On reading the recent articles in the press, there was an incredible amount of delusion concerning both Brady and Hindley. It’s amazing how people like Lord Longford and David Astor insisted on Hindley’s good character, her newly reformed self and her absolute right to freedom, even going so far as to label her a political prisoner. How absurd of David Astor to draw comparisons between Myra Hindley’s incarceration and that of Nelson Mandela. How do smart, savvy people become so ridiculous? Longford, during his time in government, was considered inept, and not the sharpest tool in the box. Nonetheless, as a member of the aristocracy, he had rights, titles and privileges conferred on him without question. What delight Hindley must have taken in pulling the wool over the pampered toff’s eyes. For all his conversion to Roman Catholicism, he was nonetheless easily manipulated by the arch deceiver. The worrying thing is that Lord Longford and David Astor, (British newspaper editor and journalist) influenced the entire narrative on Hindley during the 80s. They were not alone in their delusions, or perhaps these delusions were mere hobbies. Either way, she built a coterie of ‘admirers’, including counsellors, priests, psychiatrists, and even Dorothy Wing, governor of Holloway Prison, was seduced by Hindley’s sinner to saint act.
Why? Was it narcissism that caused these people to see Hindley as a ‘victim’, more akin to the traditional ‘fallen woman’ of the early 1900s. Laughable!
How flattering that this poor woman (a celebrity prisoner) should seek to emulate those higher up the scale, her betters in fact, and that she should have reformed herself so dramatically to do so. Hindley played them like a violin, making use of their self-regard as a lever to push for parole. It almost worked. Hindley’s sharp sense of entitlement, her narcissism and her earnest ‘self-improvement’, reflected the vanity and pride of the learned, the privileged, and the wise. They thought they understood her, but she certainly knew them.
Others were less gullible and saw only too clearly who Hindley was – Keith Bennett’s mother, for instance, or the prison wardens who knew her inside out, and of course her own mother, who was apparently too ill to attend her daughter’s funeral.
But her working class murderer made good ploy worked very well, in part because she projected the sort of arrogance and elitism that was well understood and accepted by the establishment. Her admirers and supporters needed to believe in her reformation and redemption. In the end, this odd exchange of psychological needs was tragic for Hindley. Astor and Longford created in her the mistaken impression that she might go free from prison. They were her tormentors, keeping her hopes dangling on a string, while they went freely about their lives. Oh, what a splendid game!
Hindley and Brady grew personas that fitted their particular idea of cultural and social sophistication. In Brady’s case, callous nihilism together with a strong sense of intellectual superiority was enough to convince him that he had entered the upper class. Glasgow-born Brady had apparently studied the fabric of British society (those at the top can do what they want) and (not having the background, money or education required to become an actual member of the elite) he created a warped Lordship of his own. Brady’s hauteur together with his apparent aptitude for mimicking an Oxford Don gained him some establishment admirers and helped him to forget the reality of having being born into the lower ranks of society, where poverty and deprivation hold sway.
Equally, Myra Hindley grew up in Gorton, one of the toughest, most deprived districts of Manchester. Her teachers called her average at school – she didn’t aspire to grammar school or university education. Like so many kids, she was sifted, labelled, and forgotten. There is something very pathetic about the way these two succeeded for a time in impressing the ‘higher-ups’. Brady with his scholarly persona, and Hindley with her taste and refinement. Yet these two wannabes somehow equated murder, with ‘freedom’. The subconscious thought that would’ve informed their twisted ideology was that influential people do whatever they want and get way with it. Children suffering social and economic hardship are often riven with fear and self-doubt, but there is a way out. Do to others what they teach you that it is okay for them to do to you. Yes, cold murder is shocking but isn’t that the way of things, rich to poor, big nations to smaller countries? Strong to weak?
Brady considered his abuses as chickenfeed compared to what Western powers have done in the Middle East, and of course he could cite centuries’ worth of psychopathic killing of children by the various war machines. He had a point. For their part, the Moors murderers learned that the capacity to kill without blinking an eye was a sign of one’s innate superiority, and this idea is one of the enduring media and entertainment tropes. Well then, perhaps we should teach children not to mimic the dominant, the privileged and the highborn, but rather cultivate what Paul referred to in the New Testament as the foolishness of God.
Image by Val Kerry