Who Was Ian Brady?

Serial killer Ian Brady was a troubled child and served prison time as a teenager for burglary and petty crime. As an adult, he murdered multiple children in partnership with his girlfriend, Myra Hindley. Both were arrested and convicted in the 1960s.

Early Life

Ian Brady was born in a Glasgow, Scotland slum on January 2, 1938, to single mother Peggy Stuart. He never knew his father's identity. Unable to afford a babysitter, and working as a waitress to support them, she was forced to leave Ian alone for long periods of time, and she gave him up for unofficial adoption when he was four months old, visiting him fairly regularly until he was 12, although she never told him that she was his mother.

Brady was a lonely, difficult child, despite the best attempts of his adoptive parents, prone to temper tantrums and slow to integrate with his peers. He developed a fascination with the Nazis and the writings of Nietsche, and began a career in petty crime and burglary, which resulted in his return, aged 16, to live with his mother and stepfather Patrick Brady, in order to avoid a custodial sentence.

He tried to bolster a sense of belonging in his new family, by taking his stepfather's name, but he found true excitement through his continued interest in the Third Reich, as well as in the writings of the Marquis de Sade, and other sadistic authors. He returned to crime within a short time and, as a result, ended up in Strangeways Prison at the age of 17, where he was forced to toughen up considerably, while also learning rudimentary bookkeeping skills.

Meeting Myra Hindley

Following his release in November 1957, he became even more of a loner, employed at different manual jobs for short periods, until he took a job as a stock clerk with a Manchester firm. It was here that he met Hindley, when she was employed as a secretary in 1961.

Hindley was irresistibly drawn to Brady, seeing romance and intelligence in his aloofness, and she wrote of her intense feelings for him in her diary constantly for over a year, before he finally showed some interest in her.

He eventually asked her out, and he quickly indoctrinated her in his extreme political views, taking her to see the film "The Nuremburg Trials" on their first date, and encouraging her to read works by Adolf Hitler and de Sade.

Brady was her first lover, and she was soon completely under his control, dressing and styling herself to please him, accepting his extreme political views, and even posing for pornographic pictures. Encouraged by her unquestioning acceptance, Brady's ideas became even more outrageous, culminating in his instruction to her that murder and rape were the "supreme pleasure."

Family and friends noticed the cumulative effect that Brady had on her, and she became increasingly surly and secretive. Brady tested her blind allegiance by pretending to plan a robbery, and was gratified when she took all the steps necessary to execute the plan, without question. Brady recognized that he had found the soulmate who would assist him to make his perverted ideas, of pain and pleasure, a reality.

Crimes and Victims

On the night of July 12, 1963, 16-year-old Pauline Reade became their first victim. She was kidnapped by Hindley while on her way to a local dance; then driven up to where Brady was awaiting their arrival. Reade was raped, beaten and stabbed before being buried.

Four months later, on November 23, 1963, 12-year-old John Kilbride disappeared from the vicinity of the market in Ashton-Under-Lyne, never to be seen again

On June 16, 1964, 12-year-old Keith Bennett disappeared while on the way to his grandmother's house. His disappearance was not noted until the next day, and a massive police search revealed no clues. Hindley had in fact lured him into her car, with a request for assistance in loading some boxes, then rendezvoused with Brady on Saddleworth Moor, where Keith was taken, by Brady, to a gully next to a stream, then raped, strangled and buried there.

On the afternoon of the Boxing Day holiday, 1964, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey disappeared from a local fairground, and again a huge police effort, bolstered by volunteers, unearthed no clues as to her whereabouts.

October 7, 1965 proved the turning point for the police, when Hindley's 17-year-old brother-in-law, David Smith, arrived at Hyde Police station with a horrific tale of violence. Knowing Brady through the family connection, Smith was initially beguiled by Brady's unorthodox and violent politics, but this changed when he arrived at Hindley and Brady's home, on the evening of October 6, to witness Brady killing 17-year-old Edward Evans with an axe. After Evans was finally throttled with a length of electrical flex, Hindley and Brady joked about the mess, and also told Smith of other victims buried on the Moors. Concealing his horror for fear of meeting a similar fate, Smith assisted them with the clean up, before returning home to tell his wife and alert the police.

Convinced by Smith's tale, police and reinforcements arrived at Brady's home, found the body of Evans in an upstairs bedroom, and arrested Brady immediately. Brady claimed that there had been an argument between himself, Evans and Smith that had got out of hand, denying that Hindley had anything to do with the murder. She remained at liberty until four days later, when police found a document in her car describing in detail how she and Brady had planned to carry out the murder.

The investigation would probably have gone no further than the death of Evans, if Smith had not mentioned Brady's claim that other bodies were buried on Saddleworth Moor. Already familiar with the various unexplained disappearances, police were able to pinpoint the area favored by Brady and Hindley, and began digging for the bodies of the children who had gone missing in the area over the previous two years.

The naked body of Lesley Ann Downey was found on October 10, 1965, followed eleven days later by the body of John Kilbride.

Despite discovering the two bodies, the police had only circumstantial evidence against the pair. Fortunately, a more thorough search of their home led to the discovery of a left luggage ticket, which led in turn to a locker at Manchester Central Station. There, Police found sadistic gadgets and pornography, including photographs of Lesley Ann, bound and gagged in Hindley's bedroom. A tape recording was also found, on which the little girl could be heard crying and begging for her life, as well as the voices of Brady and Hindley. Her mother, Ann Downey, was forced to identify the voice on the tape as that of her daughter

Even with the mounting evidence against them, Brady and Hindley denied murdering Lesley Ann, trying again to implicate David Smith. They claimed that Lesley Ann had left their home unharmed, and that Smith must have murdered her later.

Trial and Aftermath

The evidence linking Brady and Hindley with John Kilbride's murder was not as strong, but proved sufficient to charge them, with the result that they were charged with the murders of Edward Evans, Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride. Despite exhaustive searches, the bodies of the other two victims could not be found, and no charges were brought.

Hindley and Brady were brought to trial at Chester Assizes on April 27, 1966, where they pleaded "not guilty" to all charges. Media interest was intense, and the pair's failure to show any remorse served to make public revulsion even greater.

On May 6, 1966, Brady was found guilty of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey, John Kilbride, and Edward Evans, while Hindley was found guilty of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans, and also for harboring Brady, in the knowledge that he had killed John Kilbride. They were both jailed for life, with a minimum recommended sentence of 30 years for what are today known as the 'Moors Murders'.

Ian Brady went on a hunger strike at the high security Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital in October 1999, demanding the legal right to starve himself to death, rather than serving the remainder of his life in prison. This demand was refused by the High Court in March 2000, which upheld the hospital's right to force-feed him.

In August 2001, Brady was front-page news once again, when it was revealed that he stood to earn 12,000 pounds for The Gates of Janus a book he had written about serial killers. Though it made no mention of Brady's crimes, its publication was condemned by many, including the families of Brady's victims. Brady has also, apparently, written his autobiography, which is held by his lawyers, pending publication after his death.

In February 2006, Brady sent the mother of victim Keith Bennett a letter. In the letter he complained of his treatment at the high security hospital saying he was being kept alive by force-feeding for "political purposes."

Brady also claimed that he could take police to within 20 yards of where Keith Bennett is buried. Staff at the hospital believe Brady was able to send the letter via a third party.


Brady died on May 15, 2017.


  • Name: Ian Brady
  • Birth Year: 1938
  • Birth date: January 2, 1938
  • Birth City: Glasgow
  • Birth Country: Scotland
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Ian Brady was a Scottish serial killer who murdered multiple children with his girlfriend, Myra Hindley.
  • Industries
    • Crime and Terrorism
  • Astrological Sign: Capricorn
  • Nacionalities
    • Scot (Scotland)
  • Death Year: 2017
  • Death date: May 15, 2017
  • Death City: Merseyside
  • Death Country: England

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  • Article Title: Ian Brady Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/crime/ian-brady
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: November 9, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014