its association with the Moors Murders when, from 1963-66, local girl Myra Hindley and her Glaswegian boyfriend Ian Brady went on a killing spree comparable in its awfulness with the homicidal crimes of Jack the Ripper around 80 years before.
The evil pair were responsible for the murders of five youngsters who were sexually tortured before being killed and buried on Saddleworth Moor, just a few miles outside Manchester in the foothills of the Pennines.
Pauline Reade, 16, disappeared on July 12, 1963, and John Kilbride, 12, was snatched in November the same year.

Keith Bennett was taken on June 16, 1964, after he left home to visit his grandmother.

Lesley Ann Downey, 10, was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964, and Edward Evans, 17, was killed in October 1965.

Brady was jailed for life at Chester Assizes in 1966 for the murders of John, Lesley Ann and Edward.

Hindley was convicted of killing Lesley Ann and Edward and shielding Brady after John's murder, and jailed for life.

In 1987 the pair finally admitted killing Keith and Pauline. Both were taken back to Saddleworth Moor to help police find the remains of the missing victims but only Pauline's body was found.

Keith’s body was never found – to the devastation of his mother Winnie Johnson who has fought a 40-year battle to persuade both of her son’s killers to reveal where his body lies.

Greater Manchester Police are now investigating whether Brady has written a letter to be opened on his death revealing the location.

Jackie Powell, 49, who was appointed Brady's mental health advocate in 1999, was detained in south Wales on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful exercise.

But detectives examining documents seized from Ms Powell's home have so far found no evidence to suggest Brady disclosed the location of Keith's body. And Ms Powell has since been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Unlike the Ripper killings, there was never any reign of terror when it came to the Moors Murders during which people waited in fear for the next victim to be claimed.

Back then we knew absolutely nothing of the heinous crimes until after the killers were caught, immediately following the slaying of Edward Evans at a council house in Hattersley to which the couple had moved following the demolition of their slum home in Gorton.
But that didn’t stop the rumour mill turning at full speed as soon as the arrests were made – hardly any of the wild stories being true it later transpired as the full and ghastly tale unfolded at the trial.
Fact was much stranger and horrific than fiction.
I remember it all so clearly because at time my family and I lived only a few terraced streets away from where the murderous couple were based and I was well within the age range from which they were selecting their victims – that selection taking place within a small radius of the area where I played and went to school.
My mother worked with the mother of Pauline Reade and shared her sorrow when her daughter first went missing.
When I look back there is a definite “there but for the grace of God ….” feeling about it all.
When I started work as a reporter on the local paper the murderers had been behind bars for just a couple of years and the subject was still a hot topic of conversation around the office.
A tale often told by my colleagues concerned the local unpaid freelance who was first to dash in and tell the news editor that a string of child murders had taken place and were being linked to a local couple.
Notorious for his flights of fancy, he wasn’t believed and was only proven right when the regional and national press broke the story soon afterwards.
I was reacquainted with the case when a paper for which I later worked for asked me in 1987 to cover the return of Myra Hindley to lonely Saddleworth Moor to give guidance to the police on where some of the bodies had been buried.
She came in by helicopter and it was quite a scrum trying to get anywhere near what was happening, I recall.
Who knows whether there is any foundation to the latest twist in this long-running and dreadfully sad saga.
But I hope there is if only for the sake of Winnie Johnson.    

* There is another Llangollen link with the Moors Murders.
At the trial at Chester in 1966, Brady was represented by Emlyn Hooson QC, later to come Lord Hooson.
Between 1987 and 1993, he was the President of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.


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