THE voice sounds worn out, gruff like a smoker's, and it slurs slightly, as if blunted by tranquillisers or alcohol. Of course, it cannot be alcohol, even in Hi-di-Highpoint, as the inmates like to call this soft jail.
It is simply age and depression, combined with despair. This is Myra Hindley, prisoner 964055, trying to explain why she did it, why she helped Ian Brady to sexually abuse and kill five children.
Hers is a very dark world, a world one feels one does not want to visit, let alone inhabit. But it is irresistible, too, if you want to learn anything about the dynamics of a series of crimes that not only provoked profound shock, but became the benchmark by which other acts of evil and depravity have come to be measured.
The Moors Murders - and the taping of 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey's last seconds - have haunted the nation for 32 years. During the same period, Hindley claims she has carried a secret, a secret that would explain why, as an impressionable 20-year-old, she was persuaded to participate in crimes of almost unimaginable horror.
Finally, she has decided to reveal it to a world that might not wish to listen. So here she is on the telephone, and, almost breathlessly, she wants to talk about it over several conversations. "I just want people to know what happened," she says. "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."
When they met, Hindley was 18 and Brady was 22. They both worked at Millwards, a small chemicals firm on the outskirts of Manchester, in mundane clerical jobs but, by all accounts, they were bright and intelligent.
She waited six months before exchanging a word with him and she later surrendered her virginity on the sofa of her grandmother's house, where she lived. According to Hindley, however, Brady's darker side soon emerged and contaminated the relationship until his domination was complete. This is a claim that will be fiercely contested by her opponents because she has always been portrayed as a willing partner in the murders.
Whether she will believed remains to be seen; she clearly has a motive for saying "Brady made me do it". Whether she can ever be forgiven is another question altogether.
"I was under duress and abuse before the offences, after and during them, and all the time I was with him," she said. "He used to threaten me and rape me and whip me and cane me. I would always be covered in bruises and bite marks. He threatened to kill my family. He dominated me completely."
By way of example, Hindley refers to a statement which will be used by her legal team at a Court of Appeal hearing in October. The statement amounts to a seven-page litany of abuse and will form part of her appeal against the decision of the Home Secretary that she will never be released from jail. Her personal progress, as judged by professionals in the penal system, will be another factor.
At one point, the statement refers to a Friday night before the murders began. Brady had taken Hindley to a country pub on the back of his motorcycle but he drove a little way past, produced a knife, and asked her why, the previous Monday, she had accepted a lift from a colleague. "All the time we were talking, he was running the knife across his fingers and I honestly thought he was going to stab me," she wrote. "Then he laughed, put the knife away, told me never to accept a lift from [the colleague] again, and we drove back to the pub.
"Later, as we were driving home, I dreaded what he would do when we got there, for I knew he would do something.
"He raped me anally, urinated inside me and, whilst doing so, began strangling me until I nearly passed out. Then he bit me on the cheekbone, just below my right eye, until my face began to bleed. I tried to fight him off strangling me and biting me, but the more I did, the more the pressure increased. Before he left, when he'd seen the state of my face, he told me to stay off work the next day ..."
"My gran almost fainted when she saw me, and went to get my mother, who asked me if `He' had done that to me. My mother disliked him intensely and kept telling me he was no good for me; she'd been telling me that since I'd met him at 18 and a half, but what girl of that age listens to her mother when she is wholly infatuated and in love? I told them what he had told me to say [that she had been hit by a stray beer bottle in a pub fight] but I knew they didn't believe me."
She says this was the kind of behaviour that dehumanised her, that made her bend to his will. Then the murders followed. She would procure children and youngsters and he would sexually assault and, usually, strangle them.
Shortly after the murder of Pauline Reade, their first victim, in July 1963, Hindley says she found a notice in the personal column of the Manchester Evening News. It said: "Pauline, please come home. We're heartbroken for you."
"I began to cry, rocking myself back and forth with the paper clutched to my chest," Hindley said. "I didn't hear his bike, nor knew that he'd come into the house. He asked me what was wrong but I couldn't answer; I couldn't stop shaking and crying, for I was devastated about what had happened to Pauline, and for her mum and dad.
"I really liked Mrs Reade and used to feel sorry for her because she had problems with her nerves and always looked as though she was on the edge of a breakdown. He grabbed the paper off me and soon saw what I'd seen.
"He put the bolt on the front door in case gran came back, did the same to the back door, and began to strangle me. Before I lost consciousness, I heard him remind me of what he'd said after Pauline's murder, and that threat still stood.
"After the first murder, as we were driving home, he told me that if I'd shown any signs of backing out, I would have finished up in the same grave as Pauline."
Hindley claims that even the happier times with Brady - picnics on Saddleworth Moor - had a tendency to turn black.
"We used to climb up to and over the big rocks, where he would tell me he was going to practise carrying a body, tell me to make myself as limp as possible, then he'd hoist me up and over his shoulder, with my arms and head hanging over one side and my lower body and legs over the other side," she recalled. "The blood used to rush to my head until I thought I was going to faint. Sometimes he would stumble over a small rock or large tuft of grass and we'd both fall and I often hurt myself.
"He'd pick me up again and walk up and down and round in circles. It was a horrible feeling, and when I saw the old movie Great Expectations, where Magwitch the convict picked up Pip and held him upside down and round and round, that was exactly how I had felt, seeing the sky and the ground whirl round until I was faint and dizzy."
On another occasion, she describes how Brady sent her to Manchester central library for books with a sexual theme. He asked her to buy books by the Marquis de Sade from a "dubious" bookshop in Manchester. The owner said she would have to collect them from his flat, a worrying suggestion that Brady countered by promising to rush in at the first sign of trouble.
She found out, after the shopkeeper had made a pass at her, that Brady had not waited outside the man's home at all.
Later, after reading one of the de Sade books, Hindley says Brady demanded sex. She was half asleep and refused. "I just couldn't bear to be touched by him - [but] he said he would soon wake me up," she said. "He went into the kitchen and came back with a sweeping brush and, using handle and head in turns, beat me until I was a bleeding bruised mess.
"I'd learnt not to cry out when he was hitting me, for my gran had been wakened several times and shouted down the stairs."
Hindley said she joined a gun club at Brady's request in order to get a firearms certificate (he could not because he had a previous conviction) and she bought two handguns. Brady also had a rifle.
"He often used to sit cleaning the rifle and when I looked up, he was pointing at me with his finger slowly pulling the catch back," she said. "I didn't know if it was loaded or not but it petrified me, until one day I said `Shoot me and put me out of my misery'. He just laughed.
"Another time, he was sitting reading and I was cleaning one of the handguns, a Webley 45. When he [her italics] looked up, I was pointing it at him. I told him it was loaded - which it wasn't - and a real look of fear crossed his face.
"He made a slight movement and I loudly released the safety catch. The tension was palpable and just as my hands began to shake, I threw the gun across to him and asked how it felt to have a gun pointed at him as he'd done to me so many times. Then I began to cry and he smacked me across the head twice with the handle of the gun, told me I was getting too out of line [and] not to go too far or he would put me in my place once and for all."
Hindley hates Brady now. When she talks about him, her voice rises with anger. During one conversation, she told how, despite being in jail awaiting trial, he had made her "the happiest woman on earth" by sending a message proposing to her. "It was all I'd ever wanted," she said. "But then my solicitor pointed out that he just wanted to do it because a wife could not be compelled to give evidence against her husband. He just wanted to use me."
She recalled one evening, before the killing began, when she caught him giving her grandmother a double dose of sleeping pills. "I asked him why, why my gran? And he said unless he convinced me he was serious about murder, it would be my 14-year-old sister, Maureen next, and then my mother."
In another interview, she said: "I tried to get away from him so many times. I went for an interview to London because I saw an advert to join the Naafi and I had to have a medical. Maybe six weeks beforehand he had bitten my breasts so badly that although the teeth marks had faded, the bruises were still there.
"The doctor asked me immediately how I got these. My body was covered in bruises from where he had bitten me so I told a half-truth; I said I had been involved in a motorbike crash, which I had - I was the pillion passenger - and I said I had sustained quite a lot of bruising. She must have believed me because I got the job. I wish I had gone."
When she got home, Hindley was amazed to find that Brady had assembled her mother, sister, grandmother, aunt and cousin. "The first thing they asked was whether I had got the job," she said.
"He had got them all together. He was standing behind me and everyone started crying and saying `Please don't take the job'. We were a really close family. And I was thinking `For Christ's sake, it's because I want to protect you that I am trying to leave'.
"Then he put his hand on my shoulder - and he never touched me in public - and he said to everybody in general, `Don't worry, she has two weeks in which to make her mind up'. He squeezed my shoulder and I knew then that he wouldn't let me go."
In her statement, Hindley added: "When everyone had gone home and gran had gone to bed, he stripped me, gagged me and beat me with a cane, raped me anally, which he often did because he knew I cried with the pain and hated him doing that to me. Then he turned me over and urinated inside me. Before leaving, he warned me that if I ever tried to get away again, I'd be the sorriest person alive."
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