Ian Brady and Myra Hindley tortured then murdered five children in the mid-60s, burying their bodies on Saddleworth Moor.

Meet one half of Britain's most notorious couple

“The illegitimate child of a Glasgow waitress who turned him over to another couple to be raised, Brady displayed classic psychopathic symptoms from early childhood.”
- Harold Schechter “The Serial Killer Files”

Ian Duncan Stewart was born in a Glasgow slum on 2 January 1938 to single mother Peggy Stewart. He never knew his father’s identity-some suggest he was a newspaper reporter. Unable to afford a babysitter, and working as a waitress to support them, Peggy was forced to leave Ian alone for long periods of time. She gave up on him when he was four months old. She ‘advertised’ him for adoption in a newsagent’s shop window. Peggy visited him at his foster family fairly regularly until he became a teenager. But all during this time she never told him that she was his mother.

Ian was a lonely, secretive, difficult child, despite the best attempts of his adoptive parents. His extreme temper tantrums often ended with him banging his head on the floor. Despite being ‘exceptionally bright, he did poorly in school.’ He was socially awkward and considered a ‘sissy’ at sport.

Aged nine, he had a transcendent experience on a family outing on the moors of Loch Lomond. He left his sleeping family and stood for an hour, silhouetted and solitary on a steep slope looking at the vastness before him. His sense of superiority and the sense that others were merely ‘maggots’ before him started to crystallise around this pseudo-religious event:

“He didn’t need somebody else’s god. He was creating his own.”
Dr David Holmes, Criminal Psychologist

His cruelty to animals started soon after. It ranged from ‘stoning dogs, decapitating rabbits, and, on one occasion, burning a cat alive.’ He later told Myra that he was just ten years old when he killed his first cat. He threw it from a tower block.

At just 12, his mother Peggy leaves Ian entirely and goes to live with her new husband in Manchester, an Irish labourer called Patrick Brady.

Aged 13, Ian had his first court appearance. He was charged with housebreaking. As a teenager, he developed a fascination with the writings of Nietzsche and with Nazism.

“Brady’s fascination with Nazism works on a number of different levels. Firstly there’s this sense in which Hitler obviously was the father to the masses, and Brady is without a father. Remember too that Brady is somebody who has consistently liked to shock. It’s a shocking thing to like the Nazi’s when...you’ve lived through the war...to say you support the people that you’ve actually been fighting against is quite a shocking thing to do.”
- Professor David Wilson, Criminologist

Ian also continued his stumbling career in petty crime. In 1953, and now on his third charge for housebreaking and burglary, he could have received a custodial sentence. Instead the courts returned him to live with his birth mother and stepfather Patrick Brady in Manchester. Ian was now 16-years-old.

In an attempt to belong, he took his stepfather’s surname. His stepfather got him a job as a porter. But Ian’s sense of alienation continued. He explored the sadistic writings of the Marquis de Sade and adopted the Sadean belief that murder is ‘necessary, never criminal.’ He started drinking but avoided beer. To set himself apart, he drank red wine.

Brady returned to crime. He was not successful. Aged just 17, he was sent to Strangeways Prison. Prison life hardened him. There he learnt bookkeeping skills and how to brew his own alcohol. He would soon become an alcoholic.

Following his release in November 1957, Ian became even more of a loner. He was employed at different manual jobs for short periods. In 1959, his prison taught bookkeeping helped him find a job as a stock clerk with a Manchester firm, Millwards Merchandising.

Outside of work, Ian was fascinated by new technology. He bought his own audio recording equipment and transferred Hitler’s speeches onto vinyl records. He also made a dark room for the development of photographs.

In 1961, a new secretary started at work. Her name was Myra Hindley. Four years his junior, Brady barely noticed her at first. Myra flirted with Brady for a year before he showed any interest. He could have been distancing himself for her because it demonstrated control on his part. Or it could have been that the definitely bisexual Brady was in fact homosexual and had little genuine sexual attraction to her. Brady eventually asked her out. Where other couples went to see the first ever James Bond, ‘Dr No’, Brady took Hindley to the film, ‘The Nuremburg Trials'. That was their first date. He encouraged her to read works by Hitler and de Sade. He was educating her to be a female version of himself. But rather than consummate the affair, he cooled to her and avoided her at work. He would then engage with her. Then drop her again. He was grooming her.

Hindley was completely malleable. Brady was her first lover. Their first sex was brutal and violent. As he took her virginity, he bit her repeatedly.

But still Myra dressed and styled herself to please him. Decades before mobile phones and the internet made the practice commonplace, she posed for pornographic photos for him. Her unquestioning acceptance encouraged Brady to become more extreme. This culminated in him believing that the couple should experience the ‘supreme pleasure’. The supreme pleasure would be found by the rape and murder of others. He read Harold Robins ‘The Carpet Baggers’ to Myra. He portrayed its sickeningly detailed description of the rape of a 15-year-old, of incest and paedophilia as ‘adventures’.

Brady, previously cruel to animals, now targeted those convicted of animal cruelty. He and Myra would drive to their homes and either beat them up or put a brick through their window. He was showing Myra a world where only their rules mattered.

He next gave her a book called ‘Compulsion’ about the real life abduction and killing of a Chicago school boy by two good looking wealthy young men who thought they had committed the perfect crime. The novel was intended to be an argument against capital punishment. Ian used it to work out what the killers did wrong: they had abducted the boy close to where they lived; they had dumped the body in a drainage ditch where it would eventually be found; when they burnt the victims face they didn’t do it properly so the victim could still be identified.

Ian outlined a plan where Myra would wear a disguise, abduct a child, take it to the Moors, rape and murder it and bury it there. The plan was for the perfect murder. They started to rehearse abductions. Brady had found his sick soul mate.

None of the couple’s descent into madness was noted by their neighbours.

One neighbour remembered the couple as ‘very quiet, ordinary, normal people’ but that Brady, out of the two was more reticent. Family and friends, however, noticed the cumulative effect that Brady had on her. She became increasingly surly and secretive.

In 1963 Brady tested her blind allegiance by pretending to plan a bank robbery. He was gratified when she took all the steps necessary to execute the plan without question. Hindley would assist him in making his perverted ideas of pain and pleasure a reality.