Winnie Johnson's fight for Moors Murder son Keith

Winnie Johnson
Image caption Winnie Johnson fought to find son Keith

Winnie Johnson never stopped her fight to find her son's body and hold a proper funeral for him before she died.

Keith Bennett, 12, was abducted by Ian Brady and his accomplice Myra Hindley in 1964 in Longsight, Manchester, while he was on his way to visit his grandmother.

He is the only one of the pair's five victims whose body has never been found.

Brady and Hindley were jailed over the murders of John Kilbride, 12, Lesley Ann Downey, 10, and Edward Evans, 17, in 1966.

It was more than 20 years before they admitted killing Keith, as well as Pauline Reade, 16. But they were never convicted of their murders.

'Fight forever'

Mrs Johnson campaigned for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to look again at the case, arguing that two more convictions might extend their prison tariffs, but in 2003 the CPS said there was "no realistic prospect" of gaining the convictions.

She vowed to fight the decision "until the end of her days".

Police took Brady and Hindley back to Saddleworth Moor in 1987 to help find the remains of the missing victims - but only Pauline's body was found.

And when another large-scale search of the moors in 2009 proved fruitless, the Greater Manchester force told Mrs Johnson it would be the last, unless significant new information came to light.

At a memorial service for Keith, held at Manchester Cathedral in February 2010, Mrs Johnson said she believed his body was on the moors and reiterated her vow to "fight forever" to find him.

Mrs Johnson then appealed directly to Brady, via a DVD, to reveal the whereabouts of Keith's remains.

On the DVD, recorded in April 2011, she said she was receiving treatment for cancer of the womb, adding: "I've got cancer and if you've got any decency or respect for yourself and for me, you would tell me where Keith is because that is the last thing I want to happen before I die."

Image caption Keith had been on his way to visit his grandmother when he was abducted

On Friday detectives revealed they were investigating claims Brady had told his mental health advocate, Jackie Powell, the details about where Keith's body was buried.

Winnie Johnson's solicitor John Ainley said she had not been told of that development before her death.

Brady has been detained at Ashworth hospital since 1985, and in 2010 he requested a public mental health tribunal into where he is imprisoned.

He has been on hunger strike since 1999, kept alive by force-feeding in hospital, and wanted to be transferred to prison and allowed to die.

In December, Mrs Johnson said she intended to attend the hearing to see Brady give evidence via video-link from hospital.

But by the time the hearing was due to take place in July she was too ill to attend.

The hearing was eventually postponed when Brady was taken ill.

Mr Ainley said: "Over the years and in all our personal meetings, Winnie has insisted Brady is the only person who could put her mind at rest and give her the chance to give Keith a decent burial before she passed away."

He added: "She has died without knowing Keith's whereabouts and without the opportunity to finally put him at rest in a decent grave."

Mrs Johnson's son Alan Bennett said her family intend to continue the fight to give Keith a family burial.

David Kirwan, Mrs Johnson's former solicitor, said: "She searched for 48 years and didn't get a solution.

"And it's a cruel and ironic twist that she's now passed away without that closure and solace."

He added: "But I'm delighted to hear that her family are going to carry on with the quest, particularly in her memory and let's hope now, I'm optimistic, that information will come into the hands of the police which may lead to the discovery of the body."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites