FIFTY one years ago Chester was the focus of the world’s attention as the Moors Murderers were put on trial in the city.
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who died in prison in 2002, tortured and murdered five children in the 1960s. Four of the victims were buried on Saddleworth Moor in the south Pennines.
It was at Chester Assizes that they were put on trial in 1966.
They were charged with killing three young children – Edward Evans, 17, John Kilbride, 12, and 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey. It would be another 21 years before they confessed to killing Pauline Reade, 16, and 12-year-old Keith Bennett.
The victims, from left to right, are John Kilbride, aged 12, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey Edward Evans, 17, Pauline Reade, 16, and 12-year-old Keith Bennett. Photo credit: PA
Now attention is back on Ian Brady after it was confirmed that Britain’s most infamous prisoner has died at the age of 79.
A Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “We can confirm a 79-year-old patient in long term care at Ashworth High Secure Hospital has died after becoming physically unwell.”
The appalling truth of pair’s campaign of kidnap, torture and murder was revealed at Chester Assizes during the 14-day trial that began on April 19, 1966, before Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.
Myra Hindley and Ian Brady being driven in a Black Mariah to Chester Assizes. Picture by Gary Talbot
The level of hatred and disgust directed towards the former lovers was such that the decision to erect bullet-proof security screens in the courtroom, which is now Chester Crown Court, was made ahead of the trial.
One of the most chilling aspects of the trial was the playing of a 16-minute tape recording of the final moments of Lesley Ann Downey’s life on which the voices of Brady and Hindley were clearly audible.
The hushed courtoom heard the young girl desperately plead to go home to her mother as she was bound and killed by the sadistic pair.
Brady was defended by Liberal MP Emlyn Hooson and his partner in crime Hindley was defended by Godfrey Heilpern.
Both Brady and Hindley pleaded not guilty and both were called to give evidence – with Brady alone giving evidence for more than eight hours.
On May 6, the jury at Chester found Brady guilty of all three murders and Hindley guilty of the murders of Downey and Evans.
The death penalty had been abolished while Brady and Hindley were on remand and the judge gave them a sentence of life imprisonment – the only sentence the law allowed.
Brady was given three concurrent life sentences while Hindley was given two.
In his closing remarks, Mr Justice Atkinson described the accused as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity” and stated that Brady was “wicked beyond belief”.
Brady was transported to Durham Prison and Hindley was taken to Holloway Prison in London.
Photographer Gary Talbot, of Chester, was covering the trial for the Daily Mail. His photograph of Brady and Hindley arriving at Chester Assizes in a police van became one of the iconic images of the trial.
Mr Talbot, now 79, said: “There was a crowd there and lots of people were booing when they arrived. It seems unusual looking back that they were brought in the same van.
“I was with photographers from all over the world and we were all jostling for position.
“I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. That photograph went all over the world from my house in Chester.”
Mr Talbot did hear Brady giving evidence and some of the tape recording, but he had to excuse himself as the horrific details of the case came to light.
“I did go into the trial but I had to come out – it was just horrendous,” he added. “I was glad that I wasn’t a reporter that day having to record what was going on.”
In his final days Brady was a patient at Ashworth Hospital on Merseyside where he was reportedly receiving palliative care. He had been at Ashworth since 1985.
He died just hours after he was urged to “do the right thing” and reveal where the last of his child victims – Keith Bennett – is buried.
Former police officer Norman Brennan, who represented the family of Lesley Ann Downey, told Newsnight about the “grief and torment” he saw on the faces of her mother and father.
He told the programme: “To know that your daughter was lost, alone and murdered and then actually her death was recorded, the grief can never ever be etched from your mind.
“Those two individuals, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, they didn’t just destroy five young children’s lives.
“For their relentless appeals and false hopes that they gave the families for over 50 years destroyed all of the families as well, even to this day.”