RIP Winnie Johnson

Winnie Johnson has passed away peacefully in a hospice after a long illness. She was 78. It wasn’t the despicable crimes of Brady or Hindley that got her in the end, it was cancer.

It is desperately, desperately sad that Winnie never got her wish before she died. She was such a dignified and determined person, it is impossible for her to have not left a lasting impression on you. And her story really is so much more distressing than it first appears.

Winnie fought a very defiant campaign against the Moors Murderers, begging them for information of where her son was buried. Winnie never gave up hope that one cold, lonely day on those windswept moors above Manchester she could be reunited with the remains of her son Keith Bennett and would finally be able to give her boy a proper, christian burial. Sadly, this was never to be.

My Mum worked at “Snoopys” caravan café on the road through Saddleworth Moor from Greenfield to Holmfirth. Winnie would appear regularly on foot, at all times, in all weathers for a hot drink. Sometimes she would have little money and would only ask for a glass of water. My Mum gave her a brew anyway and wouldn’t charge her. Winnies relentless crusade on the Moors was not for TV crews, not for newspaper headline writers nor for sympathy. It was a private mission, and it is tragic that her dream never came true – after all, it wasn’t that much she was asking for. Brady could have told her where her boy was laid to rest.

Keith went missing on his way to his Grans house in Longsight at tea time on June 16th 1964. The Moors Murderers were sent to prison in 1966, for the murders of Edward Evans, Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride.

From the day of his disappearance Keith was not recognised as a victim of Brady and Hindley for 21 years. In 1985, Brady confessed to a newspaper journalist that he was also responsible for the murder of 12 year old Keith Bennett and 16 year old Pauline Read. At this point the case was re-opened, and the remains of Pauline Read were discovered following well publicised, separate visits to the Moors by both Brady and Hindley in 1986. Paulines body was recovered on July the 1st 1987.

On the 24th of August 1987 police called off their search of Saddleworth Moor, despite not having found Keith Bennett’s body. Winnie would regularly be up there on those Moors from that day on, until recently – looking for Keiths grave.

Although police had suspected his disappearance was related to the Moors Murders, the newspaper revelation in 1985 was the first time Keith was publicly linked to Brady and Hindley. Keith had been a missing person for 21 years. Winnie had spent the first few years after his disappearance stood at her gate, watching up and down the road, waiting for him to come home.

I pray that Winnie is now happy and at peace, in the loving arms of her precious son. No one can hurt you now Winnie. RIP Winnie and Keith.


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Author of The Clitheroe Prime Minister, and columnist in Northern Life magazine.

One thought on “RIP Winnie Johnson”

  1. well said Steve, it is devastating news but yes she is at peace, and if there is life in the spirit world, lets hope she is with her son again once more… x

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