Blackpool and Myra Hindley

We are in deep waters here. Discussion of Myra takes two forms.  I will call it Myraporn.   There is the lowbrow Myraporn which is exemplified by some paper which showed images of Myra over nearly forty years when her appearance changed and noted that the thing all the images had in common were her “evil eyes.”  The alternative is the highbrow Myraporn which involves sociology and psychology and criminal profiling and interviews with experts and pointless ruminations. I am interested in Myra because she is interesting.  Ian is interesting too, but less interesting.  So what possible excuse is there to include Myra Hindley in a study of Blackpool Crime?  Well the reasons are  slim but real.  Myra Hindley set out to write an autobiography.  She gave up because she was not able to truthfully describe her actions.  At least that is what I think.  The book was to be called: “One of your own.” As you can guess from the title Myra Hindley was seeking to express the idea that she was no different from any other girl born at her time in the North West of England.  Few images could express the idea more eloquently than the one below.

Myra Hindley in Blackpool

Myra Hindley in Blackpool

In the background is Central Pier.  The advertisement on the side of the Pier is for Ken Dodd.  Slightly out of shot to the right is Blackpool Tower and to the right of Myra is  Tussauds Waxworks where Myra’s image remains.  I am guessing that she is fifteen or sixteen in this shot.  She doesn’t look evil to me.  She looks happy and confident.  She is three years from meeting Ian Brady, eight years from being convicted for her part in the Moors Murders and forty-five years from dying.  So this is a photograph of Myra amidst icons of North West life even if some of them are out of shot.  She was to become an icon herself. Myra Hindley’s closest friend was Pat Jebson and  from the age of nine to fourteen Myra used to go to Blackpool with Pat’s parents, Pat and her brother Michael.  Disconcertingly for Michael investigators discovered notes about him amongst items they recovered from Ian and Myra.  .  Michael is now a taxi-driver.  He says that Pat and Myra were no longer close after Myra met Ian.  Michael’s words: “She was a good girl then, just a lass from the estate who seemed like one of us”  sum up the central puzzle about Myra: was she just like everybody else but subject to unusual circumstances, or was she different?  I think she was more like everybody else than we care to think. It is worth recalling that although this photograph looks as if it could have been taken yesterday that if the Myra in the photograph had a bath it would have been a tin bath filled with water boiled on the oven.  If she went to the toilet it would be to an outside toilet.  She lived in Gorton.  It was a poor tightly knit community.  St Francis Monastery  which some regard as  the finest Victorian  Gothic building.   Catholicism played a continuing part in her life.  When she was dying her hand was held by Father Michael Teader. When Ian Brady hid evidence including the tapes of Lesley Ann Downey in a British Rail left luggage store Myra hid the ticket in a prayer-book she had been given for her First Communion. If Myra Hindley had not met Ian Brady she would  have been a wife and mother.  She was looked on as a young teenager as a dependable baby-sitter.  She was an athelete and bright.  She was able to defend herself against boys her own age.  Her father Bob taught her to fight .  She formed an unlikely friendship with Michael Higgins who she protected.  At the age of thirteen she saw him in a religious procession and the same day he drowned in a disused reservoir at Mellands Fields.  Myra saw his body. Myra dyed her hair blonde.  She had judo lessons. After various jobs ( in those days you could leave a job one day and get another the next)  she was interviewed and got a job at Millwards a company supplying chemicals to the cotton industry.  There were fifteen employees.  One of them was Ian Brady.  Myra fell completely in love with Ian Brady and started writing a diary in which he featured.  She was eighteen.  Ian was twenty-two. Ian Brady was the illegitimate son of a tea-room waitress in Glasgow.  His mother decided that he would be better off with foster parents and his foster family was loving and close and his mother visited him regularly.  He was a clever lad.  When he was eleven he tied his friend to some railings, piled newspaper at his feet and set fire to them.  As his friend said:  “We were a rough bunch of lads but Ian was the roughest.” His mother moved to Manchester to get married and Ian became involved in crime.  When he faced a serious sentence he agreed to move to Manchester with his mother and step-father. They got on and Ian worked as a market porter.  He again got in trouble for theft and was sent to borstal.  When he returned to Manchester he studied book-keeping.  He got a job at Millwards. Ian had an experience when younger and  he was on holiday with his adopted family.  It was to do with the landscape of Scotland and is close to the kind of pantheistic experience that Wordsworth had in the Lake District.   It was this experience that drew him to the Moors. After a year Myra and Ian became lovers.   Religion played a part in Myra’s life, as in a way it did in Ian’s.  The first film they saw was ” King of Kings,”  about Jesus.  Myra dragged Ian into Midnight Mass although he refused to go to a Catholic Service and settled for an Anglican Service. Ian was tall and good-looking and well-read.  He was sophisticated by Gorton standards although Myra had to teach him how to kiss. There were aspects of Ian’s character which might have given pause  to a potential partner.  He was fond of spending time in gay pubs which he described as “people-watching”.  He was interested in sadism and he fantasised about raping children.  It is assumed that the basic polarities in sexuality are between straight and gay but another dimension is dominance and submissiveness.  In some people the sadistic/masochistic orientation is stronger than the straight/gay dimension. Ian Brady was a sadist.  When Investigators studied his photographs they found pictures of Myra in split-crotch panties and with whip-marks.  Sadists are uncomplicated people.  Myra Hindley was a masochist.  Masochists are far more complex  and socially skilled and imaginative. Suppose that you are a masochist.  You want somebody to beat you but they have to beat you in the right way:  you need the social skills to bring about the situation that you want whilst leaving the sadist under the impression that he is in control.  For what its worth I believe Hitler was a masochist.  The number of Hitler’s girlfriends who committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide, I make it five, suggests that there was something  rum going on in the Hitler household.    Hitler’s artistic interests, his imagination and his social skills suggest  a masochist.   Masochists can enjoy causing pain to others because they identify with the victim.  Hitler used to give early speeches carrying a whip.  He was fond of quoting Nietzsche: “You go to a woman?  Take a whip.”  Hitler’s speeches have a recurring theme of violence. Renata Mueller a film actress who had a relationship with Hitler and later committed suicide claimed that Hitler had begged her to kick him. There is a strange absence of information.  We know pretty much about the love lives of Stalin, Churchill, Mussolini  and Roosevelt but we know nothing about Hitler’s love life.  It is hard to imagine a more damaging claim  than that of Renata Mueller.  Hitler’s niece Geli also had a relationship with Hitler and committed suicide.  In her case Hitler was very controlling. However the  topic of Hitler’s love-life is muddied by propaganda. The more disconcerting  possibility is that Hitler was  normal.

I digress.  My contention is that the combination of Myra’s masochism and Ian’s sadism made for an intense relationship and the paradox of this kind of relationship which is that the sadistic Ian is manipulated into meeting the requirements of the masochistic Myra. Ian Brady was fascinated by the Nazis and by the works of the Marquis de Sade.  Myra was said by friends to become more unfriendly and to dress more provocatively with short skirts and boots (it was around this time that the term “kinky boots” was in use) and to “talk posh.”  This was a time of great change.  Wages were  good and Myra and Ian could afford things that would have been unthinkable to Myra’s mother: wine, a motorcycle, a car, a camera, guns, a tape recorder. The old community of Gorton was cleared and Myra moved with her grandmother to 16 Wardle Brook, Hattersly, where she had a garden, a bathroom and indoor toilet and greater privacy.  Myra installed a cigarette vending machine.

Pauline Reade was sixteen years old.  She loved dancing and she and her friend would arrange to wear the same style of clothes when they went out together.  On Friday 12 July 1963 Pauline wanted to go to a dance at the Railway and Social Club.  Pauline’s mother made an effort to find a companion to go with her but in the end Pauline set out on her own at 7.30.  Pauline’s friends were stunned that Pauline, a shy girl, would go on her own.  Myra knew Pauline and as she was walking to the Club Myra offered her a lift in the Ford Prefect she had borrowed.  Ian was following on his Tiger Cub motorcycle.  Myra made the excuse of looking for a lost glove to entice Pauline to Hollins Brown Knoll on Saddleworth Moor.  Pauline lived next door but one to Myra’s sister Maureen. On the way back from Hollins Brown Point Myra and Ian passed Pauline’s mother and her brother Paul who were looking for Pauline. Pauline’s mother continued to search exhaustingly for Pauline.  She prayed at St Francis Monastery. After Pauline’s murder there was a surreal episode when Myra met and had an affair with a married policeman.  He also bought Myra’s van on behalf of a friend.  The van that had been used to take Myra to Hollins Brown Knoll.  The policeman was Norman Sutton and the affair was exposed years later by the Sun.  This destroyed Norman Sutton’s career and many years later he  died in a Nursing Home in Blackpool.  Norman Sutton encouraged Myra to join the police and she says she attended a first interview.  Ian Brady pretended to be amused by the affair, but Norman Sutton claimed that Ian came to see him and threatened him.  Myra broke off the affair. I will only mention the other murders briefly.  Three more murders were committed.  Ian was becoming more adventurous and the murder of Lesley Ann Down was committed in the home.  It was taped and photographs were taken. And then the couple stopped.  There was a strange interlude between boxing day 1964 and October 1965.    Ian had spoken of committing the “perfect murder.”  He seemed to have succeeded.  Ian and Myra had started a friendship with her sister Maureen and her husband David Smith. They went on  jaunts including a trip to Blackpool which was aborted when Ian threw a bottle at another driver. Ian had the idea of enticing David Smith into a criminal conspiracy.   Myra, who  had a stronger sense of reality, knew that this was disastrous.  The murders linked Ian and Myra in an almost unbreakable bond.  To involve anybody else would make the situation unstable.  Perhaps Ian began to believe himself some kind of charismatic leader and required followers. Ian murdered  Edward Evans aged 17 on October 5, 1965. One reason for the murder was to involve David Smith.   At the first opportunity David Smith told the police.  If it were not for the tenacity of the Investigators Ian and Myra’s involvement in the other murders would  not have been discovered.  David Smith was a hero, he suffered because of his association with Myra and Ian. And so Ian and Myra became the Moors Murderers.  There was an outbreak of national soul-searching.  Pundits said that pornography was to blame but the  availability of cars was more significant. Myra remained close to Ian for seven years of her imprisonment.  During the trial Ian did his best to minimise Myra’s role but the  tape of Lesley Ann Downs last minutes alive in which Myra was involved weighed against her. Eventually Myra took the road of repentance.  She became a Catholic again.  There are many ways to read this:  she was seeking to express ceremonial repentance, she was trying to impress the public, she was genuinely repentant or most likely a combination.  Religion has a way of guiding people in their best interest.  The sceptic can point out that her repentance did not impel her to confess to the two  murders that she later admitted when Ian was about to implicate her.  She kept silent about these for sixteen years. In prison Myra had a string of affairs including with an ex-nun (Catholicism again) and a guard who agreed to help her escape.  She was well liked by other prisoners and was god-mother to several children.  She remained close to her mother and grandmother.  She helped other prisoners.  At the same time she showed a knack for attracting people who wanted to help her. Her hopes for early parole were damaged when, under pressure from Ian, she confessed to two more murders which she had previously denied.  Her health deteriorated and she died aged 60 holding the hand of Father Michael Teader. What can anybody say? Myra was a good and loyal friend, an intelligent witty person with considerable social skills and for a year of her life when she was twenty-three  she enabled Ian to kill children.  No words can resolve this or take away the grief of the bereaved.  It would not have happened if Ian had not met Myra. But it did happen. Masochists love to be the centre of attention.  When Ian was beating Myra she was the centre of attention.  No woman in Britain from such a poor background had ever been paid as much attention as Myra.  If  she had been released on parole she might have lived a quiet life in a convent.  Could she have lived without the attention? What about Ian?   Turning the Moors into a secret cemetery for children   he thought he was taming the forces of the landscape that fascinated and frightened him.  What the landscape tells us is that human beings don’t matter.   He claimed to be an atheist but his atheism had a curious flavour.  He wrote that the serial killer is “challenging God.”  But God doesn’t exist… remember? Among his other qualities Ian Brady is a  stunning bore, another characteristic he shared with Hitler.  It is a curious fact that Hitler who was the greatest rhetorician  ever, in our day I suppose he would be a motivational speaker, was a dreaded bore to his intimate circle who he entertained with coma-inducing  ramblings.    If there is a hell and I don’t suppose there is, listening to a conversation between Hitler and Ian Brady for eternity might be an option of choice for a vengeful God.  In one of his  letters Ian Brady  pontificates about the middle-class resenting that working-class people can go abroad instead of: “paddling in sewage in Blackpool.” His trips to Blackpool had made some  impression on him.  Curiously also Brady says he killed less people than Tony Blair which I suppose is kind of true but Ian Brady was more hands on… and he calls the government:”fascist.”  Is he admiring the government or has he had a political awakening?

What can be said.  We can go to other countries but the strangest things in the world are minds including our own…  walk down any street and you will pass things more exotic than Krakatoa erupting… you are more exotic yourself.

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