Beyond belief – Moors search for child’s remains draws a blank

Screenshot 2022-10-07 at 16.15.30

Within the past few minutes, Greater Manchester Police has issued the following press release:

The Cold Case Review Unit, supported by specialist officers and staff from across Greater Manchester Police, as well as experts from accredited partner agencies, have now completed the search of the area of interest on Saddleworth Moor. At this time, there is no evidence of the presence of human remains.

The search began on Thursday 29th September 2022, when the force was made aware that a member of the public [author and amateur investigator, Russell Edwards], who had been researching the murder of Keith Bennett, by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in 1964, had found evidence suggesting the location of his burial.

Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Jackson, portfolio holder for crime, said: “Since 1964, Greater Manchester Police has remained committed to finding answers for Keith Bennett’s family. Keith’s family is central to any action we take in relation to this case and the thoughts of everyone involved remain them. Dedicated officers remain in regular liaison with them to ensure they are updated on any progress we make.

“We have always said that we would respond, in a timely and appropriate manner, to any credible information which may lead us towards finding Keith. Our actions in the last week or so are a highly visible example of what that response looks like, with the force utilising the knowledge and skills of accredited experts, specialist officers and staff. It is these accredited experts and specialists who have brought us to a position from where we can say that, despite a thorough search of the scene and ongoing analysis of samples taken both by ourselves and a third party, there is currently no evidence of the presence of human remains at, or surrounding, the identified site on Saddleworth Moor. However, I want to make it clear that our investigation to find answers for Keith’s family is not over.

“We understand how our communities in Greater Manchester feel about this case, the renewed interest in it and the shared desire to find Keith. Much of Saddleworth Moor is private land so we would ask that members of the public, in the first instance, report any perceived intelligence to their local police service. The discovery of suspected human remains must be reported immediately to enable the use of specialist resources to investigate appropriately.”

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Cheryl Hughes, said: “The investigation into Keith’s disappearance and murder has remained open since 1964 and it will not be closed until we have found the answers his family have deserved for so many years. We are thankful for their continued support of our ongoing enquiries. This has been a distressing time for them and we ask that their privacy is respected.

“We understand the confusion which may have been caused to Keith’s family and communities across Greater Manchester by reports to the contrary. We hope that by giving this detailed update today, we provide reassurance that GMP are committed to finding accurate answers for Keith’s family.

“In response to the report made on 29th September 2022, officers met with the member of the public who later provided us with samples and copies of the photographs he had taken. He also took officers to the location from which he had obtained these and provided grid references.

“In the days since, independent accredited forensic archaeologists and certified forensic anthropologists, together with GMP’s Crime Scene Investigators, have completed a methodical forensic archaeological excavation and examination of the identified area and beyond. An accredited forensic geologist also took a number of soil samples – analysis of which is ongoing.

“The items given to us by the member of the public have been examined by a forensic scientist and though this hasn’t yet indicated the presence of human remains – more analysis is required. With regards to the photograph, we have sought the assistance of a forensic botanist. We are now utilising the knowledge and skills of a forensic image expert to put a standard anthropological measurement to the object to assist with identification. At this stage, the indications are that it would be considerably smaller than a juvenile jaw and it cannot be ruled out that it is plant-based.

“The excavation and examination at the site is complete and, to reiterate, we have found no evidence that this is the burial location of Keith Bennett”.

Alan Bennett, 64, Keith’s younger brother and closest surviving relative, said on Facebook that this was not the first time the press had been contacted with a potential discovery before disclosing the details to the police, “causing pain, anguish and distress that runs right through all Keith’s siblings and then filters down through the next generations”.

He added: “I have had to explain things to my own grandchildren in more detail recently and the older they get the more questions they have. I am struggling to explain what makes certain people tick and behave the way they do, this latest example being one of the most difficult to even attempt to explain.”

Concluding, he wrote: “I’m biting my lip very hard, and biding my time, but the truth will be told, I will make sure of that.”

Russell Edwards, 56, a property developer who lives in Hertfordshire, first came to public prominence in 2014 after publishing a book, “Naming Jack the Ripper.” After years of research he published,  by way of modern DNA testing, what he describes as “the definitive evidence to prove the identity of the world’s most famous murderer: Jack the Ripper”.

He is described in the national press as has having a lifelong obsession with unsolved cases. In 1987, as a 21 year old, he came across an article searching for volunteers to help search for the body of Pauline Reade, another victim of the Moors Murderers.

According to Mr Edwards, he has been investigating the Keith Bennett murder, and the location of his body, for many years. He told the Daily Mail: “It has been a life-long obsession for me with big unsolved cases. I started delving into the story, what Brady’s fascinations were.”

He focused much of his search on a section of Saddleworth Moor called Eagle Rock, an area to which Brady is believed to have returned with GMP officers after his imprisonment in 1966: “I looked at the significance of Eagle Rock as that is where Brady wanted to re-visit at the time Peter Topping is interviewing him. They never looked any further there, but my biggest question was why not?”

Page last updated Sunday 9th October, 2022 at 0740hrs

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Picture credits: PA Media

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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