Ian Brady tells mental health tribunal 'I'm not psychotic'

Moors murderer speaks at length publicly for first time since being jailed in 1966 in effort to leave psychiatric hospital

The Moors murderer Ian Brady has said he does not necessarily plan to kill himself if he is moved to a high-security prison from his psychiatric hospital.

Giving evidence at his mental health tribunal on Tuesday, 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."

But he repeatedly dodged questions as to why he wanted to leave Ashworth psychiatric hospital, where he has been sectioned since 1985.

His barrister, Nathalie Lieven, QC, asked him if he planned to commit suicide in jail.

"No," said Brady, who was wearing a dark jacket and blue tie, and the dark glasses the tribunal heard he almost never takes off. "I've been asked this question repeatedly and I've answered hypothetically from all angles.

"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 such as a question like that."

Prisoners, he said, "are just a package. If you [put] anybody in a cage and simply pin labels on them – 'aggressive', 'antisocial', 'paranoid', whatever – and then poke them with a stick, well in zoology you will get a reaction eventually. And you will say: 'I told you so.'

"That's the position you're in anywhere. You are in a cage and people can poke you with a stick and you don't know what the end result will be."

When the tribunal began last week, the assumption was that Brady wanted to be transferred to jail so he could continue the hunger strike he began in 1999 to the death, 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, relaxed and loquacious witness as he spoke at length publicly for the first time since he was jailed for life in 1966. With his Glaswegian accent strong but his voice weakened after the chest infections which laid him low for months last year, he showed off an impressive vocabulary and notable disdain for the psychiatric profession.

He vehemently denied that he suffered from psychosis or any other mental disorder. Why don't you take anti-psychotic drugs, asked Lieven. "Because I'm not psychotic," he answered.

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 and he had done so for decades. 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".

"If I interact with the TV, Tony Blair or something on, and make any comment, this is interpreted as psychosis. And, er, who doesn't talk to themselves? This is a question people very rarely ask."

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 he insisted he was avoiding 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. They are unbelievable. You think, how is it that this person got the job in the first place?"

Asked whether he stayed in his room because he was paranoid about other patients, Brady said his attitude to them was "unremarkable".

"I talk to patients who are intelligent," he added. "I talk to patients who are not intelligent. Most prisoners are perfectly mentally healthy compared with the paranoia of prison officials.

"Only the authorities call it paranoia. The prisoners say it is sensible suspicion. You learn to read people for survival purposes."

Brady said he had remained mainly in his room for the past 10 months because of the "negative, regressive, provocative staff that I am avoiding".

Brady's legal team says he has a severe narcissistic personality disorder but is not mentally ill and can be treated in prison rather than hospital. But experts at Ashworth claim Brady is chronically mentally ill, a paranoid schizophrenic and requires round-the-clock care.

On Tuesday, the tribunal heard how Brady has spent the past 47 years in confinement. He studied psychology and German while in prison, he said, gaining "excellent" marks at Aldermaston College, the British Institute. He claimed he had also set up a braille unit after petitioning the Home Office and worked as a barber at Wormwood Scrubs in the 1970s, where he would cut both inmates' and prison officers' hair.

He said he enjoyed the "cosmopolitan atmosphere" of being in Wormwood Scrubs in west London, and liked the feeling of "being at the heart of a big city".

Brady said he had "more freedom" in prison: he spent time in Durham, Parkhurst and Wormwood Scrubs. He remembered mixing with the Kray twins, the Great Train Robbers and various terrorists. He laughed as he recalled how the above was recounted in the book Hard Bastards, written by Ronnie Kray's wife, Kate.

On his relations with staff and patients at the high-security Ashworth hospital, where he has been held since 1983, Brady said he enjoyed conversations about everything. "Eclectic. I can't stand robotic, feeble, whether psychologists or just ordinary people, if I think they are just going through a list of checkpoints. Eclectic, free-wheeling conversation. I don't choose the subjects. That's what I enjoy."

Brady said he heard that the authorities recently arrested a mole at Ashworth who sold stories about him to the media. "Whether that is correct or not, I have no idea," he said. "I was informed by a reliable source that they have discovered the mole and he had been charged … I don't know what with, breach of confidentiality?

"That is part of the example of the methodical exploitation of the sole high-profile prisoner that can be used in that way in Ashworth." He said he stopped reading newspapers 12 years ago.

Brady was then asked about how he would cope if prison staff challenged his "occasional difficult behaviour". He said he dealt with conflict by picking up his pen and writing complaints. "I will use MPs, petitions, whatever is required," he said.

He said his pen had been "propaganda" for the past 50 years. "If any prison warder wants a problem I will simply stand there nodding, wait for them to let off abuse and shut the door. I then pick up the pen and do the damage by writing immediately to the right people on the outside." He said he had some knowledge of the current prison system through his correspondence with prisoners in England, Scotland, the United States and other places abroad.


Helen Pidd, northern editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
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

Helen Pidd, northern editor

25, Jun, 2013 @5:24 PM

Article image
Ian Brady's tribunal is all about control – as always

Duncan Staff: The authorities can only deny Brady control by reopening the search for Keith Bennett, the Moors murderers' missing victim

Duncan Staff

24, Jun, 2013 @12:04 PM

Article image
Ian Brady mental health tribunal - in tweets

Follow our reporters' live coverage of the hearing of the Moors murderer, who has applied to be transferred from Ashworth high-security hospital to an ordinary prison so he can die

25, Jun, 2013 @9:00 AM

Article image
Ian Brady: what we have learned about the Moors murderer
Fifty years after his crimes, the killer is still boastful, still dismissive of 'ordinary people' and still chillingly unrepentant

Helen Pidd, northern editor

28, Jun, 2013 @11:11 AM

Article image
Ian Brady just an old man talking to TV, says QC
Nathalie Lieven QC says Moors murderer's personality disorder is 'fixed and static' and could be properly managed in prison

Helen Pidd

26, Jun, 2013 @6:10 PM

Article image
Moors murderer Ian Brady 'carried pen as a weapon' in hospital

Tribunal hears that Brady, who wants to be transferred from hospital to a prison, has become almost nocturnal

Helen Pidd, northern editor

18, Jun, 2013 @1:39 PM

Article image
Ian Brady in public plea for transfer from hospital and death in prison
Hunger-striking Moors murderer, 75, appears for first time in almost half a century, via video link from private hearing

Helen Pidd, northern editor

17, Jun, 2013 @12:00 PM

Article image
Moors murderer Ian Brady appears in public at 'right-to-die' hearing
Brady wants to be allowed to move from psychiatric hospital to prison, where he hopes to starve himself to death

Helen Pidd, northern editor

17, Jun, 2013 @6:29 PM

Article image
Secure hospitals are not penal institutions | Letter
Letter: Very few patients in high secure hospitals have convictions for anything as horrible as Ian Brady’s crimes, and some have no criminal conviction at all, writes Mat Kinton


04, Oct, 2018 @5:27 PM

Article image
Mental ill-health and fair criminal justice | Letter
Letter: Too many people are sent to prison without magistrates or judges seeing an up-to-date pre-sentence report, say experts including Keith Bradley, author of the Bradley report


21, Jun, 2019 @4:41 PM