On Friday the 17th of August Winnie Johnson, mother of 12-year-old Moors murder victim Keith Bennett passed away after a long battle with cancer. But cancer wasn’t her hardest battle in life.
In 1964 Keith was abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled by sadistic double act (later known as) the Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. They buried Keith’s body on Saddleworth Moor; in the same fashion as three others, their last victim Edward Evans was murdered at their home in Manchester. In a cruel twist, Brady and Hindley were always reluctant to disclose the exact locations of their victims, though both returned to the Moors to assist in searches with police. Eventually Pauline Reade, John Kilbride and Lesley Ann Downey’s remains were uncovered, but sadly Keith Bennett has never been found.
Over the years Winnie Johnson has politely begged Brady directly to disclose the location of her son’s remains before she died, but to no avail. As Brady is a psychopath, devoid of empathy and compassion he sees the information as a bargaining tool to his own demands and a vehicle for the evil power mind games that has fuelled his existence. He has told psychiatrists that his crimes were merely an existential exercise. Many have suggested that Brady in fact has no clue where Keith’s body is due to the changing landscape of Saddleworth, others have said his blatant reluctance is only to inflict further pain on the victim’s family, indulging in a last flurry of sadistic pleasure.
This controversial Cutting Edge: Ian Brady – Endgames of a Psychopath documentary discusses the recent revelations that murderer Ian Brady’s mental health advocate for 15 years Ms Powell was given a sealed envelope by Brady containing two letters of instruction and also a letter addressed to Winnie Johnson, the contents of which, it’s alleged, could reveal the location of Keith’s remains. Hindley died in 2002 and Brady is desperate follow, he has been in a secure mental hospital for 13 years refusing to eat in protest at his location. Being force-fed a high calorie compound through his nose to his stomach, relocating him to a regular prison would secure his wish to perish, as they wouldn’t have the right to force feed him. Brady is now in a critical condition after suffering a seizure, due to his condition they are unable to insert the feeding tube back into his nose, so his demise is imminent.
Winnie Johnson’s declining health made her unaware of these recent developments; the alleged letter was instructed to be opened after Brady’s death, so this situation left his advocate in an understandably difficult position. The documentary raises the thorny issue of patient confidentiality in the mental health advocacy sphere, though a well-made and heart wrenching programme your sympathy lies with Winnie and her family, but this documentary bordered on sensationalist and held the danger of exposing inaccurate revelations with no real supporting evidence. But what needs to be remembered is that Brady has a history of manipulation and attention seeking with false information, making the whole complex case a mire of a muddy grey area.
So could the alleged letter have been a red herring? Perhaps Ms Powell did do the wrong thing by giving the documents back to Brady instead of maybe passing them on to a non-connected party; who could have then possibly passed them on to police. The documents and letter now cannot be located, even after a thorough search of Powell’s home and Brady’s cell. This sadly leaves a person like Jackie Powell vulnerable to accusations of colluding with Brady to obstruct justice; this incites nothing but the national fever for a witch hunt and a subsequent lynching of a woman doing her job and believing she was doing the right thing, as usual she is a victim of “You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.” One thing this is very clear, all this continued interest in Brady once more gives him his egotistical glory and power to cast his evil spell, exactly what he craves.
More prevalent is the fact that Winnie Johnson never got to bury her son in her lifetime, or find any closure and peace through giving her child the dignity and kindness he was denied in the last moments of life. Her dying words were “Leave a place next to me for Keith”; all we can hope is that someday her wish to be reunited with him can be fulfilled.