Police hunt for Keith Bennett on the moors enters third day

How much agony can a family take? Fears the police may return from the rain-lashed moors without answers for Keith Bennett’s loved-ones as new hunt for his grave enters third day

  • Keith Bennet, who was 12, is only victim of Moors murderers never to be found
  • Keith’s mother, Winnie, died never giving up hope that her son would be found
  • Daily Mail revealed that author Russell Edwards believes he has found burial site
  • Keith’s younger brother, Alan, has searched the moors for years with volunteers

How many times did that poor woman – picking her way over peaty Saddleworth Moor, looking for her 12-year-old son Keith – skirt the spot now marked by two blue tents?

It is an inescapable thought. Winnie Johnson went to her grave a decade ago never surrendering hope that her son Keith Bennett would be found. 

Not alive, not that miracle, but whatever remained of him after Ian Brady and Myra Hindley pulled up in a van as he walked to his grandmother’s house in Manchester one day in June 1964, lured him inside with sweets, then sexually assaulted, strangled and buried him in a shallow grave.

The Daily Mail exclusively revealed on Friday that author Russell Edwards believes he has located the youngster’s makeshift grave following ‘extensive soil analysis’ which indicated the presence of human remains.

Keith Bennett was snatched by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in 1964. He is their only victim who has never been found

Mr Edwards believes that Brady meticulously planned where to bury his victims because he wanted to create the shape of a swastika.

The author believes that Brady, obsessed with Nazism, deliberately arranged the graves so that he could create the swastika shape.

Suspected human remains – including what experts believe to be a child’s skull – are reported to have been found. 

What else, if anything, the site shielded by the police tents may yet yield remains to be seen. 

Nothing more was forthcoming yesterday when a cluster of forensic officers, who appeared from our vantage point beside the Oldham to Holmfirth A635 main road as tiny, distant figures, toiled under sullen skies. 

Police are digging on the Moors for murder victim Keith Bennett for the first time in 35 years to investigate suspected human remains. Suspected human remains – including what experts believe to be a child’s skull – are reported to have been found

Hopefully they work in emotional detachment.

‘God love them, up there on that hill, knowing that dreadful story, looking for that poor boy’s bones,’ said Dawn McDermott, 79, as a police car drove past her in a nearby village.

Progress, hampered by erratic weather, was slow. Work began at 9.30am, with fire crews using pumps to drain a waterlogged patch of land. Using pickaxes, spades and sieves, officers collected potential evidence. Slabs of soil were carefully removed and bagged.

It had been Winnie’s dearest wish to take her boy ‘from the place his murderers buried him’ and give him a proper funeral, then lay him to rest in a grave of her choice.

Always looming and receding in the distance, Saddleworth Moor was inescapable to Winnie after Keith’s disappearance. 

Haunted: Keith’s mum Winnie, who died in 2012 without ever knowing where her son was buried. Pictured with the famous ‘missing’ poster of her son

Many times later she was drawn to it, in particular that gnarly, inhospitable knoll where Brady dispatched his young victims. 

She pinned teddy bears and flowers to fences to mark anniversaries. She launched heartfelt appeals before TV cameras.

Then there were the times when new information brought police dogs sniffing for death, and when Brady, let out of prison for the day, wrapped against the cold, played his cruel games, pretending that he would take police to graves, only to feign last-minute forgetfulness.

If she were still alive today, Winnie would have followed every TV and radio bulletin, if not taken herself up to the moor itself. 

A forensics tent is pictured on Saddleworth Moor as police search the area for Moor’s murder victim Keith Bennett

The baton has been passed to another son, Keith’s younger brother Alan, who shares his mother’s indefatigable spirit. 

He knows never to be ruled by hope alone. And so he waits for conclusive evidence.

What emerged yesterday wasn’t exactly promising. In a statement Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said photographs of the site which showed what had been interpreted as a human jaw bone had not led to physical evidence being examined. 

Of all the victims of Hindley and Brady, that wicked duo, Keith is perhaps the most memorable because of a photograph that freezes him in time as an impish schoolboy staring out at us through wire-framed NHS glasses.

Made to circle a child’s ears to stop them falling off, the spectacles’ arms curved inwards and pinched Keith, who was short-sighted, causing him discomfort, just as they did thousands of other kids.

He broke them on a school trip two days before he disappeared and for years they remained in a drawer at his mother’s home. 

She hoped to bury them, with him. On a wall of her home hung a poem: ‘From that day to this / I pray both day and night / That I will find my Keith / And lay his soul to rest.’

Ian Brady with police as he attempts to pinpoint the graves of victims in 1987. There were the times when new information brought police dogs sniffing for death, and when Brady, let out of prison for the day, wrapped against the cold, played his cruel games, pretending that he would take police to graves, only to feign last-minute forgetfulness

In the end, when time ran out, the glasses were buried with Winnie.

Knowing that the secret to her son’s whereabouts rested with Brady, she wrote to him several times, once sending him a DVD telling him about her cancer. 

He never replied but did so previously in 2005, when he expressed neither remorse nor clues, just complaints about his situation at Ashworth hospital and idiotic notions of political conspiracies against him. 

In 2006 he claimed he had ‘clarity’ about where he buried Keith, but it came to nothing.


Between July 1963 and October 1965 Myra Hindley, left, and  Ian Brady, right murdered five children. Hindley died in 2002 and Brady in 2017 without revealing the location of Bennett’s body 

In 2009, he wrote to Winnie again saying the police had ‘bungled the search’ adding, in a final pain-inflicting barb: ‘This is my last word on the matter.’

Winnie also wrote to Hindley in 2002 and said at the time: ‘I begged [her] to tell me where Keith’s grave was, but in my heart I knew she was a wicked sadist who would never tell and would take her terrible secret to the grave.’

Despite agreeing to help locate Keith’s body, Hindley failed.

Standing by the side of the road overlooking the excavation site and beyond it Dovestone Reservoir in the distance yesterday, it was impossible not to think of Hindley.

Could it be that from a similar spot she watched Brady lead Keith to his death? She once recalled the moment to an author, saying: ‘I remember thinking then, as I later said to the police, that he looked like a little lamb being led to the slaughter.’

Alan, too, searched the moors for years with his siblings and volunteers, and he, too, corresponded with Brady and Hindley to no avail.

 Keith’s brother Alan (pictured) searched the moors for years with his siblings and volunteers, and he, too, corresponded with Brady and Hindley to no avail

He set up a website dedicated to his brother on which he wrote that Keith was ‘one of life’s more sensitive souls’, adding: ‘Keith was an ordinary, uncomplicated child, with his head in the clouds . . . He lived for the natural world and animals.’

In yesterday’s statement, police said: ‘Following information received which indicated that potential human remains had been found on the moors, specialist officers have today resumed excavation of a site identified to us. 

‘This information included photographs of the site and show what experts working with the informant have interpreted as a human jaw bone.

‘No physical evidence of a jaw bone or skull has been examined. However, based on the photographs and information provided, and in line with GMP’s usual practice to follow up any suggestion of human burial, we began our search of the site of interest.

Greater Manchester Police said: ‘No physical evidence of a jaw bone or skull has been examined. However, based on the photographs and information provided, and in line with GMP’s usual practice to follow up any suggestion of human burial, we began our search of the site of interest’

‘We have not found any identifiable human remains but our work to excavate the site is continuing. Conditions are difficult and it may take us some time to complete the excavation fully but we are committed to ensuring this is undertaken in the most thorough way possible.’

Between July 1963 and October 1965, Brady and Hindley murdered Pauline Reade, 16, John Kilbride, 12, Keith Bennett, 12, Lesley Ann Downey, ten, and Edward Evans, 17, and buried their bodies on Saddleworth Moor. 

The couple were jailed for life in 1966. Hindley died in 2002, aged 60. Brady, who was Britain’s longest-serving prisoner, died in May 2017, aged 79.

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