Crumpsall-born Myra Hindley, in her day described by the British
press as ‘the most hated woman in Britain’, along with her partner
and lover, Ian Brady, were found guilty of several murders at
Chester Assizes after a two week trial and were both given life
sentences for their crimes on the 6th May 1966. They were convicted
of the murders by strangulation in 1964 of 10 year old Lesley
Ann Downey and of 17 year old Edward Evans in 1965.
Ian Brady, who had been born in Glasgow on the 2 January 1938,
was also convicted of the murder of 12 year old John Kilbride,
and Hindley was found guilty of being an accessory.
The victim’s bodies had been buried on the remote Saddleworth
Moors above Manchester and soon became known as the ‘Moors Murders’.
Much later, in 1987, Brady and Hindley also confessed to the
murders of 16 year old Pauline Reade and 12 year old Keith Bennett.
But, while intensive police searches carried out on Saddleworth
Moor led to the discovery of Pauline Reade’s body, the remains
of Keith Bennett were never found.
Hindley had left school at the age of 15 and began work at a
local chemical company, where she met Ian Brady, who was working
as a stock clerk. Brady already had a criminal record and had
served time in Borstal and in Strangeways Prison. Until then,
Hindley had been, by all accounts, a perfectly normal girl,
with a strong religious leaning.
She soon became infatuated with Brady and they became lovers.
Completely under Brady’s influence, Hindley was persuaded in
July 1963 to lure Pauline Reade up to the moors where the couple
subsequently killed and buried her body.
Next, in October 1963, they gave a lift to John Kirkbride in
Ashton-under-Lyne – he was never seen alive again. Their trail
of murder was brought to an end eventually by Hindley’s brother-in-law,
David Smith, who called the police after he witnessed the murder
of Edward Evans.
In prison Hindley eventually showed signs of contrition for
her crimes and turned to religion for comfort during her latter
days; she also pursued a long campaign for parole, supported
by the late Lord Longford, who visited her frequently in prison.
Despite her reputation, Hindley had supporters, who argued that
she had shown remorse and had become a devout Roman Catholic.
In 1994, Hindley had admitted that she was “wicked and
evil” and had behaved “monstrously”, going on
to say that “ without me, those crimes could probably
not have been committed”. By that time she had obtained
an Open University degree in humanities.
Brady, on the other hand, admitted that he had no desire to
be freed, and will never seek parole.
In 1998, Home Secretary Jack Straw concluded that Hindley should
stay in prison for the rest of her natural life, which she did.
She died in prison hospital following a chest infection, at
the age of 60 on Friday 15 November 2002.
The body of Myra Hindley was cremated on 20th November 2002
in a small private funeral attended by just 12 friends. Later,
and chillingly, a banner was found at the entrance to the crematorium
which read “Burn in Hell”!
in Nottingham on the 14th January 1946, Harold Frederick Shipman,
who for many years ran an apparently normal and respectable
general medical practice in Hyde, Tameside, was found guilty
of unlawfully killing 15 of his patients, with a possibility
of some 215 others having also been murdered by him. He had
studied Medicine at Leeds University. Shipman became the focus
of Europe’s biggest ever murder investigation when it came to
light that he was suspected of systematically killing many of
his older patients over a period of 14 years.
‘Dr Death’ , as he became known in the press, was arrested
on 7th September 1998, initially charged with a single murder,
that of 81 year old Mrs Kathleen Grundy. Subsequently, a further
nine bodies were exhumed by police and found to contain lethal
dosages of drugs. The controversial exhumations were carried
out at night, witnessed by a priest, and the remains of female
patients ranging in age from 49 to 81 were unearthed. In some
cases where patients had been cremated investigators had to
search deeply into medical records and take what evidence they
could from the families of the deceased.
Shipman was addicted to Pethidine, a Morphine-type drug and
it was revealed that he had been writing prescriptions for himself
for these potentially lethal drugs for many years.
Fired from his first job as a GP and heavily fined, Shipman
spent time at a drug rehabilitation centre, but was never struck
off the medical register. In 1977 he moved to Hyde where he
joined a local medical practice, before setting up on his own
The original investigation had been set in motion after it was
discovered that Mrs Grundy, a former Mayoress and well known
charity worker in Hyde, had inexplicably left nothing in her
will to her two sons and her daughter, and that her will had
been changed only 2 weeks prior her death – the sum of £386,000
had been bequeathed to Dr Shipman. Further investigation revealed
other inconsistencies and Shipman subsequently with appeared
in court charged with three murders.
He had provided death certificates for all of his alleged victims,
most of whom were elderly and police went on to investigate
around 3 000 prescriptions that he wrote during more than 20
years as a general practitioner in Hyde. Greater Manchester
Police admitted that Shipman was probably one of Britain’s most
prolific killers of modern times. A jury found Shipman guilty
of 15 murders, though 150 further cases are being investigated.
He was sentenced on 31st January 2000 and condemned to 15 life
sentences. After a year long public inquiry, a 2000 page report
by Judge Dame Janet Smith showed that the number of Shipman
victims was probably as high as 236 people.
On Tuesday 13th January 2004 the body of Harold Shipman was
discovered hanging from bed sheets tied to the window bars in
his cell at Wakefield prison. It was concluded that he had died
by suicide around 6.30am that morning.
The Manchester Martyrs
William O’Mera Allen, Michael
Larkin & William O’Brien
(All Hanged 1867)
The affair of the so-called ‘Manchester Martyrs’ came about
in 1867, when in the early hours of the 11th September, Colonel
Thomas Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy were arrested in Manchester.
Colonel Kelly was a most prominent Fenian, having only recently
been confirmed as Chief Executive of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
The Fenians were an anti-British Irish-American republican secret
society, founded in the USA in 1858 to campaign for Irish-American
support for armed rebellion following the death of the Irish
nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell.
On the Eighteenth of September, they were being taken from the
Court House in Manchester to the County Jail on Hyde Road, West
Gorton. The two prisoners were handcuffed and locked in separate
compartments inside a police van, with an accompanying escort
of twelve mounted policemen. As the van passed under a railway
arch, a man jumped out and pointed a pistol at the driver, ordering
him to stop. At the same time about thirty men also leapt out,
surrounded the van and seized the horses. The would-be rescuers
tried vainly to force open the van door with sledge hammers
and crowbars, as the Police Sergeant inside the van, refused
to open the door to them. Then, one of the rescuers fired a
revolver through the keyhole of the door as Sergeant Brett put
his eye to the keyhole to see what was going on outside, The
bullet pierced his eye, entered the brain and killed him outright.
Eventually, the door was opened from the inside and Colonel
Kelly and Captain Deasy escaped, never to be recaptured.
Others were not so lucky. After a chase, police arrested and
charged five men with taking part in the rescue: William O’Mera
Allen, Michael Larkin, William O’Brien, Thomas Maguire and Edward
Stone. Four were found guilty and sentenced to death, while
Maguire was pardoned and discharged, Stone’s sentence was eventually
commuted to life imprisonment.
However, Allen, Larkin and O’Brien were hanged on the 23rd November
A Memorial was erected to their memory in Moston Cemetery. In
St Ann’s Church in Manchester there is a plaque to the memory
of the unfortunate Sergeant Brett.
Habitual murderer by poisoning, Mary Ann Britland of Ashton-under-Lyne
was hanged by James Berry on the 9th of August 1886, the first
woman to be executed at Strangeways Prison in Manchester.
It began when Mary and her husband Thomas Britland had rented
a house in Ashton-under-Lyne, which was infested with mice and
s he had bought rat poison ostensibly to deal with the problem.
The poison contained strychnine and arsenic and she had therefore
signed the poison register.
Britland’s first victim by poisoning in March 1886 was her daughter
Elizabeth, whom the attending physician diagnosed as having
died of natural causes. Shortly afterwards, Britland claimed
her daughter’s £10 life insurance. Next, she poisoned
her husband Thomas. His death was diagnosed as epilepsy – Britland
also claimed on his life insurance. During this time she is
thought to have had an affair with her neighbour Thomas Dixon.
Dixon’s wife, also named Mary, was to become the next and her
final victim. This third death raised suspicion in the neighbourhood.
Britland was subsequently interrogated by the local police about
Mary Dixon’s death and the body was examined by the district
pathologist. It was found to contain a lethal quantity of the
two poisons and Mary was immediately arrested. She was tried
for murder at Manchester Assizes on Thursday 22nd July 1886.
She was inevitably found guilty, sentenced to death by hanging,
as was the rule of the day, but declared to the court “I
am quite innocent, I am not guilty at all”.
She had to be assisted to the gallows in a state of virtual
collapse and physically supported by two male warders on the
trap doors during the execution.
John Jackson, a plumber by trade, after a heavy drinking session
in the public houses of Leeds had signed up to join the army.
While in the army he had been found guilty and convicted of
horse stealing and was sentenced to serve six months in Wakefield
Prison. Sometime during his sentence, he had managed to escape,
but was recaptured and sent to Armley prison in Leeds from which
he was released in the summer of 1885.
Old habits die hard and by 1888 Jackson was breaking into houses
in Manchester, where he was soon caught in the act of burglary
again, and was sentenced to a further 6 months in Strangeways
His skill as a plumber, however, came in useful when the prison
matron had a gas leak in her home. Jackson, accompanied by Webb,
a warder, was taken to the house. After completing the repair,
Jackson went on to attack Webb with a hammer, fracturing his
skull. He stole the warder’s boots and then fled via the attic
from where he removed slates, (using the murder weapon) and
made his escape down into the street.
He survived on the run for several weeks, supporting himself
by housebreaking before being finally caught in Bradford on
the 2nd June 1888. After a struggle he gave up and confessed
to the killing. He was taken back to Manchester for trial where
he was convicted of Webb’s murder and hanged by James Berry
on Tuesday 7th August.
Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt
On Christmas Eve, 24th December 1919 the body of 26 year old
Kathleen Breaks was found dead lying among the sand dunes on
the beach at Lytham St Annes near Blackpool. She had been shot
three times with a revolver. Footprints, a Webley service revolver
and blood stained gloves were found nearby in the dunes.
Soon afterwards, Lieutenant Frederick Holt, who had been Kathleen’s
lover, was arrested, charged with her murder and tried at Manchester
Assizes between the 23rd and 27th February 1920 before Mr. Justice
His defence of insanity was rejected. The prosecution’s case
was that Holt had murdered Kathleen Breaks (also known as Kitty)
for her considerable life insurance, after he had persuaded
her to make him her sole beneficiary. Holt appealed his death
sentence claiming that having earlier contracted syphilis in
1920 in Malaya it had unbalanced his mind. He was examined by
Home Office psychiatrists who rejected the appeal. Frederick
Holt was hanged by public hangman John Ellis on the 13th April
Thirty-three year old Louie Calvert battered and strangled her
landlady Mrs Lily Waterhouse to death after she had confronted
her with the theft of articles from her boarding house and had
reported her to the police. In the condemned cell she also admitted
to the murder of a previous employer, John Frobisher, in 1922.
Louie Calvert was hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint at Strangeways
on the 24th June 1926.
Dr Buck Ruxton
Doctor Buck Ruxton murdered Isabella, his common law wife, and
his housemaid, Mary Jane Rogerson at their home in Lancaster
on the 15th September 1935. He then dismembered their bodies
and removed any distinguishing features which might identify
them and determine the cause of death.
It was alleged at his trial that Mary Rogerson had been smothered
and Mrs Ruxton manually strangled. He wrapped the body parts
in sheets of a local newspaper sold only in the Lancaster area
and then drove to Scotland and threw them into a river near
Moffat, in Dumfriesshire. As a result of the location the case
became known as ‘the bodies under the bridge murder’. It was
the local nature of the newspaper that enabled police to trace
the body’s origin back to Lancaster. Ruxton had also done several
things that were to incriminate him. Whilst disposing of the
bodies, he had cut his hand, and he told several people about
this incident, and there were bloodstains all over the house
and on his clothes.
It was revealed that Ruxton had been somewhat of a control freak,
jealous of Isabella’s evident good looks. He had killed Mary
Rogerson in order to cover his tracks, because she had witnessed
Ruxton was tried at Manchester Assizes in March 1936 before
Mr Justice Singleton, the jury taking just over an hour to convict
him. Later, his written confession was published. It stated:
“ I killed Mrs Ruxton in a fit of temper because I
thought she had been with a man. I was mad at the time. Mary
Rogerson was present at the time. I had to kill her”. Buck
Ruxton was hanged at Strangeways Prison on the 12th May 1936.
Margaret Allen of Rawtenstall was a lesbian who dressed in men’s
clothes and preferred to be called ‘Bill’ – she worked as local
bus conductor. On the 28th August 1948 she battered Nancy Ellen
Chadwick to death with a hammer. Mrs Chadwick was an elderly
neighbour who had come to borrow a cup of sugar. The neighbours
had apparently never enjoyed the best of relationships and Allen
found her irritating in the extreme. Allen confessed to the
police that she was “ in one of my funny moods.”
She was convicted after a short trial held on the 8th December
1948 and was hanged on the 12th January 1949 by public executioner
Albert Pierrepoint, the first female execution in Britain for
12 years and only the third at Strangeways Prison.
On the 8th May 1951, public hangman Albert Pierrepoint was assisted
by Sid Dernly in the hanging of James Inglis. Inglis had been
convicted of the murder of 50 year old prostitute Alice Morgan,
whom he had battered and strangled to death. Alice Morgan and
Inglis had quarrelled over her payment, after she had taken
him to her home for drink and sex. He pleaded a defence of insanity
which was summarily rejected by the jury. He was given the death
sentence by Mr Justice Ormerod on the 20th April and hanged
three weeks later.
Louisa May Merrifield
The last woman to be executed at Strangeways Prison was 46 year
old Louisa May Merrifield who had been convicted of poisoning
Mrs Sarah Ricketts. Mrs Ricketts was a 79 year old, bedridden
widow who lived in Blackpool and she had hired Merrifield and
her husband Alfred to look after her in March 1953. Shortly
thereafter, she made a new will leaving her bungalow to Merrifield.
Mrs Ricketts was very fond of very sweet jams which she ate
directly from the jar by the spoonful. Merrifield added the
rat poison, Rodine, to the jam which Mrs Rickets subsequently
ate. Her death was considered suspicious and an autopsy was
performed which revealed the presence of poison. A record of
the sale of the Rodine to Merrifield was discovered at the local
chemists and the police arrested her and her husband, Alfred.
Unfortunately for her, Merrifield had openly boasted of inheriting
the bungalow which threw suspicion on her.
The Merrifields were tried at Manchester Assizes on the 20th
July of 1953. Alfred was later acquitted for lack of evidence
but his wife was found guilty.
Louisa May Merrifield was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint on Friday
18th September 1953.
Walter Graham Rowland
Walter Graham Rowland was hanged on 27 February 1947 for the
murder of Olive Balchin, whose body was found at a bomb site
battered to death with a hammer. The bloodstained murder weapon,
a hammer used by leather beaters, was found nearby. After a
lengthy investigation, a description of the perpetrator was
given to the police from a local shopkeeper who had sold the
weapon. One account had Olive Balchin as being Rowland’s lover,
and others that she was a local prostitute.
Rowland’s alibi was for a time substantiated by three police
officers who were patronising the same pub as Rowland at the
same time as the murder was alleged to have taken place. His
landlord also verified the time when he arrived back at his
lodgings as placing him some way from the bomb site. However,
eyewitness accounts of a man last seen in the company of Balchin
on the night of her murder pointed towards Rowland as the probable
murderer. Therefore, when police further questioned Rowland
and carried out forensic examination of his clothes, bloodstains
matching the blood type of Balchin were found, as well as dust
particles identified as coming from the murder scene. Rowland
was arrested for the murder of Olive Balchin, later convicted
and was hanged at Strangeways Prison. He had been convicted
despite his apparent water-tight alibi.
An interesting footnote to the affair came about while Rowland
was awaiting execution, when one David Ware, in Strangeways
on a charge of robbery, confessed to the murder. But he was
found to be lying and later withdrew the confession. Rowland,
it was determined, had indeed committed the crime for which
he was later hanged. Several years later, in 1951, David Ware
attacked another woman and was found guilty but insane.