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Moors Murders: Victim's mother dies as police continue search for letter

Winnie Johnson, mother of Keith Bennett, died overnight – hours after police said they couldn’t find a letter which reportedly indicates where her 12-year-old son was buried.

Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, who died overnight at the age of 78.
Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, who died overnight at the age of 78.
Image: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

THE MOTHER of one of the victims of the Moors Murderer, Ian Brady, has died – just hours after police investigating the murders said they could not find a letter which may have indicated where her son was buried.

Winnie Johnson succumbed to bowel cancer overnight, according to a statement posted on her family’s website, SearchingForKeith.com – a site set up during her family’s search for the remains of her 12-year-old son Keith Bennett, who died in 1964.

“Winnie fought tirelessly for decades to find Keith and give him a Christian burial,” the post said.

“Although this was not possible during her lifetime, we, her family, intend to continue this fight now for her and for Keith.”

Winnie’s death came just hours after police investigating Keith’s death said searches to find a letter which may indicate Keith’s burial site could not yet be found.

“Our thoughts are with Winnie’s family at this very difficult and sad time,” a police spokesman said.

“Winnie spent the majority of her life courageously fighting to get justice for Keith. All she wanted was to know where Keith was buried so she could lay him to rest.

“Sadly, almost all of her life, she has had to live with the knowledge that Ian Brady refused to show compassion and do the right thing and disclose where he had buried her little boy.”

Keith Bennett vanished on his way to his grandmother’s house during the early evening of June 16, 1964. Photo: PA

Police yesterday obtained warrants to search Ashworth Hospital, the institution where murderer Ian Brady is currently residing, as well as the Welsh home of his legal advocate.

The searches came as a result of reports that Brady had given his advocate, Jackie Powell, a letter which was to be delivered to Keith Bennett’s family after Brady himself had died – and that this letter indicated where Keith had been buried.

Powell was arrested yesterday afternoon “on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful exercise”, after she told a Channel 4 documentary about the existence of the letter – which she had never disclosed to the police.

However, police said they had searched both Ian Brady’s hospital and Powell’s home – with no sign of the letter that could indicate the burial site.

“We are yet to establish the whereabouts of this letter, if one indeed exists,” a police statement said.

Brady is serving life sentences for the murders of Lesley Ann Downey (10), John Kilbride (12) and Edward Evans (17) in 1964. An accomplice to the murders, Myra Hindley, died in November 2002 at age 60.

The pair only admitted to killing Bennett and another child, 16-year-old Pauline Reade, in 1987 – 21 years after their convictions.

Read: The Moors Murders: a timeline

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Gavan Reilly

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