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‘Good Riddance, Brady’

What commonplace expression do you think was most often exercised in Britain in the past twenty-four hours?

My guess is ‘good riddance’. 

It would have been trotted out time and time again, in shops and pubs, on buses and trains, to celebrate the death in prison of Ian Brady, who until yesterday was the surviving half of the so-called Moors Murderers.  His accomplice in those deeds, Myra Hindley, died in 2002 at the age of sixty.  Brady was seventy-nine.

In the early 1960s, the two of them, attached romantically and in desperate and despicable other ways, killed five children, torturing at least two of them, before burying their bodies on nearby Saddleworth Moor, a primeval upland region so bleak that it might have been designed for such a purpose.

No one who lived in Britain in the sixties will ever forget the case.  It infused the entire population with revulsion and anger.  The death penalty had recently been abolished.  Now there was a clamour to bring it back, if only to impose it on Brady and Hindley – preferably in public, with drawing and quartering added.  The most savagely gruelling aspect of their trial was the playing in court of a tape that revealed the pair of them torturing a young girl and taunting her even as she pleaded for her life.  That was before she too was taken up to the moors in the boot of a car. 

All the bodies have been recovered bar one. Brady, or Hindley, or both, led the police to four graves.  Why the fifth, that of a boy named Bennett, was left unaccounted for is beyond my recall.  Brady was urged on several occasions to reveal it but always declined to ‘wipe the slate clean’.  Brady, like Hindley, showed no remorse for their crimes.  How could they?  Committing them had been too much fun.

I am against capital punishment but occasionally my squeamish revulsion of it, or my cerebral antipathy – or whatever it is – wavers when having to confront cases such as the Moors Murders.  Brady and Hindley were in their twenties when they got together and hatched the plot to abduct and torture and kill children.  They have since spent over half a century in prisons or mental hospitals, much of the time in more or less solitary confinement, to keep other inmates from doing to them what they had perpetrated on their victims.

One argument for their incarceration, as opposed to their execution, was that we might learn something, by studying them or testing them, or treating them, or by simply talking to them, thereby to gain some insight into their twisted minds.  That Brady and Hindley were psychologically dysfunctional is beyond doubt, but might we have discovered, the argument went, the contributory causes?  Perhaps learned something that might be useful in treating other disturbed young people, even prevent the kind of crimes in which Brady and Hindley revelled? 

In the event, we did all of those things and duly learned nothing.  We never do.  Prisons and psychiatric institutions around the country are filled with deranged and dangerous people to whom killing means no more than hailing a bus.  From none of them do we ever learn anything that we did not already know, or which we would be capable of exploiting.

Faced with the inexplicable and perhaps unknowable, we console ourselves with the only conclusion about Brady and Hindley and their ilk that makes any sense to us: they were born evil.  And who knows or cares why or how they came to be that way if we can do nothing to change it?  I do not subscribe to the view that you and I, in other words society, created Brady.  I never met the man.  But someone must have created him, helped germinate the seed in that twisted mind that would eventually grow out of control.  But who that was we shall never know and cannot know. 

If that is unsatisfactory, and it is precisely that, then what would be satisfactory?  I only wish I knew.  More to the point, I wish the psychologists knew.  Perhaps they do know but having acquired the knowledge can’t think what to do with it except write books.  And diagnosing the symptoms is not the same as identifying the causes.

So, sadly, it is plain ‘good riddance’ for Brady, as it was for Hindley, and without a pang of the regret or remorse for their wasted lives that we once extended in full measure to the tragic abbreviated lives of their helpless victims. 

‘Good Riddance, Brady’

 

What commonplace expression do you think was most often exercised in Britain in the past twenty-four hours?

My guess is ‘good riddance’. 

It would have been trotted out time and time again, in shops and pubs, on buses and trains, to celebrate the death in prison of Ian Brady, who until yesterday was the surviving half of the so-called Moors Murderers.  His accomplice in those deeds, Myra Hindley, died in 2002 at the age of sixty.  Brady was seventy-nine.

In the early 1960s, the two of them, attached romantically and in desperate and despicable other ways, killed five children, torturing at least two of them, before burying their bodies on nearby Saddleworth Moor, a primeval upland region so bleak that it might have been designed for such a purpose.

No one who lived in Britain in the sixties will ever forget the case.  It infused the entire population with revulsion and anger.  The death penalty had recently been abolished.  Now there was a clamour to bring it back, if only to impose it on Brady and Hindley – preferably in public, with drawing and quartering added.  The most savagely gruelling aspect of their trial was the playing in court of a tape that revealed the pair of them torturing a young girl and taunting her even as she pleaded for her life.  That was before she too was taken up to the moors in the boot of a car. 

All the bodies have been recovered bar one. Brady, or Hindley, or both, led the police to four graves.  Why the fifth, that of a boy named Bennett, was left unaccounted for is beyond my recall.  Brady was urged on several occasions to reveal it but always declined to ‘wipe the slate clean’.  Brady, like Hindley, showed no remorse for their crimes.  How could they?  Committing them had been too much fun.

I am against capital punishment but occasionally my squeamish revulsion of it, or my cerebral antipathy – or whatever it is – wavers when having to confront cases such as the Moors Murders.  Brady and Hindley were in their twenties when they got together and hatched the plot to abduct and torture and kill children.  They have since spent over half a century in prisons or mental hospitals, much of the time in more or less solitary confinement, to keep other inmates from doing to them what they had perpetrated on their victims.

One argument for their incarceration, as opposed to their execution, was that we might learn something, by studying them or testing them, or treating them, or by simply talking to them, thereby to gain some insight into their twisted minds.  That Brady and Hindley were psychologically dysfunctional is beyond doubt, but might we have discovered, the argument went, the contributory causes?  Perhaps learned something that might be useful in treating other disturbed young people, even prevent the kind of crimes in which Brady and Hindley revelled? 

In the event, we did all of those things and duly learned nothing.  We never do.  Prisons and psychiatric institutions around the country are filled with deranged and dangerous people to whom killing means no more than hailing a bus.  From none of them do we ever learn anything that we did not already know, or which we would be capable of exploiting.

Faced with the inexplicable and perhaps unknowable, we console ourselves with the only conclusion about Brady and Hindley and their ilk that makes any sense to us: they were born evil.  And who knows or cares why or how they came to be that way if we can do nothing to change it?  I do not subscribe to the view that you and I, in other words society, created Brady.  I never met the man.  But someone must have created him, helped germinate the seed in that twisted mind that would eventually grow out of control.  But who that was we shall never know and cannot know. 

If that is unsatisfactory, and it is precisely that, then what would be satisfactory?  I only wish I knew.  More to the point, I wish the psychologists knew.  Perhaps they do know but having acquired the knowledge can’t think what to do with it except write books.  And diagnosing the symptoms is not the same as identifying the causes.

So, sadly, it is plain ‘good riddance’ for Brady, as it was for Hindley, and without a pang of the regret or remorse for their wasted lives that we once extended in full measure to the tragic abbreviated lives of their helpless victims. 

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