Thursday, February 23, 2006

Moors Murders

The “Moors Murders” is one of the most infamous and well-known mass murder cases in Britain.

Even though one of the principals, Myra Hindley, died a few years ago, the phrase “Moors Murders” still has the power to bring out the worst of hysteria and prejudice in the British public.

Myra Hindley spent the last few years of her life in the anticipation that one day she would get parole and be able to rejoin society. For various reasons this was never going to happen.

Hindley and her lover, Ian Brady, began their killing spree on July 12, 1963. They were both jailed for life in 1966.

Brief facts of the case at:

What is more amazing than the tragic events surrounding this case is the powerful feelings the case continues to elicit from the British public and media – even after Hindley's death. Brady remains incarcerated and has said that he never wants to be released. Myra Hindley was the most hated and vilified woman in Britain for more than 40 years. During that time she was very seldom out of the news for long. On any “slow” day the media could rely on finding something to write about Hindley – usually concerning her efforts to obtain parole. It became formulaic. Newspaper reports about parole board hearing on Monday. Tuesday same paper, usually joined by a few others, recounts the facts of the case. Wednesday, victim's relatives are interviewed and vow to fight for their right to have Hindley serve life. Thursday – papers interview leading politicians who all vow never to release her. Friday, Hindley is refused parole by the board. This went on for more than 30 years. Throughout this time, Hindley's supporters argued that she had shown remorse since going to prison, where she became a devout Roman Catholic. She obtained an Open University degree in humanities and become a "good woman", her supporters said.

In her later life, it was Lord Longford's prison visits and continued pleas on behalf of Myra Hindley that focussed the debate about Hindley's eventual fate. He described Myra Hindley as a "delightful" person and said you could loathe what people did but should not loathe what they were because human personality was sacred even though human behaviour was very often appalling. None of this had any effect either on public opinion, the parole board or the Home Secretary. Though she was not always told this, it was obvious that she was never going to be released.

The really strange thing about this case was the ease by which the public was unable to equate Hindley's long period in prison with any sense that she had paid her debt for society. Hating Myra Hindley and refusing to countenance her release became a national obsession – despite the fact that no-one looking dispassionately at the case could argue that she was a danger to society. Many, many prisoners in England – who had committed equally horrific crimes had, and continue to be, released on parole. Myra Hindley never had a chance.

Although some supported the idea that Hindley should be released, the majority of the British public was strongly opposed, and relatives of the victims vowed to kill her if she was ever let out. In 1990, Home Secretary,David Waddington, agreed with public opinion, imposing a whole life tariff on Hindley, which meant she would never be released. Hindley was not informed of the decision until 1994, when a Law Lords ruling obliged the Prison Service to inform all life sentence prisoners of the minimum period they must serve in prison before being considered for parole.

British justice can be very capricious. Hindley's real problem was that it was a politician, the Home Secretary, who was charged with authorising her parole. Since the media and the public would have hounded any holder of that post from office in less time than it takes snowball to disappear in Bali, it was never going to happen. This iniquitous state of affairs could not last forever. On November 26, 2002, the Law Lords and European Court of Human Rights agreed that judges, not politicians, should decide how long a criminal spends behind bars. The ruling arrived too late for Hindley. On Nov. 15, 2002, Myra Hindley died of a heart attack in the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St. Edmunds. She was 60 years old. Just eleven days later, the Home Secretary was officially stripped of the power to set minimum sentences.

It is an indication of Hindley's notoriety that dozens of crematoria refused to take her body and the company that finally did so insisted on anonymity as a condition of performing the service. Need I say more!

Other “equally” horrendous murderers have fared differently. For example: “serial child killer Karla Homolka was released from prison today after serving only 12 years for the rapes and murders of three teenage girls, including her younger sister -- who she offered to her husband as a gift.”

  • a report from July 2005

Some have gone on to receive “acclaim” for their talents: “Cannibalistic killer Nicolas Claux has an eye for color, shown in his portraits, which include several of Charles Manson. Another talent appears to be David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam. Claux—now released from prison and living in his native France—offers paintings by commission, the current work reminiscent of famed French painter Rene Magritte. Claux’s sample gallery displays work centering on mutilated bodies.”

- recent news report

Difficult to see how these crimes are any more horrific than Hindley's, yet these people were paroled.

Finally, from the epitome of journalistic propriety, The Sun:

Meanwhile, Ian Brady has written to the mother of one of his victims complaining about his treatment at the high-security hospital where he is imprisoned.

Ms Johnson, 72, from Manchester, told The Sun last night that the letter had arrived "out of the blue".

"It nearly killed me when I saw who the letter was from. It frightened the life out of me," she said.

"I've written to him four or five times over the years trying to get him to help me find Keith's body - but I've never heard back off him.

"He's just trying to further his own means. It's all about him - Brady. He's just playing games. I've written back and told him what I think of him. But I can't get over this."

Ian Brady, of course, was also vilified by the British public and continues to be an object of hate and loathing. Were he ever to be released, the whole hate campaign would start again. This time Myra Hindley would not be around to take the flak. That's probably the only “justice” she received in this sorry affair.

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