Detectives were trawling through a cache of documents today to try to discover if the Moors Murderer, Ian Brady, had revealed the final resting place of his last untraced victim – in a letter he ordered should not be opened until his death.
Officers arrested Brady’s mental health advocate and seized documents from her South Wales home after she told television documentary makers that Brady gave her a sealed envelope containing a letter for the mother of Keith Bennett.
The location of Keith’s remains has remained unknown since the 12-year-old – one of five victims – was killed by Brady and Myra Hindley in 1964 and buried on Saddleworth Moor. His mother, Winnie Johnson, who is seriously ill with cancer, has repeatedly called on Brady to break his silence so she can have a proper funeral for her son before she dies. She has not been told of the latest developments.
The advocate, Jackie Powell, 49, who has worked for the last 13 years representing the interests of Brady, was reported last night to have told police she had handed the documents back to Brady.
She had resisted police pressure for two weeks before her arrest on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful exercise. Officers secured warrants to search her home and Brady’s room at Ashworth Hospital, where he has been held since he was declared insane.
Nothing was found at the Merseyside hospital, but police said they expect their examination of documents found at Ms Powell’s house to continue into next week.
“It is good news that the police have finally been able to search Brady’s room and make an arrest,” said Keith’s brother, Alan, on his website. “[But] I would say that, until some definite information is found regarding Keith’s whereabouts, we do not want to raise our hopes too high.” There was scepticism last night that Brady had ever written the supposedly revelatory letter after Ms Powell went back on the claims she made on a Channel 4 documentary programme.
The case also raises questions over the role of Ms Powell, who is understood to have cited client confidentiality when she refused to pass the letter to police. She is believed to have been chosen by Brady to represent his interests and has no links with the organisation contracted to run advocacy services on behalf of patients at his secure hospital.
Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, the mental health charity, said: “Ordinarily all matters between advocate and patient are confidential but information relating to matters of significant risk to others or illegal acts may be disclosed to a third party.”
Experts also pointed out that Brady had a history of seeking the limelight with false claims. Police said it was not clear if the letter referred to by Ms Powell had been secured during the police search of her house. She has since been bailed. Martin Bottomley, head of investigative review at Greater Manchester Police’s major and cold case crime unit, said: “I want to be clear about this: Ian Brady has not revealed to police the location of Keith’s body. We do not know if this is true or simply a ruse but we clearly have a duty to investigate such information on behalf of Keith’s family.”
The potential breakthrough in the search for the body came after Brady’s appearance before a mental health tribunal last month was delayed after he suffered a seizure.
The tribunal was to consider the 74-year-old’s application to be transferred to a Scottish prison and be allowed to die. He has been tube-fed since refusing food 12 years ago.
‘This is someone who enjoys mind games’
Myra Hindley has been dead a decade. Ian Brady, 72, has campaigned for even longer to have the feeding tube removed so he too can die. But the failure to find Keith Bennett, the bespectacled boy with the cheeky grin forever remembered from his black-and-white photograph, has ensured the story of their murderous campaign of the 1960s remains alive.
Brady and Hindley, who died in jail in 2002 aged 60, sexually tortured five young people, killed them and buried them on Saddleworth Moor above Manchester. While the remains of four of the victims have been found, Keith Bennett never was. The intervention of Brady and his mental health advocate has ensured that the search is back in the spotlight again.
The first victim, Pauline Reade, 16, disappeared on 12 July 1963, and John Kilbride, 12, was snatched in November the same year. Keith Bennett was the third child to be taken on 16 June 1964, after he left home to visit his grandmother. Lesley Ann Downey, 10, was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964, and Edward Evans, 17, was killed in October 1965.
Twenty years after their convictions for the murders, Brady and Hindley were taken separately to the moors to help the search. One year later the remains of Pauline were found, but the search for Keith proved fruitless.
Solicitor David Kirwan, who used to represent Winnie Johnson and had a series of face-to-face meetings with Brady at Ashworth Hospital in 2007, said: “I believe Ian Brady knows the exact whereabouts of Keith Bennett’s grave and is capable of directing police to it.
“However, it is important to remember who we are dealing with and how he seems to enjoy bizarre mind games and manipulation. During interviews, Brady told me mischievously how when he was on the moors with the police in 1986 he walked them across the graves of his victims. We are dealing with a highly unusual and unpredictable person.”
Police believed that photographs taken by Brady of Hindley at the crime scenes were key to finding Keith Bennett’s body. A remote area known as Shiny Brook, stretching up to five square miles, was identified from the photographs and was notable because it was up to a mile away from the burial sites of the other bodies.
Any attempt to find the body would be done without Brady’s assistance. He refused to cooperate with police when they launched a covert operation to find the body nine years ago. When he saw officers arrive on the ward, he waved them away without uttering a word.