Myra Hindley (23 July 1942–15 November 2002), known as the Moors Murderess, was born in Crumpsall, Manchester. She left school in 1957 to work as a typist for a chemical firm called Millward's.
It was at Millward's that she met Ian Brady, a Scottish-born man four years her senior with a history of violence and a string of burglary convictions. They began a relationship in late 1961, and Brady encouraged her to help him with bank robberies. He asked Hindley to join a shooting club and possess a licensed gun, as he could not obtain a gun licence because he had a criminal record. By the summer of 1963, Brady had lost interest in bank robberies (which were never carried out) and was now intent on becoming a murderer for his own sexual gratification.
Brady was arrested within hours and admitted in a police statement that he had murdered Edward Evans. Hindley was only arrested when a suitcase full of incriminating evidence was recovered from the left luggage depot at Manchester Central Station. Without this evidence the "Moors" trial might never have taken place. The suitcase was recovered due only to the keen perception of a police officer who, while searching the house, spotted the retrieval claim ticket hidden down the back of a book binding.
By the end of the month, the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were discovered, and Brady and Hindley were both charged on three counts of murder. The police had overwhelming evidence for the Lesley Ann Downey murder charge, as the suitcase had contained pornographic photographs and the tape recording of the child being tortured. The Chester Assizes judge ordered all women to leave the court while the tapes were played in evidence. Many journalists kept getting up and walking out. One journalist, who was writing a book about Brady and Hindley, said he had to go to the toilet to weep in private. John Kilbride's name had been written in one of Brady's notebooks (on a page entitled murder plan), and a photograph of Hindley with her dog was later traced to John Kilbride's grave.
On 21 April 1966, the trial began at Chester Assizes. Prosecuting counsel was Sir Elwyn Jones. It ended on 6 May. Brady was convicted on all three murder charges and sentenced to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment. The trial judge said that Brady was wicked beyond belief and beyond hope of redemption, hinting that he should never be released.
Hindley was convicted of murdering Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey, and received two life sentences. She also received a concurrent seven-year sentence for being an accessory in the John Kilbride murder. The trial judge recommended that Hindley should serve a very long time as he believed she had acted under Brady's influence.
Hindley was sent to Holloway prison and quickly won many friends, claiming she had reformed. In 1972, Hindley made an escape attempt with the help of Pat Carnes, an officer said to have fallen in love with her. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Hindley was transferred to Durham, Cookham Wood and then finally to Highpoint prison, where she remained until death.
In November 1986, Brady and Hindley confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett. They were soon on the moors helping police look for the bodies, and the following July, Pauline Reade's body was discovered. Keith Bennett's body has still not been found.
Brady and Hindley were never charged in connection with these murders, but Home Secretary Leon Brittan soon increased Hindley's minimum term to 30 years, which would keep her behind bars until at least 1995 and the age of 53.
By now, Hindley claimed to be a reformed character who had acted under the influence of the sadistic Brady. She had turned to religion and had taken a humanities degree with the Open University. A small group of supporters, led by Lord Longford, began campaigning for Hindley's release. However, the majority of the British public doubted if Hindley's remorse was genuine, and the families of her victims vowed to kill her if she was ever released. In December 1994 the Home Secretary Michael Howard said that neither Brady or Hindley would ever be released.
In 1994, a Law Lords' ruling stated that all life sentence prisoners should be informed of the minimum period they must spend in prison before being considered for parole. This announcement was welcomed by victims' families and was popular with the British public, but Hindley challenged the ruling. In December 1997, November 1998 and March 2000, Myra Hindley made appeals to the House of Lords to be released from prison, claiming she was no longer a danger to the public and had been acting under Brady's influence. When the third of these appeals was rejected, Hindley appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
Reports by prison officials and the parole board commented on Hindley's progress during prison, claiming she was repentant and no longer a danger to the public. Hindley's hopes of release were given a major boost in May 2002 when the House of Lords ruled that the Home Secretary could no longer overrule the parole board's recommendations that a prisoner should be released. It seemed likely that the Home Secretary would also lose his power to set minimum sentences, and an estimated 270 prisoners including Hindley whose minimum terms had been increased by politicians would be released earlier than expected. Hindley was also one of about 70 life-sentence prisoners who had served longer than their original minimum sentence.
On November 15, 2002, Hindley died after a heart attack at the age of 60 in West Suffolk Hospital. She had spent 37 years in custody and during that time gained her Open University degree and claimed to have returned to her cradle Roman Catholicism with great faith.
Her solicitors told the press that Hindley was truly sorry for what she did. Hindley had always portrayed herself as a remorseful sinner, but was acutely aware that few people were willing to forgive her. Those who campaigned for her release said that she should not have died behind bars. Heading this group of people was former prison governor Peter Timms, who admitted that there was no question that Hindley's crimes were terrible, but said that the real issue was that she was treated quite differently than any other of the estimated 4,000 British life sentence prisoners.
Myra Hindley could in fact have been released during 2003 under a Law Lords' ruling which came within two weeks of her death, but that would have enraged the public and embarrassed the government.
None of Hindley's relatives, not even her elderly mother, were among the dozen or so mourners at her funeral at Cambridge City Crematorium on November 20. Apart from one woman from nearby Soham who left a sign reading "Burn in Hell" at the crematorium entrance, the public stayed away from the funeral, which had a tight police security presence. Hindley was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in an undisclosed location. At an inquest into Hindley's death, it turned out she had asked doctors not to resuscitate her if she stopped breathing.