Here I am at the grave of Lesley Ann Downey who was one of the five victims killed by the infamous Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.
On Saturday 26th December 1964 the ten-year-old went to fairground in Ancoats in Manchester. With only a sixpence she was expected home shortly. However Brady and Hindley were there solely to select someone to kill. They saw children standing by the rides but noticed Lesley was on her own. Hindley approached her and deliberately dropped some shopping bought from a local supermarket. Brady approached from behind to close the trap. They asked Lesley to help them carry some of the shopping back to their car. They drove her back to their home in Hattersley (since demolished) where she helped them carry the shopping into the house. Brady locked the front door and dragged the screaming schoolgirl upstairs to a bedroom he had prepared early.
On the single bed they stripped, tied and gagged Lesley, forced her to pose for nine photographs, sexually assaulted her then strangled her (probably) with string. They washed the corpse and put it in a white sheet. The following morning they drove Lesley to Saddleworth Moor, dug a shallow grave and put her naked body in it. They put her clothes at her feet, covered her up and drove off. Only six months earlier they’d killed Keith Bennett and dumped his body up here too (still not found.)
When the game was up and police were investigating the murder of Arthur Edwards searches led to a brown case owned by Brady; it was found at the lost luggage department at Manchester Central Railways Station on 15th October 1965. In the case was Brady’s copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, pornographic magazines and photographs of Myra Hindley gloating over the graves of their victims, puppy dog in her arms. The case also contained a 13 minute reel-to-reel audio tape of the Hindley and Brady as they struggled to tie up Lesley before Bradley raped her (sadly the transcript of this tape is on the internet.) Later in court Hindley insisted she didn’t kill Lesley, claiming she was “downstairs” when Lesley was being undressed, was “looking out of the window” when the photographs were taken and was “was running a bath” when Lesley was strangled.
Lesley’s mum was brought in to identify her daughter’s voice on the tape, something that she would haunt her for the rest of her life. It also horrified the people on jury duty who had to hear it.
Brady and Hindley were convicted on 6th May 1966 for murdering three children (it wasn’t until 1985 that they confessed to others). The death penalty for murder had been abolished while Brady and Hindley were on remand. The law only allowed the judge to sentence life imprisonment. Though the killers should have been tossed into the hyena pit at Chester Zoo or hung before a crowd at Old Trafford Football Stadium (all proceeds to charity) Brady was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences and Hindley was given two. Brady was taken to Durham Prison and Hindley was sent to Holloway Prison.
Eventually Lesley’s body was found on the moors (the police escorted Hindley there). Delicate bones were found protruding from a peak-soaked bog. Lesley was given a proper funeral here at Southern Cemetery, Manchester. Her mum joined her in 1999 (also a baby called Scott aged six months). How many layers of misery lay under this headstone? I suppose only the parents of murdered children can understand what outer limits of misery are touched on a daily basis.
Being winter the cemetery was a little drab but this grave was amid a few evergreen trees. I’ve visited many headstones but this one probably hides the saddest tale so far.
For associated links please click on any of the photos below:-
Keith Bennett Walk 1
Keith Bennett Walk 2
Pointing to a photo of Lesley with brothers Tommy and Brett…
As I visited in winter the cemetery was quite dead so it was nice to see the grave in a green part. Was this evergreen tree planted when Lesley was buried?
A visit in April 2019...
16, Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley where Lesley was killed…