YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Myra Hindley, 60; Accomplice in Grisly U.K. Child Killings in '60s

November 17, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Myra Hindley, one of Britain's most hated women for her involvement in a string of child killings in the 1960s that gave her the nickname the "Moors Murderer," died Friday. She was 60.

Hindley, who smoked 40 cigarettes a day, died of respiratory failure at West Suffolk hospital in Bury St. Edmunds in eastern England, Britain's Prison Service said. She had been taken to the hospital from her cell in Highpoint Prison in Suffolk on Tuesday.

Britain's longest-serving female prisoner suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. In the last two years she had apparently suffered at least one stroke and heart attack.

In 1966, in a trial that riveted Britain, Hindley and her boyfriend, Ian Brady, were sentenced to life in prison for the murders of 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey and 17-year-old Edward Evans.

Brady was also found guilty of killing John Kilbride, 12, and Hindley was convicted of sheltering her lover after that murder. The pair confessed in 1987 to murdering Pauline Reade, 16, and Keith Bennett, 12. They were not tried for those deaths. Bennett's body has never been found.

Two years ago, Hindley said in letters to a journalist that she wished she had been hanged. Nevertheless, she had campaigned steadily for her freedom, claiming she was driven to participate in the killings by Brady, who was said to be fascinated by Nazi killings and death. Brady, who earlier unsuccessfully sought to be allowed to end his life, remains in prison and is force-fed since going on a hunger strike in 1999.

Some of the young victims were beaten, tortured and sexually abused before being killed and buried on a desolate moor in northwestern England.

The couple tape-recorded their crimes. Detectives said they would never forget hearing Lesley Ann Downey pleading for mercy as the pair killed her or the tune of the "Little Drummer Boy" the couple played as they carried out the murders.

The serial killings, from July 1963 to October 1965, horrified Britain. The victims simply vanished -- Reade was abducted on her way to a disco, and Downey, the pair's youngest victim, was lured from a fairground. Hindley always claimed that her role was to abduct the children and that she did not take part in the killings or sex attacks.

Hindley was 18 and Brady 22 when they met as clerical co-workers for a chemicals firm in Manchester, England. Within a year, they became lovers. Hindley said he dominated her by beating and blackmailing her and threatening to kill her relatives. Before the murder spree, she said, he forced her to buy books for him about the Marquis de Sade.

Hindley became a hated figure for Britain's tabloid newspapers, which splashed her glowering mug shot on front pages every time she came up for parole. Her gender seemed to make her even more of a target, with many expressing shock that a woman could be involved in such grisly violence against children.

The murder of Lesley Ann Downey was perhaps the pair's most notorious.

Hindley lured the 10-year-old away from a fairground the day after Christmas 1964. The girl was sexually abused, tortured and forced to pose for pornographic photos. Jurors in the trial listened to the audiotape of the girl calling out for her mother and asking God to help her, before she was killed.

Hindley and Brady were caught in 1965, after they forced Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith, to watch as they killed Evans. Smith fled and called the police.

The trial judge, Fenton Atkinson, said more of the blame lay with Brady than Hindley. "Though I believe that Brady is wicked beyond belief without hope of redemption, I cannot feel the same is necessarily true of Hindley, once she is removed from his influence," Atkinson said.

Hindley, who became a devout Roman Catholic and received a humanities degree while in prison, admitted that "my conscience will follow me to my dying day." But she insisted that she had paid her debt to society and yearned to be released. "I know I could be out one week before someone assassinated me," she said. "But at least I would have had a week of freedom."

Los Angeles Times Articles