Amateur sleuth was convinced Ian Brady arranged victims’ bodies to create Nazi symbol on moors

Author: Yuvi October 1, 2022


As police stage a dig at the site of Britain’s most notorious murders for the first time in decades, hopes have been raised that it could finally reveal Keith Bennett’s grave. Crime and Security Editor Rebecca Camber looks at how an amateur sleuth made the bombshell discovery and the compelling evidence that has spurred police into action.

THE AUTHOR

Russell Edwards was just 21 when he first went up to Saddleworth Moor looking for the murder victims.

It was 1987 and he had been moved by a newspaper article appealing for volunteers to help find Ian Brady and Myra Hindley’s first victim, Pauline Reade.

It was to be the start of a life-long fascination with the infamous case and other unsolved crimes.

The amateur sleuth, now 56, has hitherto been best known for his work on another serial killer.

In September 2014 Mr Edwards published a book identifying Polish-born Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper based on DNA extracted from a shawl said to be found at the murder scene of one of the victims.

Later that year he set his sights on finding Keith Bennett. ‘It has been a lifelong obsession for me with big unsolved cases,’ he said. ‘I started delving into the story, what Brady’s fascinations were.

‘You have got to live the story, sort of walk in their shoes to consider why the fascination with this area? What is so special about this area? It gave me the first clue.’

In September 2014 Mr Edwards published a book identifying Polish-born Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper based on DNA extracted from a shawl said to be found at the murder scene of one of the victims

THE SWASTIKA

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

Obsessed with Nazism, Brady collected German Second World War memorabilia and read Hitler’s book Mein Kampf repeatedly.

The author believes that Brady deliberately arranged the graves so that he could create a swastika shape by positioning his female victims – Pauline Reade, 16, and Lesley Ann Downey, ten – on one side of the A635 and the boys – John Kilbride, 12, and Keith Bennett, also 12 – on the other.

‘The significance of the road is it looks like part of the swastika,’ he said. ‘When you look at the locations of the graves, it is his version of a swastika although he never got to finish it.

‘There is half a zig-zag in the road and I thought that is significant to him. It pinpointed the area to search for Keith because of that shape.’

Compulsion

Hours before abducting his first victim on July 12, 1963, Brady told Hindley he wanted to ‘commit his perfect murder’.

He appears to have been inspired by a book called Compulsion about the murder of a 12-year-old boy, which he gave Hindley to read.

One of the bestselling novels of 1957, it was based on Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two young men from wealthy families who resolved to commit a kidnap and ‘perfect murder’ in 1924 but were caught after leaving behind a pair of distinctive glasses.

Hours before abducting his first victim on July 12, 1963, Brady told Hindley he wanted to 'commit his perfect murder'

Hours before abducting his first victim on July 12, 1963, Brady told Hindley he wanted to ‘commit his perfect murder’

Mr Edwards believes that certain scenes in the 1959 film of the novel, starring Orson Welles, inspired Brady and may explain why he targeted Keith who was the same age and wore identical glasses.

‘At the beginning of the film is a significant bend in the road which I identified immediately as exactly the same type of bend in the road where the children were buried,’ he said. ‘This is all part of their plan. He was obsessive.’

Mr Edwards believes that it was this fixation with creating the ‘perfect murder’ that resulted in Brady later moving Keith’s body so that Hindley would not know its final location.

EAGLE ROCK

After he was jailed, Brady toyed with police, claiming: ‘I am going to give you Keith Bennett.’

He told Chief Superintendent Peter Topping he wanted to see a local landmark known as Eagle Rock, but claimed this was of no significance. Mr Edwards recalled: ‘I looked at the significance of Eagle Rock as that is where Brady wanted to revisit at the time Peter Topping is interviewing him.

‘They never looked any further there but my biggest question was why not?’

Mr Edwards believes Brady used the landmark as a marker from which he could see all but one of his victims.

DRONES

In 2016 Mr Edwards paid a drone expert from Liverpool John Moores University to complete a survey of the area he wanted to search. He also paid for a ground penetrating radar search.

Three potential sites of interest were identified due to changes of vegetation and depressions in the ground, but soil analysis samples revealed no anomalies. ‘At that point I was drained, I thought about quitting,’ he recalled.

‘There are times I have come away so dejected, I never wanted to talk about it again, but it kept on pulling me back.

Mr Edwards believes Brady used the landmark as a marker from which he could see all but one of his victims

Mr Edwards believes Brady used the landmark as a marker from which he could see all but one of his victims

‘When we did ground penetrating radar and he wasn’t there and I thought if I feel like this, what would Winnie [Keith’s mother] have felt every time she was up there?

‘She had a whole life of torment. She begged the two of them in letters to give them information. I thought I am not going to let her down. Her memory has kept me going – let’s get justice for Keith, let’s put him with Winnie.

‘But my other objective was to beat Ian Brady because he wanted to commit the perfect murder and until I came along he had, that was significant for me.

‘I wanted to beat him. When you talk about the Moors Murders these days, kids look at you blank.

‘There was a little boy raped and murdered and his life was taken away from him when he was 12 years of age and he is getting forgotten about.

‘His mother is dead and his is becoming a forgotten story and that is not fair.’

BREAKTHROUGH

In July Mr Edwards decided to try one last time.

‘I walked down from Eagle Rock. If I saw anything as I walked down there, I thought, I will take a sample,’ he recalled.

‘At the end of the day I looked at the hill and I thought I’m not going back that way it is very treacherous ground.

‘As I walked the long way back, I saw something I thought shouldn’t be there in the vegetation.

‘In the middle of long grass was a white patch. It was a completely different colour, it had no growth on it.

‘I thought that was odd. I thought I might as well take a sample of this. It was a grave, size about 5ft by about 3ft.

‘Most of the time when you are taking soil samples, you always hit granite or stone.

‘That time the sample went in really easily suggesting it may have been a previously dug.’

SOIL ANALYSIS

He sent the samples to Lesley Dunlop, a geologist at Northumbria University who specializes in soil analysis.

‘Lesley Dunlop came back and said there is a serious anomaly here,’ he said.

‘She said all of these chemical components strike gold. The calcium reading was a real peak which indicated the presence of bones.

‘Lesley told me this is not animals, it is human bones, we are on to something here. I felt elated and quite nervous.

‘I checked with the landowner to ask if anything has been buried there. He said nothing has ever been buried there.

‘No sheep, no dogs, nothing. I thought there was a good chance we have found him.’

An X–ray fluorescence (XRF) test, used for chemical analysis of soil, showed a spike in calcium, potassium and phosphorus, which indicated bones are present.

There were also significant readings for Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope found in bones.

Children born in the 1950s were found to have higher levels in their teeth and bones, which has been attributed to nuclear weapons testing at the time.

There were also traces of clothing dye cobalt, titanium and nickel, which is often found in metallic zips and fastenings in clothing.

Miss Dunlop said: ‘I would not expect that from an animal. To me it was evidence of a human body. There could be no other explanation.’

She also recalled that the soil profile was disturbed: ‘There are lots of quartz pebbles in the bedrock but you do not usually find them this high up in the soil profile, so it did look like there had been a bit of disturbance there.’

THE DIG

Then on September 1, Mr Edwards returned with Miss Dunlop to dig up the area.

He recalls an overpowering stench of death: ‘The smell hit me about 2ft down. Like a sewer, like ammonia. It was on my clothes I stank of it. The soil reeked.

‘I worked as a gravedigger when I was 19. That hits you, that smell of death. It is distinctive…

‘I asked [forensic archaeologist] Dawn Keen and she said, “That is adipose [body fat] tissue, you have found him”.

‘I was overjoyed. Then we found blue and white striped material. Then I stopped. I put everything back as I found it.’

THE SCULL

When Mrs Keen later analyzed photographs of the dig, she identified a child’s skull hidden in the peat, which had not been spotted at the time.

She said: ‘I do believe there are human remains there. I saw the teeth, I could see the canines, I could see the incisors, I could see the first molar.

‘The left side of the face is upside down and I was looking at an upper jaw.

‘Two molars that have not erupted, they usually erupt after the age of 12. But the first molar was present. That tells us that they have reached dental development of 11 to 12 years.’

Mr Edwards was elated. Describing his belief that the remains are those of the Moors Murder victim, he said: ‘No other 12-year-old was reported missing in the 1960s – there can only be one, it can only be Keith.

‘This is about peace for Keith, closure for his family. Brady has not won.’

1 October, 2022, 3:03 am

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