IN THE NEWS
THE PRIVILEGED MR BRADY
On 26th June 2019, reporter Sanchia Berg reported on a shocking story regarding one of the most despised criminals in British history – Ian Brady – for BBC Radio 4. Following the release of 150 Home Office documents, Berg unearthed an appalling story of how an unremorseful, sadistic child murderer used his hunger strike as a bargaining tool which allowed him access to young vulnerable boys whilst incarcerated in prison and yet, despite a number of allegations and personnel concerns about his conduct including that of rape, the influential intervention of his only visitor allowed the situation to continue for over five years.
For those who don’t know who Ian Brady is, Brady was an infamous serial killer who, between 1963 and 1965 in Manchester, along with his girlfriend Myra Hindley, abducted, sexually abused, tortured and killed a number of children before burying their bodies on Saddleworth Moor. Originally born in Glasgow, Brady had a troubled and unsettled childhood before eventually settling in Manchester where he then met Hindley. So evil were the pair, they photographed and recorded their youngest victim pleading for her life, as well as took photographs of themselves upon the Moor. They became known as the ‘Moors Murderers’ and continue to be despised by most of society. Brady was inherently evil, being described as manipulative. He was formally diagnosed as a psychopath whilst in prison, and despite numerous pleas and requests by the mother of one of his little victims, Keith Bennett, Brady flatly refused to tell Winnie where her son’s body was buried. Brady died in Ashworth Hospital on 15th May 2017 and thus went to his grave still maintaining a level of control over his appalling crimes.
- Lesley-Ann Downey – age 10
- Keith Bennett – age 12
- John Kilbride – age 12
- Pauline Reade – age 16
- Edward Evans – age 17
The National Archives is a repository which holds records from all government departments that are earmarked for retention. Most of the records are closed for a set number of years before being reviewed. Every year a number of records are released for public viewing and in 2019 150 files from the Home Office were released which included the prison records of the murderer, Ian Brady.
Sanchia Berg decided to read through the files, which was full of official memos, letters and notes that built up a picture of Brady’s time in prison, and uncovered a shocking discovery.
Brady was initially incarcerated in HMP Durham in 1966 before being transferred to HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight where some of the notorious prisoners have been held, including the Kray twins, Peter Sutcliffe and Mad Frankie Fraser. In 1969 a huge riot ensued (involving Fraser) following allegations of brutality by prison staff towards inmates which was eventually resolved by an out of court settlement by the Home Office.
In 1974, Brady was transferred to Wormwood Scrubs in West London – an old Victorian building still housing prisoners today. Because of his notoriety and nature of his crimes, he was placed in the segregation unit where most paedophiles and child killers are placed – mainly for their own safety. However, Brady took umbridge to this and in the summer of 1975 went on a hunger strike demanding he be moved and allowed to mix with other prisoners. As his weight diminished, Brady was transferred to the hospital wing and this is where he began using his health as leverage against those charged with holding him.
The only regular visitor to Brady was Lord Longford.
Lord ‘Frank’ Longford was a Labour politician and hereditary peer, who spent much of his life campaigning for legal reform. Longford spent many years trying unsuccessfully to obtain freedom for Myra Hindley and attempted to address the growing issue of pornography.
In terms of political career, he was unpopular with many of his peers and former Prime Minister Harold Wilson once described him as “having the mental capacity of a 12-year old.” Despite that, in 1971, Longford addressed The Men and Women of Today Club and announced that he was undertaking an unofficial inquiry into “the well established menace of pornography.” (Kensington Post, 9th April 1971) The inquiry was launched in May 1971 and consisted of 48 members, including: Malcolm Muggeridge and Cliff Richard.
Once Brady was stabilised in the Scrubs’ hospital, he used his hungerstrike as a bargaining chip by telling Longford that he would stop IF he was allowed to remain on the hospital wing. The well-known and extremely well-connected Longford went straight to the heart of government on behalf of Brady and spoke with Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, who agreed to Brady’s demand. Brady was given a room on the Hospital Observation Landing, known as G2.
The Scrubs’ hospital wing was not used exclusively for Scrubs’ prisoners, but was also used by Feltham Young Offenders Borstal. Youngsters with varying needs and problems were placed within the confines of an adult prison hospital for treatment, and it was the Scrubs’ Principal Medical Officer (PMO) who first realised the seriousness of the situation unfolding and noted in a report on 7th September 1976:
“He takes an unusual interest in any adolescent inmate who may be located on the landing and his influence in such a situation is certainly not a wholesome one.”
Yet despite these concerns, Brady remained on the landing and it was the boys that were moved.
More concerns and complaints about Brady continued yet he was awarded more and more privileges, including being allowed to watch television with other prisoners as well as being made a ‘landing cleaner’ which gave him access to the showers and toilets that were situated beyond the landing itself.
In February 1981, a young inmate approached the PMO in what the PMO recorded as being “in a very agitated state.” He complained that Brady had buggered him some months previously and that a prisoner “wanted to have sexual relations with him,” and he was in fear of his life if he refused the unwanted advances. He requested to be moved, which was granted, and the PMO wrote a letter in which he stated:
“I am most concerned about Brady. I never have been happy about locating disturbed boys or young men on the landing. Brady has shown rather too much interest in them in the past.”
Yet even despite this, Brady remained on the hospital landing but dissent was deeply felt within the prison personnel, especially by the Governor, John McCarthy, who resigned over the appalling conditions in the Scrubs with a very public attack on William Whitelaw and the Prison Service.
By November 1981 Brady had lost his cleaning job so yet again complained to Lord Longford about his treatment. Just as before, Longford immediately reached to the inner sanctum of government asking for their intervention, but by this point something had changed – there was no meeting and instead Longford was sent a letter from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lord Belstead, which said:
“I am satisfied that there were good reasons for the decision to remove Mr Brady from his job, and I see no reason to intervene in this matter.”
Longford’s power of influence rebuffed, Brady was returned to Parkhurst a few months later in March 1982 where he remained until years later, when he was transferred to Ashford, and died.
As to the youngsters that found themselves in the clutches of a monster whilst being held ‘On Her Majesty’s Pleasure’, we’ll probably never know what real damage was done. The Ministry of Justice were approached by BBC but they refused to comment on the files directly. They did, however, state ‘there had been huge changes in the criminal justice system in the last 40 years and that allegations of sexual assault were taken extremely seriously and reported to the police.‘
It seems that young boys with emotional and mental needs were sent from Feltham Young Offenders to the hospital wing at Wormwood Scrubs. The boys were aged 15 upwards. One of Brady’s victims for which he was imprisoned was 17 year old Edward Evans which begs the question why anyone could ever justify Brady having access to any minor, especially the most vulnerable in society. The papers themselves show that the youngsters were treated with distain and indifference, whilst Brady it seems, had access to Lord Longford who was going straight to the heart of government to act in his interests. Children were knowingly put in harms way and I imagine there’s a group of men in their 50s who, if still alive, in society or still incarcerated within the system somewhere, have shocking tales to tell of a system designed to fail the most vulnerable.
So what do we know about Feltham Young Offenders?
Well, during the recent Westminster Hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, it came to light via police whistleblowers that two inmates in Feltham during the 1970s had spoken to them with allegations of abuse against the former Liberal Democrat MP, Cyril Smith. These matters were subsequently covered up. The voice of youth once again ignored because of the great and powerful. It wasn’t just children that Smith silenced, it was press as well. Smith used special branch as his own personal bodyguards and terrorised journalists into complete silence. Compelling and distressing evidence was heard by former police officers and journalists into the tactics of Smith and how he kept his disgusting proclivities quiet.
HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGED?
Medomsley Detention Centre, Durham
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Justice concerning these records, apparently so. However, we do know about heinous allegations of wrongdoing towards Leon Brittan by former youngsters incarcerated within the confines of the notorious Medomsley Detention Centre.
Brittan was Home Secretary.
Broadmoor High-Security Hospital
Then, of course, we have the issue of Jimmy Savile, who initially began volunteering in 1968 but was eventually given the keys and a grace and favour room at Broadmoor High-Security Psychiatric Hospital by central government. During his time there he was accused of sexual abuse 11 times.
This is a shocking and most appalling matter. Rather than issuing a stock reply to the media in response to this matter, I’d like to hear from the Ministry of Justice exactly what has changed in the 40 years since this happened, and whether youngsters are still being detained within adult institutions.
I actually know the answer to this. Do you?
TRANSCRIPTION OF THE REPORT BY SANCHIA BERG FOR RADIO 4: Moors murderer Ian Brady prison privileges uncovered
A visit took place in a separate room in the administration building, which was supervised by AG2, Peter Meakings.
More than 40 years ago, Peter Meakings was the Assistant Governor at Wormwood Scrubs. One of his occasional duties was to supervise meetings between one of the most notorious prisoners in the system – the Moors murderer Ian Brady – and Lord Longford, who campaigned for prison reform.
After Lord Longford apologised for forgetting to bring cigarettes, Brady made his first complaint which centred on lack of educational opportunities. I was struck actually, by the fact that he was very disrespectful to Lord Longford – always addressed him as Frank – and also he was quite rude to him as well.
These records from Ian Brady’s prison files were recently released to The National Archives. They show that Lord Longford’s interventions helped Ian Brady stay in the hospital, where he had been for five years although he wasn’t a patient, Brady had his own room and for much of the time worked as a landing cleaner that gave him contact with younger inmates and boys under 21 from Feltham Borstal, the youth prison, who were there to be treated for mental health illness.
‘He takes an unusual interest in any adolescent inmates that may be located on the landing.’
The first warning about Brady in the files from September 1976, the Principal Medical Officer (PMO) 18 months later March 1978, another alarm from a medical officer:
‘I deplore his association with young borstal trainees. He’s one of the few men to whom I would attach the label ‘evil’’.
There were more warnings over the following years, medical officers within the system, from the independent board of visitors, but Brady stayed where he was. Then in February 1981, a young prisoner came to see the PMO. He wrote confidentially to the governor:
‘He was in a very agitated state’.
The young prisoner said that “Brady had buggered him some months ago.”
It was time for Brady to leave prison, said the PMO.
‘I never have been happy about locating disturbed boys or young on the landing. Brady has shown rather too much in them in the past.’
He lost his job a few months later and left Wormwood Scrubs the following year.
“It’s just really upsetting to look at that history, that historical sort of evidence of some appalling… being allowed to happen.”
Irwin James, a former inmate and now editor of the prison newspaper Inside Time, he was a borstal trainee himself though not at Feltham.
“I saw people in borstal who were incredibly vulnerable and mentally distressed. They were the kids that ended up in the hospital.”
Lord Longford was Brady’s most regular visitor, his most public supporter, as heard here on the David Frost programme in 1977:
“You seem to mention Ian Brady, he never expects to be released and it doesn’t affect me so we view his situation and he has not been treated at all well in prison, as a matter of fact.”
The files show how Lord Longford would meet the Moors murderer then relay his grievances directly to government. In 1975 in Wormwood Scrubs, Ian Brady went on hunger strike. He told Lord Longford he would give it up if he could stay in the prison hospital. Lord Longford went straight to the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, who said Brady could stay on there.
Irwin James again:
“Everything ??? that man’s heart, he cared about everybody so there’s no way I can blame him for aiding Ian Brady’s manipulation, for me it’s the governor and the Home Office.”
The Ministry of Justice wouldn’t comment on the files directly but they did say that there had been huge changes in the criminal justice system in the last 40 years and that allegations of sexual assault were taken extremely seriously and reported to the police.