Scottish Daily Mail

Unhappy returns

50 years ago, Keith Bennett was murdered and buried on Saddlewort­h Moor. As killer Ian Brady maintains his cruel silence, a new team is setting out to find the boy’s final resting place, which haunted his mother until her death...

- by Emma Cowing

MONDAY would have been a day much like any other at Ashworth Hospital, the high- security psychiatri­c unit tucked away in a quiet, leafy corner of Merseyside. While patients went about their morning routines under the watchful eyes of highly-trained nurses, one of Ashworth’s oldest residents, Ian Brady, slept on.

At 76 years old and increasing­ly frail, the Scot responsibl­e for some of the most heinous child killings of the 20th century is a largely nocturnal creature these days. During daylight hours, he will doze fully- clothed in his room, emerging only at night when most other prisoners have gone to bed.

Then he will watch television and write letters, his self-imposed isolation a way of keeping his fellow patients, and the rest of the world, at bay. Yet as Brady slept peacefully, the consequenc­es of the horrific crimes he committed half a century ago were still being played out just over 50 miles away.

For Monday marked the 50th anniversar­y of the disappeara­nce and murder of 12-year-old Keith Bennett. Of all the victims of Glasgow-born Brady and his co- conspirato­r Myra Hindley, Keith is the one who has not come home.

He vanished on his way to his grandmothe­r’s house in Manchester, and his body is lost somewhere on Saddlewort­h Moor. His mother Winnie Johnson spent the rest of her life trying to find him. She never did, and died, broken-hearted, in 2012.

This week, a row of flowers on a bleak, moorside fence marked the occasion. A card from the family of John Kilbride, another of Brady and Hindley’s victims, fluttered in the wind. Its message was simple: ‘Bring him home.’

Later this year, a new search will endeavour to do just that, co- ordinated by Keith’s brother Alan Bennett and involving the team who helped find the body of British backpacker Gareth Huntley in the Malaysian jungle.

The hunt, led by David Jones, a former member of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team in Wales who first visited the moor in 2010 with Mrs Johnson, will coordinate four teams of experts at three key points of interest on the moor, using high-tech soil probes and specialist ground-scanning radar. Sniffer dogs that were deployed during the search for Mr Huntley in Malaysia will also be used.

The search will be funded privately by what is being described as ‘a number of individual­s and companies who do not wish to be identified’.

Greater Manchester Police told Mrs Johnson in 2009 that, unless significan­t new informatio­n came to light, there would not be another publiclyfu­nded police search.

The team has extensive experience searching for bodies in difficult terrain, and has also worked to find the bodies of victims of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Mr Jones said: ‘We will be going up to the moor, where we have identified three specific areas to concentrat­e on. We normally work in two groups, but it is such a massive area.

‘We operate a grid system using our own people, our own equipment and

‘We’ve identified three areas to concentrat­e on’

our own dogs. The terrain is much the same as in Ireland.’

It is unclear if Brady, cocooned in his own world at Ashworth and said to be entering the early stages of dementia, is aware of the new search. But he has always derived a particular pleasure from withholdin­g the location of Keith Bennett’s last resting place from the boy’s loved ones.

Ever since Keith’s murder half a century ago, Brady has played a sadistic cat and mouse game with his family, using the power of his knowledge as a weapon. It is one of the cruel facets of his personalit­y which his carers say has not weakened with age.

The little boy with the wire glasses, cheeky grin and a fondness for marbles had only just turned 12 when he set off to his grandmothe­r’s house in the Longsight area of Manchester, a trip he made every Tuesday.

On this particular Tuesday, as Keith made his way down the street, he came across a Mini pick-up driven by Hindley, with Brady in the back seat. Hindley asked for help in loading some boxes, promising to drive Keith home afterwards.

Instead, she drove to a remote layby, where Brady lured the boy on to the moor by asking him to help him search for a lost glove. Brady returned to the car alone 30 minutes later, telling Hindley he had sexually assaulted the child before strangling him with a piece of string. What Brady did with the body, only he knows.

Brady and Hindley were well advanced in their killing spree by the time they murdered poor Keith. The pair had already taken the lives of 16-year-old Pauline Reade and 12-year-old John Kilbride, and would go on to murder ten-year-old Lesley Ann Downey less than six months later.

Finally, in October 1965, Brady murdered 17-year-old Edward Evans with an axe at the home Brady and Hindley shared in Hattersley, Greater Manchester.

The brutal killing would be their undoing, for Hindley’s horrified brotherin-law David Smith, whom they had attempted to involve in the crime, reported their actions to the police and the pair were swiftly arrested.

Yet it would be more than 20 years before Brady and Hindley would admit to Keith’s murder, prompted by Mrs Johnson herself, who in 1986 wrote to Hindley, begging her to reveal what had happened to her son.

First Hindley, and then Brady, confessed to the murder of Keith and of Pauline Reade.

There followed the first of many searches of the moors, amid huge publicity. Pauline’s body was found, but Keith’s was not. Mrs Johnson kept up her campaign, writing Brady endless letters and pleading with him to give up his secrets.

He appeared only to revel in the attention – and the power it gave him. In 2012, he played arguably his sickest prank yet when, knowing that Mrs Johnson was near death, he revealed in a Channel 4 documentar­y that he had written a letter to Mrs Johnson disclosing the site of Keith’s body – and that it was only to be opened after his death.

Brady had given the sealed letter to his mental health advocate, a woman named Jackie Powell, who l ater handed it back to him. The whereabout­s of the letter today are unknown, and Powell, who was initially arrested

on suspicion of preventing lawful burial, was never charged.

Last year, there was again fresh hope when a TV documentar­y revealed previously unseen photograph­s of Hindley and Brady on the moor. Some of the pictures were believed to be ‘grave markers’ that could indicate the spot of Keith’s burial site. Yet the little boy still remains lost.

So what of Brady himself, and his troubled, twisted life since being born the illegitima­te son of Glasgow tea-room waitress Maggie Stewart in 1938? He is the only person alive who holds the key to laying Keith to rest at last. His carers say he is not particular­ly well, having allegedly been on a ‘hunger strike’ for over a decade and forcefed through a tube in his nose, although staff at Ashworth say he regularly eats toast and soup.

In January of this year he fell, breaking two bones and fracturing his hip. In 2012 he suffered a seizure and fractured two vertebrae in his spine. Yet he remains resolutely, terrifying­ly, himself.

Powell, who last saw Brady following his failed bid to be transferre­d to a general prison last summer, said in January of this year that she thought he was showing early signs of dementia. Her comments were issued with a stiff rebuttal from a law firm acting for Brady, stating: ‘Ian Stewart-Brady does not have dementia or any signs of the onset of dementia.’

It continued: ‘Jackie Powell… last visited Ian Stewart-Brady in the summer of 2013 and she has not been and will not be given permission to visit him again.’

Brady has been diagnosed with narcissist­ic personalit­y disorder and schizophre­nia, just two of the reasons why he failed in his bid to be transferre­d last year from the highly- specialise­d environmen­t i nside Ashworth to a Scottish prison, a move he claimed to desire so he could stop being force-fed and finally die of starvation.

His applicatio­n resulted in a tribunal which he attended in person – the distinctiv­e quiff snow-white, his

‘A personalit­y disorder and mental illness’

pale skin thin and crepe-like, a feeding tube attached to his nose.

Dr David Fearnley, medical director at Ashworth, told the tribunal: ‘Mr Brady suffers from a severe personalit­y disorder and a mental illness which still require highqualit­y care.

‘It is a testament to the staff of Ashworth Hospital that we have been able to stabilise his schizophre­nia to the degree we have. However, his condition is chronic and will require this support for the foreseeabl­e future.’

Realistica­lly, this will mean until the end of Brady’s life. Having been incarcerat­ed for almost half a century, Brady’s life inside Ashworth has taken on a pathetic, almost childlike quality.

He regularly smears jam and honey on the chair of a patient he bears a grudge against, and spills cereal near another’s room. In an altercatio­n with the same patient, he accused him of ‘ making pig noises’, and then held an uncapped pen in the face of another ward occupant ‘in the style of a weapon’.

The incident resulted in Brady having his pens confiscate­d, a big blow to a man who has been a prolific letter- writer since his imprisonme­nt.

‘When he was younger, he would have it out with these guys,’ Dr James Collins, another of his doctors, explained.

‘He’s now frail and elderly. The smearing of jam and honey on this guy’s chair in the day area is clearly designed to wind him up.’

The vicious and manipulati­ve side of Brady is never far from the surface. Not long ago, he devised a plot to escape from Ashworth with the help of an unidentifi­ed female visitor. He gave the woman cash, clothes and a picture of himself in an attempt to charm her into what his personal clinician described as ‘ clearly a preparatio­n’ f or an escape.

And he is still obsessed with the Nazis, much as he was as a teenager growing up in the south side of Glasgow, where he read feverishly of the atrocities carried out in the Nazi death camps, and later bought recordings of Nazi speeches and a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

In recent times at Ashworth he has exchanged letters with a woman who apparently believed she was a ‘reincarnat­ed Nazi’.

He also maintains something of a God delusion – consistent with narcissist­ic personalit­y disorder – saying he believes he can change the laws of physics and can walk through locked doors at night.

The new search of Saddlewort­h will start in the autumn, after an initial start date this week was postponed so more funds can be raised. It will not have escaped the notice of the searchers, and Keith’s brother Alan, that Brady has once again refused to help in any way.

In a letter in 2011 he wrote: ‘I’ve never wasted a second on delusions of freedom. And death holds no fears.’

What a tragedy that even now, as death approaches him – as it once did his innocent victims – he can think only of himself.

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 ??  ?? Lifelong search: Winnie Johnston, above, with her son Joey, kept digging on Saddlewort­h Moor for the body of her son Keith Bennett, far left, while his killer Ian Brady, left, remained silent
Lifelong search: Winnie Johnston, above, with her son Joey, kept digging on Saddlewort­h Moor for the body of her son Keith Bennett, far left, while his killer Ian Brady, left, remained silent

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