Tuesday, 7 December 2010

One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley by Carol Ann Lee

A fascinating biography of The Most Evil Woman in Britain (TM.) Myra Hindley and Ian Brady murdered at least five children and teenagers in the early sixties. Myra supplied the transport and the victims. Ian raped and murdered them before burying them on the moors. Still the most notorious crimes in this country since Jack the Ripper.

The most shocking aspect has always been the fact of a woman taking part in the sexual murders of children. Brady is one of Ressler's classic organised serial killers - a sadist and a psychopath obsessed with power and sex. But what was Hindley getting out of it? Was she a besotted lover? A victim of his sexual violence and domination herself? Something worse? Nobody, let alone Myra, has ever known for sure.

They were both wannabe intellectuals, into Neitzche and de Sade. They both worshipped the Nazis, and despised the mundane world with its conventional moralities. They lurked outside schools taking pictures of the children. After the murders they revisited the moors, sometimes taking neighbours' children for a day out and encouraging them to play on the spots children their own age were buried. Even in court they wrote coded messages to each other about throwing acid in the face of a toddler. When the internal world of a serial killer is split in two, you can see it a lot more clearly.
One of Your Own is chilling and lyrical without trying too hard. It captures the mood of the time and place perfectly. And although it's an easy and engaging read, it's never sensationalist.

The second half covering Myra's time behind bars is very interesting. She tried for years to win parole. How could she be judged decades later for things she did as a brutalised young woman in love?

Now, I'm not going to defend the guards who orchestrated her savage beating, or the Sun, which attacked the brother of one of the victims who visited Myra "to give her a HUG !" (in fact he was trying to convince her to undergo hypnosis to tell where he was buried) but I have no doubt it was right not to release her. She lied and made excuses throughout her incarcation, and at least one of the bodies has never been found.

There were those who campaigned on her behalf. Her "old men" - her useful idiots - like Lord Longford who cried compassion, and said Myra was a different woman, who deserved her freedom after years behind bars. That her crimes were secondary and under duress. They were almost succesful as well - only her death prevented a probably favourable decision by the European Court of Human Rights. All wrong of course. I'm of the old fashioned view that people are responsible for their actions, and that evil should be punished.

At least Brady admits he should never be released. He's currently in a psychiatric hospital in year eleven of his hunger strike, being fed through a tube. I've no complaints with that. I can also recommend his florid and claustraphobic book Gates of Janus. It's about serial killers.
In other murder news, I've got David Peace's novel 1974 featuring the Yorkshire Ripper investigation coming up, and I'm on the hunt for the Devil in the White City about 19th century torture dungeon king H.H. Holmes. I also keep noticing the American Psycho audiobook in my library, but I think that could push me over the edge.


Ali said...

In other murder news. He he.

I have the Devil in the White City on my list too after reading about it somewhere I forget but it sounded rather intriguing.

Joe said...

Yeah, Holmes bought over a big block of flats in Chicago during the World's Fair in the 1890s or so, and transformed them into a labyrinth with gas chambers, airtight cells, glass fronted observation rooms, chutes for corpse disposal etc. Like an old timey Saw movie.