Winnie Johnson, 78, died in a hospice in the early morning hours on Saturday August 18th , tragically unaware of the revelation just 24 hours earlier that Brady may have disclosed the location of Keith Bennett’s body in a supposed letter addressed to her to be opened on his death.
Brady, the killer of her 12-year-old son, has always refused to say where he and his lover and accomplice, Myra Hindley, buried him despite decades of pleading from his victim’s grieving mother.
Brady, 74, and Hindley, who died in jail in 2002 aged 60, were responsible for the murders of five youngsters in the 1960s. Most were sexually tortured before being buried on Saddleworth Moor, with Bennett’s body the only one yet to be found.
In a statement on behalf of the family, Keith’s brother, 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, 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.”
Brady and Hindley were jailed in 1966 for the murders of John Kilbride, 12, Lesley Ann Downey, 10, and Edward Evans, 17. In 1987 the pair finally admitted killing Keith and Pauline Reade, 16, and were taken back to the moor to help police find the remains of the missing victims, but only Pauline’s body was found.
RIP Ms. Johnson
Brady’s mental health advocate, Jackie Powell, told a Channel 4 documentary to be screened tomorrow night that he gave her a sealed envelope containing a letter to pass to Johnson in the event of his death.
That information was passed to police and Powell, 49, was arrested on Thursday at her home in South Wales, on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful exercise.
She was released on bail pending further inquiries. It is understood she claims she returned the envelope to Brady before her arrest.
A search of Brady’s quarters at Ashworth Hospital has also failed to uncover the alleged letter.
Johnson’s lawyer John Ainley said Brady still held the key to finding the burial spot: “Despite her personal appeals directly to Brady and via my office, he persistently ignored the wishes of a grieving mother.
“She has died without knowing Keith’s whereabouts and without the opportunity to finally put him at rest in a decent grave.
“It is a truly heartbreaking situation that this opportunity has now been irrevocably lost.”
Martin Bottomley, of Greater Manchester Police’s major and cold case crime unit, paid tribute to Johnson for spending most of her life “courageously fighting to get justice for Keith”.