May 2020

Famous Scots. Robert Louis Stevenson.

Robert Louis Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist and travel writer, most noted for Treasure IslandKidnappedStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Born and educated in Edinburgh, Stevenson suffered from serious bronchial trouble for much of his life, but continued to write prolifically and travel widely in defiance of his poor health. As a young man, he mixed in London literary circles, receiving encouragement from Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse, Leslie Stephen and W. E. Henley, the last of whom may have provided the model for Long John Silver in Treasure Island. In 1890, he settled in Samoa, where he died in 1894.

A celebrity in his lifetime, Stevenson’s critical reputation has fluctuated since his death, though today his works are held in general acclaim. He is currently ranked as the 26th most translated author in the world.

Childhood and youth

Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland on 13 November 1850 to Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), a leading lighthouse engineer, and his wife Margaret Isabella (born Balfour, 1829–1897). He was christened Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson.At about age 18, he changed the spelling of “Lewis” to “Louis”, and he dropped “Balfour” in 1873. Lighthouse design was the family’s profession; Thomas’s father (Robert’s grandfather) was civil engineer Robert Stevenson, and Thomas’s brothers (Robert’s uncles) Alan and David were in the same field. Thomas’s maternal grandfather Thomas Smith had been in the same profession. However, Robert’s mother’s family were gentry, tracing their lineage back to Alexander Balfour who had held the lands of Inchyra in Fife in the fifteenth century. His mother’s father Lewis Balfour (1777–1860) was a minister of the Church of Scotland at nearby Colinton, and her siblings included physician George William Balfour and marine engineer James Balfour. Stevenson spent the greater part of his boyhood holidays in his maternal grandfather’s house. “Now I often wonder what I inherited from this old minister,” Stevenson wrote. “I must suppose, indeed, that he was fond of preaching sermons, and so am I, though I never heard it maintained that either of us loved to hear them.”

Lewis Balfour and his daughter both had weak chests, so they often needed to stay in warmer climates for their health. Stevenson inherited a tendency to coughs and fevers, exacerbated when the family moved to a damp, chilly house at 1 Inverleith Terrace in 1851.  The family moved again to the sunnier 17 Heriot Row when Stevenson was six years old, but the tendency to extreme sickness in winter remained with him until he was 11. Illness was a recurrent feature of his adult life and left him extraordinarily thin.  Contemporaneous views were that he had tuberculosis, but more recent views are that it was bronchiectasis  or even sarcoidosis.

Stevenson’s parents were both devout Presbyterians, but the household was not strict in its adherence to Calvinist principles. His nurse Alison Cunningham (known as Cummy) was more fervently religious. Her mix of Calvinism and folk beliefs were an early source of nightmares for the child, and he showed a precocious concern for religion.  But she also cared for him tenderly in illness, reading to him from John Bunyan and the Bible as he lay sick in bed and telling tales of the Covenanters. Stevenson recalled this time of sickness in “The Land of Counterpane” in A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885), dedicating the book to his nurse.

Stevenson was an only child, both strange-looking and eccentric, and he found it hard to fit in when he was sent to a nearby school at age 6, a problem repeated at age 11 when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy; but he mixed well in lively games with his cousins in summer holidays at Colinton. His frequent illnesses often kept him away from his first school, so he was taught for long stretches by private tutors. He was a late reader, learning at age 7 or 8, but even before this he dictated stories to his mother and nurse, and he compulsively wrote stories throughout his childhood. His father was proud of this interest; he had also written stories in his spare time until his own father found them and told him to “give up such nonsense and mind your business.” He paid for the printing of Robert’s first publication at 16, entitled The Pentland Rising: A Page of History, 1666. It was an account of the Covenanters’ rebellion which was published in 1866, the 200th anniversary of the event.


In September 1857, Stevenson went to Mr Henderson’s School in India Street, Edinburgh, but because of poor health stayed only a few weeks and did not return until October 1859. During his many absences, he was taught by private tutors. In October 1861, he went to Edinburgh Academy, an independent school for boys, and stayed there sporadically for about fifteen months. In the autumn of 1863, he spent one term at an English boarding school at Spring Grove in Isleworth in Middlesex (now an urban area of West London). In October 1864, following an improvement to his health, he was sent to Robert Thomson’s private school in Frederick Street, Edinburgh, where he remained until he went to university. In November 1867, Stevenson entered the University of Edinburgh to study engineering. He showed from the start no enthusiasm for his studies and devoted much energy to avoiding lectures. This time was more important for the friendships he made with other students in the Speculative Society (an exclusive debating club), particularly with Charles Baxter, who would become Stevenson’s financial agent, and with a professor, Fleeming Jenkin, whose house staged amateur drama in which Stevenson took part, and whose biography he would later write. Perhaps most important at this point in his life was a cousin, Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (known as “Bob”), a lively and light-hearted young man who, instead of the family profession, had chosen to study art. Each year during vacations, Stevenson travelled to inspect the family’s engineering works—to Anstruther and Wick in 1868, with his father on his official tour of Orkney and Shetland islands lighthouses in 1869, and for three weeks to the island of Erraid in 1870. He enjoyed the travels more for the material they gave for his writing than for any engineering interest. The voyage with his father pleased him because a similar journey of Walter Scott with Robert Stevenson had provided the inspiration for Scott’s 1822 novel The Pirate. In April 1871, Stevenson notified his father of his decision to pursue a life of letters. Though the elder Stevenson was naturally disappointed, the surprise cannot have been great, and Stevenson’s mother reported that he was “wonderfully resigned” to his son’s choice. To provide some security, it was agreed that Stevenson should read Law (again at Edinburgh University) and be called to the Scottish bar. In his 1887 poetry collection Underwoods, Stevenson muses on his having turned from the family profession:

Say not of me that weakly I declined
The labours of my sires, and fled the sea,
The towers we founded and the lamps we lit,
To play at home with paper like a child.
But rather say: In the afternoon of time
A strenuous family dusted from its hands
The sand of granite, and beholding far
Along the sounding coast its pyramids
And tall memorials catch the dying sun,
Smiled well content, and to this childish task
Around the fire addressed its evening hours.

In other respects too, Stevenson was moving away from his upbringing. His dress became more Bohemian; he already wore his hair long, but he now took to wearing a velveteen jacket and rarely attended parties in conventional evening dress. Within the limits of a strict allowance, he visited cheap pubs and brothels. More importantly, he had come to reject Christianity and declared himself an atheist. In January 1873, his father came across the constitution of the LJR (Liberty, Justice, Reverence) Club, of which Stevenson and his cousin Bob were members, which began: “Disregard everything our parents have taught us”. Questioning his son about his beliefs, he discovered the truth, leading to a long period of dissension with both parents:

What a damned curse I am to my parents! As my father said, “You have rendered my whole life a failure”. As my mother said, “This is the heaviest affliction that has ever befallen me”. O Lord, what a pleasant thing it is to have damned the happiness of (probably) the only two people who care a damn about you in the world.

Early writing and travels

Stevenson, c. 1877

Stevenson was visiting a cousin in England in late 1873 when he met two people who became very important to him: Sidney Colvin and Fanny (Frances Jane) Sitwell. Sitwell was a 34-year-old woman with a son, who was separated from her husband. She attracted the devotion of many who met her, including Colvin, who married her in 1901. Stevenson was also drawn to her, and they kept up a warm correspondence over several years in which he wavered between the role of a suitor and a son (he addressed her as “Madonna”). Colvin became Stevenson’s literary adviser and was the first editor of his letters after his death. He placed Stevenson’s first paid contribution in The Portfolio, an essay entitled “Roads”.

Stevenson was soon active in London literary life, becoming acquainted with many of the writers of the time, including Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse, and Leslie Stephen, the editor of the Cornhill Magazine who took an interest in Stevenson’s work. Stephen took Stevenson to visit a patient at the Edinburgh Infirmary named William Ernest Henley, an energetic and talkative man with a wooden leg. Henley became a close friend and occasional literary collaborator, until a quarrel broke up the friendship in 1888, and he is often considered to be the model for Long John Silver in Treasure Island.


Stevenson was sent to Menton on the French Riviera in November 1873 to recuperate after his health failed. He returned in better health in April 1874 and settled down to his studies, but he returned to France several times after that. He made long and frequent trips to the neighborhood of the Forest of Fontainebleau, staying at Barbizon, Grez-sur-Loing, and Nemours and becoming a member of the artists’ colonies there. He also traveled to Paris to visit galleries and the theatres. He qualified for the Scottish bar in July 1875, and his father added a brass plate to the Heriot Row house reading “R.L. Stevenson, Advocate”. His law studies did influence his books, but he never practised law; all his energies were spent in travel and writing. One of his journeys was a canoe voyage in Belgium and France with Sir Walter Simpson, a friend from the Speculative Society, a frequent travel companion, and the author of The Art of Golf (1887). This trip was the basis of his first travel book An Inland Voyage (1878).


Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, c. 1876

The canoe voyage with Simpson brought Stevenson to Grez in September 1876 where he met Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne (1840–1914), born in Indianapolis. She had married at age 17 and moved to Nevada to rejoin husband Samuel after his participation in the American Civil War. Their children were Isobel (or “Belle”), Lloyd, and Hervey (who died in 1875). But anger over her husband’s infidelities led to a number of separations. In 1875, she had taken her children to France where she and Isobel studied art.

Stevenson returned to Britain shortly after this first meeting, but Fanny apparently remained in his thoughts, and he wrote the essay “On falling in love” for the Cornhill Magazine. They met again early in 1877 and became lovers. Stevenson spent much of the following year with her and her children in France. In August 1878, she returned to San Francisco and Stevenson remained in Europe, making the walking trip that formed the basis for Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879). But he set off to join her in August 1879, against the advice of his friends and without notifying his parents. He took second-class passage on the steamship Devonia, in part to save money but also to learn how others travelled and to increase the adventure of the journey. He then traveled overland by train from New York City to California. He later wrote about the experience in The Amateur Emigrant. It was good experience for his writing, but it broke his health.

French Hotel (now “Stevenson House”), Monterey, California where he stayed in 1879

He was near death when he arrived in Monterey, California, where some local ranchers nursed him back to health. He stayed for a time at the French Hotel located at 530 Houston Street, now a museum dedicated to his memory called the “Stevenson House”. While there, he often dined “on the cuff,” as he said, at a nearby restaurant run by Frenchman Jules Simoneau, which stood at what is now Simoneau Plaza; several years later, he sent Simoneau an inscribed copy of his novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), writing that it would be a stranger case still if Robert Louis Stevenson ever forgot Jules Simoneau. While in Monterey, he wrote an evocative article about “the Old Pacific Capital” of Monterey.

By December 1879, Stevenson had recovered his health enough to continue to San Francisco where he struggled “all alone on forty-five cents a day, and sometimes less, with quantities of hard work and many heavy thoughts,” in an effort to support himself through his writing. But by the end of the winter, his health was broken again and he found himself at death’s door. Fanny was now divorced and recovered from her own illness, and she came to his bedside and nursed him to recovery. “After a while,” he wrote, “my spirit got up again in a divine frenzy, and has since kicked and spurred my vile body forward with great emphasis and success.” When his father heard of his condition, he cabled him money to help him through this period.

Fanny and Robert were married in May 1880, although he said that he was “a mere complication of cough and bones, much fitter for an emblem of mortality than a bridegroom.”He travelled with his new wife and her son Lloyd north of San Francisco to Napa Valley and spent a summer honeymoon at an abandoned mining camp on Mount Saint Helena (today designated Robert Louis Stevenson State Park). He wrote about this experience in The Silverado Squatters. He met Charles Warren Stoddard, co-editor of the Overland Monthly and author of South Sea Idylls, who urged Stevenson to travel to the South Pacific, an idea which returned to him many years later. In August 1880, he sailed with Fanny and Lloyd from New York to Britain and found his parents and his friend Sidney Colvin on the wharf at Liverpool, happy to see him return home. Gradually, his wife was able to patch up differences between father and son and make herself a part of the family through her charm and wit.

Attempted settlement in Europe and the US

Stevenson’s “Cure Cottage” in Saranac Lake, New York

Stevenson searched in vain between 1880 and 1887 for a residence suitable to his health. He spent his summers at various places in Scotland and England, including Westbourne, Dorset, a residential area in Bournemouth. It was during his time in Bournemouth that he wrote the story Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, naming the character Mr. Poole after the town of Poole which is situated next to Bournemouth. In Westbourne, he named his house Skerryvore after the tallest lighthouse in Scotland, which his uncle Alan had built (1838–44). In the wintertime, Stevenson travelled to France and lived at Davos Platz and the Chalet de Solitude at Hyères, where he was very happy for a time. “I have so many things to make life sweet for me,” he wrote, “it seems a pity I cannot have that other one thing—health. But though you will be angry to hear it, I believe, for myself at least, what is is best.” In spite of his ill health, he produced the bulk of his best-known work during these years. Treasure Island was published under the pseudonym “Captain George North” and became his first widely popular book; he wrote it during this time, along with KidnappedStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which established his wider reputation), The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two RosesA Child’s Garden of Verses, and Underwoods. He gave a copy of Kidnapped to his friend and frequent Skerryvore visitor Henry James.

His father died in 1887 and Stevenson felt free to follow the advice of his physician to try a complete change of climate, so he headed for Colorado with his mother and family. But after landing in New York, they decided to spend the winter in the Adirondacks at a cure cottage now known as Stevenson Cottage at Saranac Lake, New York. During the intensely cold winter, Stevenson wrote some of his best essays, including Pulvis et Umbra. He also began The Master of Ballantrae and lightheartedly planned a cruise to the southern Pacific Ocean for the following summer.


Stevenson believed in Conservatism for most of his life. His cousin and biographer Sir Graham Balfour said that “he probably throughout life would, if compelled to vote, have always supported the Conservative candidate.” In 1866, Stevenson voted for Benjamin Disraeli, future Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, over Thomas Carlyle for the Lord Rectorship of the University of Edinburgh. During his college years, he briefly identified himself as a “red-hot socialist”. He wrote at age 26: “I look back to the time when I was a Socialist with something like regret…. Now I know that in thus turning Conservative with years, I am going through the normal cycle of change and travelling in the common orbit of men’s opinions.”

Journey to the Pacific

In June 1888, Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and set sail with his family from San Francisco. The vessel “plowed her path of snow across the empty deep, far from all track of commerce, far from any hand of help.”  The sea air and thrill of adventure for a time restored his health, and for nearly three years he wandered the eastern and central Pacific, stopping for extended stays at the Hawaiian Islands, where he became a good friend of King Kalākaua. He befriended the king’s niece Princess Victoria Kaiulani, who also had Scottish heritage. He spent time at the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, and the Samoan Islands. During this period, he completed The Master of Ballantrae, composed two ballads based on the legends of the islanders, and wrote The Bottle Imp. He preserved the experience of these years in his various letters and in his In the South Seas (which was published posthumously). He made a voyage in 1889 with Lloyd on the trading schooner Equator, visiting Butaritari, Mariki, Apaiang, and Abemama in the Gilbert Islands. They spent several months on Abemama with tyrant-chief Tem Binoka, whom Stevenson described in In the South Seas.

Stevenson left Sydney, Australia, on the Janet Nicoll in April 1890 for his third and final voyage among the South Seas islands. He intended to produce another book of travel writing to follow his earlier book In the South Seas, but it was his wife who eventually published her journal of their third voyage. (Fanny misnames the ship in her account The Cruise of the Janet Nichol.)  A fellow passenger was Jack Buckland, whose stories of life as an island trader became the inspiration for the character of Tommy Hadden in The Wrecker (1892), which Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne wrote together. Buckland visited the Stevensons at Vailima in 1894.

Last years

In 1890, Stevenson purchased a tract of about 400 acres (1.6 km²) in Upolu, an island in Samoa where he established himself on his estate in the village of Vailima after two aborted attempts to visit Scotland. He took the native name Tusitala (Samoan for “Teller of Tales”). His influence spread among the Samoans, who consulted him for advice, and he soon became involved in local politics. He was convinced that the European officials who had been appointed to rule the Samoans were incompetent, and he published A Footnote to History after many futile attempts to resolve the matter. This was such a stinging protest against existing conditions that it resulted in the recall of two officials, and Stevenson feared for a time that it would result in his own deportation. He wrote to Colvin, “I used to think meanly of the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!”

He also found time to work at his writing, although he felt that “there was never any man had so many irons in the fire”.  He wrote The Beach of FalesaCatriona (titled David Balfour in the US),  The Ebb-Tide, and the Vailima Letters during this period.

Stevenson grew depressed and wondered if he had exhausted his creative vein, as he had been “overworked bitterly” and that the best he could write was “ditch-water”. He even feared that he might again become a helpless invalid. He rebelled against this idea: “I wish to die in my boots; no more Land of Counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse — ay, to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution.” He then suddenly had a return of energy and he began work on Weir of Hermiston. “It’s so good that it frightens me,” he is reported to have exclaimed.  He felt that this was the best work he had done.

On 3 December 1894, Stevenson was talking to his wife and straining to open a bottle of wine when he suddenly exclaimed, “What’s that?”, asked his wife “does my face look strange?”, and collapsed. He died within a few hours, probably of a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 44 years old. The Samoans insisted on surrounding his body with a watch-guard during the night and on bearing him on their shoulders to nearby Mount Vaea, where they buried him on a spot overlooking the sea on land donated by British Acting Vice Consul Thomas Trood.  Stevenson had always wanted his Requiem inscribed on his tomb:

 Under the wide and starry sky,
 Dig the grave and let me lie.
 Glad did I live and gladly die,
 And I laid me down with a will.
 This be the verse you grave for me:
 Here he lies where he longed to be;
 Home is the sailor, home from sea,
 And the hunter home from the hill.

Stevenson was loved by the Samoans, and his tombstone epigraph was translated to a Samoan song of grief.

Thank you for Sharing me.

Infamous Scots. Ian Brady.

Hello folks… Please be advised that this post may contain sensitive Material and may upset some readers. I advise you to be careful if you decide to read this. I am posting this as a part of my “Infamous Scots” series.


The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around Manchester, England. The victims were five children—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—aged between 10 and 17, at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. Two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor; a third grave was discovered there in 1987, more than twenty years after Brady and Hindley’s trial. Bennett’s body is also thought to be buried there, but despite repeated searches it remains undiscovered.

The pair were charged only in the deaths of Kilbride, Downey and Evans, and received life sentences. The investigation was reopened in 1985, after Brady was reported as having confessed to the murders of Reade and Bennett. After confessing to these additional murders, Brady and Hindley were taken separately to Saddleworth Moor to assist in the search for the graves.

Characterised by the press as “the most evil woman in Britain”, Hindley made several appeals against her life sentence, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but was never released. She died in 2002, aged 60. Brady was diagnosed as a psychopath in 1985 and confined in the high-security Ashworth Hospital. He made it clear that he never wished to be released, and repeatedly asked to be allowed to die. He died in 2017, at Ashworth, aged 79.

The murders were the result of what Malcolm MacCulloch, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, called a “concatenation of circumstances”.  The trial judge, Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson, described Brady and Hindley in his closing remarks as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”. Their crimes were the subject of extensive worldwide media coverage.


Saddleworth Moor, viewed from Hollin Brown Knoll. The bodies of three of the victims were found in this area.

Pauline Reade

On 12 July 1963, Brady told Hindley that he wanted to commit the “perfect murder”. After work he instructed her to drive a borrowed van around while he followed on his motorcycle; when he spotted a likely victim he would flash his headlight.

Driving down Gorton Lane, Brady saw a young girl and signalled Hindley, who did not stop because she recognised the girl as an 8-year-old neighbour of her mother. Sometime after 7:30 pm, on Froxmer Street, Brady signalled Hindley to stop for 16-year-old Pauline Reade, a schoolmate of Myra’s sister Maureen on her way to a dance; Hindley offered Reade a lift. At various times Hindley gave conflicting statements about the extent to which she, versus Brady, was responsible for Reade being selected as their first victim, but said she felt that there would be less attention given to the disappearance of a teenager than to a missing 8-year-old.

Once Reade was in the van, Hindley asked her help in searching Saddleworth Moor for an expensive lost glove; Reade agreed and they drove there. When Brady arrived on his motorcycle, Hindley told Reade he would be helping in the search. Hindley later claimed that she waited in the van while Brady took Reade onto the moor. Brady returned alone after about 30 minutes, and took Hindley to the spot where Reade lay dying; Reade’s clothes were in disarray and she had been nearly decapitated by two cuts to the throat, including a four-inch incision across her voice box “inflicted with considerable force” and into which the collar of her coat and a throat chain had been pushed. When Hindley asked Brady whether he had raped Reade, Brady replied, “Of course I did.” Hindley stayed with Reade while Brady retrieved a spade he had hidden nearby on a previous visit, then returned to the van while Brady buried Reade. In Brady’s account, Hindley was not only present for the attack, but participated in the sexual assault.

John Kilbride

In the early evening of 23 November 1963, at a market in Ashton-under-Lyne, Brady and Hindley offered 12-year-old John Kilbride a lift home, saying his parents might worry that he was out so late; they also promised him a bottle of sherry. Once Kilbride was inside Hindley’s hired Ford Anglia car, Brady said they would have to make a detour to their home for the sherry. En route he suggested another detour, this time to search for a glove Hindley had lost on the moor. When they reached the moor Brady took Kilbride with him while Hindley waited in the car; Brady sexually assaulted Kilbride and tried to slit his throat with a six-inch serrated blade before strangling him with a shoelace or string.

Keith Bennett

Early in the evening of 16 June 1964, Hindley asked twelve-year-old Keith Bennett, who was on his way to his grandmother’s house in Longsight, Manchester, for help in loading some boxes into her Mini Pick-up, after which she said she would drive him home. Brady was in the back of the van. She drove to a lay-by on Saddleworth Moor and Brady went off with Bennett, supposedly looking for a lost glove. After about 30 minutes Brady returned alone, carrying a spade that he had hidden there earlier, and, in response to Hindley’s questions, said that he had sexually assaulted Bennett and strangled him with a piece of string.

Lesley Ann Downey

Brady and Hindley visited a fairground on 26 December 1964 and noticed that 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey was apparently alone. They approached her and deliberately dropped some shopping they were carrying, then asked her help in taking the packages to their car, and then to their home. At the house Downey was undressed, gagged, and forced to pose for photographs before being raped and killed, perhaps strangled with a piece of string. Hindley later maintained that she went to fill a bath for Downey and found her dead when she returned; Brady claimed that Hindley killed Downey. The following morning Brady and Hindley drove Downey’s body to Saddleworth Moor, and buried her‍—‌naked with her clothes at her feet‍—‌in a shallow grave.

Edward Evans

The empty plot where 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in Hattersley once stood. Manchester City Council decided in 1987 to demolish the house.

On the evening of 6 October 1965, Hindley drove Brady to Manchester Central railway station, where she waited outside in the car whilst he selected a victim. After a few minutes Brady reappeared in the company of 17-year-old Edward Evans, an apprentice engineer who lived in Ardwick, to whom he introduced Hindley as his sister. They drove to Brady and Hindley’s home at 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley, Cheshire, where they relaxed over a bottle of wine.

At some point Brady sent Hindley to fetch David Smith, the husband of Hindley’s younger sister Maureen. The Hindley family had not approved of Maureen’s marriage to Smith, who had several criminal convictions, including actual bodily harm and housebreaking, the first of which, wounding with intent, occurred when he was 11. Throughout the previous year Brady had been cultivating a friendship with Smith, who had become “in awe” of Brady, something that increasingly worried Hindley, as she felt it compromised their safety.

Hindley returned with Smith and told him to wait outside for her signal, a flashing light. When the signal came, Smith knocked on the door and was met by Brady, who asked if he had come for “the miniature wine bottles”,[18] and left him in the kitchen saying that he was going to collect the wine. Smith later told the police:

I waited about a minute or two then suddenly I heard a hell of a scream; it sounded like a woman, really high-pitched. Then the screams carried on, one after another really loud. Then I heard Myra shout, “Dave, help him,” very loud. When I ran in I just stood inside the living room and I saw a young lad. He was lying with his head and shoulders on the couch and his legs were on the floor. He was facing upwards. Ian was standing over him, facing him, with his legs on either side of the young lad’s legs. The lad was still screaming … Ian had a hatchet in his hand … he was holding it above his head and he hit the lad on the left side of his head with the hatchet. I heard the blow, it was a terrible hard blow, it sounded horrible.

Smith then watched Brady throttle Evans with a length of electrical cord.  Brady sprained his ankle in the struggle, and Evans’s body was too heavy for Smith to carry to the car on his own, so they wrapped it in plastic sheeting and put it in the spare bedroom.


Smith agreed to return the following morning with his baby’s pram, for use in transporting Evans’s body to the car before disposing of it on the moors. He arrived home around 3 am and asked his wife to make a cup of tea, which he drank before vomiting and telling her what he had witnessed. At 6:10 am, having waited for daylight and armed himself with a screwdriver and bread knife – in case Brady was planning to intercept him – Smith called police from a phone booth on the estate. He was picked up by a police car from the booth and taken to Hyde police station, where he told officers what he had witnessed in the night.

Superintendent Bob Talbot of the Stalybridge police division went to 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, accompanied by a detective sergeant. Wearing a bread deliveryman’s overall on top of his uniform, he asked Myra Hindley at the back door if her husband was home. When she denied that she had a husband or that a man was in the house, Talbot identified himself. Hindley led him into the living room, where Brady was lying on a divan, writing to his employer about his ankle injury. Talbot explained that he was investigating “an act of violence involving guns” that was reported to have taken place the previous evening.

Hindley denied there had been any violence, and allowed police to look around the house. When police asked for the key to the locked spare bedroom, Hindley said it was at her workplace; but after police offered to take her to retrieve it, Brady told her to hand it over. When police returned to the living room they arrested Brady on suspicion of murder. As Brady was getting dressed, he said “Eddie and I had a row and the situation got out of hand.”

Initial investigation

Though Hindley was not initially arrested, she demanded to go with Brady to the police station, taking her dog.  She refused to make any statement about Evans’s death beyond claiming it had been an accident, and was allowed to go home on the condition that she return the next day.  Over the next four days Hindley visited her employer and asked to be dismissed so that she would be eligible for unemployment benefits. On one of these occasions, Hindley found an envelope belonging to Brady which she burned in an ashtray; she claimed she did not open it but believed it contained plans for bank robberies. On 11 October, she too was arrested and taken into custody, being charged as an accessory to the murder of Edward Evans and was remanded at Risley.

Police searching the house at Wardle Brook Avenue found an old exercise book with the name “John Kilbride”, which made them suspect that Brady and Hindley had been involved in the disappearances of other youngsters. Brady told police that he and Evans had fought, but insisted that he and Smith had murdered Evans and that Hindley had “only done what she had been told”. Smith said that Brady had asked him to return anything incriminating, such as “dodgy books”, which Brady then packed into suitcases; he had no idea what else the suitcases contained or where they might be, though he mentioned that Brady “had a thing about railway stations”. A search of left-luggage offices turned up the suitcases at Manchester Central railway station on 15 October; the claim ticket was later found in Hindley’s prayer book.

Inside one of the cases were—among an assortment of costumes, notes, photographs and negatives—nine pornographic photographs taken of Lesley Ann Downey, naked and with a scarf tied across her mouth, and a 16-minute audiotape recording of a girl screaming and pleading for help.  Downey’s mother later confirmed that the recording, too, was of her daughter.

Officers making inquiries at neighbouring houses spoke to 12-year-old Pat Hodges, who had on several occasions been taken to Saddleworth Moor by Brady and Hindley, and was able to point out their favourite sites along the A635 road. Police immediately began to search the area, and on 16 October found an arm bone protruding from the peat, which was presumed at first to be Kilbride’s, but which the next day was identified as that of Lesley Ann Downey, whose body was still visually identifiable; her mother was able to identify the clothing which had also been buried in the grave.

In this photograph taken by Brady in November 1963, Hindley crouches over John Kilbride’s grave on Saddleworth Moor with her dog, Puppet.

Also among the photographs in the suitcase were a number of scenes of the moors. Smith had told police that Brady had boasted of “photographic proof” of multiple murders, and officers, struck by Brady’s decision to remove the apparently innocent landscapes from the house, appealed to locals for assistance finding locations to match the photographs. On 21 October they found the “badly decomposed” body of Kilbride, which had to be identified by clothing. That same day, already being held for the murder of Evans, Brady and Hindley appeared at Hyde Magistrates’ Court charged with Downey’s murder. Each was brought before the court separately and remanded into custody for a week. They made a two-minute appearance on 28 October, and were again remanded into custody.

The investigating officers suspected Brady and Hindley of murdering other missing children and teenagers who had disappeared from areas in and around Manchester over the previous few years, and the search for bodies continued after the discovery of Kilbride’s body, but with winter setting in it was called off in November.

Presented with the evidence of the tape recording, Brady admitted to taking the photographs of Downey, but insisted that she had been brought to Wardle Brook Avenue by two men who had subsequently taken her away again, alive. By 2 December 1965, Brady had been charged with the murders of Kilbride, Downey and Evans. Hindley had been charged with the murders of Downey and Evans, and being an accessory to the murder of Kilbride. At the committal hearing on 6 December, Brady was charged with the murders of Evans, Kilbride, and Downey, and Hindley with the murders of Evans and Downey, as well as with harbouring Brady in the knowledge that he had killed Kilbride. The prosecution’s opening statement was held in camera rather than in open court, and the defence asked for a similar stipulation but was refused. The proceedings continued before three magistrates in Hyde over an 11-day period during December, at the end of which the pair were committed for trial at Chester Assizes.

Many of the photographs taken by Brady and Hindley on the moor featured Hindley’s dog Puppet, sometimes as a puppy. To help date the photos, detectives had a veterinary surgeon examine the dog to determine his age; the examination required a general anaesthetic, from which Puppet did not recover. Hindley was furious, and accused the police of murdering the dog  – one of the few occasions detectives witnessed any emotional response from her. Hindley wrote to her mother:

I feel as though my heart’s been torn to pieces. I don’t think anything could hurt me more than this has. The only consolation is that some moron might have got hold of Puppet and hurt him.


The fourteen-day trial, before Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson, began on 19 April 1966. The courtroom was fitted with security screens to protect Brady and Hindley, who were charged with murdering Evans, Downey and Kilbride. The Attorney General, Sir Elwyn Jones, led the prosecution, assisted by William Mars-Jones. Brady was defended by the Liberal Member of Parliament Emlyn Hooson QC, and Hindley was defended by Godfrey Heilpern QC recorder of Salford from 1964; both were experienced Queen’s Counsel. 

David Smith was the chief prosecution witness. Before the trial, the News of the World offered Smith £1,000 for the rights to his story; the American People magazine made a competing offer of £6,000 (equivalent to about £20,000 and £110,000 respectively in 2019). When Smith accepted the News of the World offer—its editors had promised additional future payments for syndication and serialization—he agreed to be paid £15 weekly until the trial, and £1,000 in a lump sum if Brady and Hindley were convicted.  During the trial, the judge and defence barristers repeatedly questioned Smith and his wife about the nature of the arrangement. At first, Smith refused to name the newspaper, risking contempt of court; when he eventually identified the News of the World, Jones, as Attorney-General, immediately promised an investigation. However, comparing Smith’s testimony with his initial statements to police, Atkinson—though describing the paper’s actions as “gross interference with the course of justice”—concluded it was not “substantially affected” by the financial incentive. Jones decided not to charge the News of the World on similar grounds.

Both entered pleas of not guilty; Brady testified for over eight hours, Hindley for six. Brady admitted to striking Evans with the axe, but claimed that someone else had killed Evans, pointing to the pathologist’s statement that Evans’s death had been “accelerated by strangulation”; Brady’s “calm, undisguised arrogance did not endear him to the jury [and] neither did his pedantry”, wrote Duncan Staff. Hindley denied any knowledge that the photographs of Saddleworth Moor found by police had been taken near the graves of their victims.

A 16-minute tape recording of Downey, on which the voices of Brady and Hindley were audible, was played in open court. Hindley admitted that her attitude towards Downey was “brusque and cruel”, but claimed that was only because she was afraid that someone might hear Downey screaming. Hindley claimed that when Downey was being undressed she herself was “downstairs”; when the pornographic photographs were taken she was “looking out the window”; and that when Downey was being strangled she “was running a bath”.

On 6 May, after having deliberated for a little over two hours, the jury found Brady guilty of all three murders, and Hindley guilty of the murders of Downey and Evans. As the death penalty for murder had been abolished while Brady and Hindley were held on remand, the judge passed the only sentence that the law allowed: life imprisonment. Brady was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences and Hindley was given two, plus a concurrent seven-year term for harbouring Brady in the knowledge that he had murdered Kilbride. Brady was taken to Durham Prison and Hindley was sent to Holloway Prison.

In his closing remarks, Atkinson described the murders as “truly horrible” and the accused as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”; he recommended they spend “a very long time” in prison before being considered for parole, but did not stipulate a tariff. He called Brady “wicked beyond belief” and said he saw no reasonable possibility of reform for him, though he did not think the same necessarily true of Hindley once “removed from [Brady’s] influence”. Throughout the trial Brady and Hindley “stuck rigidly to their strategy of lying”, and Hindley was later described as “a quiet, controlled, impassive witness who lied remorselessly”.

Later investigation

In 1985, Brady allegedly told Fred Harrison, a journalist working for The Sunday People, that he had killed Reade and Bennett, something the police already suspected as both lived near Brady and Hindley and had disappeared at about the same time as Kilbride and Downey. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) reopened the investigation, now to be headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Topping, head of GMP’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Since Brady and Hindley’s arrests, newspapers had been keen to connect them to other missing children and teenagers from the area. One such victim was Stephen Jennings, a three-year-old West Yorkshire boy who was last seen alive in December 1962; his body was found buried in a field in 1988, but the following year his father William Jennings was found guilty of his murder. Jennifer Tighe, a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from an Oldham children’s home in December 1964, was mentioned in the press some 40 years later but was confirmed by police to be alive. This followed claims in 2004 that Hindley had told another inmate that she and Brady had murdered a sixth victim, a teenage girl.

On 3 July 1985, DCS Topping visited Brady, then being held at Gartree Prison, Leicestershire, but found him “scornful of any suggestion that he had confessed to more murders”. Police nevertheless decided to resume their search of Saddleworth Moor, once more using the photographs taken by Brady and Hindley to help them identify possible burial sites. In November 1986, Bennett’s mother wrote to Hindley begging to know what had happened to her son, a letter that Hindley seemed to be “genuinely moved” by.  It ended:

I am a simple woman, I work in the kitchens of Christie’s Hospital. It has taken me five weeks labour to write this letter because it is so important to me that it is understood by you for what it is, a plea for help. Please, Miss Hindley, help me.

Police visited Hindley – then being held in Cookham Wood in Kent – a few days after she received the letter, and although she refused to admit any involvement in the killings, she agreed to help by looking at photographs and maps to try to identify spots she had visited with Brady. She showed particular interest in photos of the area around Hollin Brown Knoll and Shiny Brook, but said that it was impossible to be sure of the locations without visiting the moor. Home Secretary Douglas Hurd agreed with Topping that a visit would be worth risking despite security problems presented by threats against Hindley.  Writing in 1989, Topping said that he felt “quite cynical” about Hindley’s motivation in helping the police. Although Winnie Johnson’s letter may have played a part, he believed that Hindley, knowing of Brady’s “precarious” mental state, was concerned he might co-operate with the police and reap any available public-approval benefit.

On 16 December 1986, Hindley made the first of two visits to assist the police search of the moor. Police closed all roads onto the moor, which was patrolled by 200 officers‍—‌some armed. Hindley and her solicitor left Cookham Wood at 4:30 am, flew to the moor by helicopter from an airfield near Maidstone, and then were driven, and walked, around the area until 3:00 pm. She had difficulty connecting what she saw to her memories, and was apparently nervous of the helicopters flying overhead.  The press described the visit as a “fiasco”, a “publicity stunt”, and a “mindless waste of money”  but Topping defended it, saying “we needed a thorough systematic search of the moor … It would never have been possible to carry out such a search in private.”

On 19 December, David Smith, then 38, spent about four hours on the moor helping police identify additional areas to be searched. Topping continued to visit Hindley in prison, along with her solicitor Michael Fisher and her spiritual counsellor, Peter Timms, who had been a prison governor before becoming a Methodist minister.  On 10 February 1987 she formally confessed to involvement in all five murders, but this was not made public for more than a month. The tape recording of her statement was over 17 hours long; Topping described it as a “very well worked out performance in which, I believe, she told me just as much as she wanted me to know, and no more”. He added that he “was struck by the fact that [in Hindley’s telling] she was never there when the killings took place. She was in the car, over the brow of the hill, in the bathroom and even, in the case of the Evans murder, in the kitchen”; he felt he “had witnessed a great performance rather than a genuine confession”.

During the 1987 search for Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, Hindley recalled seeing the rocks of Hollin Brown Knoll silhouetted against the night sky.

Police visited Brady in prison again and told him of Hindley’s confession, which at first he refused to believe. Once presented with some of the details that Hindley had provided of Reade’s abduction, Brady decided that he too was prepared to confess, but on one condition: that immediately afterwards he be given the means to commit suicide, a request with which it was impossible for the authorities to comply.

At about the same time, Winnie Johnson sent Hindley another letter, again pleading with her to assist the police in finding the body of her son Keith. In the letter, Johnson was sympathetic to Hindley over the criticism surrounding her first visit. Hindley, who had not replied to the first letter, responded by thanking Johnson for both letters, explaining that her decision not to reply to the first resulted from the negative publicity that surrounded it. She claimed that, had Johnson written to her 14 years earlier, she would have confessed and helped the police. She also paid tribute to Topping, and thanked Johnson for her sincerity. Hindley made her second visit to the moor in March 1987. This time, the level of security surrounding her visit was considerably higher. She stayed overnight in Manchester, at the flat of the police chief in charge of GMP training at Sedgley Park, Prestwich, and visited the moor twice. She confirmed to police that the two areas in which they were concentrating their search—Hollin Brown Knoll and Hoe Grain—were correct, although she was unable to locate either of the graves. She did, though, later remember that as Pauline Reade was being buried she had been sitting next to her on a patch of grass and could see the rocks of Hollin Brown Knoll silhouetted against the night sky.

In April 1987, news of Hindley’s confession became public. Amidst strong media interest Lord Longford pleaded for her release, writing that continuing her detention to satisfy “mob emotion” was not right. Fisher persuaded Hindley to release a public statement, which touched on her reasons for denying her guilt previously, her religious experiences in prison, and the letter from Johnson. She said that she saw no possibility of release, and also exonerated David Smith from any part in the murders other than that of Evans.

Map of Saddleworth Moor showing where three of the victims’ bodies were found, and the general area searched for the body of Keith Bennett

Over the next few months interest in the search waned, but Hindley’s clue had focused efforts on a specific area. On 1 July, after more than 100 days of searching, they found Reade’s body 3 feet (0.9 m) below the surface, 100 yards (90 m) from where Downey’s had been found. Brady had been co-operating with the police for some time, and when this news reached him he made a formal confession to Topping, and in a statement to the press said that he too would help police in their search. He was taken to the moor on 3 July but seemed to lose his bearings, blaming changes in the intervening years; the search was called off at 3:00 pm, by which time a large crowd of press and television reporters had gathered on the moor.

Hoe Grain leading to Shiny Brook, the area in which police believe Bennett’s body is buried

Topping refused to allow Brady a second visit to the moor  before police called off their search on 24 August. Brady was taken to the moor a second time on 8 December, and claimed to have located Bennett’s burial site, but the body was never found.

Soon after his first visit to the moor, Brady wrote a letter to a BBC reporter, giving some sketchy details of five additional deaths that he claimed to have been involved in: a man in the Piccadilly area of Manchester, another victim on Saddleworth Moor, two more in Scotland, and a woman whose body was allegedly dumped in a canal. Police, failing to discover any unsolved crimes matching the details that he supplied, decided that there was insufficient evidence to launch an official investigation. Hindley told Topping that she knew nothing of these killings.

Although Brady and Hindley had confessed to the murders of Reade and Bennett, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided that nothing would be gained by a further trial; as both were already serving life sentences no further punishment could be inflicted.

In 2003, the police launched Operation Maida, and again searched the moor for Bennett’s body, this time using sophisticated resources such as a US reconnaissance satellite which could detect soil disturbances. In mid-2009, the Greater Manchester Police said they had exhausted all avenues in the search for Bennett, that “only a major scientific breakthrough or fresh evidence would see the hunt for his body restart”;  and that any further participation by Brady would be via a “walk through the moors virtually” using 3D modelling, rather than a visit by him to the moor.  Donations from the public funded a search by volunteers from a Welsh search and rescue team in 2010.  In 2012, it was claimed that Brady may have given details of the location of Bennett’s body to a visitor; a woman was subsequently arrested on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful excuse, but a few months later the Crown Prosecution Service announced that there was insufficient evidence to press charges.  In 2017, the police asked a court to order that two locked briefcases owned by Brady be opened, arguing that they might contain clues to the location of Bennett’s body; the application was declined on the grounds that no prosecution was likely to result.

Brady’s and Hindley’s backgrounds

Ian Brady

Brady was born in Glasgow, Scotland as Ian Duncan Stewart on 2 January 1938 to Margaret “Peggy” Stewart, an unmarried tea room waitress.  The identity of Brady’s father has never been reliably ascertained, although his mother said he was a reporter working for a Glasgow newspaper, who died three months before Brady was born. Stewart had little support, and after a few months was forced to give her son into the care of Mary and John Sloan, a local couple with four children of their own. Brady took their name, and became known as Ian Sloan. His mother continued to visit him throughout his childhood. Various authors have stated that he tortured animals, although Brady objected to such accusations.  Aged nine, he visited Loch Lomond with his family, where he reportedly discovered an affinity for the outdoors, and a few months later the family moved to a new council house on an overspill estate at Pollok. He was accepted for Shawlands Academy, a school for above-average pupils.

At Shawlands his behaviour worsened; as a teenager he twice appeared before a juvenile court for housebreaking. He left the academy aged 15, and took a job as a tea boy at a Harland and Wolff shipyard in Govan. Nine months later, he began working as a butcher’s messenger boy. He had a girlfriend, Evelyn Grant, but their relationship ended when he threatened her with a flick knife after she visited a dance with another boy. He again appeared before the court, this time with nine charges against him,  and shortly before his 17th birthday he was placed on probation, on condition that he live with his mother.  By then, she had moved to Manchester and married an Irish fruit merchant named Patrick Brady; Patrick Brady got Ian a job as a fruit porter at Smithfield Market, and Ian took Patrick Brady’s surname.

Within a year of moving to Manchester, Brady was caught with a sack full of lead seals he had stolen and was trying to smuggle out of the market. He was sent to Strangeways for three months. As he was still under 18, he was sentenced to two years in a borstal for “training”. He was sent to Latchmere House in London, and then Hatfield borstal in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After being discovered drunk on alcohol he had brewed he was moved to the much tougher unit in Hull.  Released on 14 November 1957, Brady returned to Manchester, where he took a labouring job, which he hated, and was dismissed from another job in a brewery. Deciding to “better himself”, he obtained a set of instruction manuals on book-keeping from a local public library, with which he “astonished” his parents by studying alone in his room for hours.

In January 1959, Brady applied for and was offered a clerical job at Millwards, a wholesale chemical distribution company based in Gorton. He was regarded by his colleagues as a quiet, punctual, but short-tempered young man. He read books including Teach Yourself German and Mein Kampf, as well as works on Nazi atrocities. He rode a Tiger Cub motorcycle, which he used to visit the Pennines.

Myra Hindley

Hindley was born in Crumpsall on 23 July 1942  and raised in Gorton, then a working-class area of Manchester. Her parents, Nellie and Bob Hindley (the latter an alcoholic), beat her regularly when she was a young child. The family house was in a poor condition and Hindley was forced to sleep in a single bed next to her parents’ double. Their living situation deteriorated further when Hindley’s sister, Maureen, was born in August 1946, and about a year later Hindley, then 5, was sent to live with a grandmother nearby.

Hindley’s father had served with the Parachute Regiment and had been stationed in North Africa, Cyprus and Italy during the Second World War. He had been known in the army as a “hard man” and he expected his daughter to be equally tough; he taught her to fight and insisted that she “stick up for herself”. When Hindley was 8, a local boy scratched her cheeks, drawing blood. She burst into tears and ran to her father, who threatened to “leather” her if she did not retaliate; Hindley found the boy and knocked him down with a series of punches. As she wrote later, “at eight years old I’d scored my first victory”. Malcolm MacCulloch, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, has written that Hindley’s “relationship with her father brutalised her … She was not only used to violence in the home but rewarded for it outside. When this happens at a young age it can distort a person’s reaction to such situations for life.”

One of Hindley’s closest friends was 13-year-old Michael Higgins, who lived nearby. In 1957, he invited her to go swimming with friends at a local disused reservoir, but Hindley instead went out with another friend; Higgins drowned in the reservoir. Hindley‍—‌a good swimmer‍—‌was deeply upset and blamed herself. She collected for a wreath, and his funeral at St Francis’s Monastery in Gorton Lane—where Hindley had been baptised a Catholic in 1942—had a lasting effect on her. Hindley’s mother had agreed to her father’s insistence that Hindley be baptised a Catholic, but only on the condition that she not be sent to a Catholic school; her mother believed that “all the monks taught was the catechism”.  Hindley was increasingly drawn to the Catholic Church after she started at Ryder Brow Secondary Modern, and began taking instruction for formal reception into the Church soon after Higgins’s funeral. She took the confirmation name of Veronica, and received her first communion in November 1958.

Hindley’s first job was as a junior clerk at a local electrical engineering firm. She ran errands, made tea, and typed, and was well liked enough that when she lost her first week’s wage packet the other girls took up a collection to replace it.  At 17 she became engaged after a short courtship, but called it off several months later after deciding the young man was immature and unable to provide her with the life she wanted. She took weekly judo lessons at a local school but found partners reluctant to train with her, as she was often slow to release her grip. She took a job at Bratby and Hinchliffe, an engineering company in Gorton, but was dismissed for absenteeism after six months.

As a couple

In January 1961, the 18-year-old Hindley joined Millwards as a typist. She soon became infatuated with Brady, despite learning that he had a criminal record.  She began a diary and, although she had dates with other men, some of the entries detail her fascination with Brady, to whom she eventually spoke for the first time on 27 July. Over the next few months she continued to make entries, but grew increasingly disillusioned with him, until 22 December when Brady asked her on a date to the cinema.  (Many sources state that the film was Judgment at Nuremberg but Hindley recalled it as King of Kings)  Their dates followed a regular pattern: a trip to the cinema, usually to watch an X-rated film, then back to Hindley’s house to drink German wine. Brady then gave her reading material, and the pair spent their work lunch breaks reading aloud to one another from accounts of Nazi atrocities. Hindley began to emulate an ideal of Aryan perfection, bleaching her hair blonde and applying thick crimson lipstick.  She expressed concern at some aspects of Brady’s character; in a letter to a childhood friend, she mentioned an incident where she had been drugged by Brady, but also wrote of her obsession with him. A few months later, she asked her friend to destroy the letter. In her 30,000-word plea for parole, written in 1978 and 1979 and submitted to Home Secretary Merlyn Rees, Hindley said:

Within months he [Brady] had convinced me that there was no God at all: he could have told me that the earth was flat, the moon was made of green cheese and the sun rose in the west, I would have believed him, such was his power of persuasion.

Hindley began to change her appearance further, wearing clothing considered risqué such as high boots, short skirts and leather jackets, and the two became less sociable to their colleagues. The couple were regulars at the library, borrowing books on philosophy, as well as crime and torture. They also read works by the Marquis de Sade, Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Although Hindley was not a qualified driver (she passed her test on 7 November 1963 after failing three times), she often hired a van, in which the couple planned bank robberies. Hindley befriended George Clitheroe, the President of the Cheadle Rifle Club, and on several occasions visited two local shooting ranges. Clitheroe, although puzzled by her interest, arranged for her to buy a .22 rifle from a gun merchant in Manchester. She also asked to join a pistol club, but she was a poor shot and allegedly often bad-tempered, so Clitheroe told her that she was unsuitable; she did though manage to purchase a Webley .45 and a Smith & Wesson .38 from other members of the club. Brady and Hindley’s plans for robbery came to nothing, but they became interested in photography. Brady already owned a Box Brownie, which he used to take photographs of Hindley and her dog, Puppet, but he upgraded to a more sophisticated model, and also purchased lights and darkroom equipment. The pair took photographs of each other that, for the time, would have been considered explicit. For Hindley, this demonstrated a marked change from her earlier, more shy and prudish nature.

As murderers

What they were doing was out of the scope of most people’s understanding, beyond the comprehension of the workaday neighbours who were more interested in how they were going to pay the gas bill or what might happen in the next episode of Coronation Street or Doctor Who. In 1960s Britain, people did not kidnap and murder children for fun. It was simply beyond the realms of most people’s comprehension, and this is why they managed to get away with it for so long.

Chris Cowley

Hindley claimed that Brady began to talk about “committing the perfect murder” in July 1963, and often spoke to her about Meyer Levin’s Compulsion, published as a novel in 1956 and adapted for the cinema in 1959. The story tells a fictionalised account of the Leopold and Loeb case, two young men from well-to-do families who attempt to commit the perfect murder of a 12-year-old boy, and escape the death penalty because of their age.

By June 1963, Brady had moved in with Hindley at her grandmother’s house in Bannock Street, and on 12 July 1963, the two murdered their first victim, Reade, who had attended school with Hindley’s younger sister, Maureen, and had also been in a short relationship with David Smith, a local boy with three criminal convictions for minor crimes. Police found no one who had seen Reade before her disappearance, and although the 15-year-old Smith was questioned by police, he was cleared of any involvement in her death. Their next victim, Kilbride, was killed on 23 November 1963. A huge search was undertaken, with over 700 statements taken, and 500 “missing” posters printed. Eight days after he failed to return home, 2,000 volunteers scoured waste ground and derelict buildings.

Hindley hired a vehicle a week after Kilbride went missing, and again on 21 December 1963, apparently to make sure the burial sites had not been disturbed. In February 1964, she bought a second-hand Austin Traveller, but soon after traded it for a Mini van. Bennett disappeared on 16 June 1964. His stepfather, Jimmy Johnson, became a suspect; in the two years following Bennett’s disappearance, Johnson was taken for questioning on four occasions. Detectives searched under the floorboards of the Johnsons’ house, and on discovering that the houses in the row were connected, extended the search to the entire street.

David and Maureen Smith around the time of the murders. David’s statement to the police led to Brady’s arrest.

Maureen Hindley married David Smith on 15 August 1964. The marriage was hastily arranged and performed at a register office. None of Hindley’s relatives attended; Myra did not approve of the marriage, and her mother was too embarrassed—Maureen was seven months pregnant. The newlyweds moved into Smith’s father’s house. The next day, Brady suggested that the four take a day-trip to Windermere. This was the first time Brady and Smith had met properly, and Brady was apparently impressed by Smith’s demeanour. The two talked about society, the distribution of wealth, and the possibility of robbing a bank. The young Smith was similarly impressed by Brady, who throughout the day had paid for his food and wine. The trip to the Lake District was the first of many outings. Hindley was apparently jealous of their relationship, but became closer to her sister.

In 1964, Hindley, her grandmother, and Brady were rehoused as part of the post-war slum clearances in Manchester, to 16 Wardle Brook Avenue in the new overspill estate of Hattersley. Brady and Hindley became friendly with Patricia Hodges, an 11-year-old girl who lived at 12 Wardle Brook Avenue. Hodges accompanied the two on their trips to Saddleworth Moor to collect peat, something that many householders on the new estate did to improve the soil in their gardens, which were full of clay and builder’s rubble. She remained unharmed; living only a few doors away, her disappearance would have been easily solved.

Early on Boxing Day 1964, Hindley left her grandmother at a relative’s house and refused to allow her back to Wardle Brook Avenue that night. On the same day, Downey disappeared from a funfair in Ancoats. Despite a huge search, she was not found. The following day, Hindley brought her grandmother back home. By February 1965, Patricia Hodges had stopped visiting 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, but David Smith was still a regular visitor. Brady gave Smith books to read, and the two discussed robbery and murder. On Hindley’s 23rd birthday, her sister and brother-in-law, who had until then been living with relatives, were rehoused in Underwood Court, a block of flats not far from Wardle Brook Avenue. The two couples began to see each other more regularly, but usually only on Brady’s terms.

During the 1990s, Hindley claimed that she took part in the killings only because Brady had drugged her, was blackmailing her with pornographic pictures he had taken of her, and had threatened to kill her younger sister, Maureen. In 2008 Hindley’s solicitor, Andrew McCooey, reported that she told him:

I ought to have been hanged. I deserved it. My crime was worse than Brady’s because I enticed the children and they would never have entered the car without my role … I have always regarded myself as worse than Brady.



Ashworth Hospital, where Brady was incarcerated from 1985

Following his conviction, Brady was moved to Durham Prison, where he asked to live in solitary confinement. He spent 19 years in mainstream prisons before being diagnosed as a psychopath in November 1985 and sent to the high-security Park Lane Hospital, now Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital, in Sefton; he made it clear that he never wanted to be released.

The trial judge recommended that his life sentence should mean life, and successive Home Secretaries agreed with that decision. In 1982, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane said of Brady: “this is the case if ever there is to be one when a man should stay in prison till he dies”. The death, in November 2007, of John Straffen, who had spent 55 years in prison for murdering three children meant that Brady became the longest-serving prisoner in England and Wales.

Although he refused to work with Ashworth’s psychiatrists, Brady occasionally corresponded with people outside the hospital‍—‌subject to prison authorities’ censorship‍—‌ including Lord Longford, writer Colin Wilson and various journalists.In one letter, written in 2005, he claimed that the murders were “merely an existential exercise of just over a year, which was concluded in December 1964”. By then, he claimed, he and Hindley had turned their attention to armed robbery, for which they had begun to prepare by acquiring guns and vehicles.

During several years of interactions with forensic psychologist Chris Cowley, including face-to-face meetings, Brady told him of an “aesthetic fascination [he had] with guns”, despite his never having used one to kill. He complained bitterly about conditions at Ashworth, which he hated. In 1999, his right wrist was broken in what he claimed was an “hour-long, unprovoked attack” by staff. Brady subsequently went on hunger strike, but while English law allows patients to refuse treatment, those being treated for mental disorders under the Mental Health Act 1983 have no such right if the treatment is for their mental disorder. He was therefore force-fed and transferred to another hospital for tests, after he fell ill. He recovered, and in March 2000 asked for a judicial review of the legality of the decision to force-feed him, but was refused permission.

Myra gets the potentially fatal brain condition, whilst I have to fight simply to die. I have had enough. I want nothing, my objective is to die and release myself from this once and for all. So you see my death strike is rational and pragmatic. I’m only sorry I didn’t do it decades ago, and I’m eager to leave this cesspit in a coffin.

While at Ashworth, in 2001 Brady wrote The Gates of Janus, which was published by Feral House, an underground US publisher. The book, Brady’s analysis of serial murder and specific serial killers, sparked outrage when announced in Britain. According to Chris Cowley, Brady regretted Hindley’s imprisonment and the consequences of their actions, but not necessarily the crimes themselves. He saw no point in making any kind of public apology; instead, he “expresse[d] remorse through actions”. Twenty years of transcribing classical texts into Braille came to an end when the authorities confiscated his translation machine, for fear it might be used as a weapon. He once offered to donate one of his kidneys to “someone, anyone who needed one”, but was blocked from doing so. According to Colin Wilson, “it was because these attempts to express remorse were thrown back at him that he began to contemplate suicide”. In 2006 officials intercepted 50 paracetamol pills hidden inside a hollowed-out crime novel sent to him by a female friend.

The mother of the remaining undiscovered victim, Bennett, received a letter from Brady at the end of 2005 in which, she said, he claimed that he could take police to within 20 yards (18 m) of her son’s body but the authorities would not allow it. Brady did not refer directly to Keith by name and did not claim he could take investigators directly to the grave, but spoke of the “clarity” of his recollections.

In 2012, Brady applied to be returned to prison, reiterating his desire to starve himself to death. At a mental health tribunal in June the following year, Brady claimed that he suffered not from paranoid schizophrenia, as his doctors at Ashworth maintained, but a personality disorder. His application was rejected and the judge stated that Brady “continues to suffer from a mental disorder which is of a nature and degree which makes it appropriate for him to continue to receive medical treatment”.

After receiving end-of-life care, Brady died of restrictive pulmonary disease at Ashworth Hospital on 15 May 2017; the inquest found that he died of natural causes and that his hunger strike had not been a contributory factor. Brady had refused food and fluids for more than 48 hours on various occasions, causing him to be fitted with a nasogastric tube, although his inquest noted that his body mass index was not a cause for concern. He was cremated without ceremony, and his ashes disposed of at sea during the night.


Hindley lodged an unsuccessful appeal against her conviction immediately after the trial.  Brady and Hindley corresponded by letter until 1971, when she ended their relationship. The two remained in sporadic contact for several months, but Hindley had fallen in love with one of her prison warders, Patricia Cairns. A former assistant governor claimed that such relationships were not unusual in Holloway at that time, as “many of the officers were gay, and involved in relationships either with one another or with inmates”. Hindley successfully petitioned to have her status as a category A prisoner changed to category B, which enabled Governor Dorothy Wing to take her on a walk round Hampstead Heath, part of her unofficial policy of reintroducing her charges to the outside world when she felt they were ready. The excursion caused a furore in the national press and earned Wing an official rebuke from the then Home Secretary Robert Carr. With help from Cairns, and the outside contacts of another prisoner, Maxine Croft, Hindley planned a prison escape, but it was thwarted when impressions of the prison keys were intercepted by an off-duty policeman. Cairns was sentenced to six years in jail for her part in the plot.

Hindley was told that she should spend 25 years in prison before being considered for parole. The Lord Chief Justice agreed with that recommendation in 1982, but in January 1985 Home Secretary Leon Brittan increased her tariff to 30 years. By that time Hindley claimed to be a reformed Catholic. Downey’s mother was at the centre of a campaign to ensure that Hindley was never released from prison, and until her death in February 1999, she regularly gave television and newspaper interviews whenever Hindley’s release was rumoured. In February 1985, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Brittan that his proposed minimum sentences of 30 years for Hindley and 40 years for Brady were too short, saying “I do not think that either of these prisoners should ever be released from custody. Their crime was the most hideous and cruel in modern times.”

In 1987, Hindley admitted that the plea for parole she had submitted to the Home Secretary eight years earlier was “on the whole … a pack of lies”, and to some reporters, her co-operation in the searches on Saddleworth Moor “appeared a cynical gesture aimed at ingratiating herself to the parole authorities”.Then Home Secretary David Waddington imposed a whole life tariff on Hindley in July 1990, after she confessed to having been more involved in the murders than she had admitted. 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. In 1996, the Parole Board recommended that Hindley be moved to an open prison. She rejected the idea and in early 1998 was moved to the medium-security Highpoint Prison; the House of Lords ruling left open the possibility of later freedom. Between December 1997 and March 2000, Hindley made three separate appeals against her life tariff, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but each was rejected by the courts.

When in 2002 another life sentence prisoner challenged the Home Secretary’s power to set minimum terms, Hindley and hundreds of others, whose tariffs had been increased by politicians, looked likely to be released.  Hindley’s release seemed imminent and plans were made by supporters for her to be given a new identity. Home Secretary David Blunkett ordered Greater Manchester Police to find new charges against her, to prevent her release from prison. The investigation was headed by Superintendent Tony Brett, and initially looked at charging Hindley with the murders of Reade and Bennett, but the advice given by government lawyers was that because of the DPP’s decision taken 15 years earlier, a new trial would probably be considered an abuse of process.

On 25 November 2002, the Law Lords agreed that judges, not politicians, should decide how long a criminal spends behind bars, and stripped the Home Secretary of the power to set minimum sentences. On 15 November 2002, aged 60, Hindley died from bronchial pneumonia at West Suffolk Hospital. She was a 40-a-day smoker who in 1999 had been diagnosed with angina and hospitalised after suffering a brain aneurysm. Camera crews “stood rank and file behind steel barriers” outside, but none of Hindley’s relatives were among the small congregation of eight to ten people who attended a short service at Cambridge crematorium. Such was the strength of feeling more than 35 years after the murders that a reported 20 local undertakers refused to handle her cremation. Four months later, her ashes were scattered by her ex-partner, Patricia Cairns, less than 10 miles (16 km) from Saddleworth Moor in Stalybridge Country Park. Fears were expressed that the news might result in visitors choosing to avoid the park, a local beauty spot, or even that the park might be vandalised.


Smith became “reviled by the people of Manchester” for financially profiting from the murders. During the trial, Maureen—eight months pregnant—was attacked in the lift of the building in which she and David lived. Their home was vandalised, they regularly received hate mail, and Maureen wrote that she could not let her children out of her sight when they were small.  After declining to prosecute the News of the World, Jones came under political pressure to impose new regulations on the press, but was reluctant to legislate on “chequebook journalism”. Instead, he accepted the offer of the Press Council to produce a “declaration of principle”, which was published in November 1966 and included rules forbidding criminal witnesses being paid or interviewed—but the News of the World promptly rejected the declaration and the Council had no power to enforce its provisions.

After stabbing another man during a fight, in an attack he claimed was triggered by the abuse he had suffered since the trial, Smith was sentenced to three years in prison in 1969. That same year his children were taken into the care of the local authority. Maureen moved from Underwood Court to a single-bedroom property and found work in a department store. Subjected to whispering campaigns and petitions to remove her from the estate where she lived, she received no support from her family—her mother had supported Myra during the trial. On his release from prison, Smith moved in with a 15-year-old girl who became his second wife and won custody of his three sons. Maureen managed to repair the relationship with her mother and moved into a council property in Gorton. She divorced Smith in 1973 and married a lorry driver, Bill Scott, with whom she had a daughter.

Maureen and her immediate family made regular visits to see Hindley, who reportedly adored her niece. In 1980, Maureen suffered a brain haemorrhage; Hindley was allowed to visit her in hospital but arrived an hour after her death. Sheila and Patrick Kilbride, who were by then divorced, attended Maureen’s funeral thinking that Hindley might be there; Patrick mistook Bill Scott’s daughter from a previous relationship for Hindley and tried to attack her. Shortly before her death at the age of 70, Sheila said: “If she [Hindley] ever comes out of jail I’ll kill her”. It was a threat repeated by her son Danny, and Ann West.

In 1972, Smith was acquitted of the murder of his father, who had been suffering from terminal cancer. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to two days’ detention. He remarried and moved to Lincolnshire with his three sons, and was exonerated of any participation in the Moors murders by Hindley’s confession in 1987. In 2011, he co-authored the book Witness with biographer Carol Ann Lee. He died in Ireland in 2012.

In 1977, a BBC television debate discussed arguments for and against Myra Hindley’s release, with Lord Longford, a Roman Catholic convert, on the side who argued that Hindley should be released, and Downey’s mother arguing against Hindley being released, and threatening to kill her were the release to occur.

Reade’s mother was admitted to Springfield Mental Hospital in Manchester. She was present, under heavy sedation, at the funeral of her daughter on 7 August 1987. Five years after their son was murdered, Sheila and Patrick Kilbride divorced. Downey’s mother died in 1999 from cancer of the liver. Since her daughter’s death, she had campaigned to ensure that Hindley remained in prison, and doctors said that the stress had contributed to the severity of her illness. Bennett’s mother continued to visit Saddleworth Moor, where it is believed that Bennett is buried. She died in August 2012.

Manchester City Council decided in 1987 to demolish the house in which Brady and Hindley had lived on Wardle Brook Avenue, and where Downey and Evans were murdered, citing “excessive media interest [in the property creating unpleasantness for residents”.

Lasting notoriety

The photographs and tape recording of the torture of Downey exhibited in court, and the nonchalant responses of Brady and Hindley helped to ensure their lasting notoriety. Brady, who said that he did not want to be released, was rarely mentioned in the news, but Hindley’s insistent desire to be released made her a figure of public hate—especially as she failed to confess to involvement in the Reade and Bennett murders for 20 years. Hindley’s role in the crimes also challenged gendered norms: her betrayal of maternal stereotypes fed public perceptions of her inherent evil, and made her a “poster girl” for moral panics about serial murder and paedophilia in subsequent decades. Her often reprinted photograph, taken shortly after she was arrested, is described by some commentators as similar to the mythical Medusa and, according to author Helen Birch, has become “synonymous with the idea of feminine evil”. Given Hindley’s status as co-defendant in the first serial-murder trial held since the abolition of the death penalty, retribution was a common theme among those who sought to keep her locked away. Even Hindley’s mother insisted that she should die in prison, partly for fear for Hindley’s safety. Some commentators expressed the view that of the two, Hindley was the “more evil”.

Lord Longford, a Catholic convert, campaigned to secure the release of “celebrated” criminals, and Hindley in particular, which earned him constant derision from the public and the press. He described 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”. Tabloid newspapers branded him a “loony” and a “do-gooder” for supporting Hindley, whom they described as “evil”. She became a long-running source of material for the press, which printed embellished tales of her “cushy” life at the “5-star” Cookham Wood Prison and her liaisons with prison staff and other inmates.

The case has been dramatised on television twice: in See No Evil: The Moors Murders and the award-winning Longford (both 2006).

The book The Loathsome Couple by Edward Gorey (Mead, 1977) was inspired by the Moors murders.

Thank you for Sharing me.

Scottish places of Interest. Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano which is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh, Scotland, which form most of Holyrood Park, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”.It is situated just to the east of the city centre, about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft), provides excellent panoramic views of the city and beyond, is relatively easy to climb, and is popular for hillwalking. Though it can be climbed from almost any direction, the easiest and simplest ascent is from the east, where a grassy slope rises above Dunsapie Loch. At a spur of the hill, Salisbury Crags has historically been a rock climbing venue with routes of various degrees of difficulty, but due to hazards, rock climbing is now restricted to the South Quarry and a permit is required.

It is sometimes said that its name is derived from legends pertaining to King Arthur, such as the reference in Y Gododdin. Some support for this may be provided by several other hilltop and mountaintop features in Britain which bear the same or similar names, such as the peak of Ben Arthur (The Cobbler) in the western highlands, sometimes known as Arthur’s Seat, and Arthur’s Chair on the ridge called Stone Arthur in the Cumbrian lake district. There is no traditional Scottish Gaelic name for Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, but William Maitland proposed that the name was a corruption of Àrd-na-Said, implying the “Height of Arrows”, which over the years became Arthur’s Seat (perhaps via “Archer’s Seat”). Alternatively, John Milne’s proposed etymology of Àrd-thir Suidhe meaning “place on high ground” uncomfortably requires the transposition of the name elements.

Natural heritage

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is the largest of the three parts of the Arthur’s Seat Volcano site of special scientific interest (the other parts being Calton Hill and the Castle Rock) which is designated to protect its important geology (see below), grassland habitats and uncommon plant and animal species.

Like the rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built, it was formed by an extinct volcano system of Carboniferous age (lava samples have been dated at 341 to 335 million years old), which was eroded by a glacier moving from west to east during the Quaternary (approximately the last two million years), exposing rocky crags to the west and leaving a tail of material swept to the east. This is how the Salisbury Crags formed and became basalt cliffs between Arthur’s Seat and the city centre. From some angles, Arthur’s Seat resembles a lion couchant. Two of the several extinct vents make up the ‘Lion’s Head’ and the ‘Lion’s Haunch’.

Aerial footage of Arthur’s Seat and the George Square area of. Edinburgh.

Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags adjoining it helped form the ideas of modern geology as it is currently understood. It was in these areas that James Hutton observed that the deposition of the sedimentary and formation of the igneous rocks must have occurred at different ages and in different ways than the thinking of that time said they did. It is possible to see a particular area known as Hutton’s Section in the Salisbury Crags where the magma forced its way through the sedimentary rocks above it to form the dolerite sills that can be seen in the Section.

The hill bears a strong resemblance to the Cavehill in Belfast in terms of its geology and proximity to a major urban site.

Human history

Hill fort defences are visible round the main massif of Arthur’s Seat at Dunsapie Hill and above Samson’s Ribs, in the latter cases certainly of prehistoric date. These forts are likely to have been centres of power of the Votadini, who were the subject of the poem Y Gododdin which is thought to have been written about 600 AD. Two stony banks on the east side of the hill represent the remains of an Iron Age hill-fort and a series of cultivation terraces are obvious above the road just beyond and best viewed from Duddingston.

On 1 May 1590 to celebrate the safe return of James VI of Scotland and Anna of Denmark, a bonfire was lit that night on the Salisbury Crags fuelled with ten loads of coal and six barrels of tar.

A track rising along the top of the slope immediately under Salisbury Crags has long been a popular walk, giving a view over the city. It became known as the Radical Road after it was paved in the aftermath of the Radical War of 1820, using the labour of unemployed weavers from the west of Scotland at the suggestion of Walter Scott as a form of work relief.

In 1836 five boys hunting for rabbits found a set of 17 miniature coffins containing small wooden figures in a cave on the crags of Arthur’s Seat. The purpose has remained a mystery ever since the discovery. A strong contemporary belief was that they were made for witchcraft, though more recently it has been suggested that they might be connected with the murders committed by Burke and Hare in 1828. There were 16 known victims of the serial-killers plus the first person sold “to the doctors”, namely a man who had died of natural causes. However, the murder victims were primarily female, while the eight surviving figures are male. Alternatively, the coffins may have represented the 16 bodies sold to the doctors, plus that of the final victim who remained unburied at the time of the duo’s arrest, but was, as a destitute beggar, very likely dissected in any case. The surviving coffins are now displayed in Edinburgh’s Royal Museum.

The prominence of Arthur’s Seat over Edinburgh has attracted various groups and has a particular significance to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because this is where the nation of Scotland was dedicated in 1840 “for the preaching of the gospel”. The apostle, Orson Pratt, arrived in Scotland in early 1850 and climbed the hill to pray to God for more converts.

In 1884, alpine mountain guide Emile Rey visited Edinburgh where he climbed Arthur’s Seat, local tradition stating that before doing so he estimated it would take much of the day to reach the top.


Arthur’s Seat is often mentioned as one of the possible locations for Camelot, the legendary castle and court of the Romano-British warrior-chief, King Arthur.

Tradition has it that it was at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, covered by the forest of Drumselch, that Scotland’s 12th-century king David I encountered a stag while out hunting. Having fallen from his horse and about to be gored, he had a vision of a cross appearing between the animal’s antlers, before it inexplicably turned away, leaving him unharmed. David, believing his life had been spared through divine intervention, founded Holyrood Abbey on the spot. The burgh arms of the Canongate display the head of the stag with the cross framed by its antlers.

The slopes of the hill facing Holyrood are where young girls in Edinburgh traditionally bathe their faces in the dew on May Day to make themselves more beautiful. The poem “Caller Water” (fresh cool water), written by Robert Fergusson in 1773, contains the lines:

On May-day, in a fairy ring,
We’ve seen them round St Anthon’s spring,
Frae grass the caller dew draps wring
To weet their een,
And water clear as crystal spring
To synd them clean

Thank you for Sharing me.

Infamous Scots. Henry John Burnett.

Warning some of this material may upset or may be unsuitable for young children.

Henry John Burnett (5 January 1942 – 15 August 1963) was the last man to be hanged in Scotland, and the first in Aberdeen since 1891. He was tried at the high court in Aberdeen from 23–25 July 1963 for the murder of merchant seaman Thomas Guyan. His execution, at HM Prison, Craiginches, Aberdeen, was performed by hangman Harry Allen.


On 2 February 1957, Thomas Guyan married Margaret May, and a year later they moved into a first floor flat at 14 Jackson Terrace, Aberdeen, a house owned by May’s grandmother Annie Henderson.

A son was born in September 1958, followed by a second in February 1961; however, the father of this second child was not Thomas. This led to marital problems which came to a head in 1962 when Margaret consulted a solicitor about the possibility of a divorce which her husband refused. Then, in December of that same year she went to work at John R. Stephen Fish Curers where she met a new admirer, Henry Burnett.

A relationship soon developed and, by May 1963, Margaret had moved out of Jackson Terrace with her younger son Keith to share a new address in Skene Terrace with Burnett.

Events of 31 May 1963.

Henry Burnett came to believe that, given the chance, Margaret would leave him, so he took to locking her in the house whenever he went out. This was not a state of affairs which Margaret relished so when by chance she met her estranged husband on 31 May, she agreed to go back to him.

Margaret Guyan arrived at 40 Skene Terrace at 4.00 pm, to collect her son Keith. A family friend, Georgina Cattanagh, went with her for moral support. As soon as Margaret announced her intention to go back to her husband, Burnett cried “Margaret, Margaret, you are not going to leave me!” He then drew a knife to Margaret’s throat, closing the door behind them.

Fearful of what was happening inside, Cattanagh banged repeatedly on the front door and demanded the release of Margaret. Minutes later, Burnett threw open the door and ran off down the street. Margaret was shaken, but relatively unhurt. The two women made their way back to 14 Jackson Terrace.

Burnett went to his brother Frank’s workplace and told him what had happened; his brother urged him to go to the police. But Burnett, still set on revenge, instead went to Frank’s house in the city’s Bridge of Don area to borrow his brother’s shotgun. Because Frank’s wife had been told never to lend the gun to anyone, Burnett forced the cabinet open and stole the gun, along with some cartridges, after which he boarded a bus to 14 Jackson Terrace.

He arrived at the Guyans’ flat and forced his way in. After Cattanagh screamed “You can’t come in here!”, Thomas Guyan jumped to his feet to see what the problem was. As he opened the kitchen door, he was met by Burnett, carrying the gun. A shot rang out and Guyan fell dead, having been shot in the face at close range. Burnett then took Margaret out of the flat at gun point; on the way down the stairs, he threatened a young boy from a neighbouring flat.

Burnett dragged Margaret down a lane and as far as a garage on Seaforth Road, near the main route north out of Aberdeen. John Innes Irvine was filling his car with petrol at the garage when Burnett demanded his car. Irvine tried to stop Burnett from stealing the car, but was threatened with the shotgun. The police were soon notified of the theft and began following the car, which was driving north towards Peterhead. After driving for about 15 miles, Burnett pulled the car over near the town of Ellon and offered no resistance as he was arrested by Constable James G. Raeper and Constable Mitchell.


At his trial, Burnett’s defence was that at the time of the crime he was insane or alternatively, that this was a case of diminished responsibility.  Both defences failed after the jury had considered the evidence for 25 minutes. The court had heard expert witness evidence from three psychiatrists: A. M. Wylie, the Physician Superintendent of the Royal Cornhill Hospital, Professor Miller and Ian M Lowit, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, all of whom agreed that Burnett should be reprieved on psychiatric grounds. In letters later sent to the Scotsman newspaper, Professor Miller and Dr Lowit explained that their evidence suggested that Burnett displayed what Miller described as psychopathic tendencies, for which he had received treatment in a hospital in the past.  It was revealed in court that he had been violent in the past and had also attempted suicide.

In correspondence with The Scotsman and the Howard League for Penal Reform, it appears that the expert psychiatric evidence was mocked by the press and discounted by the Crown. The argument for Capital Punishment hinged upon the use of a firearm: Murder by firearm was a Capital Offence, to deter criminals from deeds like armed robbery, but the expert witnesses indicated that Burnett’s use of the weapon better fitted an impulsive crime of passion than a crime motivated by intentions that Capital Punishment was supposed to deter. His mother and father both appeared in the witness box and his mother broke down in the court.

After he was sentenced to death, both his own family and that of the victim petitioned for his reprieve.

However, there was no appeal from Burnett and at 8.00 am on Thursday, 15 August 1963, the 21-year-old was executed on Britain’s newest gallows (built-in 1962 to Home Office-approved specifications) as a crowd of 200 people gathered outside the prison. Executioner Harry Allen and his assistant Samuel Plant performed the hanging. Shortly afterwards, Burnett’s body was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of the prison, as was customary.

Craiginches Prison closed permanently in January 2014 and the grounds were earmarked for redevelopment. In early August 2014, the remains of Burnett were exhumed from the prison and taken to Aberdeen Crematorium, where a private ceremony was held on 7 August.

Thank you for Sharing me.

Famous Scots. J.K. Rowling.

J.K Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, July 31st, 1965. Her childhood was generally happy, although she does remember getting teased because of her name, “Rowling” – She recalls often getting called “Rowling pin” by her less than ingenious school friends. J.K. Rowling says she never really warmed to her own name, although, she does remember having a fondness for the name Potter from quite an early age. J.K.Rowling studied at St Michael’s Primary School in Gloucestershire, before moving to Chepstow, South Wales at the age of nine.

From an early age, J.K. Rowling had the ambition to be a writer. She often tried her hand at writing, although little came from her early efforts. Aged six she wrote a book about a rabbit with measles. After her mother praised her effort. Rowling replied ‘well get it published then.’ She admits it was a ‘Bit of an odd thing for a child of six to think. I don’t know where it came from…”

In her own autobiography, she remembers with great fondness, when her good friend Sean became the first person to give her the confidence that one day she would be able to make a very good writer.

“he was also the only person who thought I was bound to be a success at it, which meant much more to me than I ever told him at the time”

Sean was also the owner of a battered old Ford Anglia, which would later appear in one of the Harry Potter series as a flying car.

After finishing school, her parents encouraged her to study French at the University of Exeter. She slightly regretted choosing French, saying she would have preferred to study English. However, it was her parents wish that she study something “ more useful” than English.

After having spent a year in Paris, J.K.Rowling graduated from university and took various jobs in London. One of her favourite jobs was working for Amnesty International; the charity, which campaigns against human rights abuses throughout the world. Amnesty International, is one of the many charities, which J.K.Rowling has generously supported since she attained a new found wealth.

It was in 1990 that J.K.Rowling first conceived of the idea about Harry Potter. As she recalls, it was on a long train journey from Manchester to London when she began forming in her mind, the characters of the series. At the forefront, was a young boy, at that time not aware that he was a wizard. The train was delayed for over four hours, but she didn’t have a pen and was too shy to ask for one nothing,

“To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one.”

But she remembers being very enthusiastic, and excited about the ideas which were filling her mind.

On arriving at her flat in Clapham Junction, she began work on writing the book immediately, although, it would take several years to come to fruition.

It was also in December of 1990 that J.K.Rowling lost her mother, who died of Multiple Sclerosis. J.K.Rowling was very close to her mother, and she felt the loss deeply. Her own loss gave an added poignancy to the death of Harry Potter’s mother in her book. She says her favourite scene in the Philosopher’s Stone is, The Mirror of Erised, where Harry sees his parents in the mirror.

In 1991, J.K.Rowling left England to get a job as an English teacher in Portugal. It was here that she met her first husband, Jorge Arantes – and together they had a child Jessica. However, after a couple of years, the couple split after a fierce argument; where by all accounts J.K.Rowling was thrown out of the house.

In Dec 1993, Rowling returned to the UK, moving to Edinburgh where she tried to finish her first book. She was surviving on state benefits and bringing up her daughter as a single parent. She would often go to Edinburgh cafes to work on the book whilst her child had a nap.

Eventually, she finished her first copy of “The Philosopher’s Stone ”, and sent it off to various agents. She found an agent, Christopher, who spent over a year trying to get a publisher. It was rejected by 12 major publishing houses. But, eventually, a quite small publisher, Bloomsbury agreed to take the book on. The editor Barry Cunningham also agreed to pay her an advance of £1500. The decision to take on the book was, in large part, due to his eight-year-old daughter’s enthusiastic reception of the first chapter (However she was advised to continue her training as a teacher because she was told writers of children’s books don’t tend to get very well paid.)

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

– J.K.Rowling

Within a few weeks of publication, (1996) book sales really started to take off. The initial print run was of only 1,000 – 500 of which went to libraries. First editions are now said to be worth up to £25,000 each. She also received a grant from the Scottish arts council, which enabled her to write full time. After the books initial success in the UK, an American company Scholastic agreed to pay a remarkable £100,000 for the rights to publish in America. In 1998, Warner Bros secured the film rights to the books, giving a seven-figure sum. The films have magnified the success of the books, making Harry Potter into one of the most recognisable media products. Under the close guidance of J.K.Rowling, the films have sought to stay close to the original plot; also at J.K.Rowling’s request, all the actors are British and are filmed in Britain.

On the 21st December 2006, J.K.Rowling finished her final book of the Harry Potter Series – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (Amazon). The book was released in July 2007, becoming one of the fastest selling books of all time. J.K.Rowling has said the book is her favourite, and it makes her both happy and sad. She has said she will continue writing but there is little chance of continuing the Harry Potter Series. She has published a dictionary of things related to Hogwarts and Harry Potter, that were never published in other books.

Since the end of her Harry Potter series, she says she has finished some short stories, she also hinted on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1st October 2010, that an 8th book in the Harry Potter series is a possibility.

On 27 September 2012, Rowling released the ‘Casual Vacancy’ an adult novel – to mixed reviews. In 2013, The Cuckoo’s Calling was published. Initially, the author was stated as being Robert Galbraith. But, this was a pseudonym used by J.K.Rowling. After her authorship was discovered, sales went through the roof.

J.K.Rowling and Media

J.K.Rowling has sought to protect her children from media intrusion. In 2011, she gave testimony to the Leverson enquiry about how unscrupulous reporters sought to intrude into her family’s privacy. After her books became best-sellers, reporters would often be camped outside her home. J.K. Rowling said:

“However, as interest in Harry Potter and myself increased, my family and I became the target of a different kind of journalistic activity. The effect on me, and our family life, truly cannot be overstated. We were literally driven out of the first house I had ever owned (which faced almost directly onto the street) because of journalists banging on the door, questioning the neighbours and sitting in parked cars immediately outside the gate. Old friendships were tested as journalists turned up on their doorsteps, and offered money for stories on me. “(J.K.Rowling’s Testimony to Leveson Enquiry Nov 2011.)

After finding a letter from a journalist in her child’s satchel, she remarked:

“It’s very difficult to say how angry I felt that my 5-year-old daughter’s school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists.”

J.K.Rowling currently lives in Scotland, on the banks of the River Tay, with her 2nd husband Neil Murray; J.K.Rowling has three children, two with husband Neil.

Inspiration to write

Speaking on a BBC Radio Programme “The Museum of Curiosity”, 23 December 2019, Rowling talked about the process by which she writes. She says she imagines she walks through a forest towards a lake. At the lake, she waits for an inspiration to emerge from its depth. Then she takes this back to her cottage where she has to polish the dream-like inspiration until it is in a fit state to publish. To Rowling, writing is a dual process – gaining inspiration from an unknown source and then working on the inspiration to make it a solid reality. She prefaced the story by saying she was reluctant to explain her process as it was difficult to explain.

Wealth of J.K.Rowling

In 2017, according to Forbes, her estimated wealth stands at $650 million, it would be higher but she has donated substantial sums to charity. The global Harry Potter brand is estimated to be worth £7 billion.

Charity Work of J.K.Rowling

J.K.Rowling has contributed considerable sums to charities she supports. This includes:

  • Anti-Poverty. She is President of the Charity – One Parent Families
  • Multiple sclerosis. She has contributed money to the research and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, which her mother suffered from.
  • Lumos – helping institutionalised children in Eastern Europe

Political Views

She has publically supported the Labour party. In 2008, she donated £1 million to the Labour party, saying she felt vulnerable families would be better off under a Labour government. She describes her political hero as Robert F.Kennedy.

Religious Views

J.K.Rowling states that she considers herself a Christian, and attends a local Church of Scotland congregation. She said, that unlike other members in her family, she often had a deep interest in religion, and would go to churches alone. However, she also says that although she believes in God, at times she doubts her faith.

“I feel very drawn to religion, but at the same time I feel a lot of uncertainty. I live in a state of spiritual flux. I believe in the permanence of the soul.”

– J.K.Rowling (2008, interview in El Pais – a Spanish Newspaper)

Thank you for Sharing me.

Scottish Battles. Prestonpans .

Hanoverian General Cope landed at Dunbar on September 17, 1745.  Along with approximately 2,500 troops, he marched toward Edinburgh.  With forces somewhat equal in number to the Jacobites, Cope decided to make a stand at Prestonpans and wait for Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who he knew would inevitably march to meet him in battle.  The Hanoverian defensive position was thought to be ideal, with two stone walls on their right, a bog on their left, the sea behind and a deep moat-like ditch in front.  In addition to Cope’s well-armed foot soldiers and dragoons were six 1 1/2 pounder galloper guns and six small mortars.  Considering the Highlander’s “poor” weapons (mismatched guns, broadswords, Lochaber axes, pitchforks…) and their lack of artillery, the English Commander was quite confident.

The Jacobites came within sight of Cope’s men by mid-afternoon, September 20 and paused to reconnoiter their offense and survey the area.  Quartermaster and Adjutant-General John William O’Sullivan, a man neither respected nor liked by the Highland chiefs, sent a contingent of Camerons to the Tranent churchyard, at the village’s northwestern extremity.  Without delay they were observed by Cope’s men, who used two of their 1 1/2 pounder guns to bombard them, wounding some.  At this point Donald Cameron of Lochiel, XIX Captain and Chief of Clan Cameron became enraged that his men were being risked so and asked O’Sullivan’s rival, the well thought of Lord George Murray to withdraw them.  Over O’Sullivan’s protests the Camerons were removed by Murray, who, acting on information that he had received, decided that the Jacobite attack must come from the east, not the west.

Murray’s decision, contrary to Prince Charles’ plans, came about from information that he had received from a local gentleman, Robert Anderson.  Anderson had known the area since childhood and told Murray of a hidden path through the unguarded bog, which would lead the Highlanders to the plain below.  By this route they might take the Hanoverians by surprise.

battle of Prestonpans.

That evening, when the details of the impending attack were being finalized, a dangerous dispute took place between the Camerons and MacDonalds.  Ever since the Battle of Bannockburn, with King Robert the Bruce in 1314, the honor of fighting on the right flank had belonged to the MacDonalds.  This right was challenged by the Camerons.  Earlier, because of a similar conflict, the Clan chiefs had arranged to settle such disputes by drawing lots.  The outcome favored the Camerons.  Unfortunately, the MacDonald fighting men erupted into near mutiny, essentially refusing to fight unless they were granted the right hand position.  The situation was tactfully defused by Lochiel, who ceded the right flank to the MacDonalds if the battle didn’t take place until the next day, which it didn’t.

At three A.M. on September 21 the Jacobites silently mobilized their army (which must not have been easy, since the opposing camps were a mere 400 yards apart) even leaving the few horses that they possessed behind and headed toward Anderson’s hidden path.  In the meanwhile a detachment of sixty Camerons, under Clanranald, was sent to quietly seize the enemy baggage train at Cockenzie.  The Camerons easily overcame two companies of the Black Watch and forty additional infantrymen.  The baggage would later prove to be of great value to the Jacobites, supplying them with 4,000 English pounds, ample weapons, supplies and most of General Cope’s personal accoutrements.  The main body of the Jacobite forces weaved single file through the bog and formed their ranks in the darkness just 200 paces from the Hanoverians, who discovering their enemy’s tactic had hastily swung their forces around and formed their ranks.  Just after the break of dawn the attack began.

The left flank, consisting of the Camerons, Stewarts of Appin, the Atholl Brigade and the MacGregors began a silent march toward the Hanoverian cannons and Colonel Gardiner’s dragoons.  Under Lord Murray’s aggressive command the 800 Camerons were in action long before the rest of the Highland army, firing a few shots at the enemy ordinance guard as they advanced.  The guard replied with two volleys, which did little to impede the Cameron’s progress.  At this point Colonel Whitefoord managed to fire off somewhere between five and eleven shots from the heavy mortars and 1 1/2 pounder guns, which killed one private and wounded an officer in Lochiel’s regiment.  This volley also killed Major James MacGregor, the son of the famous Rob Roy MacGregor.  The artillery didn’t intimidate the Camerons, it only managed to enrage them.  They sounded their war cry “Chlanna nan con thigibh a so’s gheibh sibh feoil” and “ran on with undaunted speed and were first up to the front of the enemy.”  At this point the right flank also streaked into action, charging the English and engaging them in the style of combat suited to the Highlander, hand-to-hand, with targes held firm.

“The victory began, as the battle had done, among the Camerons.”  They carried everything before them, rushing forward past the now deserted and silent artillery to engage the dragoons.  Clan Cameron’s tactic was to strike at the noses of the horses, as to get the better of their masters.  This ruse wasn’t very effective, since the majority of the calvary chose to retreat in every which direction well before the Highlanders were upon them.  Those Hanoverians who were able to actually escape were few and far between, for it seems that the “ideal” defensive area that General Cope had chosen had one serious shortcoming, it caged them in and allowed the Highlanders to take out their rage upon them.

Incredibly, the action lasted only about fifteen minutes, ending in a total overthrow and almost entire destruction of Cope’s army.  The Camerons stayed in the thick of the battle during this time, engaging numerous pockets of Hanoverian foot soldiers, one of which Colonel Gardiner had attached himself to when his men fled for their lives.  As he shouted “fire on my lads, and fear nothing,” a Cameron dealt him a “terrible” blow to the head with his Lochaber axe, the ancient weapon of choice amongst Clan Cameron.  Elsewhere the enemy forces were being decimated.  Prince Charles was galloping across the battlefield, pleading with the Highlanders to stop killing the enemy, that they too were his father’s subjects.  Unfortunately, the majority of the soldiers only spoke Gaelic and couldn’t understand the Prince nor any plea for mercy by the Hanoverians.  “It would be far from true to say that none of the Highlanders gave quarter.  The Camerons took many prisoners; so did Lord George Murray…”  The Camerons gave many of Cope’s men the chance to surrender with dignity after the obvious tide had been turned in battle.  Lochiel himself authorized that the medicine chests, captured in Cope’s baggage train, were to be utilized for Hanoverian wounded, possibly earning him for the first time the name “Gentle Lochiel.”  

Very few Redcoats escaped.  The number has been placed somewhere between 175 and 200, with General Cope leading their way to Berwick, where he  was maligned as being the only General who had ever brought first news of his own defeat.  Depending on whose official count one chooses to believe there were between 300 and 500 Hanoverians killed that early morning, approximately 1,400 were taken prisoner, of which 900 were wounded.  Only about 40 Jacobites were killed and 75 wounded. Among the dead were two Cameron officers, Lieutenant Allan Cameron of Lundavra and Ensign James Cameron, both of Lochiel’s regiment.

After such a complete and relatively easy victory, Prince Charles believed that he and his Highlanders were invincible and that the victory had been God’s will. His thoughts began turning to the south, toward England.

Thank you for Sharing me.

Scotland and its History. (Ghost Tour)

Hey folks if you ever Visit Edinburgh I highly recommend this tour, not for the faint hearted lol.

The best of the spooky and haunted side of the historic Scottish capital

In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, one of Edinburgh’s most famous literary sons, ‘Only a few inches separate the living from the dead.’ And nowhere is that more true than in the Old Town. From Burke and Hare to Half-Hangit Maggie , the city has more than its fair share of murderers, ghosts, haunted locations and downright scare-you-senseless stories. Explore the spooky city that inspired classics such as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from the catacomb of hidden vaults and chambers beneath the South Bridge to Greyfriars Kirkyard, after which you’ll be glad that there are a number of nearby pubs in which to steady your shattered nerves with a stiff drink.

At the Edinburgh Dungeon, 500 years of the capital’s dark history are crammed into one very scary space and delivered by a team of actors and spine-tingling special effects. Aimed at the whole family, the attractions include two heart-in-the-mouth rides: the Drop Ride to Doom and a boat trip into the blood-spattered cave of cannibal Sawney Bean.

Piling on the tales of witches’ persecution, body-snatching and local superstition are Auld Reekie Tours, one of several operating in the Old Town. As well as visiting the vaults under the High Street, this tour has a grisly torture museum, tells tales of the Niddrie Wynd poltergeist and ends up in Nicol Edwards’ pub, reputed to be the most haunted in Scotland – the spirits don’t promise to stay in your glass.

At the Real Mary King’s Close, you’ll see a historically accurate interpretation of life in Edinburgh from the 16th to the 19th centuries, focusing on the closes under the Royal Mile. Visitors are guided by one of the ‘characters’ who lived in this time capsule of four closes with real rooms and streets that date back to the 1600s. Dramatic episodes and extraordinary apparitions from the past are revealed, including hair-raising ghost stories over 300 years old.

Black Hart Entertainment, meanwhile, organises haunted graveyard and underground City of the Dead walks. These give a taste of the history and legends of the capital and lead you into the Covenanters’ Prison and the Black Mausoleum in Greyfriars Cemetery, lair of the Mackenzie Poltergeist, a possible encounter with which is the highlight of the tour. Hundreds claim to have been attacked by this malevolent entity, who is most definitely not to be confused with sweet little Greyfriars Bobby, also buried near the gates, and this tour is not for those of a nervous disposition.

The Cadies and Witchery Tours’ lighthearted look at witchcraft, plague and torture focuses on the Royal Mile’s ghostly goings-on and have been scaring people around the Old Town for two decades. Mercat Tours also organises spooky walking tours that have earned it five stars from the Scottish Tourist Board and feature more ghosts than you can shake a crucifix at.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thank you for Sharing me.
%d bloggers like this: