The Strange Story Of Myra Hindley And The Moors Murders

Published November 11, 2021
Updated March 20, 2023

Meet Myra Hindley, once considered the evilest woman in Britain and the chilling killer behind the infamous Moors Murders.

She was known as “the most evil woman in Britain.” But Myra Hindley, who in the 1960s helped sexually assault and murder five children in what would come to be known as the Moors murders, maintained that her abusive lover made her do it. Where does the truth lie?

Between 1963 and 1965, Myra Hindley and her lover Ian Brady lured four children — Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, and Lesley Ann Downey — into their car under the pretense of giving them a ride home. Instead, the pair took them to Saddleworth Moor, an isolated area some 15 miles outside of Manchester.

Ian Brady And Myra Hindley

Wikimedia CommonsIan Brady (left) and Myra Hindley, the duo convicted of carrying out the Moors murders.

After they arrived, Hindley would say that she had misplaced an expensive glove, asking her victim to help her search for it. Each one complied, following Brady into the reeds to look for the missing garment.

Once a safe distance away from the road, Brady raped each child and then slit his or her throat. The couple then buried the bodies on the moor. To this day, not all bodies of the slain have been found.

Making Murderers: Myra Hindley And Ian Brady Before The Moors Murders

Myra Hindley

Greater Manchester Police via Getty ImagesMyra Hindley, photographed by Ian Brady at an unknown location.

In her 1988 book on the Moors murders, Myra Hindley: Inside the Mind of a Murderess, author Jean Ritchie writes that Hindley grew up in a repressive, impoverished household, where her father regularly beat her and encouraged her to use violence to solve conflicts.

In 1961, when she was just 18 years old and working as a typist, Hindley met Ian Brady. Despite learning that Brady had a criminal record for a string of burglaries, she obsessed over him.

On their first date, Brady took her to see a movie about the Nuremberg trials. Brady was fascinated by the Nazis. He often read about Nazi criminals, and after the pair began dating, they read to each other from a book about Nazi atrocities on their lunch breaks. Myra Hindley then altered her appearance to replicate the Aryan ideal, bleaching her hair blonde and wearing dark red lipstick.

The pair then discussed committing crimes together, daydreaming about robberies that would make them rich. But they ultimately decided that murder was more their style and in 1963 took the life of their first victim: Pauline Reade.

Reade, 16, was on her way to a dance on July 12 when Hindley coaxed her into her car and drove the girl to the moor. Two decades later, her body was finally recovered, still wearing her party dress and blue coat.

Over the next year, two more children — Keith Bennett and John Kilbride — suffered the same fate as Reade. Then, in December 1964, the couple would commit their most heinous crime.

Keith Bennett Moors Murders Victim

Keith Bennett

Myra Hindley and Ian Brady found 10-year-old Lesley Anne Downey alone at a fair and convinced her to help them unload some groceries from their car. They then took her to Hindley’s grandmother’s house.

Inside the house, they undressed Downey, gagged her, and tied her up. They forced her to pose for photographs and recorded her for 13 minutes as she begged for help. Ian Brady then raped and strangled Downey.

The End Of The Killings

Saddleworth Moor

Wikimedia Commons/Tom JeffsSaddleworth Moor, where three of the victims’ bodies of the Moors Murders were found.

Their brutal killing spree came to an end in 1965 when Ian Brady moved in with Myra Hindley at her grandmother’s house.

The couple had become close with David Smith, Hindley’s brother-in-law. One night, Smith came to the house on Brady’s request to pick up some wine bottles. While waiting for Brady to deliver the wine, Smith overheard Brady beating 17-year-old Edward Evans to death with an axe.

Initially, Smith agreed to help get rid of the body. When he got home, he told his wife, Hindley’s younger sister Maureen, what happened, and they agreed to report the crime to the police.

On October 7, police arrested the couple. At first, they both maintained their innocence. But acting on a tip from Smith, police found a suitcase in a railway station containing photographs and the audio recording documenting Downey’s torture. A search of Myra Hindley’s house also revealed a notebook with “John Kilbride” scribbled on the pages.

Police also found photos of the couple on Saddleworth Moor, which led to a search of the area. Police discovered both Downey and Kilbride’s bodies, and subsequently charged Myra Hindley and Ian Brady with three counts of murder.

The trial lasted two weeks, but the jury only needed two hours to find both Brady and Hindley guilty.

Justice Fenton Atkinson, who presided over the case, called Brady “wicked beyond belief” but did not believe the same to be true of Hindley, “once she is removed from [Brady’s] influence.” Nevertheless, both received multiple life sentences for the Moors murders.

Myra Hindley Speaks Out

Tribute For Victims Of The Moors Murders

Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesFloral tributes overlook Saddleworth Moor where the body of missing Keith Bennett may be buried, on June 16, 2014 — the 50th anniversary of Bennett’s murder.

Over 30 years later in 1998, Hindley broke her silence about the abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of Brady.

“People think that I am the arch-villain in this, the instigator, the perpetrator. I just want people to know what was going on … [to] help people to understand how I got involved and why I stayed involved,” she said.

“I was under duress and abuse before the offences, after and during them, and all the time I was with him. He used to threaten me and rape me and whip me and cane me… He threatened to kill my family. He dominated me completely.”

She also claimed to feel great remorse after the killings, at one point “shaking and crying” when she spotted a personal ad Pauline Reade’s parents placed as they searched for their daughter.

Nevertheless, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley didn’t confess to the murder of Reade (and Bennett) until 1985.

Nearly two years later, Hindley accompanied police to the moor, where she led them to Reade’s body. Bennett’s body, however, was never recovered, and police do not have plans to resume the search.

Search For Keith Bennett's Body

Greater Manchester Police via Getty ImagesPolice search for the body of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett.

Despite her claims that she was a victim, an earlier psychological assessment of Hindley released to England’s national archive following her death in prison in 2002 revealed that she was worse than her accomplice:

“I knew the difference between right and wrong… I didn’t have a compulsion to kill… I wasn’t in charge… but in some ways I was more culpable because I knew better.”

Myra Hindley spent her life in prison. She never received parole, though she always maintained that she did not kill Lesley Anne Downey.

She claimed instead that she went to run a bath for Downey and that when she returned, Brady had murdered the child (however, in the book Face to Face with Evil: Conversations with Ian Brady, Brady insists that Hindley killed the girl herself).

While in prison, Myra Hindley obtained an Open University degree, started going back to church, and cut off contact with Ian Brady (who is now being held at a high-security psychiatric hospital in northwest England).

Myra Hindley’s apparent quest to become a better person and insistence on being brainwashed may point to her innocence — at least of a certain kind. Still, when the bodies of five children were stolen and destroyed under her watch, attempts at redemption matter little.


After this look into Myra Hindley and the Moors murders, find out the true story behind the Lizzie Borden murders. Then, read about Prague’s mass murderess, Olga Hepnarová and the “blood countess,” Elizabeth Bathory. Finally, step onto the most gruesome killing fields in the United States.

author
Elisabeth Sherman
author
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey. She holds a Master's in writing from Columbia University, and her work has appeared in Food & Wine, The Guardian, Yahoo, BBC, HuffPost, VICE, MSN, and Vulture.
editor
Amber Breese
editor
Amber Breese is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Cite This Article
Sherman, Elisabeth. "The Strange Story Of Myra Hindley And The Moors Murders." AllThatsInteresting.com, November 11, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/myra-hindley-moors-murders. Accessed April 19, 2024.