Brady's hunger strike is 'longest in penal history'

Ian Burrell,Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 03 October 2002 00:00

The moors murderer Ian Brady has not eaten solid food for three years in what government officials believe is the longest hunger strike in British history.

The killer, whose fast entered its fourth year this week, is being kept alive against his wishes by a liquid fed to him through a naso-gastric tube.

The length of Brady's hunger strike is unprecedented, according to Home Office sources. The protest is believed to have cost more than £1m in public money, including the costs of fighting his legal battle for the right to die.

Brady, who is 63, began what he describes as his "death strike" on 30 September, 1999, after being moved from a private room at Ashworth hospital in Merseyside. In protest at his transfer to the secure hospital's Lawrence ward, which specialises in caring for offenders with mental disorders, he stopped eating.

Brady claimed that he had been injured in the move, which involved a team of six members of staff strip-searching him and carrying him to a waiting van. His health deteriorated after 30 days of consuming only coffee and tea, and hospital doctors ordered him to be fed through a tube.

Although Brady does not physically resist being given the food, he has sought to challenge the decision to keep him alive. He wrote a letter to the BBC saying: "My death strike is rational and pragmatic. I'm only sorry I didn't do it years ago and I'm eager to leave this cesspit in a coffin."

Brady, who was convicted in 1966 of a string of child sex killings, with his lover, Myra Hindley, took his case to the High Court in Liverpool in 2000 and sat in the dock with a feeding tube attached to his nose.

Mr Justice Maurice Kay acknowledged in his judgment that "without offering any explanation", staff had "manhandled [Brady], strip-searched him and taken him under restraint to a waiting van".

But the judge also said that despite Brady being of "well above-average intelligence", he had a severe personality disorder that meant he could not decide his fate for himself and that doctors at Ashworth had the right to act in "his best interests". Brady took his case to the High Court in London, where he said in a hand-written submission: "I have merely decided that after 34 years' captivity and a future of dying slowly in a regressive, penal warehouse, I wish to exit."

Brady and Hindley, 59, who is being held at Highpoint prison in Suffolk, were jailed for life for the murders of Lesley Ann Downey, 10, John Kilbride, 12, and Edward Evans, 17. The pair later admitted to killing Keith Bennett, 12, and Pauline Reade, 16, and burying them on Saddleworth Moor, outside Manchester. Brady, who intends to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, has been held at Ashworth for more than 16 years.

The hospital was the subject of a damning independent inquiry, the Fallon report, which recommended in 1999 that it should be shut down, although the former health secretary Frank Dobson decided not to close it.

The inquiry was launched after revelations that a child had been brought into the hospital and allowed to come into contact with convicted child sex offenders on the Lawrence ward, where Brady has been held. Managers at Ashworth are have recently decided to downsize the hospital. Fifty-two women among the 460 patients are being moved out under plans to close the East Site area of the institution.

Prison protests

Bobby Sands

Irish republican prisoner who died in May 1981 after 66 days on a mass "dirty protest" hunger strike in H-block of the Maze. During his fast he was elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Barry Horne

Animal rights activist who died in November last year at the age of 49. Serving 18 years for arson attacks on shops, he carried out a succession of hunger strikes. His final fast lasted two weeks.

Mustafa Sungar

Turkish national and asylum-seeker who began a hunger strike in May in protest at his conviction for murder. Serving life at Frankland prison, Co Durham, staff initially feared Sungar would die. He has recently begun eating soups.

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