Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley

Infobox Serial Killer
name=Myra Hindley

caption=Mugshots of Myra Hindley and her partner Ian Brady at the time of their arrest in October 1965
birth= birthdate|df=yes|1942|07|23
location= Gorton, Manchester, England
cause= Heart attack
apprehended=6 October 1965
penalty=Life imprisonment

Myra Hindley (23 July 1942 – 15 November 2002) was an English serial killer convicted, along with her lover Ian Brady, of killing four children between 1963 and 1965 in the "Moors murders".

Early life

Hindley was born in Gorton, Manchester, and brought up by her grandmother Ellen Maybury. She was believed to have been physically abused by her alcoholic father, Bob Hindley, a paratrooper in the RAF during World War II, who was also alleged to have been violent towards her mother Nellie. Bob and Nellie Hindley divorced in 1965, around the time of Myra's arrest, and her mother subsequently married a man named Bill Moulton. Her younger sister Maureen was born in August 1946. Hindley failed her eleven-plus exam, and therefore attended the Ryder Brow Secondary Modern school, where she was in the top streams despite poor attendance.

When Hindley was 15, her close friend Michael Higgins, 13, drowned in a reservoir. She had been asked, but had been unable, to go swimming with Higgins that day; she believed that she could have saved him had she been with him, and was thus plagued by guilt. Hindley converted to Roman Catholicism in honour of her friend, who had been a Catholic, and neglected her schoolwork. She was depressed for months after Higgins' death, lighting candles daily for her friend's soul. Hindley left school in 1957. Her first job was as a junior clerk at Lawrence Scott and Electromoters, an electrical engineering firm. In 1959, she became engaged to a local boy named Ronnie Sinclair, but she later called the engagement off. On 16 January 1961, she started work as a typist for a chemical firm called Millward's, also based in Manchester.

It was at Millward's that she met Ian Brady, a Scottish-born man four years her senior with a history of violence and a string of burglary convictions, for which he had spent time in a borstal during the early 1950s. Brady was the stock clerk, having been with the company since February 1959. Hindley was immediately attracted to him, but Brady steadfastly ignored her for nearly 12 months. During 1961, she kept a diary in which she chronicled her growing infatuation with Brady; it was later discovered by police following their arrest in October 1965.

At the Christmas office party, on 22 December 1961, Brady, his tongue loosened by a few drinks, asked Hindley out; she accepted immediately. That first night he took her to see "Judgment at Nuremberg." As the weeks passed, he played her records of Nazi marching songs and encouraged her to read some of his favourite books – "Mein Kampf," "Crime and Punishment," and the works of the Marquis de Sade. Brady apparently encouraged Hindley to help him with bank robberies (although no known bank robberies committed by the two are recorded), asking her to join a shooting club and purchase firearms for him, since he could not obtain a gun license due to his convictions for violence. Hindley was also told to learn to drive as Brady needed a get-away driver. She began driving lessons, joined the Cheadle Rifle Club, and purchased two guns. Brady convinced Hindley that there was no God, and she stopped going to church. She absorbed his philosophies, adopted his interests, and altered her appearance to suit him, bleaching her hair and wearing Germanic clothes. She had no qualms about allowing him to take pornographic pictures of her and of the two of them having sex. Brady nicknamed her "Hessy" - a pun on pianist Myra Hess, and Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Moors Murders

By mid-1963, Brady had lost interest in bank robberies and was now intent on becoming a murderer for his own sexual gratification. Together, Brady and Hindley took part in the abduction, sexual abuse, torture, and murder of five children between July 1963 and October 1965.


Brady was arrested after the discovery of the body of their final victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans, at the house he shared with Hindley at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hyde. The murder had been witnessed by Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith, who had notified the police, and Brady admitted in a police statement that he had murdered Evans. Hindley was arrested five days later when a suitcase containing incriminating evidence was recovered from the left-luggage depot at Manchester Central Station. During the time of the police investigation as well as her subsequent trial, Hindley's demeanor was one of resolute arrogance and defiance. The police detectives, court officials, newspaper reporters and other observers all noted that Hindley remained steadfastly loyal to Brady, and she even seemed to share his apparent confidence that she would not be convicted of any crime. She consistently denied any wrongdoing, made repeated efforts to incriminate Smith and exculpate Brady, and even continued to endorse Brady's version of events as her own for nearly five years after the two of them were found guilty at Chester Crown Court and sentenced to life imprisonment in May 1966. In a 2006 television documentary about Hindley's years behind bars, police secretary Sandra Wilkinson said that she distinctly remembered Hindley and her mother Nellie, leaning against the wall of the courthouse and eating a cream cake. While her mother appeared to be in obvious distress, Hindley seemed to be almost indifferent to her situation.

The evidence recovered from the suitcase proved to be sensational. It was recovered only because of the observation of a police officer who, while searching the house, had spotted the luggage claim ticket hidden in the spine of Hindley's prayer book. In the locker were two suitcases containing sadistic pornography. These included nine photographs of 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey, showing her naked, bound and gagged in Myra Hindley's bedroom. The details of the bed seen in some of the pictures established their location and Hindley's fingerprints were present on the surface of the photographs themselves. A tape recording was also found. On it, the voice of a young girl could be heard screaming, crying, and begging for her life. Two other voices, one male and one female, could be heard threatening the child. Police identified the adult voices as belonging to Brady and Hindley, but they needed the assistance of Lesley Ann's mother, Ann West, to identify the voice of the child. When asked later why he had kept such an incriminating tape, Brady responded only that he had done so because "it was unusual."

By the end of the month, the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride had been discovered, and Brady and Hindley were charged on three counts of murder. The police had overwhelming evidence for the Lesley Ann Downey murder charge, as the suitcase had contained the pornographic photographs and the tape recording. The Chester Assizes judge, Mr. Justice Fenton Atkinson, ordered all women to leave the court while the tape was played in evidence. John Kilbride's name had been written in one of Brady's notebooks (on a page entitled "murder plan"), and a photograph of Hindley with her dog was later identified as having been taken at John Kilbride's grave.


On 21 April 1966, the trial began at Chester Assizes. Prosecuting counsel was Sir Elwyn Jones. It ended on 6 May. Brady was convicted on all three murder charges and sentenced to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment. The judge described Brady as "wicked beyond belief" and "beyond hope of redemption", suggesting that he should never be released. However, the judge also stated his belief that this was not necessarily true of Hindley — and that, with the removal of Brady's presence and his influence over her, she might indeed be capable of a measure of rehabilitation at some point in the future. Hindley was convicted of murdering Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey and received two life sentences. She further received a concurrent seven-year sentence for being an accessory in the John Kilbride murder. Mr Justice Atkinson recommended that Hindley should serve a "very long time".

Hindley was sent to Holloway prison. Although she and Brady wrote to each other during their first few years in prison, and at one stage were refused a request to marry each other, in May 1972 Hindley broke off all contact with Brady. A year later, Hindley attempted to escape, with the help of Patricia Cairns, a lesbian warder who was said to have fallen in love with her. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Hindley was transferred to Cookham Wood in Kent. In November 1986 – more than 20 years after the crimes – Brady and Hindley confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, who had both gone missing during the first half of the 1960s. Shortly afterwards, they returned to the moors, under heavy guard, to help police locate the graves. Pauline Reade's body was discovered the following July. Keith Bennett's has never been found. Brady and Hindley were never charged in connection with the Reade/Bennett murders, but Home Secretary Leon Brittan increased Hindley's minimum term to 30 years, which would keep her behind bars until at least 1995.

In 1994, a Law Lords' ruling stated that life sentence prisoners should be informed of the minimum period they must spend in prison before being considered for parole. This announcement was welcomed by victims' families and backed by the majority of the public, but Hindley challenged the ruling. In December 1997, November 1998, and March 2000, she made appeals to the House of Lords to be released, claiming that she was no longer a danger to the public and that she had been acting under Brady's influence. When the third of these appeals was rejected, she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Reports by prison officials and the parole board commented on Hindley's progress during incarceration, suggesting that she was repentant and no longer a danger. Her hopes of release were given a boost in May 2002, when the House of Lords ruled that the Home Secretary could no longer overrule the parole board's recommendations concerning release dates. It seemed likely that the Home Secretary would also lose his power to set minimum sentences and that an estimated 270 prisoners, including Hindley, whose minimum terms had been increased by politicians, would be released earlier than expected. Hindley was also one of about 70 life sentence prisoners who had served longer than their original minimum sentence.


On 15 November 2002, at the age of 60 and after several previous health problems, Hindley died in West Suffolk Hospital after a heart attack. She had spent 37 years in custody. During that time, she had earned an Open University degree and claimed to have returned to Roman Catholicism, to which she had ostensibly converted at the age of 15. She was Britain's longest-detained female prisoner, and one of just two women (the other being Rose West) to receive whole life sentences. She was given the last rites before she died. Her lawyers told the press that Hindley had been truly sorry for her crimes. She had always portrayed herself as a remorseful sinner but understood that few people were willing to forgive her. Those who had campaigned for her release said that she should not have ended her life behind bars. Heading this group was a former prison governor, Peter Timms, who admitted that there was no question that Hindley's crimes had been terrible but felt the real issue was that she had been treated differently from any other life-sentence prisoner.

None of Hindley's relatives – not even her elderly mother – were among the dozen or so mourners at her funeral at Cambridge City Crematorium on 20 November. Apart from one woman from nearby Soham – a community that had only recently endured a double child murder – who left a sign reading "Burn in Hell" at the crematorium entrance, the public stayed away from the funeral, which had tight police security. Hindley was cremated, and her ashes scattered at an undisclosed location. An inquest was held into her death in January 2003, and it was revealed that she had asked doctors not to resuscitate her if she stopped breathing. Ironically, Myra Hindley could have been freed under a Law Lords ruling made on 26 November 2002, but that would have outraged the public and embarrassed the government.

Three days after Hindley's death, Greater Manchester Police revealed that they had been considering bringing charges against her for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, to which Hindley had confessed but for which she had not been charged. The police believed that a successful prosecution for these murders would have kept her in prison no matter how long she had lived [cite web | title=Hindley faced new murder charges | publisher=BBC News | url= | date=2002-11-18 | accessdate=2007-05-23] . In March 2003, the Crown Prosecution Service said that there was no realistic prospect of Ian Brady being charged with the two murders, since it was extremely unlikely that he would ever be released. Brady himself has always insisted that he never wants to be released.

Among many such programmes, the pair's crimes were dramatised in May 2006 for an ITV drama "", in which she was portrayed by Maxine Peake. In October the same year, Hindley's relationship with Lord Longford played a prominent part in a dramatisation of the latter's life story, "Longford", in which she was portrayed by Samantha Morton. On Christmas Day 2006, Channel 5 aired a show detailing Hindley's years in prison entitled "Myra Hindley -- The Prison Years". It was the first time ever that a few of Hindley's former prison mates had spoken openly about her. The programme ostensibly revealed that Hindley had, according to an inmate, "used and abused religion as a trick to earn more points on her parole hearing". [ [ Real Crime: Myra Hindley: The Prison Years] New Zealand TV]

Home Office Update

In June 2008, the Home Office released thousands of documents previously unobtainable to the public, written by and about Hindley during the decades of her imprisonment. [London "Times", 11 June 2008, p. 5] Some portions of the documents remain censored. Among other revelations, these papers disclosed that Hindley and Brady had continued to correspond by letters while in prison. After meeting a woman called Patricia Cairns, who worked as an officer at her prison, Brady's spell over Hindley was broken, and she broke off all contact with him as best as she could. She planned to escape from Holloway with Patricia, but they got caught, and Patricia was sentenced to six years in jail. After that, Hindley didn't see Patricia again. Brady was outraged that Hindley had reverted to Catholicism in prison. She had hoped eventually to be released and permitted to live quietly on the European continent. In November 1995, Hindley filed a request form asking that a specific male resident in another prison, who had previously corresponded with her, be permitted to visit her: the inmate's name has been censored.

Modern Popular Culture

*Anarcho Punk band Crass recorded a song titlted "Mother Earth" on their album "Stations of the Crass" that espoused that the Moors murders were Trial by Press release and that Myra Hindley was given an unfair trial based on publications produced by "The Star" newspaper.

"It's Myra Hindley on the cover/Your very own sweet anti-mother/There she is on the pages of "The Star"/Ain't that just the place you wish you were?/Let her rot in hell is what you said/Let her rot, let her starve, you'd see her dead/Let her out but don't forget to tell you where she is/The chance to screw her is a chance you wouldn't miss/Let her suffer, give her pain is the verdict you gave/You just can't wait to piss on her grave/You pretend that you're horrified, make out that you care/But really you wish that you had been there."

*The Industrial band Throbbing Gristle recorded and occasionally performed a lengthy piece entitled "Very Friendly", describing the final moor murder in narrative detail.

*Fashion designer Patrik Rzepski cited Myra Hindley as the inspiration for his 2005 womenswear collection, which included tops & dresses printed with the message, "I Want Moor Myra."'

*The Sex Pistols song "No One Is Innocent" contains the couplet "God save Myra Hindley, God save Ian Brady/ Even though he's horrible and she ain't what you call a lady".

*'The Devil's Wife', found in the collection 'The World's Wife' by Carol Ann Duffy, is based on Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. It makes reference to their meeting, killing and capture, as well as Hindley's religious conversion.

*The 2007 novel "Death of a Murderer" by the British writer Rupert Thomson tells the story of Billy Tyler, a policeman who is assigned to guard Myra Hindley's corpse in the hospital morgue on the night after her death. Although the Moors Murders and the trial are not depicted (and Hindley's name is never mentioned), their legacy in general and the role of Myra Hindley in particular color Tyler's thoughts as he considers the moral choices in his own life.

*On their 1984 self-titled debut album, Manchester band The Smiths included the elegy "Suffer Little Children", which refers to the Moors Murders in general and Myra Hindley specifically. The song elicited some uproar and led to the band's singer, Morrissey, establishing a friendship with Ann West, the mother of victim Lesley Ann Downey, who is mentioned by name in the song.

*Australian musical comedy group Doug Anthony All Stars made reference to Myra Hindley in their song 'Friends' from their Dead and Alive show, released to CD and video. In the freestyle verse near the end of the song, they claim "Myra Hindley was my baby-sitter."

*A portrait of Myra Hindley was shown for a split second in the London 2012 promotional video during the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Its use has been heavily criticised by politicians including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. []


Further reading

* "Media Representations Of Myra Hindley", Lesley McLaughlin, 2007, paperback.
* "Myra Hindley: Inside the Mind of a Murderess", Jean Ritchie, Paladin 1991, paperback. ISBN 0-586-21563-8
* "The Moors Murders: The Trial of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady", Jonathan Goodman, David & Charles 1986. ISBN 0-7153-9064-3
* "", Emlyn Williams, Pan 1992. ISBN 0-330-02088-9
* "Brady and Hindley: The Genesis of the Moors Murders", Fred Harrison 1986 Grafton. ISBN 0-906798-70-1
*"On Iniquity", Pamela Hansford Johnson 1967, Macmillan.
*"The Monsters Of The Moors", John Deane Potter, Ballantine Books 1967.
*" Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: 100 Tales of Infamy, Barbarism and Horrible Crime", Joyce Robins. ISBN 1-85152-363-4.
*"The World's Most Infamous Murders". ISBN 0-425-10887-2.

External links

* [ Brian Deer on Hindley's campaign for release]
* [ Murder On The Moors: The Ian Brady and Myra Hindley Story]
* [ BBC News Search Results for Myra Hindley]
* [ - MURDERUK - Moors Murders]
* [ Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006]

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