Police have ended a search for Moors murders victim Keith Bennett on Saddleworth Moor – with no evidence to indicate human remains.
Moors murderer Ian Brady died without revealing the final resting place of Keith. Fresh hopes had been raised when author Russell Edwards said he believed he had located the youngster’s makeshift grave after “extensive soil analysis”.
After the reported discovery of a skull, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) began excavating an area on the Moors.Keith, 12, was the only one of the children and teenagers murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley whose remains have never been found.
Brady, who died in a high-security hospital in 2017 aged 79 had claimed he couldn’t remember where he had buried Keith. Hindley died in jail in 2002 at the age of 60.
The pair had lured children and teenagers to their deaths between July 1963 and October 1965, with four of them said to have been sexually assaulted. But what happened to Keith Bennett and what is the latest in the search, and who were the others killed by Brady and Hindley?
What happened to Keith Bennett?
Keith was last seen by his mother in the early evening of June 16 1964 after he left home in Eston Street, Longsight, Manchester, on his way to his grandmother’s house nearby. The 12-year-old was one of five victims of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, with three of them later found buried on Saddleworth Moor.
Both Brady and Hindley were taken back to Saddleworth Moor to help police find the remains of the outstanding victims but only Pauline’s body was recovered. Brady claimed he could not remember where he had buried Keith.
In 2009, police said a covert search operation on the moor, which used a wealth of scientific experts, had also failed to discover any trace of the boy.
What is the latest developments in the search?
Fresh hopes were raised on Friday when a report in the Daily Mail revealed that author Russell Edwards believes he has located the youngster’s makeshift grave following “extensive soil analysis” which indicated the presence of human remains.
It is said Mr Edwards commenced his own dig – close to where the other Moors Murders victims were found – and uncovered a skull with teeth present which independent experts are reported to have concluded is human.
Last week Greater Manchester Police had said: “Following direct contact with the author, we were informed that he had discovered what he believes are potential human remains in a remote location on the Moors and he agreed to meet with officers yesterday afternoon to elaborate on his find and direct us to a site of interest.”
Earlier this week archaeologists finished excavating the primary scene and found “no visible evidence” of human remains, according to police. The search continued in the wider area of Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District, and soil samples were taken for analysis.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said on Friday afternoon forensic experts were being stood down. The search concluded there was no evidence to indicate the presence of human remains, the force said.
Detective Chief Inspector Cheryl Hughes said: “In response to the report made on Thursday September 29, officers met with the member of the public who later provided us with samples and copies of the photographs he had taken.
“He also took officers to the location from which he had obtained these and provided grid references.
“In the days since, independent accredited forensic archaeologists and certified forensic anthropologists, together with GMP’s crime scene investigators, have completed a methodical forensic archaeological excavation and examination of the identified area and beyond.
“An accredited forensic geologist also took a number of soil samples – analysis of which is ongoing. The items given to us by the member of the public have been examined by a forensic scientist and though this hasn’t yet indicated the presence of human remains – more analysis is required. With regards to the photograph, we have sought the assistance of a forensic botanist.
“We are now utilising the knowledge and skills of a forensic image expert to put a standard anthropological measurement to the object to assist with identification.
“At this stage, the indications are that it would be considerably smaller than a juvenile jaw and it cannot be ruled out that it is plant-based.
“The excavation and examination at the site is complete and, to reiterate, we have found no evidence that this is the burial location of Keith Bennett.”
Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Jackson said Keith’s family was “central” to any action taken in the case and the force “remained committed” to finding answers for them.
She said: “We have always said that we would respond, in a timely and appropriate manner, to any credible information which may lead us towards finding Keith.
“Our actions in the last week or so are a highly visible example of what that response looks like, with the force utilising the knowledge and skills of accredited experts, specialist officers and staff.
Who was Keith’s mum Winnie Johnson?
Keith’s mother, Winnie Johnson, died aged 78 without fulfilling her wish to give him a proper Christian burial.
She died in 2012 and had fought a long campaign to get Ian Brady to reveal where her son was buried.
In footage filmed not long before she died she made a final plea to her son’s killer.
She said her last dying wish was to find out where the Moors Murderer buried her son and asked him to ‘tell me where Keith is’.
She said: “I want him (Keith) found before anything happens to me because I’ve got cancer and I don’t know when I’m going to die.
“I want Brady to know that I’ve got cancer and if he has any decency or respect for himself and me, he will tell me where Keith is before anything happens to me.
“Brady, I’m wanting you to tell me where Keith is before anything happens to me.”
Who were the other children killed by the Moors murderers?
Pauline Reade, The-16-year-old disappeared on her way to a disco on July 12 1963.
John Kilbride: The 12-year-old was snatched in November the same year.
Lesley Ann Downey: Lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964 the 10-year-old was stripped, sexually abused and tortured, with her last moments captured on a harrowing audio recording.
Edward Evans: was 17 years old when he was killed in October 1965.