Ian Brady's correspondence: 'I am not fit to die'

Eric Allison exchanged letters with the Moors murderer in which he discussed his living conditions and desire to die

I first wrote to Ian Brady at Ashworth high security hospital in 2006, four years after the death of Myra Hindley, in an attempt to understand why the pair had embarked on the murder spree that horrified Britain.

Like me, Hindley was born in Gorton, east Manchester. We attended the same school, Ryder Brow secondary modern and were in the same class, though I have no recollection of her.

I assumed Brady would not reply, but he did, quite formal in his opening exchange; less than a page of A4, not addressing me by name, laying out his terms of reference and asking for nothing except "some objectivity".

In the year that followed we exchanged five letters, which touched on his life at Ashworth, his time in Gorton but only a single oblique reference to the Moors murders. The handwriting is neat, (though he adds a postscript to one missive, apologising for the scrawl as he rushes to "catch the post"). Brady is also articulate, citing Jung and William Blake. Later letters became more personal.

In one he described his life at Ashworth. "Haven't exercised in the open air since 1975; walking from a matchbox into a shoebox of sunshine only reminded me of where I was and could be. Three deacades devoid of sunshine hasn't affected my health unfortunately, despite my smoking the strongest tobacco. My luck has run out I can't even catch cancer."

In another he mused on sunsets. "When you know from day one that you'll die in prison you discard all past indulgences and draw from memory, having no present or future. All everyone has at the end is a few happy memories to take with them. Outside I did use the stars to put the insignficiance of human affairs into perspective – andromeda alone having 300,000 worlds, arcturus being 27.2m light years distant."

He then noted: "I am cursing a roll-up which keeps going out and distracting flow of thought, an impromtu metaphor for paradoxical life, where we think to do something then end up doing the opposite without thinking. Whether that is a flaw in mankind or a vital element of life I'll leave higher minds than mine to waste time on. Reminds me that a few decades ago I sank for hours in the complexities of an aphorism by William Blake and noted the fact in the margin. No longer, I have long since stopped searching for meaning in anything and instead cynically observe the passing comedy of inept clowns and jugglers such as Bush and Blair who think they have mastered wisdom."

He is clearly bitter toward Ashworth. "I don't talk to doctors here" he said and "In the seven years of hunger strike, no member of the Ashworth Executive have set eyes on me." He says of the institution: "People outside mistake the place as 'a sewage works' and 'germ warfare factory', the low cellblocks invisible behind the grey, blank wall." He also complained: "With television films and other events planned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our trial, Ashworth warders are increasingly selling false stories to the press to cash in. Patient confidentially is used by Ashworth to oppress patients, supress information and protect the regime from public investgation."

He is also contemptuous of other inmates. "There are pathetic or bone idle inmates here who don't want to be released, willing to trade freedom for a roof and pigswill."

Matter of factly, Brady spoke in one of the letters of planning a series of robberies, with Hindley, making his only reference to the murders. "With the Moors exercise concluded December 64, our return to mercenary priorities engaged the whole of 65."

In another later letter, he speaks of a Gorton pub, the Waggon and Horses. Apparently, if the pub was empty, he "played the piano for M" (Myra).

The robbery, of the payroll at Crossley Bros – an engineering works in Gorton – was planned meticulously, getaway cars and routes plotted to the nth degree. He recalls street names, the shops and businesses that lined them.

Unlike most child killers, Brady did not go "on protection" when he was in the prison system and he speaks with nostalgia of his time in the special wing at Durham jail, where he was locked up with the likes of Frankie Fraser and Albert Dimes, old school hard cases. Long ago, I heard that Brady mixed with people who would normally attack his like. Why was he tolerated? Apparently, he made it clear he would retaliate in kind and had less to lose than most.

"Had more freedom in Durham's E wing 40 years ago than in this mortuary. The prison supplied meat, veg, flour, eggs etc. I cooked/baked for my landing and Ronnie Kray did so for his (after Charlie Richardson was tranferred). The Londoners had autonomy now it has taken me 40 years just to end up in a 1950s timewarp here."

Describing a typical day he said: "And now I sit chained to a drip feed every morning at 5.30, getting my legal and social correspondence done, reminiscing." He compared his fate with that of General Pinochet: "He was not fit to stand trial, I am not fit to die."

He added: "Apart from a half hour visit to my mothers deathbed in a Manchester hospital with four warders listening to every word I have been kept isolated from the outside world since 1998." He hoped, he said, through his hunger strike "to exit this sterile existence entirely".

Note: Brady's errors are reproduced in the extracts


Eric Allison

The GuardianTramp

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