A brief summary of the first search in the 80's. I will do the same for the second search, Operation Maida, soon. I have tried to be accurate and not to make this post too long.
It took over twenty years for us to find out what had actually happened to Keith and where he had been taken to. We as a family and the police had always believed that Brady and Hindley had taken Keith but there was never any real evidence to prove our beliefs.
We lived not too far away from Brady and one of the streets Keith would have passed that evening was the one Hindley used to park in waiting for Brady.
I have vivid memories of going into the police station in Longsight with mam at various times hoping to hear of some development in the search for Keith, there was never any news. She was always welcomed into the CID offices for a chat and to hear what she wanted to hear, they would not give up.
During the 80’s a journalist, Fred Harrison, visited Brady in Gartree Prison and the continuing visits eventually led to Brady hinting that he and Hindley knew something about the disappearances of Keith and Pauline Reade. This was in reaction to the ongoing parole applications from Hindley and her attempts to convince the world she was a changed woman, also her betrayal as Brady saw it.
Once Brady had hinted that he and Hindley were responsible for the deaths of Keith and Pauline he went on to fabricate the details of what and where events had taken place. This also became clear to F Harrison and his patience was wearing thin. He had his exclusive and he was ready to publish it.
He was talking to the police and waiting to publish, he must have feared Brady would blow his exclusive. The Home Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions contacted the Manchester Police and asked what they planned to do about Brady’s ‘confession. They did what they had to do and reopened the case. Not surprisingly, Brady refused to talk to the police and refused to see them at other times.
A team was put together by Peter Topping to go over the files on the case and to speak to other officers involved with the original case. He also consulted scientists about the chances of finding identifiable bodies on the moor after 20+years. He was told that peat could preserve the bodies.
Brady was moved to a Park Lane Psychiatric Hospital where his condition improved and Hindley was shocked by Brady’s actions and the pressure grew for her to confess. It became clear during her confession that her parole pleas were all based on lies and avoidance of the truth about her and Brady’s guilt.
The police had already sent dog handlers to two specific areas of Saddleworth moor in the hope that the dogs would pick up a scent that may have led to the discovery of the bodies of Keith and Pauline. While Brady continued to manufacture lies and stories of other victims and trying to arrange deals for his own benefit in exchange for information.
Hindley confirmed two specific areas of the moor were relevant to the search, she described them as ‘Areas of interest to Ian Brady.’ She was allowed to visit these areas of the moor in the hope that she could give a better location of burial sites. Eventually, with the help of information given by Hindley the well-preserved body of Pauline Reade was discovered. It was at this stage that Brady decided he could not sit back and fabricate things any longer.
Brady was also allowed two visits to the moor, just as Hindley had been. Significantly, both Brady and Hindley went to the same two locations of the moor, independent of each other. The search for Keith continued but his body was never discovered. It brought back bitter memories of the original search when officers, such as Joe Mounsey, wanted to continue searching after the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride had been found on Saddleworth moor. It was a case of the police having discovered a body at the home of Brady and Hindley in Hattersley and a further two bodies on the moor they had enough to charge Brady and Hindley with and to ensure they went to prison for the crimes. They were not prepared to waste money and resources looking for other bodies they suspected could be on the moor but they could not prove it.
It seemed to many people that the same sort of thinking was the case again. Although there was no chance of further trials for Brady and Hindley, and the police had evidence for a thorough search of both areas, once CC Anderton had been on the moor for a photo opportunity with the search team it was not too long before the search for Keith was called off. They had shown the doubters and the press that the search was not a waste of time and they had been successful in returning one of the missing victims home.
The pressure on the search team had been building for many months, there was nine senior officers away from other duties, the accusations of wasting money had been made many times as well. It must have seemed a good time, to some, to recall the men and equipment from the moor and at the same time assure people that the investigation would continue and a return to the moor was also a possibility.