It takes a certain kind of evil to corrupt good. Not to destroy it, but to twist it completely to the other side. When a paragon of benevolence falls from his saintly pedestal to the lowest depths of filth, we stare, wonder and shake our heads. How does such compassion turn into depravity? Was the corruption truly that far-reaching? Or was the evil already there, carefully hidden and gift wrapped under layers of saccharine sweet goodness and light? Today we look at the case of two lovers who decided to embark together on a perversely sadistic path of serial sexual murder. For two years they would prey on the children and teenagers of Greater Manchester, England before they were finally brought to justice.

The faces of true evil: Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.

The faces of pure evil: Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, at the time of their arrest in 1965.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderers, would show the world the true meaning of evil.

An Invitation to Murder

6 October, 1965

David’s standing there in the kitchen, admiring several bottles of wine. The labels are vintage; the bottles themselves miniatures. He wonders at how Ian managed to obtain them. The liquid within them is a lovely auburn brown, and he cannot wait to begin tasting, as soon as Myra returns from the living room.

A scream echoes from somewhere within the house, followed by a shout.


It’s Myra.

Disturbed, he rushes from the kitchen to the living room. What he sees will change his life forever.

Ian is straddling a young man, pushing his chest down with his knees, holding down his hands with an iron grip while the young man screams loudly, desperate for someone, anyone, to hear his plea.

“Shut up. Shut up, you fucking bastard,” Ian shouts into his ear and relinquishes his grip on the man before throwing him against the couch. The man falls to the ground like a limp rag doll, groaning in pain.

Myra stands nearby, arms crossed, watching the scene with amusement. She smiles widely, eyes alight with anticipation, as though she were a girl watching a particularly exciting movie.

David has no idea what is going on. Just as he is about to open his mouth to ask, Ian brings out the axe.

Down it goes.



And the man screams no more.

As David stands there, shocked to the bone and sick to his stomach, Ian drops the axe, takes an electrical wire and loops it around the corpse’s neck. He tightens it and pulls on both ends, strangling the young man, all the while cursing him. Eyebrows furrowed, eyes all alight with murderous intention and a sick thrill, a sadistic smile carved on his face.

And finally it’s over. Myra smiles, and retreats to the kitchen to make some tea. Ian puts down the axe, wipes the sweat off his head and grins at David. It is a grin he does not return. Stunned, David follows Ian into the kitchen.

“Did you see the look on his face when the axe came down?” Ian chuckles loudly as he drinks his tea.

“I know! He looked like an idiot!” Myra titters with glee as both of them discuss the man they just murdered.

David sits there, a cold chill running down his spine. He listens to how the two mock and demean the man who now lies cold in the living room, listens as they joke about how Myra nearly got caught disposing of another body, listens as they describe their plans to go “hunting” again.

David knows he has to remain calm and go along with everything. If he becomes frightened or angry, Ian and Myra won’t have to go looking out of their door for any prey.

As though in a blur, he follows their instructions: clean up the blood in the living room, remove all trace that he was ever there. Tie up the body, careful don’t let the blood drip onto the stairs, place the body in the bedroom upstairs.

It’s getting late.

“I-I’ll return in the morning to help dispose of the body…” David says to Myra, trying to keep a straight face.

“Sure you won’t stay for supper…?” Myra smiles sweetly at him.

He shakes his head, trying to conceal his fear.

“Alright then. Give my regards to Maureen then, ” and she turns her back on him. David slowly steps out of their home, putting his shoes on, careful not to show any sign of panic. Inside he can hear Myra switching on the gas and cooking, Ian turning on the the radio and grumbling for Myra to hurry up.

Once David reaches the end of the street, he runs into the night. He keeps running, never looking back until he reaches home where he tells his wife Maureen everything that he has just witnessed. Maureen cannot believe her ears when he speaks of the madness that her sister Myra and her boyfriend Ian are involved in, but the look on David’s face tells her otherwise.

David Smith with his wife Maureen. The former would be instrumental in bringing Myra and Ian to justice.

David Smith with his wife Maureen. The former would be instrumental in bringing Myra and Ian to justice.

The next morning sees the arrest of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, and the beginning of an investigation into the nightmare that would become known as the Moors Murders.

But before we delve into their dark world, let us visit their growing years. Could there be any sign that either one or both of them would become sadistic killers in the future?

The Early Years – Ian

“I reached the stage where, whatever came to mind, get out and do it. I led the life that other people could only think about.”
– Ian Brady

Ian Brady was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 2 January 1938. His mother was a 28 year old waitress struggling to make ends meet as his father had died a few months before he was born. Clearly unable to cope with a baby and maintain her job at the same time, she decided to leave him in the care of a couple that she knew, the Sloan family. Ian never knew his real mother – she had relinquished him to the Sloans at the tender age of 4 months, and although she made frequent visits to the house where he lived, she did so under the pretense of a family friend. Eventually these visits became lesser and lesser in frequency until they stopped altogether – by this time his birth mother had married another man and had moved to Manchester, England.

Although the Sloans provided Ian with all the attention and love that he needed, he never seemed to care or to want to reciprocate. A difficult, lonely child who was prone to anger tantrums, he never felt like he belonged in the family. At the primary school he attended, teachers found him to be a bright and intelligent child with one flaw: laziness. Although Ian could have gotten good grades, he never really saw the need to study hard and was often in his own world.

There were also allegations that he enjoyed torturing animals, although Ian would deny that these were true later in his life. Supposedly he enjoyed “breaking the legs of dogs and then setting fire to them.”

A young Ian, sitting  at his home.

A young Ian, sitting in his home.

Even with such an attitude he managed to pass his exams and enter an academy for students with above-average intelligence. Despite being in such an environment, he was beginning to misbehave once more. Smoking, lying, stealing and housebreaking were offenses that quickly began to accumulate on his record. At the age of 16, he finally discovered who his birth mother was and was ordered to move to Manchester to live with her as part of a court order.

Ian did not fit in well. His Scottish accent only served to isolate him socially from the Britons around him, and he became a surly and morose teenager. At this point he did manage to get a job as a porter at the local market. However, the work bored him to tears. Young Ian wanted something more exciting, more riveting, more thrilling. Turning to books as an outlet, he quickly developed a taste for sadistic books like The Kiss of the Whip and The Torture Chamber which described various sadomasochistic acts. Ian was clearly engrossed in this fictional world where pleasure and pain were one.

It wasn’t long before he resorted to crime again, this time stealing from his employers. Ian ended up in a young offenders’ institution for the next few years, and there he picked up criminal skills from his fellow inmates, but also chose to study bookkeeping.

Two years after his release in 1959, at the age of 22, Ian Brady would begin work as a stock clerk in Millwards Merchandising company, where he could put his bookkeeping skills to use.

Barely a year later, a young woman would walk in through the company doors and apply for work as a secretary. Neither would know it then, but their lives would be changed forevermore.

The Early Years – Myra

I know almost everyone describes me as cold and calculating – “evil Myra” – but I ask you to believe that I find all this deeply upsetting.”

-Myra Hindley

If Ian’s childhood and growing years seemed like a recipe for disaster, Myra’s was the complete opposite. She enjoyed a much more “normal” and stable childhood than Ian, and by all accounts was supposed to turn out a well adjusted woman. What exactly happened? This is a central question that we will examine later.

Born on 23 July 1942 in Manchester, Myra grew up as the eldest child of a normal family. Her father was in the army for the first three years of her life, and he was often absent from home. Myra herself did not seem to mind much, for she had the devoted love of her mother. This father-daughter gap would always remain, even when her father returned home.

When her younger sister Maureen was born in 1946, her working parents decided that the stress was too much and decided to send Myra to live with her grandmother. Myra wholeheartedly enjoyed the undivided attention she got from her grandmother, and was otherwise very happy living with her.

Myra excelled in school – she was a straight A student and exhibited talent for creative writing, swimming and poetry and was an excellent swimmer. Teachers found her to be a responsible, mature girl. Kindhearted and generous, she displayed a genuine love and affection for children and was a popular choice for a babysitter in her local area. If you could get Myra Hindley as your babysitter, you did not need to worry about your children.

Myra Hindley (circled) seen in her schooling years. Teachers and her schoolmates all found her to be a delightful girl who was compassionate and kind.

Myra Hindley (circled) in her schooling years. Teachers and her schoolmates all found her to be a delightful girl who was compassionate and kind.

Perhaps the one incident which helps to illustrate Myra as a teenager was when her best friend, 13 year old Michael Higgins, drowned in an accident. 15 year old Myra was devastated; the day before he had invited her to go swimming together but she had turned him down. She believed that as a strong swimmer, she could have saved him if she had been there. The boy had always looked up to Myra as an older sister and she looked after him as best as she could, protecting and guiding him. The grief-stricken girl was inconsolable for several weeks after his death, retreating to her room where she would cry for long periods of time. Her grades started slipping, and although Myra attempted to regain her academic prowess, she was never really the same after that.

Deciding not to take her O-levels, she dropped out of school and worked as a clerk at a nearby firm. In these growing years she began to experiment, dancing at local clubs, listening to rock and roll and smoking. She also began to bleach her hair in an attempt to look older.

But Myra wasn’t satisfied with her life. Just like Ian Brady, she wanted something more. She wanted a thrill, adrenaline to pump through her veins, something which she could be passionate about. Myra considered applying to the army and the navy, but never followed up on it. In January 1961, she found a job as a secretary at a company called Millwards Merchandising.

Opening the doors and entering the building, she would notice a darkly attractive young man sitting by the corner working as a clerk.

Their eyes met, and Myra knew that her life would never be the same again.

A Dark Infatuation

It was a deadly attraction from the very beginning.

Myra, a wide-eyed 18 year old teenager at the time of her first meeting with Ian, was instantly charmed by the man. While others in the office found him to be a surly and dislikeable fellow who kept to himself, Myra instead saw an aloof and distant person, which she thought were characteristics that showed that he was an intelligent and enigmatic person. Drawn to him like a bee to pollen, Myra wrote in her journal over the next year or so of her growing infatuation with Ian. He would only reciprocate her advances the following year, at a Christmas party. Their relationship truly began at that moment, and the couple was off to their first date. It’s believed that Ian took her to watch The Nuremberg Trials, a documentary about the trials of Nazi leadership. Even before he had met Myra he was already becoming fascinated with WWII and the Nazis, even attempting to learn German. Supposedly his most prized book was an autobiography of Hitler. Myra herself discredited this attempt to paint Ian as a pro-Nazi man, recalling that the first film they watched together was in fact of King of Kings, a movie about the re-telling of the story of Jesus  Christ.

Ian and Myra during their time as active serial killers.

Ian and Myra during their time as active serial killers.

Before I proceed any further, we must understand that this was a crucial point in the Moors Murderers case. Supposedly (and this was the main tactic used in the defense of Myra Hindley in the trial after they were apprehended) this is where the 18 year old pure-hearted teenager with affection for children dies, and a monster emerges. It’s argued that the next few years that Myra spent with Ian completely destroyed any remnant of the kind child that was once within her, with a deep darkness filling her up instead. The next few paragraphs will describe the so-called influence he had over her, and I will leave you, discerning reader, to reach your own opinion.

As though she were a child clutching onto every word that her parents told her, Myra clung onto Ian like a lifeboat in a storm. Finally, for the first time in 18 years, she had found what she was looking for. Love, acceptance, and most important of all, a thrilling experience. Here was someone well acquainted with the dangers of the outside world, someone who could be her mentor, someone who could lead her onto a path of excitement and danger, her ultimate craving fulfilled. Ian had his own twisted philosophy (distilled, no doubt, from all his readings of Nazi books and those which described sadistic sex acts), and he wasted no time in passing it down to Myra.

Rape and murder, he said, were completely normal. In fact, murder was a “supreme pleasure”. Myra lapped up his words in their entirety, never stopping to consider if there was any truth to them. When Ian told her that God didn’t exist, she stopped going to church. Along with his dark twisted philosophy, she began conforming to his needs as well. She started dressing in short skirts and long boots and bleached her hair, in an attempt to copy the Germanic style which Ian favoured.

A picture taken by Ian of Myra during one of their dates. By this time she had fallen completely under his spell. Ian enjoyed the command he had over her.

A picture taken by Ian of Myra during one of their dates. By this time she had fallen completely under his spell. Ian enjoyed the command he had over her.

Her personality changed drastically too. Once described as a “kind, sensible girl”, Myra was now a surly, aggressive woman both at work and when with friends. After meeting Ian, she stopped going out for normal social activities and instead chose to spend most of her time either at work or with him. There was no in-between. Ian was her lover, her life, her god.

By 1963, Myra had already become a fully malleable figure in Ian’s eyes. Her mind, body and soul was his. She did whatever he told her to – even allowed him to take pornographic pictures of her while they had sex, and was unquestioningly loyal. It was almost like she was living off every word that came out of his mouth, every breath he took she shared too, and if he ever died she would succumb as well.

Ian was pleased. The perfect murder would begin soon.

The Path of Blood

On the night of 12 July 1963, 16 year old Pauline Reade was on her way to the Railway Workers’ Social Club for a dance event when a van on the street slowed down next to her. Pauline was wary at first, but when she saw it was a woman, and someone she knew at that, she let her guard down. The woman smiled out of the window at her and asked her if she could help search for an expensive glove that she lost on Saddleworth Moor, a nearby uncultivated hill land.

Pauline, ever the amiable girl, agreed. It was an act of kindness that would seal her fate.

Pauline Reade was just 16 years old when her life snuffed out by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

Pauline Reade was just 16 years old when her life was snuffed out by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

She got into the van with Myra, and together they drove out of town into Saddleworth Moor. There they met Ian (who had been trailing them on his motorbike), where Myra introduced him to Pauline as her boyfriend, and said that he would be searching for the glove as well. Ian took off with Pauline into the Moors, with Myra staying by the van.

30 minutes would pass before he returned. Myra knew by then that Pauline Reade was already dead. Ian, eager to show Myra his handiwork, took her to the site where he had attacked Pauline.

There she lay, in her prettiest pink party dress, with a pale blue coat and her white high-heeled shoes, slowly dying. Her throat had been slashed. Her “coat was undone and her clothes in a disarray”, and from this Myra guessed that Ian had raped her. Ian told Myra to wait while he took off to fetch a spade. For a moment of time Pauline lay there with Myra standing above her. Only Myra knows how Pauline spent her last few moments. We will never know how much she begged, cried or pleaded in a vain attempt at mercy, but by the time Ian returned with the spade, she was already dead.

The couple started digging in the Moors until a fresh grave was present. Then they callously threw Pauline in, covering her body with the soil before patting the area down. Then they drove home in the van, Ian satisfied and Myra feeling an odd thrill about the whole thing.

Along the way they would pass by Joan and Paul Reade – Pauline’s mother and brother – searching the streets for her, calling out for their lost daughter and sister.

But it was all in vain.The Moors Murderers had tasted blood. And they certainly weren’t going to stop any time soon.

Predator and Prey

The devious couple, unable to slake their thirst for blood, continued their hunt for victims in November.

On 23 November 1963, Myra and Ian approached 12 year old John Kilbride and offered the boy a lift home, saying that his parents would be worried about him being out so late. The trusting boy accepted the lift. As Myra drove to Saddleworth Moor, she mentioned to him about losing a glove somewhere out on the moor.

John Kilbride, 12, was lured by Myra under the pretense of a lost glove.

John Kilbride, 12, was lured by Myra under the pretense of a lost glove.

Just like in Pauline Reade’s case, the same tactic was used. Myra would remain by the van and Ian accompanied young John off into the moor, the latter never to be seen again. After sexually assaulting the terrified child, Ian attempted to slit his throat with a serrated blade before finally fatally strangling him with a piece of string, later thought to be a shoelace, possibly from John’s own shoes. Ian and Myra would then bury the body together, the two of them the only ones privy to this dark secret.

Once again on 16 June 1964, the Moors murderers would snatch their 3rd victim off the streets. 12 year old Keith Bennett was on his way to his grandmother Winnie’s house one evening. He never made it. The tragedy in this instance was that the grandmother’s house was only one mile (about 1.6km) away from his house. His mother even watched him leave the house and cross the road before disappearing from view, never knowing that it would be the last time she saw him.

Myra would later tell investigators that she had lured the 12 year old boy into her van by asking for his help in loading some boxes, promising to drive him to his grandmother’s afterwards. Ian lay in wait at the back of the van.

Lost innocence: 12 year old Keith Bennett was always a jovial, happy child.

Lost innocence: 12 year old Keith Bennett was always a jovial, happy child.

Just like John, Keith trusted Myra.

She drove off to Saddleworth Moor, where Ian would emerge from the back and use the old trick of a lost glove as an excuse to take Keith off to the moors. Just like before, Myra waited a full half hour before Ian returned with a spade. When Myra asked how Ian had killed Keith, he said he had raped him and then strangled him with a string.

It seemed like the Moors Murderers had found their signature killing style. But as Ian and Myra continued to kill, they found their sick tastes quickly spiralling out of control. Both of them wanted to try something new, something even more depraved and debauched than before.

On 26 December 1964, just one day after Christmas, the Moors Murderers committed their most horrifying murder yet.


Lesley Ann Downey was just a young girl of 10 when she had the misfortune of being spotted by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley at a fairground on Boxing Day. The murderous couple approached the little girl and pretended to drop some of their shopping near her, prompting the girl to help them pick up their bags.

Myra then made a suggestion that the girl could perhaps help to carry some of the bags back to their car outside the fair, and then to their home to unload. The innocent Lesley complied with her wishes, seeing nothing wrong with doing a good deed. Like Pauline, John and Keith before her, it was this kind heart of hers that Ian and Myra were betting on. The evil predators sought out kindness in their victims and preyed on it.

Lesley Ann Downey, 10 at the time of her murder. An angelic face coupled with an angelic heart, she made the fatal mistake of following the Moors Murderers home.

Lesley Ann Downey, 10 at the time of her murder. An angelic face coupled with an angelic heart, she made the fatal mistake of following the Moors Murderers home.

When the three of them reached Ian and Myra’s apartment and the doors were bolted shut, they stopped pretending to be the kindly strangers. There they revealed their true selves: disgusting, vile sexual predators.

I will not describe the atrocities they inflicted on Lesley. Any reader interested in the full details can use the internet to their advantage, but I refuse to write such vile things on this blog out of respect for Lesley and her family. Suffice to say the couple gagged and bound the girl before proceeding to commit vile acts on her together. They even forced the girl to take pornographic pictures. But perhaps most ghoulish of all, they taped her pleads and cries onto cassette for a full 13 minutes as she was being threatened and tortured.

Doubtless at this point the reader will be convinced of the full extent of evil that Ian Brady and Myra Hindley possessed. This very same tape, terrible though it might be, would later be crucial as evidence in putting away the duo behind bars.

Myra claims that it was Ian who killed Lesley, saying that she went to fill a bath for the child and came back to find her dead, presumably killed by Ian. But Ian maintains that it was in fact Myra who struck the killing blow. In this case, I am inclined to believe Ian – as will be shown later, Myra was a master of manipulation, using whatever lies she could concoct to her advantage. In fact, according to Ian, Myra enjoyed the sexual assault as much as Ian himself – if not more so.

The following morning, the couple drove to Saddleworth Moor and dumped Lesley’s body into a shallow grave.

Then, just a year later on 6 October 1965, Ian would invite 17 year old Edward Evans, an apprentice engineer at a railway station, into his house.

There he would kill the young man with an axe, while Myra stood by and watched with great interest along with her brother in law.

But what they didn’t know was that the third man watching would also be the one to unravel the entire truth and finally put an end to all the murder and madness.

Delving into Darkness

The day after the death of Edward Evans, David Smith would tell police investigators of the horror that he had witnessed the night before in the Brady/Hindley home.

Arriving at the house early in the morning, police would quickly find the body of Edward Evans upstairs, wrapped in a grey blanket along with the axe used to kill him.

Ian Brady was arrested immediately for the murder. In his statement to the police, he confessed that he had killed Edward, but that it had been a crime of passion, not cold-blooded murder. As an act of revenge, he implicated David, claiming that the young man had been involved in beating up the victim. He maintained that Myra had nothing to do with the murder. The couple must have planned ahead, for when questioned Myra repeated the same story that Ian told the police. She would have almost gotten away with it if police hadn’t remembered to check the car that the couple owned. Inside was a document several pages long handwritten by Myra herself that described how she and Brady planned to execute the murder.

David Smith was an integral part of the investigation and in exposing Myra and Ian as serial killers. He also mentioned to the police the conversation that he heard last night, talk of more bodies buried on Saddleworth Moor. The police followed up on this claim and unearthed a grisly discovery.

Investigators digging up Saddleworth Moor after listening to David's accusations. Lesley and John would soon be brought to rest.

Investigators digging up Saddleworth Moor after listening to David’s accusations. Lesley and John would soon be returned to their families and brought to rest.

On 10 October 1965, barely a year after her passing, officers found Lesley. After a search that involved more digging and pinpointing of the locations that Brady and Hindley were supposed to have frequented, John was discovered as well.

A search of the Brady/Hindley home also turned up the pornographic pictures of Lesley and most damning of all, the tape recording, where both Ian and Myra could clearly be heard. In a heartbreaking moment, police officers had to ask Lesley’s mother to listen to the tape recording in order to identify her daughter. I cannot imagine how any mother would feel listening to their child being tortured, and I can only hope that Mrs. Downey did not have to listen to more than was necessary.

Even when confronted with such incriminating evidence, Ian and Myra continued to protest their innocence. When told about the photos and the tape recording of Lesley, they denied that they had killed her and once again tried to frame David as the true mastermind in all this, saying that they only took the pictures and the tape and that Lesley had left the house with David.

Ian and Myra, faced with 3 charges of murder and sexual assault, obviously did not want to worsen their situation. They kept their silence on the disappearances of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, and even though investigators had suspicions that they were responsible, they were unable to find any evidence showing a connection.

Pauline would have to wait 12 years before she was found by the police. Keith, to this day, has never been found. Police have combed Saddleworth Moor and turned to Ian Brady (who refused to speak of his crimes at all later in his years), but he still remains out there, somewhere on the Moor.

edited map

A map of where the bodies were found.
1. Lesley Ann Downey
2. John Kilbride
3. Pauline Reade (next to Lesley)
4. General region where Keith Bennett’s body is thought to lie.

But the police had enough to charge Myra and Ian with the murders of John Kilbride, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans.

27 April, 1966, saw the beginning of the trial of two of England’s most hated serial killers.

The Moors Murderers were about to face justice.

Trial and Incarceration

Those who were lucky (or unlucky enough, depending on how you see it) enough to attend the trial would always remember it. Packed to the brim, Britons flocked daily to the courtroom to see the trial of the century. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley even had to be protected by a screen, for fear that the wrath of the public would endanger them.

Throughout the trial both Ian and Myra demonstrated a stubborn resolve; they would settle for nothing less than a full acquittal and kept proclaiming their innocence, continuing to point fingers at David Smith. Such cowardice only caused the general public’s hatred of them to deepen, and at one point the media even branded Myra “the most evil woman in Britain”.

The evidence brought out by the prosecution was perhaps the most shocking part of the trial. Police had discovered several photographs of Myra on the moors, apparently taken by Ian. What angered many was that the couple had the gall to pose for photos on the very same land that they had killed and buried their victims. In some photos Myra could be seen smiling, as though she were on a perfectly normal trip out into the field.

A photo of Myra on the moor. It was taken by Ian in the years between their killings.

A photo of Myra on the moor. It was taken by Ian in the years between their killings. She can clearly be seen smiling.

But the part of the trial that everyone would remember forever was when the last moments of Lesley Ann Downey were played on tape for all to hear. A heavy, uneasy silence fell in the air as judge, jury and spectators alike heard the final pleads of a terrified child, her cries filling the air of the courtroom as Myra and Ian threatened her. I believe that the tape, more than any other piece of evidence brought up, cemented the belief in the public’s mind that Myra and Ian were undoubtedly guilty.

In their defense, Myra admitted that she was “brusque and cruel” towards Lesley, but said that she behaved so because she was afraid someone would hear her cries. Myra also attempted to distance herself from the killing of Lesley, claiming that she was downstairs when Ian started to undress the child. No one was fooled, though. Myra’s voice was clearly audible on tape and speaking directly to the child at that.

I was unsure whether to include a part of the transcript of the tape here, but eventually decided to do so. The horror that happened at the Brady/Hindley house needs to be understood, not avoided. Only by confronting evil can we understand and guard ourselves from it in the future. If you feel uncomfortable reading this next part, please skip to the part of the article that says in bold End of Transcript. I’ve also decreased the size of the font so that viewers who don’t want to read the transcript will not accidentally do so.

Beginning of Transcript

NOTE: This part of the tape does not contain anything sexual. Although the couple would eventually sexually assault Lesley, this was done after the recording. Here in the tape Myra and Ian are trying to get Lesley to put on a gag.

Man – What’s your name?
Child – Lesley.
Man – Lesley what?
Child – Ann.
Man – What’s your second name?
Child – Westford. Westford.
Man – Westford?
Child – I have to get home before 8 o’clock. I got to get –(pause) Or I’ll get killed if I don’t. Honest to God.
Man – Yes.
(Quick footsteps of woman leaving room and going downstairs; then a click; then woman’s footsteps coming upstairs; then eight longer strides)
Man – What is it?
Woman – I’ve left the light on.
Man – You ‘ave?
Woman – So that — (remainder of sentence unreadable)
(Child starts crying)
Child – It hurts me neck.
Man – Hush, put it in your mouth and you’ll be all right.
Woman – Now listen, shurrup crying.
Child – (crying) It hurts on me —
Woman – (interrupting) Hush! Shut up. Now, put it in. Pull that hand away and don’t dally and just keep your mouth shut, please.
Woman – Wait a bit, I’ll put this on again. D’you get me?
Child – (whining) No, I — (remainder of sentence unreadable)
Woman – Sh. Hush. Put that in your mouth. And again, packed more solid.
(whispered sentences, unreadable)
Child – I want to go home. Honest to god. I’ll (further speech muffled but uninterrupted) — before eight o’clock.
Woman – No, it’s all right.

End of Transcript

If there was any doubt in the mind of the jury about the guilt of the couple, it was eradicated after listening to the tape. Barely two hours after the jury was allowed to convene, a unanimous verdict was reached: guilty, on all counts.

As luck would have it, the death penalty had been abolished two months ago. Ian and Myra had dodged death by a hair. The British public was outraged, but the law was the law. The judge, condemning the both of them as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”, sentenced Ian to three consecutive life sentences and Myra to two.

Deadly duo: Ian and Myra standing trial in 1966. Throughout the trial they were coldly remorseless, denying to the end their involvement in the murders.

Deadly duo: Ian and Myra standing trial in 1966. Throughout the trial they were coldly remorseless, denying to the end their involvement in the murders.

Myra’s defense had done their work: They told the court the story of how Myra came to be under the thumb of Ian. Referencing the completely different girl in her childhood and teenage years, they  told a sordid story of abuse, control and addiction. Ian was depicted as a corrupter, someone who had brainwashed and completely imposed his own will on Myra. She was nothing more than a sad puppet, a mindless automaton who had no will of her own, someone who chose the wrong man to fall in love with. Myra, they argued, was a victim as well. The judge stated that Ian was “wicked beyond belief” and that he saw no possibility of reform. He believed that Myra, once “removed from Brady’s influence”, could possibly do what her lover could not.

Oddly enough, the exact opposite would happen.


Naturally, the two lovers were sent to different prisons to live out their sentences. While Ian would eventually “mellow out” and refuse to be seen in public in any form, Myra would continuously protest her innocence from behind bars.

In 1985, Ian Brady finally confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett. Investigators would once again scour the moors in search of the two victims, but would only succeed in finding Pauline. They would proceed to approach Myra for help in locating Keith, and Keith’s mother even wrote a letter to Myra begging for her help in finding her son. Here is how the letter ends:

” I am a simple woman, I work in the kitchens of Christie’s Hospital. It has taken me five weeks labour to write this letter because it is so important to me that it is understood by you for what it is, a plea for help. Please, Miss Hindley, help me.”

Although Myra refused to state that she had participated in the murder, she agreed to be brought to Saddleworth Moor to the places where she had frequented with Ian. Unfortunately, the visit was in vain; Myra found it “difficult” to connect her memories with what she currently saw. The investigator at the time believed that Myra’s agreement to help was not out of remorse, but rather pure selfishness. Myra believed that Ian was in a “precarious mental state”. Fearing that he would confess and give up every detail, she wanted to ensure that she was the one to benefit from any kind of public approval before he could.

Over the next decade or so, while Ian was content to remain in prison to the point where he gladly accepted that he would die in it (he even told officials that he did not want to be let out), Myra continued her campaign to get out of prison. One of the leaders of the campaign to ensure that Myra was kept behind bars was Ann West, mother of Lesley Ann Downey. Myra wrote a letter to Ann downplaying her role in the murders and even attempted to persuade her that she was remorseful for her crimes. It was clear that all Myra wanted was to stop Ann from campaigning against her release.

The letter sent to Ann West in 1987 by Myra Hindley. It was nothing but a false attempt to garner sympathy and stop Ann from campaigning against her release.

The letter sent to Ann West in 1987 by Myra Hindley. It was nothing but a false attempt to garner sympathy and stop Ann from campaigning against her release.

From the lips of Myra herself:

” I have written to the Home Office and the Parole board to say I do not wish to be considered for parole in 1990, and my own belief is that I shall probably remain prison until I die.”

“…You couldn’t hate me more than I hate myself. I have asked God for His forgiveness, but I couldn’t ask for yours, for how can I ever expect you to forgive me when I cannot forgive yourself. I know everyone describe me as cold and calculating – “evil Myra” – but I ask you to believe that I find this deeply unsettling.”

“Please believe me – not for my sake, but simply in the hope that it will give you even a little peace of mind, that however monstrous and unforgivable the crime was, your child was not tortured to death.”

All lies.

A few years after the note, Myra would once again launch an application to be granted parole, which was (fortunately) refused in 1994. Mrs. West would continue with her campaign to keep the monster who killed her daughter behind bars for the rest of her life. The stress would eventually take its toll on her, however, and in 1999 she passed away, reunited with Lesley at last.

Myra herself died of bronchial pneumonia caused by heart disease in 2002, at the age of 60. A short service was held for her, but none of her relatives attended it. Public outrage against Ian and Myra was still growing strong 40 years after the murders, to the point that about 20 local undertakers refused to handle her funeral. Her ashes would then be scattered in a park near Saddleworth Moor by a former lover that she met in prison.

Ian is still alive to this day. As of 2014, he is 76 years old. In his later years Ian would attempt to commit suicide by refusing to eat; prison officials had no choice but to make him use a feeding tube. Recently, he is said to have contracted dementia. With the death of Myra, fears that Keith Bennett’s body will never be found grows stronger day by day. Any attempts to get Ian to reveal the location of his body have failed. Even at the age of 76 the man still retains a semblance of his sharp intellect; in 2001 he published a book analyzing the works of other serial killers, The Gates of Janus, that caused an outrage in the UK when announced.

The case of the Moors murderers, perhaps, is close to an end.

In Memoriam

Instead of the usual “Final Thoughts” section in an article where I list my opinions on the case, I’d like to dedicate this section instead as a memorial for the five victims of the Moors Murderers. This case was one of the ones that made me quite emotional because of the atrocities done to the children. Throughout all my research, I felt like I really knew them. At the end of it all, I felt like I lost 5 friends.  It’s really forced me to think about a lot of things, and I hope that reading this article has done the same for you too. It is unfair that most people remember the killers more than their victims; Ian Brady and Myra Hindley get lasting notoriety while the victims fade away, only known for being a target of their killers. Just like in every article, I’d like to remind all readers not to remember of the five children and teenagers as bodies, corpses, victims or “kills”. Every one of them should be remembered not because of how they died or who killed them, but because of who they were when they were alive.

That is the least we can do to honour them.

Pauline (1947-1963)

pauline happy

An exceptionally pretty girl with a slim figure, Pauline had dark hair and a brilliance in her eyes.  Considered to be a shy girl, she was just coming out of her shell at the age of 16. After finishing school, she worked alongside her father as a trainee baker. Each morning father and daughter would walk to work together and return home together as well after a long day of baking. A talented baker, Pauline was one of the three winners of a Christmas cake contest in 1962. She even appeared in the papers, much to the joy of her family. Those who knew Pauline found her to be a hardworking, dedicated young woman who always put family first. In her spare time, Pauline enjoyed composing poems and songs, and would enjoy taking turns playing the piano with her family. Her friends knew her as fiercely protective and unswervingly loyal to those who earned her trust. Pauline was the pride and joy of her family, and it’s of no contention that she would have had a successful life ahead of her in the culinary industry.

She would have been 67 this year.

John (1951-1963)

john happy

John was the eldest of his family, the big brother to his 6 other siblings Danny, Pat, Terry, Sheila, Maria and Chris. Well known in his neighbourhood for walking around with his hands in his pockets and whistling, John was a naturally cheerful young boy. He settled in well in his schooling years, and was popular amongst the children and teachers there. A mature and responsible young lad, he ensured that his younger siblings did their household duties everyday and also took care of his elderly grandmother. She looked out for him every morning, “walking along the path at the side of the football ground across the road, in his usual cheerful way.” At the tender age of 12, he decided to take on odd jobs in his spare time, helping the stallholders at a market as a way of earning a little extra pocket money.

He would have been 63 this year.

Keith (1952-1964)

keith happy

Keith was a sweet natured little boy who was always optimistic about his surroundings. On his 12th birthday, he participated in his school’s swimming gala and managed to earn a certificate for swimming a length for the first time in his life, a fact he was very proud of. His mother remembers that he enjoyed nature a lot. Young Keith used to pick up leaves and caterpillars on the way home and bring them back to rear. He was also a devoted coin collector. Keith, a young boy with a happy-go-lucky attitude and a cheeky grin for everyone he met, never felt upset at that the fact that he had to spend most of his time in the same neighbourhood where he was born – he enjoyed street games, marbles and cycling.

He would have been 62 this year.

Lesley (1954-1964)

lesley happy

The only girl in a family full of brothers, Lesley was doted upon and protected by her male siblings. A porcelain-faced girl with black bobby, wavy hair, she was endearing to everyone who met her. Lesley was a very shy child, but she emerged wholly from it when with her family or when asked to sing and dance, her two passions in life. She had gone out with her brother Terry to dance at a church a group of boys were playing music. Bashfully, she admitted to Terry that she had liked one of the boys. Her brother then asked the boy in question for a lock of his hair, which Lesley treasured very much. On occasion when she was in Sunday school in another part of the country, she would feel terribly homesick and would buy a bottle of perfume, to give to her mother when she went home. On Christmas Day, she obtained a delightful present: a mini sewing machine. Lesley was very excited about learning how to sew from her mother. The only sadness in her life at age 10 was the family dog, Rebel, which had to be given away to an uncle for safety reasons. Lesley, ever the tender-hearted little girl, adored the dog and it must have loved her back as well, much like how everyone in her family loved her dearly.

She would have been 60 this year.

Edward (1948-1965)


Edward turned 17 in 1965. A tall young man with a bright, infectious smile, he was a very sociable person and never failed to lighten the atmosphere around him. He found a job as a junior machine operator in an industrial estate. A hard worker by day, he liked to relax with friends from work at the city bars. He also liked to watch the football matches at the stadium nearby, and was an avid supporter of Manchester United. An amiable person who liked to dress smartly and a good conversationalist, Edward was well liked by his friends for his youthful confidence and manner. When his parents were concerned when he went out at night, he would reassure them with a jovial smile, “I can handle any trouble.”

He would have been 66 this year.


In remembrance of Pauline, John, Keith, Lesley and Edward.

Short though your time was in this realm, you brightened the world around you and made it a better place.

We remember and honour you.

Gone, but never forgotten.

Rest in Peace.


Sources:    – Admin Carol for all her hard work on the backgrounds of the children and the teenagers.

The term “monster” is a harsh one. The only monsters we are familiar with are the ones conjured up from our imaginations, the fire-breathing dragons and ugly ogres from our childhood fairy tales. Seldom would we call a fellow human being a monster. Just what kind of heinous deeds must one commit in order to earn that title? The city of Florence, located in the Italian region of Tuscany, would soon know the answer as the natives came under attack from an unseen killer who struck from the shadows with nothing on his mind but murder. The hunt for one of Italy’s most notorious serial killers would take place over the span of 40 years, with 9 suspects and 4 different arrests and convictions.

The killer would also claim 16 victims as part of his bloody rampage in the Florentine countryside.

This is the story of II Mostro di Firenze.

The Monster of Florence.

First Blood

On the night of 21 August, 1968, 6 year old Natalino Mele had just finished watching a movie at a theatre. The boy was with his mother, Barbara Locci, and a man whom his mother had introduced to him as his “uncle”, Antonio Lo Bianco. The trio were driving home from the theatre, under the velvet night sky. His mother and Antonio were chatting in the front seats, seemingly eager about something. It’s possible that the last thing Natalino saw before he fell asleep was his mother’s smile.

Natalino Mele was only 6 at the time of his mother's murder. The boy would also be the first to discover her body.

Natalino Mele was only 6 at the time of his mother’s murder. The boy would also be the first to discover her body.

He awoke soon after. If the boy thought that he was still in the throes of a nightmare, he was wrong.

At 2 AM in the morning, local farmers were awakened by knocks to their doors. Natalino stood before them, tears streaming down his face. The 6 year old boy was petrified, frightened as though he’d seen a ghost. As he stood there, the young boy said, “Open the door and let me in, I’m sleepy and my Daddy is sick in bed. Then you have to drive me home, because my Mommy and my uncle are dead in their car.” Stunned, the farmer immediately called the police.

The police arrived soon after to the scene of the crime and saw what young Natalino saw: Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco, both dead with multiple gunshot wounds. Evidently this had been the cause of death. The killer had struck while the couple was at their most vulnerable: Barbara had been in the midst of undressing, most likely to have sex with Antonio. In their sexually charged mood, the couple hadn’t noticed anything strange in their surroundings. In the backseat, Natalino was fast asleep. And in the bushes nearby, the killer was waiting. Once the opportunity presented itself, he seized it. Several gunshots later, the couple lay dead. The boy, however, was just beginning to awaken. For whatever reasons, the killer left him home, slinking back into the shadows and leaving Natalino to awaken to a true nightmare.

31 year old Barbara Locci and her 29 year old lover Antonio Lo Bianco. They would be the first in a string of victims of the Monster of Florence.

31 year old Barbara Locci and her 29 year old lover Antonio Lo Bianco. They would be the first in a string of victims of the Monster of Florence.

At this point it’s important to learn a bit about Barbara Locci. Or more specifically, her promiscuity.  Even though she was already married and had a child, Barbara chose to engage in many illicit affairs around town, so much so that she even earned the nickname Ape Regina, or “Queen Bee”. Antonio Lo Bianco was just one of her many lovers that she tried to keep hidden from her husband, Stefano Mele, Natalino’s father. Stefano was well aware of his wife’s extramarital affairs, but chose to remain with her, keeping his feelings under check.  The Mele household was clearly going through a tempestuous time.

As the investigators began combing the crime scene, they discovered the discarded shells of the gun used in the murder: eight .22 caliber shell casings lay scattered about the crime scene. This fact would later prove crucial in linking the Locci/Bianco murders to a chain of murders in the future. But aside from this, there was very little evidence present to indicate the identity of anyone else who might have had been present at the time of the crime. Officers decided to pay a visit to Barbara’s husband, Stefano Mele.

If they were looking for a suspect, they didn’t need to look any further. Arriving at the Mele household, the door abruptly opened and a man stepped out, lugging a suitcase with him and looking frantic. When told that his wife was dead, he displayed little emotion. The suspicions of the investigators were immediately aroused and Stefano Mele was taken to the station.

Stefano Mele, the first man suspected to be the Monster.

Stefano Mele, the first man suspected to be the Monster.

At the station, Mele denied that he had any participation in the double murder. After presented with the results of a test that showed he had fired a gun, he confessed that he had been at the crime scene. But Mele decided that if he was going down, he wasn’t going to do so alone. In his official statement to the police, he implicated Salvatore Vinci, another one of Barbara’s lovers. How Vinci managed to contact Mele and cooperate with him is unknown, but Mele claimed that the duo worked together to kill Barbara and Antonio. In his own words, “I killed my wife and her lover because I was tired of being continually humiliated.”

The police thought they had a foolproof, air tight confession. Far from it. For one thing, Mele neglected to mention one important aspect of the crime: his son, Natalino. Nowhere in his confession did he mention finding his son in the backseat, or if his son had seen him. It seems curious to me that a father would choose to endanger his son (and from all accounts, Natalino and Stefano had a normal relationship) by firing recklessly into the front window. Even stranger is the fact that he would leave behind his child at the bloody crime scene instead of bringing him home and perhaps telling the child a story that his mother had successfully brought him home and then went out again into the night. But perhaps most damning of all is that Mele began changing his story when questioned on specific parts, like the location of the gun. He later chose to completely retract his confession, and began accusing Salvatore Vinci’s brother, Francesco. It’s clear to me that Mele, under the stress of the investigation, had given a false confession.

But the Florentine police remained convinced of his guilt. Two years later, Stefano Mele was found guilty of the murders of Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The case was officially closed, with officials sure that they had captured the perpetrator.

But they were wrong. Florence would only get to experience a short respite of 6 years before the true killer decided to quench his thirst for blood again. The Locci/Bianco murders were only the prelude, a small taste of what was to come. The true horror lay ahead: the subsequent killings would be the ones that earned the killer the title of the Monster of Florence.

Evolution of a Monster

The dawn of September 14, 1974, would bring with it the gruesome discovery of two bodies in a parked car located in the Borgo San Lorenzo area just north of Florence.

Just like the 1968 double murder, the victims had been shot. Ballistics tests later revealed that the shots were fired from the same .22 Beretta gun that had killed Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco, but investigators did not pick up on this yet. After all, it had been 6 years since the last double murder and the officers were convinced that the murder had been a crime of passion, committed by Stefano Mele in fit of rage. Additionally, this crime scene was different from the first one in a most horrible manner.

The crime scene of the second Monster murder.

The crime scene of the second Monster murder.

The male had been shot 5 times – and these five shots had been the ones that killed him. The female, however, was not so lucky. The killer apparently wanted her to suffer – she survived being shot 3 times only to have been stabbed up to 96 times. She eventually died from blood loss. Such overkill represented a lot of pent-up anger: imagine the amount of effort it takes to stab someone 10 times, let alone 96.

But that was not all. The female victim had been positioned by the killer such that her arms and legs were spread out wide.. A grapevine branch was also protruding from her vagina. Later autopsy tests proved that she had been violated with it post-mortem.

The couple was later identified as 19 year old Pasquale Gentilcore and 18 year old Stefania Pettini. They were high school sweet hearts, and had gone out for a night of fun with some other friends at a disco nearby. The lovers then decided to drive out into the countryside, presumably to have some time alone together. That was when the killer found them.

Pasquale Gentilcore and his girlfriend Stefania Pettini, seen here in happy times.

Pasquale Gentilcore and his girlfriend Stefania Pettini.

Once again, investigators had no real leads on the case. They managed to round up a carnival of suspects including a self-proclaimed faith healer, a mentally unstable man who had accused himself of the crime and peeping tom who was caught spying on couples in the area, but there was no evidence linking any of them to the crime scene. All three were eventually released.

Something of interest to note: several hours before her murder, Stefania mentioned to a close friend of hers that she had encountered a weird man that had terrified her. Had she met the killer before her demise?

Without any suspects or any evidence, the trail eventually grew cold. Investigators were once again forced to abandon the case, and the killer got away with his second murder.

The level of violence inflicted on Stefania Pettini indicated that the killer was escalating – where before he was content with simply shooting the woman like in the Locci case, he was now releasing his rage by taking it out on her physically with a knife. This wasn’t just a random urge that the killer had. It was a part of him now.

A Taste for Murder

Although investigators were on their guards, the next Monster killing would not occur till 7 years later, in June 1981. FBI profilers would later speculate that the lack of murders in the 7 year gap was because the killer was living somewhere else, away from Florence.

The peace that the natives had enjoyed since the Gentilcore/Pettini murders was short-lived, for the killer would soon return to Florence and claim his third set of victims.

June 6, 1981, saw the discovery of the bodies of Carmela di Nuccio, 21, and her boyfriend,  30 year old Giovanni Foggi. Both of them had been shot in their car and had subsequently died in it. The killer then stabbed Foggi 3 times and had then removed di Nuccio’s body from the car.

Carmela di Nuccio, 21, and her boyfriend, 30 year old Giovanni Foggi. The Monster claimed them as his third pair of victims.

Carmela di Nuccio, 21, and her boyfriend, 30 year old Giovanni Foggi. The Monster claimed them as his third pair of victims.

He had then positioned her just like Stefania Pettini 7 years ago, arms and legs spread-eagled. Her jeans and shirt had been slashed, and perhaps most gruesome of all, her vagina had been removed with a sharp instrument. Medical examiners later concluded that the killer must have had some skill in the usage of cutting instruments. Investigators would not have realised it then, but the removal of the pubic region of the females would soon become the signature of the Monster of Florence.

Ballistics tests revealed that the gunshots came from a .22 caliber automatic pistol – much like the ones from the 1968 and 1974 killings. A quick comparison of the results soon revealed that the gun used in the 1974 double murder were one and the same. This led to the chilling conclusion that the Florentine police was dealing with a serial killer.

Enzo Spalletti, an occasional voyeur in the region, was quickly arrested and put behind bars for the crime. Investigators were convinced that he was the killer based on one detail -he had talked about the discovery of the bodies with his wife as early as 9:30 in the morning, whereas the local newspapers did not actually publish anything about the crime until later that day. This seemingly incriminating detail led to Spalletti being placed behind bars where he would await trial.

The innocent voyeur: Enzo Spalletti.

The innocent voyeur: Enzo Spalletti.

But Spalletti wouldn’t have to spend much time in prison. Just a few months after the June murders, the true killer struck again in October, clearing Spalletti’s name in the process. He was hastily released from prison, his trial cancelled.

The October murders were nearly identical to the ones committed in June. Stefano Baldi, a workman, was found lying on one sideof his Volkswagen, shot and stabbed multiple times. On the other side of the vehicle lay his girlfriend, Susanna Cambi, her body riddled with gunshot and stab wounds too. The autopsy report concluded that both of the victims had still been alive after being shot. They had then succumbed to the numerous stab wounds that the killer inflicted on them. Just like Carmela di Nuccio, Susanna Cambi’s vagina had also been removed. It seemed that the Monster had found his signature style.

Stefano Baldi and Susanna Cambi. By all accounts the couple was very much in love.

Stefano Baldi and Susanna Cambi. By all accounts the couple was very much in love.

News of the fourth double murder spread through Florence, inciting widespread panic everywhere. As the grisly details of the crime emerged and Florentine citizens learned of the atrocities that the female victims suffered,  the Italian newspapers officially dubbed the killer II Mostro di Firenze – the Monster of Florence. Florence was now on wide alert for the serial killer that supposedly lived among them – all doors would be shut and locked tightly after dark, and only the bravest or the most foolhardy of citizens would dare to venture out in the night.

The Baldi/Cambi murders are interesting to me because they occurred so quickly after Enzio Spalletti was arrested and convicted. The Monster apparently had no interest in lying low and letting Spalletti take the blame and become a scapegoat – the killing urge was simply too strong in him. It was like an addictive drug, where the only relief from withdrawal is to take up another shot, except this time the “shot” was killing.

Susanna Cambi’s mother also received a phone call from an anonymous caller the morning after the murder, to “talk about her daughter”. Efforts to trace this caller were in vain. Susanna herself had also spoken to her mother a few days before she was killed and had told her that someone had been tormenting her. This detail was eerily similar to the 1974 case, where Stefania Pettini had also been in a similar situation with an unknown man. It’s highly likely that the Monster was stalking his female victims before killing them. Random chance, apparently, had no part to play in the murders after all.

A Survivor?

Paolo Mainardi and his long time girlfriend Antonella Miglorini were very much in love with each other. The two of them were inseparable, glued to the hip. Their level of devotion to each other was such that the locals even nicknamed them Vinavil, a brand of superglue. The loving couple were engaged and set to marry very soon in 1982, and it is of no contention that both of them were looking forward to their wedding day and having a blissful life together.

They would never get the chance to do so.

The Monster's 9th and 10th victims: Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini. The pair were so inseparable that locals nicknamed them after a brand of superglue.

The Monster’s 9th and 10th victims: Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini. The two of them were so inseparable that locals nicknamed them after a brand of superglue.

On the night of 19 June 1982, while the couple was making love in their car near a railway south of Florence, someone emerged from the shadows and began shooting at them. Antonella died immediately – but Paolo survived the initial shots.

Stricken and in great pain, he managed to start the car, turn on the headlights and shift the vehicle in reverse. He probably would have escaped from II Mostro – but fate was unkind that night. Paolo was so focused on getting away that he neglected to notice the ditch behind him. The car ended up stuck in it. As Paolo tried desperately and in vain to move out of it, the Monster slowly approached the car. One can only imagine the sheer terror that Paolo experienced, the love of his life dead in her seat right next to him while not far away a cold-blooded killer was closing in, his dark shadow growing longer and longer until it fell upon him.

The Monster shot out the vehicle’s headlights, plunging the region back into darkness. He then turned his gun once more on Paolo and Antonella’s body, emptying multiple rounds into them until he was sure they were dead. The railway experienced a high amount of traffic – the Monster decided that his freedom was more important to him than the mutilation of the bodies, and thus he quickly fled the area, sure of the fact that Paolo was finally dead.

The car where Paolo and Antonella spent their last moments together. The killer shot through the glass, killing Antonella immediately and only wounding Paolo.

The car where Paolo and Antonella spent their last moments together. The killer shot through the glass, killing Antonella immediately and only wounding Paolo.

But he was wrong. Against all odds Paolo was still alive – in great pain, surely, and in much torment, but he was still breathing. Unfortunately, as the attack occurred at night, Paolo was only discovered in the morning, still holding on but unconscious. This superhuman feat of endurance was alas in vain, for he died a few hours later from blood loss without having ever regained consciousness. The Monster had his 10th victim after all.

Here the story begins to twist: the assistant district attorney assigned to the case, Silvia della Monica, decided to have a little gamble. She informed the media that Paolo Mainardi was indeed dead, but that she wanted them to spread the news that he was in fact still alive when he arrived at the hospital, and had given a description of his killer before he died. Silvia clearly wanted to unsettle the Monster and possibly lure him out of his comfort zone – so far before all his killings had been nearly perfect ones, without any traceable evidence. How would the Monster react to this piece of news which could possibly lead to his capture?

It turns out the Monster behaved exactly how Silvia predicted. After the media announced to all that a face had been put to II Mostro, one of the Red Cross emergency workers who had accompanied Paolo to the hospital received mysterious phone calls. Initially the caller claimed to be  from the assistant DA’s office, and wanted to know about what Paolo had said. When that tactic didn’t work, the caller became angry and admitted that he was the killer, all the while demanding to know the details of Paolo’s “identification”. Unfortunately, the gamble’s payoff ended here. No more calls were made after one where the killer identified himself. Once again, the trail went cold.

The Mainardi/Migliorini murders also made an old police veteran realize that this case had startling similarities to an old unsolved one back in 1968, where a young boy awoke to his mother and her lover dead in a car. A ballistics test was carried out, and here the threads finally connected. The Florentine police now knew that this gruesome pattern of killing had began nearly 20 years ago and from the signs from the latest case, II Mostro had no intention of stopping.

Nearly 14 years after his imprisonment by the police for murdering his wife Barbara and her lover Antonio, Stefano Mele was finally cleared of the Monster charge. The investigators, however, remained convinced that Stefano had accomplices working outside of jail to carry out the murders, to Stefano’s repeated protests that he was nothing but innocent. In my opinion, the police officers who handled the case at that time seemed too eager for someone to blame, someone to wear the mask of the Monster. Looking at the false arrests of Stefano Mele, the 3 suspects in the second murder and Enzo Spalletti, perhaps the Italian police were too cuff-happy. But their actions were understandable in that there was a public outcry for justice – whoever was committing these grisly crimes needed to be arrested, and fast. Pressure from the public and the media was huge contributor, I think, in the Florentine police’s arrests.

A Spanner in the Works

The Monster returned a year later, this time puzzling policemen with a double murder that seemed like it wasn’t his work at all. Two German boys, tourists who had been in the countryside at the time, were found murdered in their camper vehicle. Just like the previous murders, they had been shot to death but there was no sign of mutilation.

German tourists Horst Meyer and Jens Uwe Rusch. The 8th pair of victims, they were suspected to be gay lovers but this was never proven.

German tourists Horst Meyer and Jens Uwe Rusch. The 8th pair of victims, they were suspected to be gay lovers but this was never proven.

Why had the Monster deviated from his typical choice of victims? Was this an attempt to throw investigators off track? Or was it just an honest accident? Police investigators theorized that the German tourists, Horst Meyer and Uwe Rusch Sens, had been gay lovers. Uwe had long blonde hair and a slight build, which could have caused the killer to have mistaken him for a woman. Allegedly, a gay pornographic magazine was found torn up near the crime scene, presumably by the Monster who ripped it apart out of pure frustration after realizing his mistake. This theory, however, has never actually been corroborated but it would certainly explain a lot if it were true.

Here the case takes a turn for the bizarre: A religious historian, upon learning of the murders, came forward to talk to the investigators. He introduced the idea that the crimes were ritualistic in nature, possibly Satanic, and that the killer had taken away the vaginas of the female victims for use in some dark rites. Although such an idea had no concrete evidence supporting it, investigators were somehow swayed by such a notion and they began searching for a religious cult.

The same Red Cross emergency worker who had received the menacing calls a year ago was contacted again by the Monster, while on vacation. Once again the killer demanded that the details of the fake description given by Paolo be told to him. It’s quite unnerving indeed: how exactly did the Monster manage to know that the worker had been on vacation? Was he stalking him as well? Regardless, attempts to contact the Monster in return were futile.

July 29, 1984, would see the death of another young couple: A 21 year old student, Claudio Stefanacci and his 18 year old girlfriend Pia Gilda Rontini, a barmaid and a cheerleader. Once again the murder was nearly a replica of the previous ones: the couple was shot and stabbed to death in a woodland area near Florence.

Love's kiss: Claudio Stefanacci with his girlfriend Pia Gilda Rontini.

Love’s kiss: Claudio Stefanacci with his girlfriend Pia Gilda Rontini.

The brutality inflicted on Pia was of an even greater level than before: along with her vagina, her left breast had been surgically removed. The girl had also been stabbed close to a 100 times. It’s possible that the killer, denied the chance to mutilate Antonella Miglorini, unnerved about the false description from the lips of her boyfriend Paolo Mainardi and enraged by the mistake he made in the killings of the German boys, chose to take out his anger on her corpse. That would certainly explain the level of overkill.

The removal of Pia’s left breast stirred suspicions that this was perhaps indeed the work of some Satanic cult. In the years to come, this idea would take root and become the primary motive of the Monster, although FBI profilers would later inform them in an official profile that such body parts were nothing but trophies to the Monster. Crucial information in the profile would also be ignored by the Florentine police, much to their detriment.

Let us consider the enormity of the Monster case at this point in time: 14 murders, over the course of 20 odd years. On the one hand you have falsely accused suspects like the voyeur Enzio Spalletti who was later cleared of all charges and ones which are clearly implausible like the long suffering Stefano Mele. As a writer I am supposed to write of the exploits of the police in a neutral manner, but as a human being I cannot help but marvel at the incompetency at which the case was handled. Evidence may have been sparse, leads slim and witnesses non-existent, but it seems to me like the investigation could have been done in a much better manner. I’m not saying that all of the Florentine investigators were like this, but as a whole the entire investigation was one random grasp for straws (just look at the cuff-happy officers).

After almost two decades with 14 victims and a city plunged into panic, the police once again (depressingly so) were left in the dark with no leads to go on. II Mostro was free to continue his reign of terror over Florence.

The Final Slaying

The final killings would occur in September of 1985, an end to the bloody murders that had plagued Florence for 20 years.

On Monday, September 9, the bodies of French tourists Jean Michel Kraveichvili and Nadine Mauriot were found in a camping area. Nadine had been shot and stabbed to death while sleeping in their tent. Jean, miraculously had only been slightly wounded by the gunshots. An amateur champion of the 100 metre dash, he had managed to escape from the tent after the death of Nadine and ran for his life. The Monster, unfortunately, managed to catch up with him and finished the job with a knife. II Mostro would subsequently return to the tent and mutilate Nadine’s body, removing the vagina and left breast just like in the last murder.

The final victims of the Monster: 36 year old Nadine Mauriot and 25 year old Jean Michel Kraveichvili.

The final victims of the Monster: 36 year old Nadine Mauriot and 25 year old Jean Michel Kraveichvili.

On the day following the murder, Silvia della Monica, the prosecutor who had leaked the false description of the killer in the Mainardi/Miglorini case, received a letter from an anonymous sender. The address had been cut out from letters from different magazines and the letter had been mailed directly to her office. Silvia, upon opening it, found a piece of Nadine’s left breast, wrapped in a piece of tissue. A taunting letter accompanied this gruesome discovery, challenging the authorities to catch the killer. Silvia immediately resigned from the case upon receiving the letter.

And that was it.

Just as the Monster murders had abruptly began in 1968 with the murders of a mother and a lover, they ended just as abruptly in 1985 with the deaths of two French tourists. The citizens of Florence would not know it then, but they could finally breathe a sigh of relief. For whatever reason, the Monster’s killing days were over. As quickly as he had come out of the shadows, he had retreated back into them.

But the investigation refused to die. Much to their credit, over the course of the next 8 years, Italian police relentlessly pursued leads and questioned probable witnesses, determined to apprehend II Mostro di Firenze.

Unmasking the Monster

The people of Italy wanted the Monster. They wanted to see his real face, spit on him, curse him, and most of all see him dead. The Florentine police found the perfect target in their 8 year search: Pietro Pacciani, a 68 year old farmer. When investigators dug deep into his past, they found a closet full of skeletons. In 1951, he attacked his 16 year old girlfriend while she was with her lover, stabbing him to death. He then proceeded to rape her while the corpse lay nearby before going on to rape the corpse of the man he had just murdered. If anyone thought that he was a family man, they would have to be sorely disappointed too, for he went to jail shortly after the first Monster murder for beating his wife and raping his daughters.

There were also allegations that Pacciani was involved in an occult group with 3 other men and that they had been engaging in dark rituals and using female body parts in these rites. With the idea that the Monster was part of a Satanic cult already planted in their minds years ago, investigators wasted no time in arresting Pacciani and convicting him for all the Monster murders except the first one, to which they still believed Stefano Mele was responsible for.

In November 1994, Pietro Pacciani went on trial as the Monster of Florence.

The trial itself was nothing but a media circus. Prosecutors, determined to see someone burn at the stake for the Monster murders, allowed the trial to be televised. Each day, the people of Italy stayed glued to their screens as they gazed upon the face of the man they believed to be II Mostro. A local newspaper even went as far to set up a Monster hotline, for viewers watching the trial to dial in and contribute their opinions.

Pietro Pacciani, seen here in his 1994 trial.

Pietro Pacciani, seen here in his 1994 trial. He maintained his innocence till the end.

It’s apparent that Pacciani was already a monster for the crimes he committed in the past. But was he the Monster?

Examining the trial and the evidence, it’s clear that he was not. The prosecution, eager to secure a conviction and finally put away one of Europe’s most prolific serial killers, had an alarming lack of evidence. Most of what they had was merely circumstantial; there was nothing substantial to show that Pacciani was indeed at the crime scenes or that he had possessed the .22 Beretta used in all the murders. The gun itself was never found.

Doubts about whether Pacciani would have been able to physically commit such brutal crimes also arose: the last male victim, Jean Michel Kraveichvili, was an amateur champion of the 100m dash, as mentioned above. Although he had been able to escape the tent, he was unable to outrun his killer. Clearly the Monster had to be in good physical shape. And yet at the time of the murder Pacciani was 58 years old, and suffering from a multitude of ailments including a bad knee, scoliosis, diabetes and hypertension.

Despite this stunning lack of evidence, the media hype was enough to ensure that everyone thought Pacciani was guilty. Swarms of spectators would flock to the courtroom every day, eager to watch the man be crucified.

Pacciani himself protested that he was innocent from the very beginning, and continued to do so until the end of the trial. Regardless, the man was doomed from the start. A verdict of “guilty” was summarily pronounced upon him and he was convicted of 14 murders and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. According to witnesses, Pacciani was dragged screaming from the court, proclaiming his innocence to the very end.

It would only be a short two years before Pacciani’s conviction was overturned – by a prosecutor who clearly saw the lack of evidence against him. But unsound evidence was not the only reason Pacciani was released. Just hours before the man’s conviction was overturned, his friends Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti were arrested for the Monster murders. These two men were also part of the occult group that Pacciani was said to have been a member of.

Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti: Satanists, or simply old men unfortunate enough to be Pacciani's friends?

Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti: Satanists, or simply old men unfortunate enough to be Pacciani’s friends?

The Italian police believed the Monster murders were perpetrated by not one man but a whole gang of murderers – Vanni and Lotti amongst them. If Pacciani was relieved that his conviction was overthrown, it must have been short lived as investigators once again hastily concluded that he had been the ringleader. I’m sure I don’t need to remind the reader of the expertise or lack thereof at which the Italian police handled the case.

On May 21, 1997, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti went on trial for the Monster murders. Both were found guilty, with Vanni sentenced to life in prison and Lotti getting 26 years instead. Pietro Pacciani, on the other hand, never got the chance to attend his retrial. In 1998 he was found dead, having overdosed on his heart medicine. One can assume that the man probably did not have the strength or will to face Italy’s wrath once more.

With Pacciani dead and Vanni and Lotti behind bars, most assumed that the Monster case was closed.

Lingering doubts must have remained as to the authenticity of the convictions though, for in 2001 the officials reopened the investigation. This time, not many details are available. Detectives have stated that they have numerous suspects in mind, though no arrests have actually been made. However, a source close to the prosecutors’ office revealed that officials now believe that the Monster of Florence was not a single man, but rather a group of wealthy Italians with the money and power to orchestrate the murders and get away with it. Once again, they presented the idea that a ritualistic cult was behind everything.

As of January 2014, the true identity of the Monster of Florence remains a mystery.

Final Thoughts

The Monster case was certainly one that was drawn out over a very long period of nearly 40 years. But there are many mysteries surrounding the case that have been unsolved to this day.

For one, if Stefano Mele was really innocent, why did he appear to the officers with bags all packed and ready to go, as if he already knew that his wife Barbara was dead? And yet Mele cannot have been the Monster, for he was in jail for all those years. But the weapon used in the later Monster murders was also used in the first murder – so the Monster had to have been there. Or more accurately, his gun had to have been used. There’s also the question of the mystery men that stalked Stefania Pettini, Susanna Cambi and Pia Gilda Rontini (a friend remembered that Pia had told her that she had been bothered by “an unpleasant man” while she was working at a bar). Were they all the same person? The Monster? Or was this just pure coincidence? The Red Cross worker who received those disturbing phone calls also deserves to be investigated, I think. Was he truly telling the truth about the phone calls? Or perhaps he was leading investigators off-track? More chillingly, what if he was the Monster and had been watching everything unfold before his very eyes?

We can only speculate about the answers to the many mysteries of the Monster case. We can theorize and conjecture, but it’s likely that a conclusive answer will never be found. Assuming that the Monster was in his 20s to 30s when Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco were killed in 1968, he would in his 70s and 80s if he were alive today, certainly in no condition to continue killing. There’s also the question of why the Monster stopped after 1985 – there was no indication that he was satisfied with the last murder, or that he would stop. In my opinion he either (a) died some time after the murder or (b) decided to lay low due to the media buzz that was growing stronger each day or (c) just barely managed to catch up to and kill Jean, the amateur athlete, and probably realized he was in no state to continue such vigorous kills. Regardless, his reign of terror ended for good in 1985.

A sketch of what the police thought the Monster of Florence looked like at the time of his rampant killings.

A sketch of what the police thought the Monster of Florence looked like at the height of his rampant killings.

All of the victims were couples – young lovers, enamoured with each other. As some of us know, love can be a powerful intoxicant. The different lovers, driven by their passion for each other, probably gambled and took a risk that the Monster would not be out hunting on the same night they were out. Sadly, that gamble cost them their lives.

Some people have remarked that given the state of panic that Florence was in, the more recent murder victims should not have gone out to such remote places. I agree that perhaps going out at night when a serial killer is on the loose isn’t the most wise of choices, but it’s hardly justified to say that the victims were asking for it.

As gruesome as the Monster murders were, we have to remember that the victims were not simply bodies or corpses lying cold in the morgue. They were living, breathing people once, people who loved, people who cried, and people who ultimately died because they were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite her promiscuity, Barbara Locci was by all accounts a good enough mother to her son Natalino. Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Miglorini, the devoted lovers, were to marry each other in a very short time before their untimely demise.

Paolo and Antonella in happier times.

Paolo and Antonella in happier times.

It’s easy to treat the victims as just faces on photographs, bodies in fields, and get lost in all the gory grisly details. But they were just like you and me once.

It’s the ability to empathize that distinguishes human beings from all other creatures – the ability to understand another, to feel what they feel, to imagine what they must have gone through. To know what it’s like to laugh, to cry, to love, to lose, to live.

Only then can we call ourselves human.

Only then can we be sure that we’re not monsters ourselves.


The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, by Michael Newton; December 1999, Facts on File

The Monster of Florence, by Magdalen Nabb 1996, Collins Crime

The death of a child is always a tragic incident. Even more so if it was a murder. In our hearts we are outraged and infuriated that someone would be evil enough to take the life of someone so innocent and pure, a child unlucky enough to catch the attention of his or her murderer. But what happens when the killer isn’t a violent madman or a deceptively charismatic sociopath but a child herself? The case of Mary Bell, which gripped all of Britain in the late 1960s, would soon reveal to the world the disturbing truth that not all children are as pure and innocent as we envision them to be.

The Early Years

Mary Bell at the age of 10

Mary Bell, age 10.

“Take that thing away from me!”

These were the very words uttered by Betty Bell soon after the birth of her only daughter, Mary Flora Bell, in 1957. Betty was only 17 at the time of Mary’s birth. The father was supposedly one Billy Bell, a career criminal who Betty would later marry. However, the identity of Mary’s true father was never known.  Whether Betty planned to have a child at that young age or not is unknown, but what is quite obvious was that she treated Mary much like an unwanted child.

From a young age, Mary was constantly passed on from one relative to another by Betty, much like one would give a worn out dress or old toy to another. Although she would always drop her daughter off at the homes of her relatives, she would always return to claim her once more. It would have been better, I think, if Betty had simply given up on the child – perhaps the tragedy that ensued in the future would not have occurred if Mary had been raised in a normal home environment with loving parents.

This was clearly something that Betty would never have been able to provide. A prostitute, she would travel frequently from the family home in  Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Glasgow where she would solicit men. Mary was left at home unsupervised for long periods of time on her own,  while her erstwhile father was out committing crimes or cooling off his heels in prison. At the age of two, Mary was already displaying unusual behaviour: she was a cold, detached child who never showed much emotion. We will never know the depth of emotion she felt at being physically abandoned by her mother and her absent father, but Mary outright refused to show any sign that she cared. Crying, she thought, was a sign of weakness.

But abandonment was the least of Mary’s issues. Her mother had drugs and pills lying in the house, in places easily accessible by the precocious girl. Mary would suffer frequent drug overdoses, and it was later believed that most of the drugs were administered by the mother herself. Betty, it seems, hated Mary as much as Mary hated her.

And yet perhaps Mary suffered the most at the hands of the men her mother brought home. In her adult life, Mary would claim that her mother often used her as a sexual prop in her entertainment of clients. The sexual abuse apparently began at the age of 4, and would continue later into her formative years. The mother specialized as a dominatrix and would use Mary in her sadomasochistic scenarios with clients. Only Betty knows if these allegations are true or not, but to this day she has remained silent. It would certainly explain much if it were true though. One can only imagine the shock and horror a 4 year old child has to endure at the hands of such sexual predators, the final nail in the coffin being that it was the mother that put her through such atrocities.

Mary emerged from her early years a clearly damaged, emotionally stunted and traumatized child. But this was only the beginning: a prelude to the twisted path that she would take just a few years later in her young life.

The Progression of a Killer

Mary’s school years were by no means happy ones. She became known at school as a chronic liar and a disrupter. Vandalism and thefts were by no means her only specialties, for she was also a bully. Students who were younger than her would avoid her at all costs as she would often attempt to physically intimidate them. At such a young age, her darker side had already emerged. On one occasion, the mothers of three children reported to the police that Mary had attempted to choke their children. In another case, a young boy fell off the roof of a shelter while playing with Mary, but this was later written off as an accident. Mary would also say that she wanted “to hurt people”.

It was while in her schooling years that Mary picked up a follower: 11 year old Norma Bell (of no relation to Mary). While being obviously older, Norma was always the subservient one in the pair. At the age of 10, Mary had already become an intelligent, cunning and manipulative girl who had no qualms with breaking the law to get what she wanted. Norma, on the other hand, was described as “a bit slow and dim, in no way Mary’s intellectual equal”. Mary clearly reveled in her dominance over Norma and the pair exerted their terrifying influence over the rest of the school. Together they began a downward spiral into murder and madness.

The First Victim

On 25 May 1968, the body of 4 year old Martin Brown was found lying in an old abandoned house. The two boys who had discovered the body quickly fled to the police, but they attributed his death to the accidental overdose of pills from a bottle lying nearby.

Mary Bell's first victim: 4 year old Martin Brown

Mary Bell’s first victim: 4 year old Martin Brown.

We will never know how the girls lured the trusting toddler away from his family to an abandoned house, or if the murder was pre-meditated or simply violence that got out of hand. At the end of the day though, Martin Brown lay dead.

Mary Bell, elated at having gotten away with her first kill, broke into a nursery with Norma a few days later. There they left expletive-laden notes taunting the police and claiming responsibility for the murder of Martin Brown, but the police dismissed it as a silly prank. Mary would later visit the grieving mother of Martin a few days after the discovery of his body and ask to see him. When told that he was dead, she would reply “Oh, I know he’s dead. I wanted to see him in his coffin”. Mrs. Brown slammed the door in her face.

The notes found at the nursery. Mary and Norma would later admit to writing them.

The notes found at the nursery. Mary and Norma would later admit to writing them.

It’s apparent to me that the police had obviously bungled up this part of the investigation. The police assumption that Martin Brown had overdosed was one that should not have happened at all: later autopsies would reveal that he had been strangled to death. Mary herself would later admit that she had massaged the throat of the young boy, promising to “soothe his sore throat” before her fingers closed in and sealed his last breath. Of course, at this point his death was written off as a tragic accident and no one would have even suspected that the one responsible for the deed was a child. It seems like Mary herself almost wanted to get caught, to claim responsibility for the murder of Martin Brown. Her notes indicated a disturbing childish perversion, intertwined with a psychopathic tone.The failure to discover the true nature of Martin Brown’s death meant that the case eventually grew cold, with the people of Newcastle slowly forgetting and assuming that it was a one-off case, an anomaly.

But they were wrong. Act Two of the nightmare was just beginning.

A Second Slaying

A month after the passing of Martin Brown, another toddler, 3 year old Brian Howe, went missing from his home. His sister, Pat Howe, was out looking for him anxiously when she chanced upon two young girls. They agreed to help the distraught sister look for her brother, walking all around the neighbourhood and searching for the missing toddler. But Mary and Norma knew perfectly well where he was: his corpse was between some large concrete blocks at an industrial area near the railroad tracks. Norma would later tell investigators that Mary wanted Pat to discover the body of her dead brother because “she wanted her to get a shock”.

Regardless, Mary’s sick fantasy didn’t come true and Pat went home when it got dark. Brian Howe would only be discovered by the local police hours later, near midnight.

You can just imagine how it was for the family members of Brian: waiting, late at night, for any sign that he would return. And when a knock resounds at the door, they rush to it, desperate for a kind passer-by to tell them that Brian was safe and sound. But the Howe family met the grim faces of the policemen instead, and their world was never the same again.

3 year old Brian Howe. Mary Bell would claim him as her second, and final, victim.

3 year old Brian Howe. Mary Bell would claim him as her second, and final, victim.

Examining the body of Brian would tell the investigators much about the perpetrator of the crime. He had been strangled, his hair cut out in clumps and his genitals mutilated with a pair of scissors lying nearby his body. On his body someone had carved an “M” shape with a razor blade. Inspector James Dobson would later remark that “There was a terrible playfulness about it, a terrible gentleness if you like, and somehow the playfulness of it made it more, rather than less, terrifying.” Medical examiners began to suspect that a child was responsible for the murder.

The Pursuit of a Child Killer

Meanwhile, the community of Newcastle was plunged into a full scale panic. Investigators interviewed the children of the community, on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour. When they reached Mary Bell, they knew they had found Brian’s killer. During her questioning, she remained calm and composed. She was evasive and acted strangely, giving vague answers to questions.

However, she slipped up when it came to the scissors found near Brian: Mary revealed confidential details that only the killer would know. The net around her was already closing in.

When questioned, Norma Bell quickly confessed to the police that it had been Mary who did it. Describing the murder of Brian Howe in great detail, she said that “Mary ran her fingers along his lips. She said she had enjoyed it.” This was all that was needed to convince the police of Mary’s guilt, and she was arrested that very night and led to the station.

Mary Bell at the time of her arrest in 1968.

Mary Bell at the time of her arrest in 1968.

After a long, evasive interview in which Mary attempted to dodge questions and generally gave calculated and sly answers, she finally admitted to being present when Brian died. For all her precocious intelligence and guile, even Mary knew when the game was up. She gave an official statement admitting her role in the death of Brian Howe, and attempted to implicate Norma in the murder.

The police later saw the similarities between the Brown and Howe cases and managed to link them to Mary and Norma Bell. All this time the girls were incarcerated in the Newcastle West End police station, where Mary would make disturbing comments to the police officers in nonchalant tones. But she wouldn’t have to wait long to get out of such an uncomfortable space.

On December 5th 1968, Mary and Norma Bell were brought to trial for the murder of Martin Brown and Brian Howe.

Trial, Incarceration and Subsequent Life

The trial was one that would grip the nation as people waited to see with bated breath what would happen to an 11 year old killer. Mary would remain emotionally blank and composed in court, answering questions rationally and logically with a confidence seldom seen in children. Norma, on the other hand, was clearly distraught. Surrounded by sympathetic family members and supporters, she became a star witness for the prosecution, implicating Mary for the murders and painting herself as a mere “follower”. Just like before, Mary would refute Norma’s statements and state that she was more guilty than her. Yet for all their constant attempts to push the blame on each other, the girls retained a curious connection. When you thought of Mary, Norma wouldn’t be far behind. It was like a dark bond, a deadly friendship where each party would be dragged down into the abyss, clutching tightly to each other.

Norma Bell: Willing accomplice, or a mere follower?

Norma Bell: Willing accomplice, or a mere follower?

The defense attempted to paint Mary as a victim of circumstance: highlighting her past in great detail, it was obvious that the attorney attempted to appeal to heartstrings of the jury. But perhaps he hadn’t considered the fact that these very same heartstrings had already been tugged by the images of young Martin Brown and Brian Howe, their grieving mothers sobbing over their lifeless bodies.

At the end of the trial, the verdict was announced: Norma Bell was acquitted of the two charges of manslaughter, while Mary Bell was found guilty of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. Mary cried openly for the first time in court. Her father and mother sat nearby, unmoved by her cries. If they felt a need to comfort her, it was not apparent.

Mary Bell would be sent to a young offenders’ institute, where she would spend the next 8 years. She would then be transferred to another prison following an attempted escape, where she would remain until 1980, released with a new identity as granted by the court after having served 12 years.

Under this cloak of anonymity, 23 year old Mary would later marry and have a daughter, born just 4 years later in 1984. They would live a peaceful 14 years before reporters would discover her true identity and location, hounding the house and bringing the wrath of many people on them before they were forced to flee in the middle of the night, bedsheets over their heads. Mary would later fight and win a court battle, ensuring the anonymity of herself and her daughter permanently, to the outrage of the victims’ families. To this day, any court order allowing the permanent anonymity of a person is subsequently known as a “Mary Bell order”.

As of 2009, Mary Bell is a grandmother. The mother of Martin Brown, June Richardson, had this to say about the news:

“A child is a blessing. She took my blessing and left me with grief for the rest of my life. I hope when she looks at this child she remembers the two she murdered. I will never see a grandchild from my son. I hope every time she looks at this baby she realizes what my family is missing out on because of what she has done.”

Final Thoughts

The Mary Bell case is certainly a tragic one. Two young lives, violently snuffed out. No one doubts that the Brown and Howe families did not deserve such personal losses. But what of Mary Bell? To this day, there are many debates on whether Mary was “born bad” or if circumstance made her who she was. We can certainly agree that Mary had a nightmare of a childhood, if such a term can even be used. Years of neglect, unintentional drug abuse and sexual abuse all contributed to the formation of a deeply disturbed, potentially psychopathic child. The fact that this was all done to her by her mother, I think, made the wounds hurt all the more.

But the question that we all need to ask at the end of the day is if such a monstrous childhood is enough to turn someone into a monster themselves. The families of the victims would certainly disagree, and they are correct in their own way. It is easy to dismiss such factors while reading of them, but we need to ask ourselves: if we had been in Mary Bell’s shoes, would we have turned out like her? Or was this urge to kill hers and hers alone?

Only she knows the answer.

In the process of doing research for this article, I watched a documentary about the case. June Richardson, the mother of Martin Brown, was interviewed for her personal experiences.

June Richardson with her son Martin, immortalized in a moment of happiness.  "'I'd think, any minute, Martin will pop his cheecky face round the corner. Or I'd see him at a window. Smiling. Or feel him tugging on my back pockets, like he always used to do."

June Richardson with her son Martin, immortalized in a moment of happiness. “‘I’d think, any minute, Martin will pop his cheeky face round the corner. Or I’d see him at a window. Smiling. Or feel him tugging on my back pockets, like he always used to do.”

I heard the pride and joy in her voice when she described how her little boy would like to run around; I heard the decades old grief and sorrow rising up in her throat as she painfully choked out the moment when she saw his body; I heard the unforgiving fury in her words when she spoke of learning that Mary Bell had a new identity, and that she had been paid as part of a book deal.

“‘I’ve even gone out looking for Martin, night after night. I knew he was gone, yet I thought I could find him.”

Her eyes held such pain and torment.

If there’s one thing that can be learnt from the Mary Bell case, it’s that human suffering inevitably causes more human suffering. In fact, this is applicable to most criminals with pasts that haunt them. But this case is special in that all the participants were children: it cut short the lives of two of them and forever changed those of two more.

All that we can do is hope.

That is all we are capable of in the face of such darkness.

June Richardson sums it up best, I think.

“You have to keep the memories. That’s all you’ve got. You’ve got to hold on.”


Sereny, Gitta, Cries Unheard — Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999.

Sereny Gitta. The Case of Mary Bell. London, Arrow Books, 1972.