Ian Brady will not necessarily kill himself if moved to jail, tribunal hears

Moors murderer refuses to be drawn on previous stated intention to starve himself to death in prison

The Moors murderer Ian Brady does not necessarily plan to kill himself if he is moved to a high-security prison from his psychiatric hospital, he admitted at his mental health tribunal on Tuesday.

Talking at length in public for the first time since his trial in 1966, the 75-year-old said the media and public remained "obsessed" by the theatricality of his crimes, comparing himself to another notorious killer.

"Why are we still talking about Jack the Ripper over a century on? Because of the dramatic background: the fog, the cobbled streets … it fascinates them. With the Moors it's the same: Wuthering Heights, Hound of the Baskervilles, that sort of thing."

Murdering five children and burying their bodies on Saddleworth Moor was not the act of someone with an "abnormal personality disorder", he said, but an act of "recreational killing" which he said he did for the "existential experience".

He said he had used Stanislavski method acting to trick prison authorities into believing he was mentally ill so that he could be moved to Ashworth secure psychiatric hospital in 1985.

But he refused to be drawn on his previous stated intention to starve himself to death in jail as he told the tribunal panel: "I know what my plans are. They are nothing to do with anyone else."

He told the tribunal: "People say: 'What will you do when you get back to prison?' I'm in a position of a monkey in a cage being poked with a stick. How can you pretend to be omnipotent like that? You can't make plans when you have no freedom of control, movement or anything … In that situation, you can't talk sensibly or predictably about anything ... like that."

When the tribunal began last week, the assumption was that Brady wanted to be transferred to jail so he could continue to its lethal conclusion the hunger strike he began in 1999, believing he would not be force-fed in jail. But on Monday, one of his nurses revealed that he secretly ate toast most mornings and would snack on packet soups.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Brady was a confident, loquacious and often rambling witness who said it was just "trivia" whether or not he had cheated on his hunger strike. "Even if I ate, let's say, 10 loaves a year, you think I'm going to survive on that?" he said, slouching in his chair. He also denounced claims that he tipped cereal outside another patient's door as a "set up".

With his Gorbals accent strong but his voice weakened after the chest infections which laid him low for months last year, he frequently harked back to what he saw as the "good old days in prison", boasting of all the famous names he had met. His cell in Durham was next door to the train robber Buster Edwards, he said, and Ronnie Kray would cook steak "for his whole landing". He also discussed Russian literature with the former prime minister James Callaghan and faced the disgraced government minister John Stonehouse in the 1979 Wormwood Scrubs chess final, he claimed.

It was at the west London Scrubs where he worked as a barber, he said: "The staff used to come to me for beard trims and so on. Can you imagine that happening now?"

When not giving haircuts, he set up a braille unit and for years made books for blind children. He also studied German and psychology and once won a prize for oil painting.

He vehemently denied he had ever suffered from psychosis or any other mental disorder.

Asking the panel if they had heard of Stanislavski, the Russian father of method acting, Brady claimed he learned how to fake mental illness when working on the psychiatric ward at the Scrubs.

"It's all about identifying with the heart and soul of the character or symptoms you are trying to portray," he said, adding: "You've got to look the part, that's the hard part. It has to be sustained." He claimed he pretended to be psychotic for 18 months in order to be sent to Ashworth.

The tribunal had earlier heard psychiatrists at Ashworth speak of hearing Brady talk to himself in his room: evidence, they said, that he still suffered from hallucinations.

Not so, said Brady, retorting that everyone talked to themselves. When he was in solitary confinement in jail, he said he would "memorise whole pages of Shakespeare and Plato and other people and recite them all to myself while walking up and down exercising in the cell".

The tribunal had heard that since suffering a seizure last year, Brady was "practically nocturnal", only coming out of his room at night. Doctors have suggested he is frightened of other patients, but Brady insisted he was avoiding "negative, regressive, provocative" psychiatrists who wanted to talk about his mental health.

"'I'm not interested in being analysed," he said. "Some of the psychiatrists I have encountered, I would throw a net on them. I wouldn't allow them on to the street. They are worse than patients."

He added: "Most prisoners are perfectly mentally healthy compared with the paranoia of prison officials."

He was scathing about Ashworth, claiming the authorities recently arrested a "mole" who sold stories about him to the media. It was, he said, an example of the "methodical exploitation of the sole high-profile prisoner" in the hospital.

He said he stopped reading newspapers 12 years ago but was keen to correct something he had heard in the media in recent days – that he had applied to be transferred to a prison in his native Scotland. "Complete rubbish, invented by the media" was his verdict.

He was then asked if he intended to kill himself by starvation if he was returned to jail.

"Well if I did they can force feed me anyway," Brady said. "If they force fed me I then have another plan in mind. I have already taken all these contingencies. I know precisely what I'm doing."

He was then asked why he wanted to go back to jail. Brady replied: "After 50 years I have had enough. I'm not interested in continuing … this, what would you call it, half a century in captivity. On and on and on, nothing's changed."

He said he knew he would never be released because he didn't live in "a civilised country like Holland or Sweden but in "pre-historic Britain" where a home secretary made the final decision under the influence of "the News of the World and other tabloids".

The hearing is being relayed to the press and public on TV screens at Manchester Civil Justice Centre.

Counsel for both sides will make their closing submissions on Wednesday before the panel is expected to release its final decision on Thursday. The panel's full reasons will given at a later date.


Helen Pidd, northern editor

The GuardianTramp

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