Police give up hunt for Hindley's lost victim

For years, officers hoped this picture would help them find Keith Bennett's body. But now the search is over

Nearly half a century after she committed her depraved crimes and seven years since she died, images of Myra Hindley continue to exert a unique horror.

Two previously unseen photographs, released yesterday by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to signal that their decades-long hunt for the body of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett is effectively over, show the blonde-haired killer as a young woman posing with a map and compass against the austere backdrop of Saddleworth Moor.

It was on this high Pennine ground, where Yorkshire meets Manchester, that she and Ian Brady would escape; first to celebrate their destructive bond and later to sexually abuse, murder and bury their victims. Detectives believed the grainy black and white pictures taken around 1964 held the key to finding the body of the youngster snatched from a Longsight street and taken to a remote spot by Hindley where he was strangled by a waiting Brady, becoming the third of the couple's five known victims.

Police have remained convinced that soil conditions on the moors meant the 12-year-old's remains would still be preserved somewhere in the peat and water, and called in geologists and aerial photography experts in an attempt to pinpoint the exact location shown in the two pictures.

It was the couple's chilling habit to pose for souvenir photographs beside the last resting places of the children they killed. But yesterday, in a surprise announcement, police revealed the existence of a hitherto secret operation known as Maida that had been ongoing since 2003.

Hopes of success had been high after traces of chemicals associated with dead bodies were discovered in the lonely pools around Shiny Brook. But these were dashed when they were found to be naturally occurring.

Despite the vast efforts of officers, an array of scientists, psychologists and forensic archaeologists the search was ultimately thwarted by the defiant silence of 71-year-old Brady, who is living out his days in Ashworth high security hospital in Merseyside. In the end all that was unearthed during the operation was a decomposed set of sheep bones.

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Heywood, head of GMP's serious crime division, described yesterday how he walked to work each day in the shadow of the moor. He said he was continually reminded of Keith's disappearance and the police's failure to recover his body to allow his 75-year-old mother Winnie Johnson to bury her son. Officers will now no longer search the high wilderness barring a genuine and substantial confession from Brady or major scientific breakthrough. He said the killer would not be allowed to return to the moor and that police would not respond to the "whims" of a "psychopath". Brady and Hindley, who died in prison aged 60 in 2002, were convicted in 1966 of murdering Lesley Ann Downey, 10, John Kilbride, 12, and Edward Evans, 17. In 1986 both were taken back to the hills to help in the quest for two undiscovered bodies following Brady's confession to killing Keith Bennett and 16-year-old Pauline Reade, who was found in 1987.

Brady has refused to co-operate with the latest inquiry, waving investigators away from his hospital bed when they tried to question him. Should he finally reveal his secrets, said Mr Heywood, he would be asked to identify the spot with the use of a 3D virtual representation. "If he [Brady] wants to take the opportunity to do the decent thing then we will listen, but there will be no deals. This is his final opportunity to come forward and give the information. He knows where Keith Bennett is," he said.

Police have taken specialist advice not to allow Brady to revisit the scene of his crimes for fear of fuelling his personal gratification and believe the cost of protecting him during such a visit would be too much. They insisted that the case remained open even though the search of the moors had entered a "dormant phase".

For Keith Bennett's mother, yesterday was another day in a life which has been destroyed by the disappearance of her son. She again publicly begged Brady to own up before it was too late and allow her to remember Keith's short life with a service at Manchester Cathedral. "I'm pleading with him to get to me or the press or the police and tell me where Keith is. It is the last time it will be done," she said. Breaking down as she caught a glimpse of the moor on television images of the search shown during a specially convened press conference, she said: "It is not fair on me, what I have had to go through. I did not ask him to be picked-up and murdered.

"It's a nightmare; it's been a nightmare for the last 45 years how I have carried on – 45 years in limbo. If he's got any decency or respect for anybody it should be me," she said. Ms Johnson's lawyer David Kirwan, who has met Brady twice in an attempt to persuade him to talk, re-iterated his client's plea.

"Today I am calling on Ian Brady to declare that he will do what he says he can do. I am ready to meet with him again to help bring to an end the appalling ordeal Keith's mother has endured all these years."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee