Iconic Photos

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The Moors Murders

with 11 comments

I don’t remember when I first saw the above photo, but it had been seared into my memory ever since. Usually, one tends to forget prison mugshots — thousands are made each day anyway — but not this one. In this, one can almost sense the evil permeating out of the photo, as if it were a modern Dorian Grey, tempting us, mocking us.

Between 1963 and 1965, Myra Hindley (above) and her deranged mentor Ian Brady sexually assaulted and murdered five children aged between 10 and 17. The killings were known as the Moors Murders because the bodies were buried on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester. Hindley’s brother-in-law reported her assault on a 17-year-old, which lead to her arrest, and discovery of pornographic photos the couple took before killing their victims.

A stubborn, unrepentant creature in her early twenties, Hindley entered the court defiantly, pleading not guilty. The most damning, however, was a 13-minute tape recording of a child victim screaming and pleading for help while Hindley and Brady were sexually assaulting her. As newspapers wrote back then, the above picture looked as if it was snapped in the moment of that atrocity, Hindley hovering pitiless over a dying child. The jury took less than two hours to find them guilty; in an uncharacteristically vituperative closing remarks, the presiding justice described the murders as a “truly horrible case” and condemned the accused as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”.

The Abolition of Death Penalty Act was passed while Hindley and Brady were on trial, and the sentence was to be life-imprisonment without parole. Hindley died in 2002, alternately maintaining her innocence and blaming Brady for blackmailing her into the murders. Brady remains the longest-serving prisoner in the United Kingdom.

In 1995, an art installation of the above photo in mosaic form created by hundreds of copies of a child’s handprint (Myra by Marcus Harvey) created a media firestorm at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. The Mothers Against Murder and Aggression protest group picketed, accompanied by a mother of one of Hindley’s victims. Even Hindley sent a letter from jail denouncing it as “a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim.” Windows at Burlington House, the Academy’s home, were smashed and ink and eggs were hurled at the picture. Academians resigned. The installation was removed and restored, but put back on display behind Perspex and guarded by security men. One critic noted, “Far from cynically exploiting her notoriety, Harvey’s grave and monumental canvas succeeds in conveying the enormity of the crime she committed. Seen from afar, through several doorways, Hindley’s face looms at us like an apparition. By the time we get close enough to realize that it is spattered with children’s handprints, the sense of menace becomes overwhelming.”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

January 13, 2010 at 8:28 am

Posted in Society

Tagged with , ,

11 Responses

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  1. See also: a 1986 letter to Hindley, written by the mother of a victim.
    (A coincidence that these were both published today?)


    January 13, 2010 at 10:29 pm

  2. hell…awesome read…


    January 14, 2010 at 9:16 am

  3. Shame your article, instead of being informative and critical instead adopted a cheap and crass tabloid approach.

    So much more potential for something that didn’t slump into the lowest common denominator.


    January 14, 2010 at 6:41 pm

  4. See also: Model Kate Moss and Pete Doherty posing as Brady and Hindley’s mugshots



    February 12, 2010 at 7:18 am

  5. […] ive experienced? im not sure. regardless, i stumbled upon Myra Hindley’s photograph on this iconic photos blog (which is genuinely worth a look) and i realized i didnt actually know much about her case. in […]

  6. Yes, the good read, thank you for it !

    I know the story of these 2 people.


    Marina – Ukraine.


    March 18, 2010 at 8:58 am

  7. Bradlt and Hindley were my mothers neighbours.


    March 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

  8. Bradly and Hindley were my mothers neighbours.


    March 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

  9. mng

    April 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm

  10. […] and health problems. Street gangs and casual violence were rife, and the infamous Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, was born in the […]

  11. Your a really good writer.
    You should definitely, continue writing.
    I just happened to stumble upon this page.
    I use to read a lot of this kind of thing.
    I eventually had to pull myself away from it
    because, it has a way of swallowing up your mind.
    I love it, death is fascinating to me, but murder is an
    evil that I protect my mind from, as much as possible.
    The evil that presided in these peoples lives, has a way
    of carrying on by those who look into their lives.
    It is good not to forget, that there are some very harmful
    people out there. People, who not only don’t care if you
    were dead or alive; but actually wants the feeling of taking
    your life. For whatever reason.
    I’ve read a few of your articles. I think they are very good.
    If you aren’t already working as a writer for some magazine,
    or don’t already have something published in book form;
    I suggest, you do something to change that.


    October 30, 2011 at 3:37 am

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