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'If I see Brady I will stab him': Moors murder victim's mother Winnie's final deathbed wish before she died, still not knowing the final resting place of son Keith Bennett

Original Source: MAIL: SUNDAY 19 AUGUST 2012
By Nick Craven and Russell Myers
PUBLISHED:00:08, 19 August 2012| UPDATED:14:57, 19 August 2012

*Moors murder victim Keith Bennett's mother died after nearly 50 years of fruitless searching for her son's body

 *Brother vows to continue hunt for body and warns police: This is not closure 

 *Bennett family say police should have acted sooner on information suggesting killer Ian Brady might have revealed where he left the body in 1964  

Tragic: Winnie Johnson, the mother of moors murder victim Keith Bennett, has died

The mother of Moors Murders victim Keith Bennett said on her deathbed if she ever saw Ian Brady again she would 'stab him from top to bottom'.


In her last ever interview before her death yesterday, brave Winnie Johnson said she believed Brady's 'final sick twist' would be to never reveal where her son was buried.


'I don't know now if Brady will ever tell me where my Keith is buried.' she said.



'He could take it to the grave with him. I suppose that would be his final sick twist.'


'Or he could give me hope like he has done before and then nothing would come of it.' she told The Sun.



Details of her trauma were revealed as Keith family last night slammed the police for dragging their heels in the hunt for his body – after nearly 50 years of fruitless searching.


A spokesman for the Bennett family demanded to know why police had not acted sooner on potentially vital information suggesting that killer Ian Brady might have written a letter finally revealing where he had left Keith’s body in 1964.


‘The fact there seems to be such a delay from the time when police were made aware of the possible existence of this letter, to when they actually acted, will be a cause for concern for the family,’ the spokesman said. ‘Questions certainly need to be asked – answers will be expected.’



Mrs Johnson, who was 78, spent much of her life pleading in vain for Brady and his accomplice Myra Hindley, who died in 2002, to help her find Keith’s body so that she could give him a Christian burial. 


Twelve-year-old Keith was lured into the couple’s car while walking to his grandmother’s house in Manchester in June 1964 and was the third of their five known victims. Brady told Hindley he had strangled the boy with a piece of string.


The latest twist began last month when Brady’s legal advocate and frequent visitor Jackie Powell was interviewed for a Channel 4 documentary entitled Endgames Of A Psychopath, to be screened tomorrow.

On camera, Ms Powell, 49, said Brady had given her a sealed envelope to be opened only after his death, which would ‘allow Winnie Johnson to find peace’. Powell speculated that the contents might reveal the location of Keith’s body on Saddleworth Moor, which overlooks Oldham. 


The documentary producer, Paddy Wivell, waited ten days before passing the information on to police, who then took more than two weeks to act on it and arrest Ms Powell. Channel 4 sources said producers had urged Ms Powell to hand her letter over to the police, but she went ‘off radar’ for a few days.


When she made contact again, she told them she had returned the letter to 74-year-old Brady at Ashworth psychiatric hospital in Merseyside.


The first publicity packs for the programme went to newspaper journalists early last week and previews of the programme were also shown to TV reviewers.

Killer: Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley went on a killing spree but the location of one of their victims, Keith Bennett, right, has never been found

Despite two weeks in which little action seemed to have been taken, within hours of journalists being made aware of Ms Powell’s claims, police sought an arrest and search warrant and raided her South Wales home.


The Bennett family spokesman said: ‘Did detectives treat this as a serious matter? If Brady has written a confession letter of some sort then that could be a vital piece of evidence which should have been considered immediately. There seems to have been liaison between producers from Channel 4 and the police. If detectives had such information why didn’t they act on it?


‘It sounds as though they were spurred on by the media interest.


‘If this is found to be the case, the family would be deeply upset and disappointed.’


As the family promised to continue Mrs Johnson’s quest for the truth, her other son Alan criticised Greater Manchester Police for the way they have conducted the long-running search for his brother.


In an open letter to police on his website, Mr Bennett hit out at claims by Martin Bottomley, head of the cold case team at GMP that new evidence had been taken seriously.


He claimed police ignored evidence from two ‘extremely credible’ witnesses over the past few months, one of them David Smith, the chief prosecution witness at the original trial.

Winnie Johnson never stopped her fight to find her son's body and hold a proper funeral for him before she died. Right,  digging with her son Joey, on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester years ago

Determined: Mrs Johnson, pictured in 2010, made several thousand trips to the Moors in search of her son

Mr Bennett said: ‘At the time of the original search in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, detectives wanted to know anything that David could remember from his visits to the moor with Brady and Hindley.


‘Yet he was never taken to the area where Keith was murdered nor interviewed in the correct manner, despite wanting to help in any way he could.’


Mr Bennett said that when he and his partner sent Mr Smith photographs and a video of a particular area, he was able to instantly recall significant landmarks and the area very clearly.


‘Furthermore, he had a great deal to say about Brady’s unusual behaviour there – which mirrored Brady’s behaviour where the other victims were subsequently found. All this has since been made available to the police but they failed to take it seriously.


‘David passed away in May of this year but he had been prepared until the very end to speak to them.

Murderous couple: Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Jackie Powell's house in South Wales (right) was searched by police looking for the letter she claimed was given to her by Brady

‘The other credible witness supplied us with information that tallied perfectly with what David had told us and also with Brady and Hindley’s own statements in letters to me.’


Mr Bennett added: ‘The information remains with the police. I cannot and will not ever be able to understand their apathy towards all that has been presented to them.


‘Greater Manchester Police have said my mother is now reunited with Keith but the fact remains that as long as Keith remains on the moor her wish that he should be given a proper burial remains unfullfilled.


‘As far as I am concerned, until Keith is found, then he is still in the possession of Brady and Hindley.’


‘Our fear as a family is that now my mother is no longer with us, this may be seen by the police and the media as some sort of closure to the case.


‘This must not be allowed to happen, both out of respect for Keith and my mother’s memory and for those of us who loved them both.’


Today, he said that he will remain 'in the possession' of Brady and Myra Hindley until his body is found.


Writing on his website,, Mr Bennett, who was nine when his brother was taken off the street by Brady and the late Hindley, said: 'As far as I am concerned, until Keith is found then he is still in the possession of Brady and Hindley.


'Our fear as a family is that now my mother is no longer with us, this may be seen by the police and the media as some sort of closure to the case.


'This must not be allowed to happen both out of respect for Keith and my mother's memory and for those of us who loved them both.'


David Smith was 17 when he brought an end to the Moors Murderers’ spree by calling police after he saw Brady batter Edward Evans to death with an axe in October 1965.


No one from Greater Manchester Police was available to respond to Mr Bennett’s claims yesterday.


The confession that sparked hunt for Keith's body


By Russell Myers


Winnie Johnson always knew Ian Brady and Myra Hindley had murdered her son Keith Bennett in 1964.   


But it took a dramatic confession from Brady to a journalist in 1985 to give her hope that she would one day be able to give him the burial he deserved. 


It sparked a search on Saddleworth Moor but forensic teams were unable to find his body.

Brady later denied confessing to the murder but after Winnie sent a letter to Hindley begging for information, she agreed to help with the search. Hindley made two visits with police to the Moors in 1986 and 1987.   


On July 1, 1987, detectives found the body of 16-year-old Pauline Reade, another of the couple’s victims, but Keith’s remains could not be found. When Brady was told Pauline’s body had been discovered, he finally confessed to Keith’s killing.

Winnie Johnson pictured on Saddleworth Moor with her sons David (L) and Joe & psychic Teresa Walsh in one of her many attempts to find her son

He was taken to the moor twice in 1987 but claimed he could not remember where he had buried the boy.  


Police have since used computer imagery to compare the current landscape to the scenery in pictures Brady and Hindley took in 1964. A team of top geologists also examined the movement of soil and peat over the past 40 years to work out where a body could be. 


In 2008, an American spy satellite was used as part of a top-secret police operation to find Keith’s remains. 


In the same operation, an expert Army team specialising in locating the graves of terror victims in Northern Ireland scoured an area of the moor. 


Carbon vapours, believed by scientists to be emitted from corpses, were found at a location of ‘great interest’ to the police on hills above Oldham, but still no body was found.  


As late as the beginning of this year Winnie employed a private security firm with sniffer dogs in a final bid to find Keith. 


She has died without the answer to the one question she wanted answered.

Martin Bottomley, head of investigative review of Greater Manchester Police’s cold case crime unit, said: ‘The only comfort we can take is that Winnie is now at peace with the little boy she missed so much.’

She loathed him for taking her child, but she loathed him far more for never giving him back

Fight to the end: Winnie Johnson, pictured clutching a photograph of her son on Saddleworth Moor, never gave up trying to find Keith's body

by Sarah Oliver

She was a Christian – but Winnie Johnson never forgave Ian Brady, whom she hated with a ferocity born of grief, desperation and fury. She loathed him for taking her  child but she loathed him far more for never giving him back.


Of the five child victims of Brady and his twisted lover Myra Hindley, Keith Bennett was the only one whose body has never been found on Saddleworth Moor. He was just 12 when they raped and strangled him, an ordinary boy with broken spectacles who loved nature and collecting coins. 

I spoke to Winnie four years ago, in what proved to be one of her final interviews before ill health claimed her ability to fight for justice for her son. She told me then:  ‘I would like to tie Brady to a stake in the street and tear bits of flesh off him, to torture him as slowly and as completely as he has tortured me. And then when he was dead, I’d happily bang the nails into his coffin myself.


‘A lost child is something which destroys part of you at the time and then the rest of  you slowly. It can and does drive you mad.’ 


Winnie was gentle with a deep wellspring of kindness and compassion for others. But she spoke with such sincerity that I believed her. She likened Brady to the fictitious serial killer Hannibal Lecter, a genius who derived intense pleasure from his ability to torment others – even when he was behind bars. 


‘That’s him,’ she said. ‘Brady has toyed with me for more than 40 years and has enjoyed every minute of it. He’s just like Lecter with his mind games. I feel as if his mind is in search of…’ And then she tailed off.  ‘Your soul?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘My soul.’


Winnie, who died yesterday aged 78, was a product of her class and time. She had little by way of education or material wealth – she counted her riches in her health, her home and children – but she spent the second half of her life campaigning for funding and the political will to bring Keith’s body home. A woman with nothing other than an instinct for right and wrong, she coped without the phalanx of advisers, agents and spokesmen who now assist families in her situation.  


She was permanently embattled but never embittered. When the Moors Murders and Keith faded into history, and public attention was seized by the killing of James Bulger in 1993, the Soham murders in 2002 and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in 2007, she spoke not of resentment but of sorrow for other mothers. ‘Few people know what they’ve been through,’ she told me. ‘I’m one of them.’



Sadly her death from cancer means she has failed in all three of the aims she stated to me back then. She wished to give Keith a proper funeral; to have charges pressed against Brady for the murder to which he confessed 25 years ago while already serving a triple life sentence; and, more simply, to outlive him.



She said: ‘I want Brady charged with murder and taken to Saddleworth Moor and left there until he leads a search party to Keith’s body. I know that after all this time, there will be very little left but even if it’s just a handful of dust, I want it back.



‘The thought of my little boy alone there for eternity fills my every waking moment. The only thing which might make it stop is finding Keith. I am beside myself at the prospect of Brady dying before that happens.’



Winnie had no fear of his discovery – she was ready to bury Keith. After thousands of trips to the moor with family and friends, with police search teams and mediums and the media, she had chosen his hymns and made plans for a horse-drawn procession. She even kept a cross on her mantelpiece in readiness.



The strain had, she admitted, almost killed her. ‘He [Brady] has nearly pushed me over the edge several times. Once in the early days when Keith was missing, I got all my children together and marched down to a police station. I told them I’d kill the whole family if they didn’t find him. I couldn’t cope any more.



‘There’s only Brady and me left. Hindley  is dead and so are the other parents of the victims. But I will fight him until the end because I know he knows where he left my son.’



The last thing Winnie said to me was this: ‘His very existence gives me the will to outlive and outwit him. Why should he get away with murder? He has spent all these years thinking that he stole my son and then got the better of me. I want him to die knowing that I got the better of him.’

Except now she’s gone. And of course, she never did.


Hunt: Police officers search Saddleworth Moor for the bodies of the children killed by Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley

Killer: Ian Brady in police custody prior to his court appearance for the Moors Murders for which he was later convicted


July 12, 1963 - Pauline Reade, 16, right, disappears on her way to a disco.



Nov 23, 1963 - John Kilbride, 12, below right is snatched by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, sexually assaulted and murdered.



June 16, 1964 - Keith Bennett is snatched after he leaves home to visit his grandmother.



December 26, 1964 - Lesley Ann Downey, 10, is lured away from a funfair and killed.



October 6, 1965 - Brady kills Edward Evans, 17.



May 6, 1966 - Brady given life at Chester Assizes in 1966 for the murders of John, Lesley Ann and Edward.



Hindley was convicted of killing Lesley Ann and Edward and shielding Brady after John's murder, and also jailed for life.  


1985 - Brady is moved to the Ashworth psychiatric hospital in Merseyside.



1987 - The pair finally admit killing Keith and Pauline and are taken back to Saddleworth Moor to help police find the remains of the missing victims. Only Pauline's body is found.



September 1999 - Brady goes on hunger strike after complaining about being forcibly removed from his room at the hospital to a new ward because of security concerns sparked by a patient on his old ward. He has been fed by a tube ever since.


November 15, 2002 - Hindley dies in jail aged 60.


September 13, 2009 - Brady begins campaign to be moved to a Scottish prison so he will be allowed to die.



March 27, 2010 - A privately-funded search for Keith Bennett's grave begins. His mother, Winnie Johnson, 76, said she hopes to find her son and bury him before she and Brady die.


July 3, 2012 - Brady suffers a seizure and spends several nights in hospital. A mental health tribunal that would look at his application to be transferred to Scotland is delayed as a result.



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