Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder on the Moors: The Ian Brady and Myra Hindley Story

Myra

What had driven this young couple to such depths of depravity? While Ian Brady's childhood history reveals many indicators of the troubled young man he grew to be, in Myra's case few insights can be drawn. How did a seemingly normal child grow into an adult so perverted that she would gain pleasure from the sexual abuse and murder of children?

Born on 23 July 1942 in Gorton, an industrial district of Manchester, Myra was the first child of Nellie (Hettie) and Bob Hindley. As her father served in a parachute regiment during the first three years of her life, Myra's mother raised her alone. They lived with Hettie's mother, Ellen Maybury, who helped to look after Myra while Hettie went to work as a machinist.

When Bob returned they bought their own home just around the corner from Hettie's mother. Bob had trouble re-adjusting to civilian life and would spend most of the time he wasn't working as a labourer, in the local pub. When their second child, Maureen, was born in August 1946, Bob and Hettie, who both worked, found the workload to be too much and decided to send Myra to live with her grandmother.

While the move to her grandmother's home solved many of the family's problems — Ellen was no longer lonely, the pressure on Bob and Hettie was relieved considerably and Myra enjoyed the devoted attention of her grandmother — it meant that Myra and her father's relationship never fully developed. He wasn't an emotionally demonstrative man and his absence during Myra's formative years created a breach that was never filled.

Myra Hindley as a child
Myra Hindley as a
child

Myra started school at Peacock Street Primary School at the age of five. Here she was considered a mature and sensible girl, although her attendance was poor due to her grandmother's tendency to allow her to stay home on the slightest pretence. Her many absences led to her not gaining the necessary grades to attend the local grammar school. Instead, she went to Ryder Brow Secondary Modern. Although her poor attendance record continued in high school, she was consistently in the 'A' stream in all her subjects. During this period, she exhibited some talent for creative writing and poetry. She loved sport and athletics and was a good swimmer. In appearance and personality, Myra was not considered particularly feminine and was given the nickname 'Square Arse' because of her broad hips. She was also teased about the shape of her nose.

Her reputation as being a mature and sensible girl meant that she was a popular babysitter during her teens. Parents and children alike were delighted if Myra was to be their babysitter. She was very capable and demonstrated a genuine love of children.

At the age of 15, Myra befriended Michael Higgins, a timid and fragile 13-year-old boy whom she looked after and protected as if he were her younger brother. As far as she was concerned, they would be life-long friends. She was devastated when he drowned in a reservoir, often used as a swimming hole by local children. Her grief was made all the worse by her sense of guilt because she had turned down his offer to go swimming with him that day. She believed that as she was a strong swimmer she could have saved him.

Over the next few weeks, Myra was inconsolable, fluctuating between hysteria and depression. She cried, dressed in black, went to church nightly to light a candle for Michael, and collected money from neighbours for a wreath. Her family was troubled by what they perceived as her over-reaction, telling her that she must control herself. Her grief was reflected in her conversion to Roman Catholicism, Michael's religion, and the deterioration of her schoolwork. It was not long after Michael's death that she left school, as she was not considered bright enough to stay on to complete her O-levels, despite an IQ of 107.

Her first job was as a junior clerk at Lawrence Scott and Electrometers, an electrical engineering firm. During this time, Myra was much like other Gorton girls in their teens. She would go to dances and cafes, listened to rock 'n' roll, flirted with boys and had the occasional cigarette. Her appearance became more important to her, and it was at this time that she began to bleach her hair and wear dark make-up, in an attempt to appear older.

On her seventeenth birthday, she became engaged to Ronnie Sinclair, a local boy who worked as a tea-blender at the local Co-op. Myra's apparent contentment with her ordinary life did not last for long. The prospect of her pending marriage caused her to question the lifestyle to which she was expected to conform. After marriage was the purchase of a small house, then would come the children and the years of trying to make ends meet while her husband spent all of their money at the local pub. Myra knew this was not for her and called off the engagement.

She wanted something more exciting. Her search began with an application for entrance forms to the navy and the army, but she never sent them in. She considered working as a nanny in America but never followed it through. She went off to London in search of a job, but that too bore no fruit. Two years had passed before something new and exciting finally came to her. In January 1961, she met Ian Brady for the first time.

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