Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 17:57 UK

What does Ian Brady know?

Ian Brady in 1966
Now aged 71, child killer Brady says all he wants to do is die

As police call off the search for the body of the only undiscovered Moors victim, a number of questions remain, writes journalist Peter Gould, who has corresponded with killer Ian Brady for 25 years.

Does Brady know where Keith Bennett's body is buried, could he lead police to the spot or is it a secret he will take to his own grave?

The lawyer acting for the boy's family has talked to Brady, who told him he could still pinpoint the grave, even after more than 40 years.

But with the Moors murderer withdrawing his co-operation with the police, the answer remains locked inside his head.

Last secret

It is a story I have reported on many times. Ian Brady began writing to me 25 years ago, before the police returned to the moors in the hope of finding two missing children, 12-year-old Keith and Pauline Reade, who was 16.

Myra Hindley, photographed by Ian Brady on the moors
Myra Hindley: Photographed by Brady - but was it near the burial sites?

I remember going with their mothers on a visit to Saddleworth Moor in the 1980s.

Both were desperate to recover their lost children, and give them a proper burial.

The police took Brady and his accomplice Myra Hindley back to the moors separately, using photographs taken by the couple to try to locate burial sites.

After weeks of digging, the police found Pauline's remains. For her family, there was at least the satisfaction of a funeral.

For Keith's mother, Winnie Johnson, there has been no such relief, and no closure.

Over the years, she has been back to Saddleworth many times, with flowers and memories. She told me she had managed to find some peace on the windswept moors, close to Keith.

For my part, I urged Brady to do all he could to help the police find Keith, telling him about my meetings with the families of his victims. I knew the officer leading the investigation and he did nothing to hinder the correspondence.

Convicted in 1966 of murdering Lesley Ann Downey, 10, Edward Evans, 17, and John Kilbride, 12
Judge imposed three concurrent life sentences on the 28-year-old
Killer transferred to Ashworth Hospital in 1985 where he later confessed to murdering Pauline Reade, 16, and Keith Bennett, 12

At the time, I thought Brady was doing his best to find the missing children, but others believed he was enjoying being back in the media spotlight, in control and manipulating the authorities.

In the end, the search for Keith had to be called off. The police had a good idea that Brady had buried the body at a spot called Shiny Brook, but it is a featureless landscape, and more than 20 years had elapsed since the murders.

A more recent search, using the latest scientific techniques, has also drawn a blank. So what chance is there now of finding Keith, 45 years after he was abducted and murdered by Brady and Hindley?

In the past, Brady gave me the impression he would have been prepared to return to the moors to try again.

But he has accused the police of bungling the original search, and when officers from Greater Manchester attempted to "engage" with him again in 2003, he refused to see them.

Winnie Johnson
I just want my son found, says Keith Bennett's mother Winnie Johnson

Brady's relationship with the authorities has always been difficult, and he has made repeated complaints about his treatment in Ashworth Hospital, where he has been a patient for many years.

In his letters, he is articulate and appears rational. He seems to have a good recall of events many years in the past. He was angry when Hindley sought to distance herself from the killings, in a vain attempt to win parole.

He accepted long ago that he would never be released. Now, at the age of 71, he says all he wants to do is die.

Winnie Johnson will be 76 in a few weeks, but she still clings to the hope that Brady will give up his last secret before it is too late.

Ever since she first gazed out over the moors, all those years ago, her plea has been the same: "I just want Keith found."

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