Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder on the Moors: The Ian Brady and Myra Hindley Story


Ian Brady was born, on 2 January 1938 in Gorbals, one of the roughest slums in Glasgow at the time. His mother, Margaret (Peggy) tewart was a tearoom waitress in a hotel. Although she was single, she would always sign herself as Mrs. Stewart; as to be an unmarried mother at this time met with strong disapproval. Peggy never disclosed who Ian's father was, except that he was a journalist for a Glasgow newspaper who had died a few months before Ian was born.

With no husband to support her, she found it necessary to continue working as a waitress, even if only part-time. As she was often unable to afford a babysitter, Peggy would sometimes have to leave baby Ian at home alone. It did not take her long to realise that she could not cope with her baby alone. To solve the problem she advertised for a permanent babysitter to take Ian into their home, providing the care and attention she was unable to give him.

Mary and John Sloane answered the advertisement. They had four children of their own and seemed trustworthy and caring. At the age of four months, Ian was unofficially "adopted" by the couple. Peggy signed over Ian's welfare payments to them and arranged to visit every Sunday. As each Sunday came around Peggy would bring gifts for her growing son but never told him that she was his mother. Mary Sloane was always "auntie" or "ma." As time passed, Peggy's visits became less frequent and finally stopped altogether when Ian was twelve years old. Peggy had moved with her new husband, Patrick Brady, to Manchester.

The ambiguity of his relationship with his mother and the nature of the arrangements with the Sloanes meant that Ian always felt that he didn't really belong. Despite the Sloanes' attempts to provide a loving environment, Ian showed no response to their care and attention. Throughout his childhood, he was lonely, difficult, and angry. Temper tantrums were frequent and extreme, often ending with him banging his head on the floor.

At Camden Street Primary School, Brady was considered by his teachers to be a bright child, but he never tried as hard as he could have. The other children saw him as different, secretive and an outsider. He didn't play sport like the other boys and was considered a "sissy."

A Map of the area where Brady grew up and lived (CORBIS)
A Map of the area where Brady grew
up and lived (CORBIS)

The Sloanes and Brady remember an incident when he was nine years old. It was to be Ian's first outing out of the Gorbals. They went to the moors of Loch Lomond, where they spent the day picnicking. After lunch, the Sloanes napped in the grass. When they awoke, Ian was gone. They saw him standing 500 yards away at the top of a steep slope. For an hour, he stood there, silhouetted against the giant sky. They called and whistled to him but could not attract his attention. When the two Sloane boys climbed the hill to fetch him he told them to go on home without him, he wanted to be alone.

On the way home on the bus he was talkative for the first time in his life. For Ian, the time spent alone on that hillside had been a profound experience, one that would influence him into adulthood. He had felt himself alone at the centre of a vast, limitless territory. It was his. It belonged to him. He was filled with a sense of power and strength. In the midst of all this emptiness, he was master and king.

At the age of eleven, Ian passed his entrance exams to Shawlands Academy, a school for pupils with above-average intelligence. His potential was never realised however as he was lazy, would not apply himself, and began to misbehave. He started smoking, virtually gave up on his schoolwork and before long was in trouble with the police. It was at this time that his fascination with the Second World War, particularly the Nazis, began to emerge. The books he read and the subject of his conversation was always related to Nazis. Even his play was influenced by his obsession, he always insisted on playing a German in war games with his friends.

Between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, Brady had been charged on three counts of housebreaking and burglary. On the third occasion, the court decided not to give him a custodial sentence, on the condition that he move to Manchester to live with Peggy and her husband Patrick Brady. He had not seen Peggy for four years and had never met his stepfather.

It was the end of 1954 when Brady moved to Moss Side to start again. Living with strangers and having a strong Scottish accent that branded him as different in the community meant that Brady became even more socially withdrawn than ever before. He attempted to gain a sense of belonging to his new family by changing his name from Stewart to Brady, and, although he did not get on particularly well with his stepfather, he took the job that Patrick found for him as a porter at the local market. The sense that he didn't belong persisted, however, and he searched for direction through his reading. Within books such as Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, the works of Marquis de Sade, and sadistic titles such as Justine, The Kiss of the Whip, and The Torture Chamber, Brady discovered something he could relate to, something exciting.

A little over a year after he moved to Moss Side, Brady had returned to a life of crime. He had left his job at the market and was working in a brewery when he was arrested for aiding and abetting. His employers had discovered that he had been stealing lead seals. The courts were not so lenient this time and he was sentenced to two years in a borstal, an institution for young offenders. There were no places available for three months, so he was sent to Strangeways Prison in Manchester, where at the age of seventeen, he learned quickly to toughen up.

He was moved to Hatfield borstal in Yorkshire where the regime was much lighter. Brady, taking advantage of the reduction in security began brewing and drinking his own alcohol and running gambling books. A drunken scuffle with a warder landed him in a much harder borstal in Hull Prison. Here he actively set out to learn more of the criminal way of life, from which he intended to make a great deal of money. His expectations were so high that he even took courses in bookkeeping.

When he was released in November 1957, his family noticed that he was even more silent and brooding than before. He was unemployed for several months before he obtained work as a labourer for six months. While he continued in his attempts to find a criminal scheme that would make him rich, he decided to put his bookkeeping skills to legitimate use. In 1959, he began work as a stock clerk with Millwards Merchandising. A little more than a year later, a new secretary arrived.

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