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.
On 12 July 1963, the couple claimed their first victim. 16-year-old Pauline Reade was enticed into Hindley's minivan while Brady followed behind on his motorcycle. They drove up to Saddleworth Moor where Hindley asked Pauline to help her look for a lost glove. They were busy "searching the moors" when Brady pounced upon Pauline and raped her. He then smashed her skull in with a shovel and slashed her throat so violently that she was almost decapitated. Brady then buried Pauline's body in a grave, where it remained for over 20 years. He complained to Myra that Pauline's struggles had been too strong and inconvenient, and from now on he wanted to murder only small, child victims.
On 23 November, the second murder took place. 12-year-old John Kilbride was enticed by Brady and Hindley into a hired car from a market place in Ashton-under-Lyne. The little boy was offered sherry, in exchange for helping look for a lost glove. He was driven to Saddleworth Moor. Hindley was ordered to wait for Brady in a nearby village, while Brady took the little boy onto the Moor. There he pulled down the boy's flannel trousers and pants, and tied his legs together with the pants elastic, in order to rape him. Brady later told Myra that he had spanked the boy. He then attempted to slit John's throat with a knife with a serrated blade, but the weapon was too blunt, so Brady strangled the crying chlld to death with a piece of string before burying his body, face down, in a shallow grave.
On 16 June 1964, Brady and Hindley struck for the third time. This time the arrangement was different. Myra drove off on her own to select a child for death. She chose a blonde-haired, blue eyed boy, just 4 days passed his 12th birthday. (It was later suggessted that her motive in chosing Keith was partially jealousy - the child was naturally blonde and Myra was not). Keith Bennett was lured from a street in Chorlton and driven to a rendez-vous with Brady, then up to Saddleworth Moor. They walked with the child to a pre-chosen spot well away from the road. Hindley crouched, a .22 rifle at her side, as she looked down into the gully where Brady had taken Keith. She watched as Brady raped and tortured the boy. He took photographs of the helpless, little boy - presumably pleading with him and Myra. He then strangled the terrified, pleading child with a piece of white string. Brady later spoke of this as the 'perfect' child murder, where the body would never be found. He buried Keith's body in a deep grave on the Moors so it would disintegrate without trace. Despite many efforts, it has not been found.
Brady and Hindley claimed their fourth victim on 26 December (Boxing Day). 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey was enticed from a fairground in Ancoats and asked to help Brady and Hindley carry boxes back to their home, 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley. She was driven there in Hindley's mini-van - VDB893 - the same vehicle which had used for the abduction of Keith Bennett. When they reached the house, they pounced upon Lesley in an upstairs bedroom. Lesley was recorded begging for mercy as she was stripped naked and gagged. Then she was made to pose for 9 degrading photographs. The child was gagged and naked. In the last one, she was made to kneel, her hands tied in front, in an attitude of prayer. Lesley was then tortured and raped. Like the other two small chldren, this child was strangled with a piece of white sting. The following morning, Brady and Hindley drove Lesley's body to Saddleworth Moor where it was buried in a shallow grave. Detectives trying to piece together enough evidence to convict her killers had to ask Lesley's mother to positively identify her daughter's voice on the tape, as she screamed, grovelled and begged for her life and from two of the photographs.
On 6 October 1965, the couple claimed their fifth and final victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans. They enticed him from Manchester Central Railway Station to their house in Hattersley, where Hindley's 18-year-old brother-in-law David Smith was visiting. Brady then crept upon Edward in the kitchen and smashed his head in with an axe. He ordered Smith to help him carry the corpse to an upstairs bedroom and tie it up ready for disposal, but Smith then ran home and contacted police. Smith explained later that, while apparently giving assistance to clearing up, his sole concern was to escape the house alive.
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.
- In 1997 a painting of Hindley composed of children's handprints by the artist Marcus Harvey was shown as part of the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London. It attracted widespread protest, including from Winnie Johnson, the mother of one of Hindley's victims. It was vandalised with eggs and ink and eventually had to have two armed guards and be protected behind Perspex.
- In 2001 Hindley was on the cover of Attitude magazine.
- Myra Hindley was so infamous that following her imprisonment, the name "Myra" fell into almost total disuse in Britain.
- The spoof song "Myra" was performed by the cult television comedian, Chris Morris. "Every time I see your picture, Myra/I have to phone my latest girlfriend up and fire her/And find a prostitute who looks like you and hire her/Oh, me oh Myra," is an example of the lyrics, performed in the style of Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker.
- British Band The Smiths wrote a song about the Moors murders titled "Suffer Little Children." Lead singer Morrissey was only a few years younger than the murdered children at the time and the murders had a profound effect on him. A relative of one of the victims (John Kilbride) heard the song on a jukebox in a pub and took offense to it. Morrissey wrote the victim's family a letter stating the intentions of the song and they relented.
- British industrial music group Throbbing Gristle's early live performances featured the piece "Very Friendly", a graphic recounting of the murder of Edward Evans.
- British Punk Band Crass song "Mother Earth" had to do with Myra Hindley but also with how the public was openly aggressive against her with many death threats and how the angry public are no different from her.
- Myra Hindley: Inside the Mind of a Murderess, Jean Ritchie, Paladin 1991, paperback. ISBN 0-586-21563-8
- The Moors Murders: The Trial of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, Jonathan Goodman, David & Charles 1986, ISBN 0-715-39064-3
- Beyond Belief: the Moors Murderers, Emlyn Williams, Pan 1992, ISBN 0-330-02088-9
- Brady and Hindley - Fred Harrison, 1986, Grafton. ISBN 0-906-79870-1
- The Monsters Of The Moors John Deane Potter-Ballantine Books-1967
- Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: 100 Tales of Infamy, Barbarism and Horrible Crime - Joyce Robins. ISBN 1-851-52363-4.
- The World's Most Infamous Murders. ISBN 0-425-10887-2.
- "Behind the Painted Smile" Gary Cartwright 2004. ISBN 1-412-02647-4.
- Media Representations of Myra Hindley, Lesley McLaughlin, 1995. http://www.lulu.com/content/321531