Ian Brady gives permission for biography to Scottish author

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  By Lynn Malone
 
Moors murderer Ian Brady, who will discover this week whether a mental health tribunal has determined him sane or insane, has grudgingly given permission for an award winning Scottish journalist and author to record his biography.
 
Jean Rafferty has been corresponding with the notorious Glasgow born killer – who wants to be declared sane so he can return to prison – for more than eight years.

  By Lynn Malone
 
Moors murderer Ian Brady, who will discover this week whether a mental health tribunal has determined him sane or insane, has grudgingly given permission for an award winning Scottish journalist and author to record his biography.
 
Jean Rafferty has been corresponding with the notorious Glasgow born killer – who wants to be declared sane so he can return to prison – for more than eight years.

She hopes that she can shed some light on the man who epitomises evil in the public psyche by scrutinising his letters, tracking down his family and picking the brains of the medics who have been involved in Brady’s care.

She said: “The hearing is showing his anger, the anger that is evident from his letters.  The psychiatrists are saying conflict keeps him going.  I want to use our correspondence and research it further – I want to speak to medical professions who have had dealings with him.  I want to trace family that I believe are still alive and living in Glasgow.”

In a letter, where that anger seems compounded and firmly underlined, Brady replied to the author’s request from Ashworth psychiatric hospital in Maghull, where he is currently being held.

He said: “Another book? People can say and do whatever they wish without my permission.  I don’t even have medical confidentiality!  So I’ve no objection.  And quite frankly I no longer care anyway, as my agenda is set.  So my letters can be used.  In fact the scrappy replies in this letter reflect my detachment.”

The author has suffered greatly from her involvement with Brady in the past, especially while writing a fictionalised novel about his female counterpart, Myra Hindley.  

A “what if” scenario, she considers the possibility of the notorious female killer being released and given a new identity.  Myra, Beyond Saddleworth, engendered a torrent of abuse and public outcry when it was finally published last year.

Yet Ms Rafferty, who in 2003 won a Joseph Rowntree Foundation journalist’s fellowship to write Disposable Women, a book on prostitution, was surprised when she couldn’t find a publisher for the novel.  She said: “One literary agent phoned and said she loved my writing, that it was original and that I had managed to get inside the heads of my characters – that however – was the problem.

“The characters were not fictional; they were Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. The material was ‘just too grim’ she said.”

She went on to be rejected by more than 50 other agents and publishers before her novel was finally published by Wild Wolf Publishing.

Ms Rafferty’s literary agent, Guy Rose, of Futerman, Rose & Associates, echoes the controversy surrounding the difficulty she encountered in finding a publisher for her novel.

He said: “There is no question now that it was because this was a work of fiction that was the reason publishers gave for backing off.

“In the case of Brady, it is remarkable that, even with the intense publicity his case is receiving now, publishers are still being very coy.”

Considering that her novel resulted in accusations of her being immoral, a Brady sympathiser and groupie alongside sinister phone calls being made to her home, what makes the writer want to go further and continue with his biography?  “I want to write it as he is so complex and I want to understand why he did what he did.  He was operating at a time when society was beginning to crack apart after the restraints of the war.

“Life was a lot freer for women during the war and society got frightened of that.  And in the 60s Brady and Hindley were part of that – they went beyond conventional rules, in a way that people would do in a more benign way, they were kicking against restraints.

“They fetishised freedom.  Brady was trying to say he was free to do whatever he wanted to do in the world.  The results were catastrophic for him, he gambled and lost. He lost his freedom.  That was a bigger loss to him than to more moderate people, it meant more to him. He is a very extreme person.” She said.

But Ms Rafferty says she is “sickened” by the inhumanity shown by society towards Brady. She said: “I’m sick of this inhumanity towards him.  He was inhumane towards his victims but we don’t have to be to him. I find the levels of hatred shown unacceptable in a civilised society.”

When the author first wrote to Brady as research for her novel she was taken aback when he replied as she had not been expecting him to, saying, “He writes to many people but doesn’t reply to everyone.” She wonders if it was the Glasgow connection that fell in her favour as Brady, she says, “…has a great nostalgia of Glasgow of the old days.”

The first thing Ms Rafferty says she noticed was the anger emanating from the tiny text fluently filling the page.  His angry words spoke to her of Brady’s hatred towards the regime in Ashworth and his rage against the Establishment, his rationale that people like Tony Blair and George Bush had as much blood on their hands as he did. 

Consistent with this logic that Brady has of his crimes is the quote from his mental health tribunal and reported by Sky News, where he said: “I am as pragmatic as soldiers or a politician.  You don’t see any regret from Tony Blair.  In fact he is minting a future from his war crimes.”

In that first letter Brady agreed to talk to her in exchange for what he called a “quid pro quo”.  Since then the writer and Brady have exchanged many letters and even gifts, hers have included postcards depicting Glasgow of old which generated memories and small details from Brady which Ms Rafferty went on to use in her novel.  “Quid pro quo” she says.

Does Ms Rafferty think he has developed a conscience or is she being manipulated by Brady?  She says a psychiatrist who spoke at the hearing and who is dealing with Brady thinks that he developed a psychotic illness because of what he had done. 

She said: “Perhaps it is his conscience.  That’s the sense of his letters, he speaks obliquely, and I want to explore that.

“I can’t see that he’s manipulated me into doing anything.  He hasn’t read my book, he sent back the book but read some articles and I got a very positive response to them.”

It’s widely acknowledged that Brady has little in the way of visitors and Ms Rafferty has, in the past, put in requests but has yet to meet him.

She said: “I would like to work with him properly on it but don’t know if that will happen.  I would like to interview him.

“He’s a very isolated man, he said he was alone but not lonely but I think he is a lonely man.  His anger does keep him going.  He lacks proper intellectual stimulation.  It would benefit him to talk to people on a human level.”