SHE was known as Britain’s baddest woman for her role in the Moors murders.
But Myra Hindley was a complex, intelligent woman who charmed powerful people into believing she was innocent.
Despite his devilish image, people who met Hindley in prison were impressed by his calm and sanity, and his interest in education and religion.
Prison governors, prison reformer Lord Longford and millionaire former editor of The Observer David Astor all believed Hindley when she said she regretted her role in the murders, while insisting on the fact that she hadn’t killed anyone herself.
Others saw a devious liar who twisted well-meaning but gullible people around her fingers, just as she tricked the children she lured to death in the 1960s.
Hindley and her lover Ian Brady murdered five children aged between 10 and 17 in the Manchester area between 1963 and 1965 and buried them on the moors outside the city.
At least four had been sexually assaulted.
Hindley was 23 and Brady 28 when they were jailed for life in 1966.
She died in custody in 2002, aged 60.
Brady was diagnosed in 1985 as a psychopath and confined to Ashworth High Security Hospital where he died in 2017, aged 79.
But in my new book, This Woman: Myra Hindley’s Prison Love Affair And Escape Attempt, I tell how during her decades behind bars, Hindley plotted to charm people in positions of authority who could help free her.
A prison officer wrote in his files: “She is an arch-manipulator. She often comes across as a scheming woman making contact with anyone she thinks has influence.
But another caretaker, ex-nun Tricia Cairns, was so SMITTEN with the child killer she broke the law to try to get her out – and the couple’s story lays bare Hindley’s complex character
Cairns was 26 and Hindley 28 when they fell in love while playing table tennis in North London’s Holloway prison in 1970.
They also listened to records by 70s American pop duo The Carpenters together.
Although lesbian relationships were commonplace at HMP Holloway, staff were of course forbidden to become personally involved with inmates for security reasons.
Despite the ban, Cairns fell in love with Hindley, who told her she loved him back.
When Hindley was desperate for parole, she persuaded Cairns to try to break her out of jail so the couple could flee to Brazil together.
She’s an arc manipulator. She often comes across as a scheming woman making contact with anyone she thinks has influence.
In one of the police statements on which I drew my book, Cairns admits: “I suggested that I take Myra to Sao Paulo, where we could do missionary work.
Although she refused to swear on the Bible at her trial, because she said she did not believe in God, Hindley pretended to attend the chapel at HMP Holloway.
This helped her convince Cairns who was a trainee nun before joining the prison service.
Cairns said: “We were first drawn to the fact that we are the same age, from the same part of Manchester and share a deep love of the same Catholic faith.
“I became convinced that she had finally freed herself from Brady’s yoke, had changed her ways and her desires only to do good.”
Enlisting a young straggler as a helper, she planned an escape for Hindley that involved making copies of the prison keys so the killer could break out of his cell at night and climb the prison wall into arms. from Cairns.
Cairns confessed: ‘I suggested we go around 9pm. Myra and I would have all night to reach our destination before it was missed.
“I have tried to be a source of consolation and encouragement to her, for just being Myra Hindley is penance enough without the added rigors of the long years in prison that this deeply sensitive person endured.”
I suggested that I take Myra to Sao Paulo, where we could do missionary work.
Cairns paid a heavy price for its infatuation.
After the escape plot failed in 1973, she was imprisoned for six years.
Yet she remained devoted to Hindley until the killer’s death.
Now in her seventies, Cairns lives near where Hindley’s ashes were scattered in Stalybridge Country Park, outside Manchester, not far from the moors where Hindley and Brady buried their victims.
But to describe Hindley as deeply sensitive was an insult to Moorish victims and their grieving families.
Two of the victims were 12 years old. The youngest, Lesley Ann Downey, was ten – and Brady even recorded her ordeal.
The tape horrified the world when it was shown at Brady and Hindley’s trial.
Although the judge believed that Brady was the instigator of the murders, it was Hindley, as a woman, who seemed to behave with particular and unnatural cruelty towards children.
I became convinced that she had finally freed herself from Brady’s yoke, had changed her ways and only wanted to do good.
Yet many people who knew her in prison loved her, trusted her and believed her when she said she was innocent.
One of the first significant people to trust Hindley was Dorothy Wing, who, while Governor of HMP Holloway, took Hindley for a walk in North London to Hampstead Heath in 1972, believing she had changed to the best.
Ms Wing told her colleagues: ‘There is little chance that Myra will try to escape.
The march on the moor caused such an argument that Mrs Wing had to resign.
But she stuck with Hindley, who was good at getting people on her side by telling them what they wanted to hear.
Hindley seduced wealthy journalist David Astor, who sent her pocket money to jail and even paid her lawyers.
Religion is promoted in prison as a means of rehabilitation, and Hindley used his faith to also impress Catholic convert and penal reformer Lord Longford.
He campaigned tirelessly for her release, insisting that Hindley was now “a good nun”.
I knew (Myra) very well, and for a long time. As far as I was concerned, I found her to be very manipulative.
Visiting prisoners is known to Catholics as an act of mercy, and the nuns also wrote to Hindley asking him to visit her at HMP Holloway, where Cairns had fallen in love with the murderer.
Although Cairns gave up her life as a trainee nun, she remained deeply religious and convinced that it was their common faith that bound her to Hindley.
But her brother-in-law Stan Ball said to me, ‘Trisha, she loved Myra Hindley [and] she would do anything for Myra Hindley. We all told him, ‘You’re on the wrong way here.
Cairns believed Hindley when she said she hadn’t killed anyone but had gone along with what Brady wanted, to some extent because she feared he would kill her if she rebelled.
But not everyone was convinced. Judy Gibbons, senior Catholic staff at HMP Holloway, said: “I knew (Myra) very well and for a long time. Personally, I found her to be very manipulative.
The remains of the Moors killers’ third victim, 12-year-old Keith Bennett, have never been found, despite repeated searches at Saddleworth Moor.
Hindley denied her guilt at trial and for the next two decades, during which she tried every means to free herself – from calls to jailbreak offers.
After everything fell through, she offered a qualified confession to police in the 1980s, hoping it might help improve her public image.
She was a manipulator and she did nothing but her own ends.
She admitted she and Brady were involved in the murders of five victims, but insisted she was not at the scene when one of the murders took place.
Despite evidence from Lesley Ann Downey’s tape, some people believed her, including another sympathetic governor.
Chris Duffin, governor of Hindley at HMP Cookham Wood in Kent in the 1990s, said: ‘She didn’t actually commit any murders. . . she didn’t really hit the mark.
“There were so many other prisoners who had committed very serious crimes that the media had never heard of, and they got parole and left in the blue there.”
But a former prison warden, who knew Hindley and Cairns at HMP Holloway in the 1970s, speaks volumes when she says she never believed Hindley.
Kath Moores said: ‘She was a manipulator and she did nothing but her own ends.
“As soon as she walked out of those doors and went where she wanted (to be) she would have given up (Cairns). I have absolutely no doubt in my mind. . . because it was all about her.
- This Woman: Myra Hindley’s Prison Love Affair And Escape Attempt, by Howard Sounes (Seven Dials) is available now, priced at £16.99.