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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 18:50 GMT
Ian Brady: A fight to die

By Bob Chaundy of the BBC's News Profiles Unit

Ian Brady, together with his former partner-in-crime, Myra Hindley, have remained British society's benchmark for evil since the appalling Moors murders they committed in the 1960s.

The High Court's refusal to allow Ian Brady to starve himself to death will postpone the closing of a chapter in a sorry saga of a man hateful of society and hated by society.

Brady as a young man
Ian Brady, already a criminal as a teenager
Brady had demonstrated hatred early on in his life. In his teens, he began dabbling in sadism, torturing children and animals "for fun".

When he was sent to Borstal for his part in a petty crime, he swore revenge on society.

He impressed his new-found lover, Myra Hindley, with his ability to read Mein Kampf in the original German. Between them, they abused, tortured and murdered five youngsters, burying some of them on Saddleworth Moor, north of Manchester.

Brady and Hindley
Brady and Hindley, partners in crime
Brady's rage continued in jail for several years, not helped by his pariah status among his fellow prisoners.

His mental health began to deteriorate to such an extent that, in November 1985, he was diagnosed as a psychopath, sectioned under the Mental Health Act and transferred from prison to a maximum security hospital.

In so doing, he became, by definition, unable to make rational decisions such as starving himself to death.

There were signs, though, that he may have been coming to terms with the enormity of his crimes. He expressed "deep remorse" in letters to the BBC, while making it clear he never sought release.

He began transcribing books into Braille for the blind and persuaded other lifers to do the same.

The criminologist Colin Wilson, who has corresponded with Brady for almost a decade, says that the decision by the Home Office to put a stop to this work and to turn down Brady's offer to donate a kidney with no reason given, devastated him.

"It was because these attempts to express remorse were thrown back at him that he began to contemplate suicide," Wilson says.

Brady on the Moors in 1986
Ian Brady located another Moors grave in 1986
The final straw for Brady, as he outlined in a recent letter to the BBC, came when a knife was discovered in the washroom at his hospital, Ashworth, near Liverpool, last September. Brady was chief suspect but denied all knowledge of it.

He was moved forcibly to a cell on Lawrence Ward in the notorious PD (Personality Disorder) Unit. Brady fractured his arm during the struggle and claims he was assaulted.

He then concluded that "further effort to achieve any reasonable existence is pointless".

Brady directed his complaints at a regime at Ashworth Hospital that was thoroughly discredited in last year's Fallon Inquiry.

This reported that the authorities there had let security slip alarmingly, that pornography, drugs and alcohol were freely available in the hospital and that paedophiles were able to meet an eight-year-old girl on hundreds of unsupervised visits.

Lawrence wing of Ashworth Hospital exterior
Brady's home, the Lawrence wing of Ashworth Hospital
It recommended the hospital's closure - an option the government rejected.

One psychiatrist, Tony Maden, supported Brady in court saying his decision to starve himself to death was "unimpaired by his mental illness".

Another, Malcolm McCullogh, says Brady is "intelligent, engaging, interesting to talk to, knowledgeable but able to dangle one on a string if he knows you want to know something about him".

The judge sided with the medical opinion, expressed by Dr James Collins, that Brady's hunger-strike was a "psychopathic over-reaction" to his forced transfer, initiated as part of a battle of wills, part of his obsessive need to exercise control.

The judge said he could see little evidence that Ian Brady would have killed himself.

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