One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley by Carol Ann Lee, Mainstream Publishing Company, revised and reprinted 2012; paperback, £8.99, ISBN 9781845976017
I was only a child when the Moors Murders were committed, but I remember them well: the blaring newspaper headlines I was just learning to read, the unnerving mugshots, the black-and-white news on our little TV, the grown-ups talking in hushed tones about the horror of it all. And thanks to the ongoing media obsession with the subject, they remained on the periphery of my consciousness – so when I spotted Carol Ann Lee’s recently updated biography of Myra Hindley in the bookshop, I decided to give it a go.
One of Your Own is a profoundly disturbing, profoundly tragic book. In it, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are shown in the round as intelligent, gifted people with likeable qualities, (such as their deep love of animals); two people with the potential to do great things with their lives, had they not chosen to murder. More harrowingly, their five victims, three boys and two girls aged from ten to seventeen, appear not just as grainy newsprint images but live, flesh-and-blood young people cherished by their families, their lives, their last days and the hours leading up to their deaths painstakingly (and heartbreakingly) reconstructed. Their murders are discussed as bleakly as the moors themselves, without prurient sensationalism – and include for the first time, a full transcript of Ian Brady’s tape of Lesley Ann Downey recorded shortly before she was forced to pose for indecent photographs and then killed.
The story plays on through the trial, the lives of the murderers in prison and the bereaved families imprisoned by grief, to the eventual disclosure of more murders and the discovery of the bodies of John Kilbride and Pauline Reade; to the death of Myra Hindley and the intermittent searches for the murderers’ last known victim, Keith Bennett. It also discusses the relentless media vilification of Myra Hindley in particular, which may have served to keep her in prison for life, (as she arguably deserved), but also did untold damage by making targets of her wholly innocent parents, sister, and brother-in-law David Smith, whose witnessing and subsequent reporting of Edward Evans’ murder led to the perpetrators’ arrests. And, sadly, the tabloids’ ranting has to date failed in a vital respect, in that the body of Keith Bennett still lies undiscovered on Saddleworth Moor.
Altogether, Carol Ann Lee has pulled off a stunning piece of work. One of Your Own is meticulously researched, admirably even-handed in its treatment of this most painful subject matter, and like all the best biographies, presents its evidence in such a way that the reader is left to draw their own conclusions. Would Ian Brady ever have realised his murderous fantasies if he hadn’t met the perfect foil in Myra Hindley? Possibly. Would she ever have thought of committing murder if she hadn’t met, and fallen fatally in love, with Ian Brady? Almost certainly not. Therefore did she deserve to be so comprehensively demonised because of her sex, seen as somehow worse because ‘women shouldn’t do such things’? In this respect, I think Hindley was unfairly treated… although it doesn’t follow that I think she should have received the parole she endlessly campaigned for. Throughout, she lied to her family, to her supporters, to her God and to herself about the extent of her involvement with the crimes, rather than doing the one thing that might have demonstrated true repentance and secured the release she so desperately sought: coming clean and revealing the whereabouts of all her victims long before Ian Brady forced her hand with his own confessions in 1985.