Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Witness To Murder

Superintendent Talbot was to be leaving on a much-needed vacation on the morning that he received an unexpected call from Detective Inspector Wills. Wills had been reluctant to make the call, but this was important.

Sitting in the Inquiry room at Hyde Police Station, were 17-year-old David Smith, and his young wife. They had called the police early that morning with an incredible story. Talbot assured his wife that he would soon return and they would begin their two-week vacation as planned. What Superintendent Talbot did not know then was that he was about to become involved in one of Britain's most notorious criminal cases, The Moors Murders. The date was October 7, 1965.

When Talbot arrived at Hyde Police Station, he was shown into the Inquiry room where the distressed couple sat drinking tea. David Smith, with the help of his wife Maureen, proceeded to tell his story.

The previous night his sister-in-law, Myra Hindley, had visited the home where he lived with Maureen, his bride of little more than a year, and her mother. Myra had told him that she was afraid to walk home alone in the dark so he agreed to walk with her. When they arrived at Myra's home, at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Manchester, she asked him to come inside as her live-in boyfriend, Ian Brady, had some miniature bottles of wine for him. He agreed and after entering she left him standing in the kitchen with the wine.

As he read the label on one of the bottles, Smith heard a long, loud scream. Myra yelled to him from the living room. When he first entered the room, he saw Ian Brady holding what David initially thought was a life-size rag doll. As it fell against the couch, not more than two feet away from him, the realisation dawned upon him that it was a young man and not a doll at all. As the young man lay sprawled, face down on the floor, Ian stood over him, his legs apart, holding an axe in his right hand.

 The young man groaned. Ian lifted the axe into the air, and brought it down upon the man's head. There was silence for a couple of seconds, and then the man groaned again, only it was much lower this time. Lifting the axe high above his head, Ian brought it down a second time. The man stopped groaning. The only sound he made was a gurgling noise.

 Ian then placed a cover over the youth's head and wrapped a piece of electric wire around his neck. As he repeatedly pulled on the wire, Ian kept saying "You fucking dirty bastard," over and over again. When the man finally stopped making any noise, Ian looked up and said to Myra, "That's it, it's the messiest yet."

As Myra made them all a cup of tea, she and Brady joked about the look on the young man's face when Brady had struck him. They laughed as they told David about another occasion when a policeman had confronted Myra while they had been burying another of their victims on Saddleworth Moor. Ian had told David that he had killed some people before but David thought it was just a sick fantasy. This was real. He was horrified and scared for his own safety. He decided that the best thing he could do was to keep calm and go along with them. He helped them to clean up the mess, tie up the body and put it in the bedroom upstairs. It was not until the early hours of the morning that he had been able to escape, promising to return in the morning to help dispose of the body. Safely back at home, he was violently sick. He told Maureen everything and together they went to a public phone box to call the police.

Immediately upon hearing this bizarre story, Superintendent Talbot and Detective Sergeant Carr went over to 16 Wardle Brook Avenue. Two-dozen additional officers were called to the area, just in case. Any concerns that there may be a confrontation were quickly put to rest. Myra reluctantly gave him a key to the upstairs bedroom, the only room in the house that was locked, where the body of a young man was found wrapped in a grey blanket. The axe described by Smith as the murder weapon was found in the same room.

Ian Brady at his arrest, mugshot
Ian Brady at his
arrest, mugshot

Ian Brady was arrested immediately. At the police station, Brady told police that there had been an argument between himself, David Smith and the victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans. A fight had ensued which soon got out of control. Smith had hit Evans and kicked him several times. There had been a hatchet on the floor, which Brady said he had used to hit Evans. According to Brady, he and Smith alone had tied up the body. Myra had nothing to do with Evans's death.

When Myra was questioned, she supported Brady's story, describing how she had been horrified and frightened by the ordeal. She was not arrested until four days later, after police had found a three-page document in her car that described in explicit detail how she and Brady had planned to carry out the murder.

The investigation would probably have gone no further if Smith had not told police of Brady's claim that he had buried other bodies on Saddleworth Moor. Other references to the same area confirmed Smith's story. A twelve-year-old girl, Pat Hodge, told police that she had often gone with Hindley and Brady up to the moors on picnics, and numerous photos of the moors were found in their home.

Police dig for evidence in the moors (CORBIS)
Police dig for evidence in the moors

Once the area where Brady and Hindley frequented was pinpointed, the digging began. Police believed that the bodies of four children who had mysteriously disappeared over the past two years might have been buried in the moors. They were proved right on 10 October 1965 when the body of 10-year-old Lesley Anne Downey was found. Lesley had disappeared without a trace on 26 December 1964. Eleven days after the first discovery, the body of 12-year-old John Kilbride was found. John had disappeared without a trace, on November 11, 1963.

In 1965, a case such as this was unique. It was the first time in British history that a woman had been involved in a killing partnership that had involved the serial sex murders of children. The public could not comprehend how any woman could take part in such a horrific crime; her involvement made the crimes seem even more evil and unforgivable.


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