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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 06:56 GMT
Few witness Hindley's final journey
Myra Hindley's coffin
Hindley wanted prayers said for her soul

Moors murderer Myra Hindley, long one of the most hated figures in the UK, has been cremated following her death last week. BBC News Online witnessed her body's final journey.
A lorry horn blares angrily and repeatedly as the hearse carrying the body of Moors murderer Myra Hindley turns off the busy A14 and rolls slowly towards Cambridge crematorium. The rain worsens.

Through the black Volvo's steamed up windows the pale wood coffin of the woman whose crimes have cast such a long shadow over the UK for 40 years seems small.

Myra Hindley's coffin
The hearse emerged from the dark night
Dwarfed by the hearse's vast interior, it is even harder to reconcile the short narrow box with the 5ft 8 ins "heavily built" prisoner described in Hindley's post-mortem report.

The vehicle stops under the porch of a small chapel and the pall bearers step out into the cold wind.

It is not just the inclement weather and the evening scheduling which had made their current job so undesirable.

The notoriety of their passenger reportedly prompted every local undertaker to decline this contract.

Notoriety in life and death

These men have been hired from more than 200 miles away.

Perhaps understandably, few people are eager to be loosely associated with Hindley - even in death.

The funeral was deliberately scheduled so as to start long after the day's other services had concluded.

No local undertakers accepted the job
Likewise, a nearby hospital room in which the murderer died has been stripped and redecorated, sparing the feelings of future patients.

The hearse's rear door swings up allowing a single bunch of white flowers to be gently removed to the chapel.

Father Michael Teader, Hindley's Roman Catholic priest during her final years of incarceration, steps from the building in his white cassock.

Under the porch's single lamp, Father Michael sprinkles holy water on his departed parishioner's casket before it is lifted up and marched respectfully indoors.

Tight security

As the box topped with wreaths of pale red and yellow flowers disappears, a shout comes from the bare trees around the crematorium.

Some of the 25 police officers assigned to seal off the site from prying eyes exchange concerned looks.

We are here to protect the family's moral and legal right to a dignified service

Superintendent John Raine

Operation Athletic, the incongruously named plan for the policing of Hindley's funeral, has been under consideration since it became clear that the infamous prisoner 964055 was in declining health.

"We are well aware of what can happen when there is strong negative public sentiment," said Superintendent John Raine, the officer leading Operation Athletic.

'Right to dignity'

"We are here to protect the family's moral and legal right to a dignified service."

With the remote crematorium bordered on one side by the speeding traffic of the A14 and surrounded on all others by sodden farmland the superintendent is confident that the secure cordon has not been breached.

Ftaher Michael Teader
Hindley's prison priest took the service
The shouts are not repeated.

Inside the chapel Father Michael begins the funeral service before 11 mourners who arrived via a side entrance out of sight of the press.

The list of mourners was drawn up by Hindley herself two years ago when the damaging effects of her 40-a-day cigarette habit caused a stroke.

No family members, not even Hindley's elderly mother Nelly, made the journey to Cambridgeshire on this cold bleak night.

It was left to people such as Hindley's executor Andrew McCooey, and her barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, to witness the service the 60-year-old murderer mapped out so carefully before her death.

Reduced to ashes

Hindley, who before she became an accomplice to Ian Brady was said to have been strongly religious, asked that prayers be said for her soul.

The playing of Albinoni's Adagio was stipulated in her plans for her farewell.

The service over, Hindley's wish that her body be completely consumed by fire was observed.

One of Hindley's victims, Keith Bennett
Keith Bennett's mother hopes his murderer will "go to hell"
Despite suffering a long list of medical complaints, including an enlarged heart, the murderer was adamant that none of her organs be offered for transplant.

For their part, the police also stood careful guard over Hindley's corpse at West Suffolk Hospital to ensure that the body was not touched.

The 1,000C fire reduced to ashes the woman who herself described her murderous acts almost 40 years ago as "wicked", "evil " and "monstrous".

The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"There are a handful of mourners here, about twelve in all"

Key stories

The Moors murderers

Who was Hindley?

See also:

18 Nov 02 | England
18 Nov 02 | England
16 Nov 02 | England
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