Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett's mother dies

One of Winnie Johnson's last interviews was with the BBC's Judith Moritz

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The mother of Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett has died without ever finding out where her son was buried.

Winnie Johnson, 78, died on Friday night after a long campaign to get her son's killer, Ian Brady, to reveal the location of his body.

Twelve-year-old Keith was abducted on his way to visit his grandmother in Manchester on 16 June 1964.

Mrs Johnson's death comes after police said they were looking at claims Brady had revealed details about his grave.

'Fought tirelessly'

Brady and his lover Myra Hindley murdered five children between 1963 and 1965.

Police are investigating whether Brady, 74, gave details about Keith's grave to his mental health advocate, Jackie Powell, from Carmarthenshire.

Analysis

Tributes to Keith Bennett tied to a post on Saddleworth Moor

Saddleworth Moor straddles the boundary between Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. Its terrain is vast and stark.

Saturday's bright weather has brought walkers and cyclists out, but often this moorland is bleak and unforgiving. It has also gained notoriety as the location chosen by murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who brought children up here to be killed in the 1960s and then hid their bodies.

Winnie Johnson lived her life in Manchester, nearly 30 miles away. But she's associated with these moors. She used to come up here to look for her son's remains and on Saturday night some of her friends have made the journey here to lay flowers in her memory.

They remember her courage, they say, and there are some who see her as an extra victim of Brady and Hindley. Now her family say they will carry on her fight on her behalf.

Mrs Johnson's solicitor John Ainley told the BBC she did not know about the latest development as "she wasn't capable of accepting it".

Mr Ainley, who described Mrs Johnson as a "really marvellous" lady, said she had been suffering from cancer for a number of years and passed away peacefully at a hospice with her family present.

A statement by her son Alan Bennett said: "She was a much loved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and is survived by one younger brother.

"Winnie fought tirelessly for decades to find Keith and give him a Christian burial.

"Although this was not possible during her lifetime, we, her family, intend to continue this fight now for her and for Keith. We hope that the authorities and the public will support us in this."

Mr Ainley, who had represented Mrs Johnson's legal interests in the past few years, reaffirmed her beliefs that Brady still held the key to Keith's burial spot.

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

'Cruel twist'

Mr Ainley added that Brady had persistently ignored appeals she had made to him.

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

"It is a truly heartbreaking situation that this opportunity has now been irrevocably lost."

John Ainley: "Winnie never gave up the hope that Keith would be found"

The solicitor said he was sceptical about the latest development, saying: "I live on the edge of Saddleworth Moor and unless you have definite information, it is a needle in a haystack."

Martin Bottomley, Head of Investigative Review of Greater Manchester Police's Major and Cold Case Crime Unit, called on Brady to "do the decent thing and tell us where he [Keith] is."

He described Mrs Johnson as a "tenacious and courageous woman" who was "now at peace with the little boy she missed so much".

Mrs Johnson's former solicitor, David Kirwan, said her death was a "cruel and ironic twist".

He added: "She never gave up... She was Keith's mother."

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