The Making of a Monster: UK Press Coverage of Myra Hindley

The Making of a Monster: UK Press Coverage of Myra Hindley

Mark Pettigrew
Copyright: © 2023 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9668-5.ch002
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


Occurring between 1963 and 1965, the murders committed by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are notorious in British criminal history. Whilst the crimes were callous and coldblooded, their infamy is largely the result of the media's enduring and relentless preoccupation with Hindley herself. Although it has been nearly 20 years since her death, Hindley continues to appear as a news story even in 2022. This chapter will critically analyse the media discourses that surrounded Hindley from her trial, through the years of her imprisonment, to the time of her death. Particularly, it will assess the detriment of press coverage to her bids for freedom in the context of public opinion and its effect upon politicians who were responsible for the setting and review of her life tariff.
Chapter Preview

Like the image of the Medusa, this photograph has acquired the attributes of myth, the stony gaze of Britain’s longest-serving woman prisoner striking terror, mingled with fascination, in those who look upon it (Birch, 1993, p.32).



At 8am on the 13th of August 1964, Peter Allen was hanged at Walton prison in Liverpool whilst Gwyn Evans was, simultaneously, hanged at Strangeways prison in Manchester; the last executions to take place in the United Kingdom. Eleven miles away from the execution site of Evans, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley lived, for all outward appearances, as an unremarkable young and in love couple, in the home of Hindley’s grandmother. They had met three years earlier when Hindley began work as a typist at a wholesale chemical distribution company where Ian Brady held a clerical position. After a period of infatuation for Hindley, the two became romantically involved. At the time Peter Allen and Gwyn Evans were hanged the couple had abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered three local children; they would go on to kill, in total, at least five before they were apprehended.

For Hindley and Brady, after their trial and conviction in 1966, a life sentence was to have a literal meaning, even though a true-life sentence did not exist in England at the time they were sentenced. Hindley died in prison in November 2002. Brady also died whilst incarcerated, in a secure psychiatric hospital, in May 2017. More so than Brady, who never sought release, Hindley would become an enduring fascination for tabloid newspapers over the course of her life, and after her death, continuing to appear with some regularity even in recent years (see for example, Towers, 2021; Bellotti, 2021; Hume, 2022). The most hated and reviled woman in Britain (Stanford, 2002), Hindley’s legacy would not only be of a cultural phenomenon, a subverted icon of femininity, warped and perverted, but the creation of the whole of life tariff in England & Wales designed, primarily, to assuage public opinion and to keep Hindley detained for the remainder of her life. In that regard, Hindley, through repeated public appeals for release that featured so predominantly in her press coverage, was the architect of her own eventual sentence, and of those who followed her. As Schone notes,

It is no exaggeration to say that [Myra] Hindley is popularly considered to be the embodiment of evil … this single ‘hard case’ has had an irrevocable effect on penal policy in the United Kingdom (Schone, 2000, p.273).

The first section of this chapter will provide an overview of the murders committed by Brady and Hindley. The second section will provide a chronological analysis of newspaper coverage of Hindley and her successive pleas for parole consideration. The chapter will conclude with a discussion of the manner in which Hindley was treated in press coverage and its consequent effect upon criminal justice politics and policy in England & Wales.



Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were not tried, or convicted, for two of the murders they committed and would, in fact, deny any knowledge of them for twenty years after their arrest. The first of those two victims, 16-year-old Pauline Reade, was lured into a car by Hindley in July 1963. On the pretence of helping her retrieve a lost glove, Hindley drove the teenager to the moors outside the city of Manchester; Brady followed on his motorcycle. The events that took place after Brady arrived on the moor remain disputed. Hindley claimed she did not actively participate in the victim’s death (Topping, 1989) whilst Brady claimed that she played a full role in both the victim’s sexual assault and murder (Keightley, 2017). The victim was buried in a shallow grave and would not be found until 1987.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: