Manchester’s Vilest: The Moors Murderers Part 2: Ian Brady

Ian Brady, the driving force behind a spree of the vilest murders Manchester has ever experienced, created a veil of fear that the city has perhaps never fully recovered from.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 30 March 2020

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He was a man who’s actions chilled the entire country, a man who’s deranged and disgusting desires played out in real time; with the assistance of his beloved partner, Myra Hindley.

Hindley and Brady were arguably the most terrifying serial killers this part of the world has ever seen, but with Brady being the unrefuted driving force behind the duo; let’s find out how it all started.

Illegitimate child

On the 2nd January 1938, a baby named Ian Duncan Stewart was born to single mother Peggy in a hospital in Glasgow. After a troublesome four months struggling to raise baby Ian on her own and succumbing to severe financial strain and mental stress, his mother Peggy made the difficult decision to part with her son.

Instead of doing it properly, Peggy decided to place an advertisement in a shop window as if she was trying to get rid of an old sofa. Ian was taken in by a kind, devoted couple; Mary and John Sloane, who did all they could to give him a normal and happy childhood.

Ian was surrounded by love; both by the Sloane’s and his devoted mother, Peggy who still visited regularly. Despite his loving home life, no amount of attention or care would hinder his progressive and alarming mental development which certainly had tones of narcissism and antisocial behaviour disorder – more commonly known as psychopathy.

At school, Ian was a bright student but lacked the motivation to excel in his studies and was branded a socially awkward ‘sissy’ by his peers.

This may have been the harmless words of children, but considering Ian’s decision as an adult to murder those as vulnerable as he once was, one can only wonder whether the early torment cut him deeply and therefore perhaps fuelling his urge to kill later in life.

The spiral into crime

When he was nine-years-old, Ian visited Loch Lomond with his adopted family in a trip that would prove later to be life-changing. Stood on top of a hill, high above the rest of the world, he recalled feeling superior to the ‘maggots’ below and feeling the need to become ‘his own God’.

It was from that moment on, where Ian let go and finally unleashed the festering devil within him. What began with torturing animals and burglarizing houses would develop into something much darker.

At the age of 16, Ian began working as a butcher’s messenger boy when he met his first girlfriend, Evelyn Grant.

On the surface, they were a couple basking in the purity and innocence of young love, but after discovering she had attended a dance with another boy, the young couple’s relationship would come to a very blunt and bitter end when Ian threatened her with a flick knife.

By order of the court, Ian was sent to live in Manchester with his mother and stepfather, Patrick Brady, where he would live out his probation. This was designed, in theory, to give the young Ian a chance to turn his dysfunctional life around and have a fresh start. If only they had known what deadly repercussions this would have a few years later.

Wanting to feel like he ‘belonged’, Ian adopted the family name, but no amount of pretending could tempt him away from the sinister teachings of the Third Reich and the writings of the sadistic author, Marquis de Sade. These readings only spurred Ian to have deeper and even more deprived thoughts of sexual violence and twisted doctrine.

At the premature age of 17, Ian was sentenced to three months in Strangeways prison for his treatment of Evelyn, where he was faced with the brutal reality of prison life for the first time.

After his release in November 1957, Ian worked a number of manual labour jobs that he despised, eventually leaving for a promising role as a stock clerk at a Manchester firm in Gorton called Millwards Merchandise.

Dark, mysterious and seemingly charismatic, it wasn’t long before Ian caught the eye of a striking 18-year-old typist, Myra Hindley, who would proceed to pursue him for a year, despite being engaged to another man.

Ian didn’t feel the same, but once sensing her unwavering loyalty towards him, something occurred to him. Myra was an easy target – if she loved him enough, she would do anything for him and Ian wanted someone to help him act on his violent fantasies.

Tragically, he was right, and together, they would go onto brutally murder five children which in the process, stripped Manchester of its innocence forever.

Read Part One of the Moor’s murders here

The Aftermath

The trial of Ian Brady began on the 19th April 1966. Less than a month later on the 6th May, Ian Brady was found guilty of the murders of John Kilbride, Lesley Ann Downey (age 10) and Edwards Evans (age 17). 20 years later, Brady would confess to the murders of Pauline Reade (age 16) and Keith Bennett (age 12).

As the death penalty had been abolished while Brady and Hindley were held on remand, Judge Justice Fenton-Atkinson did the only other thing he could, which was sentence Brady to three life sentences and Myra, two.

The judge described them both as ‘two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity’ but also commented that Hindley wasn’t as evil once removed from Brady’s influence.

This is certainly a narrative Myra would have us all believe, as discussed in the first part of this study- but was it the truth? Was Ian Brady ‘wicked beyond belief’ to even those who loved him? Unfortunately, we will never fully know the truth.

On the 15th May 2017, aged 79, Ian Brady passed away at Ashworth hospital as a result of heart failure following a supposed decades-long hunger strike.

Dying, Keith Bennett’s mother, Winnie Johnson, pleaded and begged Brady to reveal the location of her son on the Moors, but in a last-ditched attempt to have control, he allowed her to die in vain in August 2012; with Bennett’s burial ground still to this day a mystery.

Brady may have left this world withholding information only he knew, but one thing can be said, on the flip side if you like; Ian Brady died in prison, alone, unloved and completely controlled by the establishment that put an end to his reign of terror, which is a tiny piece of comfort we can all take.