An Interview with Shani Wallis (Star of “Oliver!”)

We all have those warm, fuzzy, nostalgic childhood memories of sitting down with family and watching our favourite films engrained into our minds. You look back in awe at the innocence and happiness you felt while watching those carefully crafted masterpieces, and for that reason, those films are kept timeless and perfect in our minds, as are the actors and actresses who stared in them.

One film imparticular, which encompasses my childhood is “Oliver!”. I would watch it every night before I went to bed, and there was one character which I loved- ‘Nancy’. She is a firm fan favourite within the Musical Motion Picture genre and had all the qualities which define a lovable leading lady: loyalty, strength, determination and beauty. The actress who played her; Shani Wallis, was one of the most popular Film and Stage stars of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I met her in 2013 when she was at a Fan Convention in Birmingham and write to her often, to which she ALWAYS reply’s, without fail. She is the sweetest, most loveable, humble lady I’ve ever met. Her persona radiated classic Hollywood star, but her personality seemed just as normal and sweet as a lady who you might bump into in the shops. I was still quite naive and young when I met her. I was 18, but I was a young 18 year old, and I stood and watched Shani sign autographs for fans for around 20 minutes, too nervous to go and speak (my social anxiety was still quite bad back then). I remember thinking: ‘I am actually going to meet the lady that I watched every night as a kid in my favourite film’. After a while, I went to the table, picked up some photos to get signed and got to the front of the line. I looked at her and she beamed a smile and asked my name and I just blurted out: “I think I’m probably your biggest fan” and then went bright red at my not-so-cool attitude. She laughed and said she’s always wanted to meet her biggest fan and from then on, we had a great talk. We talked about her life, the movies she was in (etc.) and she signed a ton of photos for me and inscribed the sweetest messages. She was simply lovely.

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Meeting Shani in 2013

But here is where it got amazing for me- when I got really ill with Bulimia (which I’ve already written a blog about), I looked up ‘self-help tips’ and one was to write to someone you admired. So, I did, I wrote to her and asked for advice, not holding out much hope for a reply (Celebrity’s get an obscene amount of fan mail you know?). Around 2 weeks later, I got a package from the US with a 3-page letter in and a ton of advice and kind words, along with 8 signed photos of her, in costume as ‘Nancy’ and a rare CD of her music. I don’t want to share what the letter said because that’s personal to me, but she has always replied to every letter I’ve sent since, offered advice, and sends me letters every few months asking how I am. Amazing right- put simply, a lovely, very generous lady.                                          Shani, who is now 84, was born in 1933, and raised in Tottenham, London. She began tap dancing at age four and was later accepted into RADA, where she trained in the Dramatic Arts. She worked exclusively in TV and theatre until she was cast in “A King in New York” by Charlie Chaplin in 1957. It would be 10 years later when she would win the role of her career in “Oliver!” as well as a £25,000 pay-check (equivalent to around £454,000 in today’s value). This role cemented her into Hollywood History, as she was chosen over the likes of Julie Andrews and Elizabeth Taylor, and the reviews of her performance, were glowing.Shani toured with Liberance and Frank Sinatra after the film’s release and has become well engrained into the popular conscious of Musical Cinema. Shani moved to California shortly after the release of “Oliver!” in 1968 with her husband (and at the time: Manager) Bernie Rich, and has been there ever since.

And recently, she agreed to do an interview with me about her life, the role of ‘Nancy’ and what she’s up to now…

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In costume, as Nancy for Promotional Photoshoot

How did you get the role of ‘Nancy’ in “Oliver!”?

“Well, I was starring in a show on Broadway called: ‘A Time for Singing’, which was based on ‘How Green Was My Valley’- beautiful music! The CD is out there. I played the role of Angharad and Ed Sullivan requested that I go on his show and perform the love song (Let me love you). Mike Frankovich, who was the head of Columbia Pictures at the time saw me and sent me a telegram. It said; ‘Come out to Hollywood. I think I have a role that would be perfect for you.’ The rest is History!”

What was your favourite scene to film in “Oliver!”?

“It would have to be the last dramatic scene in Brownlow’s home- that was moving for me. Oh but wait, no- it would definitely have to be the first scene I filmed on the “Oliver!” set (It’s a Fine Life number). That was wonderful.”

Much has been written about your tumultuous relationship with Oliver Reed, how he hurt you during ‘Nancy’s death scene’ and how he would isolate you. I heard you say in an interview that he was “a good actor, but as a guy- not so easy”.

“Oliver Reed never actually hurt me but he was very frightening. The truth is, I had little to nothing to do with Oliver Reed off-set, his life, I believe was complicated. And I had my beloved Burnie (Shani’s husband) by my side at all times. He said goodbye to me for the last time on September 10th 2016. After 52 years together, it was devastating to loose him.”

What do your Fans mean to you?

“It has never stopped! That love affair with fans! They have continued to light and brighten up my life through the years and still do! I can’t imagine what life would be like without them.”

What is your day-to-day life like now?

“The sadness of loosing a loved one is like no other experience. For me and Bernie, it was a love affair that remained constant. But I feel so lucky to share my journey with friends and family- this amazing journey we all share. Life is wonderful!”

Do you have any plans to go back to show business?

“I am almost 84, I mean, I would like to- but it is a question mark. My main environment is my rediscovery of the Piano which I loved so much in my early years.”

Throughout 2014-2015, you made several appearances at fan conventions and events. Do you plan to do anymore?

“If I were asked, yes I would be interested! I find people from all walks of life fascinating!”

What are you most proud of in your life?

“My body of work! Going back to all the shows, theatre and otherwise starting from 1952!”

Why do you think the character of Nancy has become so engrained and loved within Musical Motion Picture?

“Nancy has so many faces. She loved, she was assaulted, she was abused and she emotionally struggled but she survived! She was strong. Just like so many of us, we struggle but it’s how we come through it that matters! Our vulnerability helps us conquer and overcome our weakest moments.”

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Shani with Jack Wild at the Premiere of “Oliver!” in September 1968

Do you think anyone else’s portrayal of Nancy has come close to yours?

“I honestly don’t know. It is not my decision to make- it is for others to decide that.”

And now, I’m going to throw a strange one into the mix- what is your favourite food?

“Oh, my goodness! Sunday Roast Dinner!! That is how I remember the family sitting down together!”

There are plans to remake “Oliver!” with a release date set for 2018, what are your views on this?

“Well, if it does happen- it certainly won’t be Sir Carol Reed’s version!!! The 1968 version was timeless.”

What is the strangest fan interaction you have ever had?

“I can’t really say I can answer that.”

Nancy’s death scene was so sad to watch, and graphic for the time- how was it filming that?

“It was all done completely in the moment!! There was very little preconceived Direction. Oliver Reed said ‘Do what you want to me, I will be able to defend myself and I will do the rest’ and he was a great motivator. When he grabbed me, I didn’t expect it and that scene just happened!”

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You’ve led such a rich life, you have worked with some of the most iconic stars of all time- Charlie Chaplin, Liberance etc. Do you have any plans to write an autobiography?

“I really would like too but I haven’t found the right person yet to help with an autobiography.”

Did you get to keep any props from the set? Nancy’s Iconic Dress Perhaps?

“I so wish I did! I don’t know what ever happened to it but I would love to know! Perhaps it had too many tears in it and it was thrown away or maybe it is in the movie archives! I did get to keep some sketches of myself from the set though. (One is included on the front of the “Best of Shani” vinyl).”

Lastly, is there anything you would like your fans to know?

“Yes, I want to thank them for their generosity and goodwill and constant devotion, even after all these years. Thank you!”

If you are still interested in Shani’s work, she has several Vinyl records, made in the 1960’s, which are available on sites like eBay, and “Oliver!” has just been released on Blu-ray, which you can get on sites like Amazon.

Hope you enjoyed and a huge thank you to Shani for agreeing to do the interview!

Much Love,

Sammy Xxx

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Myra Hindley: The Devil Who Deceived Them.

In the age when there is a Conspiracy Theory for every unfortunate and unjust event to hit the World, I find it hard to put any stock into Conspiracy Theories. I find most of them to be too far fetched, too exaggerated and too unfounded to have any trace of truth. However I found that, after doing so much research on Hindley, an issue kept cropping up in small corners of chat rooms and internet forums for me to not delve a little deeper into this particular theory. I want to say, right from the outset, that I do not personally believe in this particular Theory. And though I find it fascinating, and it does make an awful lot of sense, due to Hindley’s failing health and compounded with the negative reaction the Home Office would receive if this were found to be true, I do believe Myra Hindley died in 2002 and was cremated, putting an end to her psychical presence on earth.

It is common knowledge that Myra Hindley became “the most hated woman in Britain”, following her arrest alongside Ian Brady in October 1965. The two were jailed for their part in the ‘Moors Murders’ and although many have shunned Brady to the back of their consciousness, happily condemning him as “insane” and “mentally ill”, the public never could quite deal with the notion of Myra Hindley. How could a woman take part in the abuse and murder of five innocent children? She remained un-villified and publicly loathed until reports of her death due to a heart attack and chest infection in 2002. Her body was held under armed guard until her creamation in November 2002. The psychical presence and haunting reminder of the ‘Moors Murderess’ was banished from this earth, once and for all on that day, yet some believe, there is a whole other story which has not been told…

Throughout her 36 years in Jail, Myra Hindley made constant attempt and appeals for Parole, claiming to have “found God”, “been rehabilitated” and “attuned for her crimes”. Each Parole hearing was met with a media circus and frenzy at the thought that Hindley could ever walk the streets again. Numerous televised events followed each hearing, including one in the mid 1970’s, named: “Mercy for Myra Hindley?”, in which supporters and condemners argued whether or not Hindley should ever be released. She was met with constant threats each time a Parole board was formed, and numerous campaigns were set up to stop Hindley from being released. The Police, as well as the Home Office, determined that Myra Hindley should to be released and that she would be a prime target to be killed and it would lessen faith in the Home Office, as well as the Justice System. It should also be noted that a Parole meeting was scheduled just weeks before reports of hear death and it was claimed Hindley was “too sick” to attend.

Many believe that Myra Hindley is still alive. They believe that she never could have been publicly granted Parole as it would have been too damaging for the whole of the Justice System and caused mass Hysteria, so- was she reported dead as a cover up- was she given a new identity and released from prison under a new name? Did Hindley actually go to that Parole meeting and was she actually granted parole but the Government Covered this up? Is it true that Myra Hindley could now be in her Seventies and asking around as a seemly innocent old lady? It is true that her death certificate was never publicly released, and that her body was cremated considerably quickly, but could this really be possible? The truth is, this is highly unlikely, if not possible, and we will probably never really know the truth. But some notions and apparent ‘happenings’ do make for interesting reading.

This report, written in 2012, only found on one, single webpage, and not highly publicised, states:

“A primary school nurse was driving through a country lane about six weeks after Myra Hindley was supposedly pronounced dead. It was night time and the nurse’s car was suddenly hit in the back by another vehicle.
The woman driver who hit her got out of her car and came to talk to the nurse. The nurse looked carefully, recognised the woman as Myra Hindley and said: “Oh my God you’re Myra Hindley.” The woman burst into tears and replied “you can’t say that, you can’t say that” and drove off hurriedly.

The nurse however, noted the registration number of the car and upon returning home called the police. She recounted what had happened, telling them that it was “Myra Hindley” at the wheel of the other car. The police visited the nurse the following day but rather than assist her with noting an accident, they scared and intimidated her. They asked her to withdraw the accident claim and report, and suggested instead that the incident had “never happened”.                                                                                                                 The primary school nurse was just a normal, law-abiding person and by now she was very scared although still certain of her facts – that even though Myra Hindley was believed by the world to be dead – it had been her driving the car that had hit her. Regardless of her story, the police continued to intimidate the nurse and she was frightened into taking any further action.

However, unknown to the police, the nurse had reported the incident to a friend of the family who had in turn passed it on to a school friend who was a local journalist.The journalist took the story to a major tabloid paper who was at first very interested but the following day told his fellow journalist that the story of Hindley being alive “had to be buried”. Despite this, within a day or so, orders from “the top” were given to publish a story on how the “ashes of Myra Hindley had been found”.

That story made all the papers in February 2003 and threw many off the scent. Now, to all intent and purposes, Hindley was proven to be dead because her ashes had been found on the very Moors where children had been killed. Following this news, Lord Longford’s son was quoted as saying: “If You believe that, you’ll believe anything.” (This article can be found here: (http://www.onlinepublishingcompany.info/content/sitenewsreadmore/infobox/news/template/default/active_id/814)

Now, to the common reader, it would appear that if this little- known story were true, a kindly lady was simply outraged, offended and upset at being compared to Britain’s longest serving, and most hated Murderer. But when you delve a little deeper, you can see that there is one other strange story, which would combined to make this barley lucid story, seem plausible. A comment left on the above article, states:

“Myra Hindley was in a Manchester hospital after having minor facial reconstruction. After four days recovering she was given a new identity and taken out of the country. I was one of the nurses working on the ward. She was in a side room with 3 private nurses whom had never worked at that hospital. We were not aloud in the room or to speak with the nurses. Two years later working at a different hospital I worked a shift with one of those nurses, who quite openly admitted that it was Myra Hindley in that room. I truly believe my co-worker as a lady nearing retirement I wonder what she had to gain by disclosing this information. Especially as I asked her a direct question about an incident that had happened 2 years previous. I believe that the government had no choice but to release Hindley, she was the longest serving serial murderer and unlike Brady she was deemed medically sane. It was claimed she died of pneumonia that came after a heart attack, coincidental that her latest appeal was about to be decided.”

This really does make for interesting reading, but the truth is, we will probably never know the whole truth about Myra Hindley, her death or if there was a well orchestrated cover up from ‘High Up Ranking Officials’. Just as we will probably never know the full extent of the horror which took place on Saddleworth Moor, over Fifty Years ago.

As always, thanks for reading,

Much Love,

Sammy X

 

Myra Hindley: Deliver us From Evil

“…Hindley’s name was only ever used in Tabloid news with the qualifying adjective: evil…”  

 -Hindley’s Obituary: The Sun: 2002                                                                                                                       

When looking at the notion of Female Serial Killers, no one, past or present has had the lasting notoriety or faced the public prosecution like Myra Hindley. Hindley has become a national figure as the feminine “personification of evil” (Downing, L: 2013: p100) and was, for years, dubbed as “the most hated woman in Britain”. (Downing, L: 2013: p100). Since being arrested in 1965, along with her partner; Ian Brady, on suspicion of the murders of 5 children, Hindley has become synonymous with adjectives such as “calculating”, “monstrous”, “manipulative” and “evil” and her name has been front page news from her arrest in 1965, through to posthumous stories, headlines, documentaries, books and dramas.

On the whole, society is simply unable to process Myra Hindley as a person or the crimes she committed as society is: “…horrified that a woman should so totally deny our enduring belief in the sanctity of motherhood, we have been unable to come to terms with Hindley accordingly, she suffered punishment more severe than that of Brady, or indeed any other male murder”. (Shildrick, 2002: p11).

This act is something which, was so heinous, it shocked the public to the very core- before 1965, a woman had never been implicated in the sexual torture or murder of children. When these crimes were brought to light, the public had stumbled onto a benign area of criminology and unable to react in any given way. Even when Brady was arrested on suspicion of murder on 7th October 1965, Hindley was not arrested until 11th October 1965. Detective Constable Ian Farley would say: “…that’s what happened in the 1960’s. You would deal with the male—not the female. This is a terrible thing to happen, she should have been charged- she should have been locked up and charged from day one but the thing is; she was a woman”.  (Myra Hindley; the Prison Years: 2002: 36 Minutes 50 Seconds).

Also important to note, as mentioned by Farley was the times in which the crimes were committed, the 1960’s, although a time of sexual revolution and ‘free speech’, were fairly innocent times: children could play on the streets with no fear of harm, the times were much more innocuous, no internet, no modern convinces that are boundless in todays homes culminating in safe communities which ‘stuck together’. The only thing children were warned about in the post war austerity was not to go off with strange men- in this case, they did not warner off aimlessly with strange men, they were approached, each time, by a woman: Myra Hindley. This is one of the main reasons Hindley is so despised, as the children were so willingly trustful was because of Hindley’s gender. Hindley states, in a chapter from her unpublished autobiography: “I am a child of Gorton in Manchester. Infamous, I have become disowned but I am; one of your own”’. (Lee, A, C: 2011: p43). This is exactly the issue within the discourse of society and within the perception of Hindley. She can not be “One of our own”, it can not be processed by the public, that a woman is capable of violating her gender role in such a way as to tear away any pledge of motherhood or protection, concluding in Hindley being portrayed as a ‘Monster’, a devil or a demon, dehumanizing her and stripping away the human characteristics which makes up a female. On the other hand, in some cases, Hindley is painted and portrayed as a masculine figure- she is desexualized- these two binaries are the only way Hindley can be accepted by the public as ‘safe’. She cannot be seen as a real person/ female within society, as society cannot process that human beings as a whole, but particularly females, can be capable of such heinous acts. Women are born with the only capacity of the species, to give life, how can society accept a female taking life? It goes against everything in which social binaries are placed and means the equilibrium of societal and gender roles are thrown off balance. The way in which Myra Hindley has been portrayed by the media, with the adjective of ‘evil’ placed in front of most every news story, means that it is ‘safe’ for society to accept her- she seen as evil, not of this world, portrayed by most media outlets as some unholy alliance with the devil; the devils daughter, meaning we do not have to accept she is ‘one of our own’, thus concluding we, as a society, are safe.

Hindley’s portrayal within the media has always, and understandably been harsh, if not brutal but some do say that the image and figurative image that came along with the name: Myra Hindley, as well as the steely faced, brassy blonde in the notorious mug shot photo became something bigger than the crimes she committed. Helen Birch claims: “Our national obsession with Hindley, which has become one of the longest- running stories in the history of British journalism, suggests that she carries an enormous symbolic weight, which far exceeds the terrible crimes.” (Birch, H 1995)

Hindley has become absorbed into the public consciousness and has taken a role of a symbolic manifestation of femininity violating all traditional roles and binaries, in which society views gender and the expectation within, thus rendering Hindley a loathed and detested icon of evil within the public realm. She has become an emblem that even after death, is symbolically kept alive within all realms of media; newspaper articles, books, documentaries- even music, such as ‘The Smith’s’ 1984 song: Suffer Little Children. This therefore suggests that Hindley was notorious, not for her crimes, not for her depravities and not for her immoralities, but became a national figure of hate, for simply being Myra Hindley.

‘Over the moor, take me to the moor
Dig a shallow grave
And I’ll lay me down

Lesley-Anne, with your pretty white beads
Oh John, you’ll never be a man
And you’ll never see your home again
Oh Manchester, so much to answer for

Edward, see those alluring lights?
Tonight will be your very last night

A woman said: “I know my son is dead
I’ll never rest my hands on his sacred head”

Hindley wakes and Hindley says:
Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, and says:
“Oh, wherever he has gone, I have gone”
                                                              -The Smiths: Suffer Little Children: 1984

Hindley was born into a working class, suburban family in Gorton, Manchester in 1942. Hindley, in every printed or visual media, has been described, as a child, as a bright, caring girl who babysat local children regularly, as well as a compassionate and loving girl. It has however been reported that her young home life was unstable, with an alcoholic and abusive father, which culminated with Hindley going to live at her Grandmother’s for her teenage years. This was an argument which her supporters, in later years used as a framework to campaign for Hindley’s release on the grounds that she had suffered so much and gone through so much mental and physical anguish at the hands of her father, from an early age, culminating in her committing her crimes.

Malcolm McCulloch, an Academic at the of University of Cardiff claimed: “The relationship with her father brutalised her … She was not only used to violence in the home but rewarded for it outside. When this happens at a young age it can distort a person’s reaction to such situations for life.” (McCulloch, M, 2008: p28).

Duncan Staff also later gave an explanation as to Hindley’s willingness and acceptance to enter such a sadomasochistic and murderous relationship. He states that Hindley “… was able to enter into this world partly because of her childhood because she saw in Brady a mirror image of her father. So her father had beaten her from a young age, Ian beat her during sex. Her childhood had, in sense prepared her to enter this world.” (Networks, 2015)

Hindley worked as a typist in a local firm in Manchester in her twenties. It was here she met Ian Brady and after a long period of ‘wooing’ back and forth, the two became a couple. It has been said Hindley was fascinated with Brady on an unhealthy level, Jean Ritchie noted she would have a “childlike sensibility’ about him when writing things in her diary, stating: “she would say such things as: ‘he looked at me today’ or ‘Ian smiled at me today’”. (Ritchie, J: 1988: p64).

Their unhealthy relationship hit new levels in 1963; Brady a Nazi fanatic who would listen to Hitler’s speeches, read books on rape and murder and frequently read the Marquis De Sade, confessed he wanted to “commit the perfect murder”. (Ritchie, J: 1988: p38) and Hindley was to help him. In the summer of 1963, Hindley and Brady cruised the streets of Manchester looking for children to lure to their deaths. Hindley drove down Gorton Lane, with Brady following on a Motorbike, and stopped when she approached a young girl, the girl was Pauline Reade, a Sixteen-year-old girl who Hindley had grown up with since childhood. Hindley picked her up on the pretense of looking for a glove on Saddleworth Moor and drove her up to the Moor, as they approached the girls unbeknownst final resting place, Hindley stopped the car and sent Reade off to look for the glove with Brady.

She never returned, Brady raped and cut Reade’s throat. There was some debate as to how much Hindley helped in the girls demise, Hindley states she stayed by the car and was not present during the murder, however Brady states she helped him cut her throat. This would not matter in court, as of 12th July 1963; she was an accomplice to murder, if not, a murderer. Four (known) murders followed over the next two years: in 1963, Keith Bennet and John Kilbride were both lured on to the Moor by Brady and Hindley, where they were sexually assaulted and killed.

In 1964 Brady and Hindley visited a Fair on Boxing Day, picked up Ten-year-old Lesley Ann Downey and took her back to their house in Hattersley. Once there, they stripped the girl, took pornographic photographs of her, made a tape of her torture and finally strangled the girl, later burying her on the Moor. The ‘torture tape’ was a pivotal piece of evidence at the trail, which proved Hindley’s guilt. She could be heard shouting at Lesley and making such statements as: “In your mouth. Hush, hush. Shut up or I’ll forget myself and hit you one. Keep it in.” The noise of chocking from Lesley, screaming and pleading: “I’ve got to go, because I’m going out with my Mamma. Leave me, please. Help me, will you?”, gave the impression that this tape documented the sexual abuse of Lesley, and possibly her death. (National Archives: Tape Transcript: 1966). When the tape was played in open court “there was not a dry eye in the house” (Myra Hindley, The Prison Years, 2002: 5 Minutes, 29 Seconds) and numerous people left the gallery.

In 1965, Brady and Hindley picked up seventeen year old Edward Evans and drove him back to their home, it was stated by Brady that he promised to have homosexual sex with the teenager and that’s why he went back to the home, though Evan’s family strongly debate this. He was beaten to death with an axe by Brady, with David Smith, Hindley’s brother in law present in the room. Smith went to the police the next day, and the pair were arrested on suspicion of murder. Hindley would later say in prison; the children went “…like lambs to the slaughter…” (Gregory, E: 2013: p10).

Hindley and Brady were tried at Chester Assizes in 1966. The pair were branded: “two sadistic killers of the upmost depravity” by Judge Fenton Atkinson (Atkinson, Goodman: 1986: p53) and both sentenced to Life Imprisonment. Hindley was convicted of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences with an extra seven-year concurrent sentence for harboring Brady with the knowledge he had killed. Brady was convicted of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey, John Kilbride and Edward Evans and was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences with no possibility of parole. However, Judge Fenton Atkinson made a clear distinction when jailing Brady and Hindley. He determined that Brady was “”wicked beyond belief without hope of redemption…” but he noted: “I cannot feel that the same is necessarily true of Hindley once she is removed from his influence”. (Burrell, 2002).

He also noted that Hindley was to be considered for parole after 30 years in prison, however when she applied for parole (multiple times) the tariff was changed to her whole life. Throughout the course of her life in prison Hindley was transferred to different penitentiaries, most notably; Holloway Prison and for the 35 years she was incarcerated, she seeked constant Parole appeals, even getting Lord Longford to campaign on her behalf for her release.

Despite the constant attempts for parole, she would never be successful in her aspiration. Hindley died of a chest infection and latterly cardiac arrest in 2002, after thirty-five years in prison. Her body was held under armed guard and private ceremony was held. Protestors demonstrated with banners outside the church with signs such as: “Burn in Hell”. Hindley’s ashes were scattered a mere 10 miles from Saddleworth Moor, once again, fueling public hatred and loathing. Hindley’s death ended her physical life, the nation was free from what was perceived to be the shadow of feminine evil for generations, but Hindley’s lasting notoriety and the symbolic manifestation of evil, that was an innate predecessor of her crimes lived on and still looms within the public consciousness today, just as much as it has for the last Fifty years, since the emblem of evil was created in the public’s cognizance.

 It is noted, by Lisa Downing, that at the trail, that when Hindley and Brady were questioned about the ‘torture tape’ recording (of Lesley Ann Downey), while Brady was asked a rather generalized question, by the Attorney General. In comparison, Hindley was made to give a thorough and in depth account of her feelings towards children, in regards to her gender, and multiple comparisons were made to her sex, and that of their third victim; Lesley Ann Downey’s in regards to how she could commit such a crime. This concurrently shows the difference in which the male and female counterparts are concerned within society- in some ways; Brady’s behavior is excused, or accepted, because he is a male yet Hindley’s actions are un-vilified due to her gender.

Brady’s Interview:

Attorney General: “Are you fond of children?”

Brady: “I like Children. I’ve never thought of it.”

Hindley’s Interview:

Attorney General: “The screams of a little girl of ten, of your sex madam. Did you put your hands over your ears when you heard the screams of ten- year old Lesley Ann Downey?”

Hindley: “No.”

Attorney General: “Why not?”

Hindley: “I wanted her to be quiet.”

Attorney General: “Or {why did you not} get the child out of the room and see that she was treated as a woman should treat a female child, or any other child.”

Hindley: “I should have done, but I didn’t. I have no defense for that… It was indefensible and cruel.”

Though both Hindley and Brady’s voices were present on the tape, and Brady was heard to say: “If you don’t keep that hand down, I will slit your neck”, (National Archives: Tape Transcript: 1966) Hindley was considered, within the realms of prosecution, and the public, as worse than Brady for committing such a terrible crime upon a child. Once again, the sole reasoning behind this, and her overt questioning of her acts on the tape recording, comes down to gender and perception.

It was stated, in Martina Cole’s 2013 series: Lady Killers, that due to Hindley’s notoriety and public hatred towards her, that: “A headline on Hindley would sell as many newspapers as a story about Princess Diana. She was great for circulation and anything would be printed” (Martina Cole’s Lady Killers, 2013: 42 Minutes) This therefore concludes that Hindley was press fodder, even on insurmountable and trivial prison stories throughout the years- she was reviled by the press and the public, but the image of Myra Hindley and the lasting notoriety of the image that had been created, meant that she was forever shown in the media, meaning that society was constantly reminded of her and the crimes- she lingered in the public consciousness, a ghostly reminder of the feminine icon of evil. Hindley’s public image and perception thereafter, was in the hands of the press and the media and her portrayal within their various outlets.

Just some of the headlines from media outlets consisted of:

  • Myra, The Child Catcher: The Sun
  • Inside The Mind Of A Monster: The Sun
  • Evil Myra Wanted To Be Hypnotised To Help Find Body: Daily Mirror
  • Why I Should Be Set Free: The Sun
  • Evil Myra Tells All: Daily Star
  • Evil Myra’s Gay Love Calls Axed: The Sun
  • My Desperate Love Affair: Daily Mirror
  • 10 Reasons why Myra Should Stay In Jail: The Sun
  • My Secret Murders: Sunday People
  • Evil Queen Of The Moors: The Sun

Another aspect of Hindley’s biggest determining factors, within the realm of public perception, aside from the ‘Torture Tape’ of Lesley Ann Downey, was her mug shot. She is shot, close up, looking steely-faced, defiant and cold with blonde peroxide hair and dark eye liner. This image was one that was used exponentially throughout her life when news stories about her were printed and was in fact, the most used image of Hindley, even being used on the cover of every paper that reported her death. Not many other photos of her were used at all, which meant that the public did not forget that haunting image. Hindley remained the same cold, heartless child killer, locked in time and kept alive in the memory of the public.                                                                                                                                  

The mug shot, taken in 1965, is an image, which has become an emblem, embedded into the public conscience and an image Hindley fought to free herself from, subsequently dying her hair, changing her hairstyle and cutting off contact with anything that could further damage her public image, such as severing contact with Ian Brady in 1971 and reforming to Catholicism in what was seen by many, as an attempt to be granted Parole and move away from the iconic image of evil, perceived by society.                                              The famous mug shot image of Hindley, morbidly baptized: ‘The Medusa’, was an image, which was used on most media outlets, whenever a story about Hindley was published, from the time of her arrest, until her death, and throughout posthumous stories and media coverage, turning Hindley into an emblem and lessening her humanity further. The image of Hindley is also interesting as it’s use varies as most pictures have been edited- such as Hindley’s eyes, roots of her hair, her lips and chin darkened, to portray an even more monstrous and callus icon when seen. Harvey stated he created the image as it represents: “The iconic power that has come to it as a result of years of obsessive media reproduction” (Portmann: 2012).

This moral and public outcry once again, reinforces how Hindley’s infamous image has the power to evoke such an extreme reaction shows how loathed and detested Hindley became, and: “The fact that an artwork depicting Hindley attracted such public violence testifies to the extent to which representing the hated figure was seen as morally reprehensible…” (Downing, L: 2013: p120).                                                                                         With Hindley being the first woman to be implicit and convicted in a case involving the serial murder and sexual abuse of children, the public reaction to her was overwhelming. In some ways, Hindley was the first woman to break every ‘traditional’ role of womanhood and was the first mythical aspiration of feminine evil to be seen within society, rather than a storybook.                                                                                                                                                In her unpublished autobiography, Hindley herself makes a distinction between herself and Brady regarding their roles in the killings and stated: “Although by the end I had become as corrupt as Ian was, there is a distinction…I did not instigate…but I knew the difference between right and wrong…I didn’t have a compulsion to kill…I wasn’t in charge…but in some ways I was more culpable because I knew better.” (Williams, 2013).

Hindley left a lasting notoriety, never to be forgotten within the consciousness of the public- she was enveloped by media coverage, for the slightest things, such as writing a letter of thanks to a girl who had written her a letter of support, she became the subject of Television and Drama documentaries and serials, books, and all manner of Media fixations. Hindley has, from the time of her arrest, been portrayed, in nearly all media formats as a remorseless killer, an ‘evil’ abomination of womanhood who violated everything females are believed to be within society and concurrently, this image has stuck in the minds of the public for over Fifty years, turning her into an icon of evil, and irradiating any humanity she was seen to have. This media obsession and portrayal of Hindley thereafter, just shows what a huge impact Hindley had on the public conscious and how ingrained she became in the spectrum of civil morality.

Thank-you for reading,

Sam Cooney

Bulimia- My Story

So, anyone that knows me, knows that I have suffered with eating disorders, from around age 15 up until this year- around 7 years in full. I’m quite vocal about it. I’ve always thought that you can help people by sharing your stories- you never know who could be reading. If someone who has an eating disorder reads this, and it strikes a cord, or if a relative of someone who has Bulimia reads this and they have the realisation that things can get better, then I will be exponentially happy. Even if my friends just start to understand me a little better by reading this, then that’s still a big personal accomplishment.

This is not Oprah, so I wont give you a run down of every dysfunctional neuron in my brain, or take you through a step by step of each day of my life, because let’s be honest- your almost asleep already…

So, here we go…

My Bulimia started with, what I look back on, as the onset of depression in my mid teens, I did not really have a lot of control in my life at that time. I was a big kid too- I mean I would eat every fucking thing I could get my hands on- I was a Chanel 4 Documentary waiting to happen. But in all seriousness, because I was big, I got bullied a lot. I was not particularly good looking, bright or intelligent- or if I was, I never really saw it in myself. But I’ve always had one ability which I think helps me through most of the shitty times in my life: humour, Being funny has always allowed me to mask most of my feelings, I’m quite happy-go-lucky and a bit of a twat- I like to make an idiot of myself, I like making people laugh, I like talking to people. I think in my past life I was shipwrecked with no fucker to talk to because I literally cannot stand being on my own.

So yeah- a little bit of a backstory for ya…

So, my eating, it first started off cutting down when I was around 15- like I said, I was big and I didn’t want to be ‘the funny fat guy’. I wanted to be liked for me, I didn’t want the ‘fat’ label, and yeah- vanity is a bitch too so I wanted to look skinny like most of my peers. I must have been eating around 3,000 calories a day, and then one day I just stopped and cut it to 400 calories a day- literally just a packet of super-noodles or 2 bags of crisps or something ridiculous. The weight literally dropped off me and after around 8 months, I’d lost a ton of weight but my parent were shitting bricks- I’d gone from a chunky lil’ monkey to painfully thin- I think I went down to around just under 10 stone, and I was around 6 foot 5 then- the whole ribs and bones sticking out didn’t suit me but I thought I looked good. Months passed and I felt like absolute shit every day, went down to eating nothing for 5 days out of the week, and would consequently loose around 8/9lbs in 5 days and then binge for 2 days and eat everything. For some reason that seemed sensible to me at the time…

Then, in those two days, I must have been eating around 10,000 calories and nothing for the other 5 so my weight fluctuated heavily depending on the day- and weight has always clung to me, so it was a bit of a bastard to be honest. Then as this became the norm for me, this cycle, I just lived with it for around 4 years. Then I came out as Gay, which was another shit storm to deal with, and moved in with my Boyfriend (at the time). I thought I was getting better: finally being myself, my own house, uni, boyfriend- I felt like really fucking good. But looking back, it was probably one of the worst times for me- I found out my boyfriend had been cheating on me for around 8 months (so- the whole relationship. A keeper, right?) and from then on I felt like shit about myself- we would get into explosive rows, and I’m quite a placid person but I just couldn’t cope with him cheating on me, and from the day I found out about that, I went from binging and purging (being sick) maybe twice a week to around 12-15 times a day. I stayed though, because my self-esteem was absolutely obliterated, and I never thought I could do any better (my confidence still isn’t that great). And this is the thing with Bulimia- if something upsets you, you become unable to cope without binging and purging and it ruins your confidence, you don’t think your worthy of even being alive.

An average day for me would be: waking up, going to Uni, getting home and going to the shop. I would buy buckets of fried chicken, family bags of crisps, cakes, pasty’s, pastries, burgers etc.- like a fuck ton of food. I would go home, put a movie on, sit on my own and literally binge for a good hour. When I ate that much food, I used to have to drink around 4 litres of coke with it to keep it a fluid consistency. If I just binged and didn’t drink in between, the food would be so dry that when I was sick it would get stuck in my throat and I felt like I was choking or it would rip the back of my throat (which happened a lot at the beginning).

That was at my worst, and that lasted for a long, long time. I also became unable to make myself sick with my fingers because my gag reflex was just gone so I had to use a toothbrush from then on- that was pretty terrifying, It almost slipped right down my throat many times but it didn’t deter me from doing it. I also used to self-harm quite a lot. I would go into my old work with plasters and bandages on my wrists all the time. I would get razors and carve words into my arm like “fat” or when I was really mad I’d just hack at them and when people asked what the bandage was, I’d say I’d burned myself on the cooker, spilled boiling water on myself etc. I was just in a really bad way- I think my eating made my depression and anxiety worse and that just made me want to hurt myself. Then, one night, (Advanced warning: this is where it gets pretty deep) like half way through my 2nd year at Uni, me and my BF had one of our rows, like a fucking huge one and I was just done with everything, I literally felt exhausted, (Being sick 12-15 times a day really fucking takes it out of you) so I locked myself in the bathroom and slit my wrists with a razor blade. I really don’t know what the fuck I was doing but I think it was a combination of things but mainly the Bulimia. I actually have a picture of my wrists cut open from that night, I said to my BF; take this picture of me now because I don’t ever want to be in this state again. I was going to post the picture, so you can see how far this illness pushed me, but I don’t think your even allowed to post stuff like that nowadays, and plus its pretty graphic… Anyways, yeah I remember just sitting on the floor and watching the blood slowly pool out onto the tiles, it was really, really weird, I felt like I was high, like watching myself doing it—but yeah that was the no. 1 worst day for me.

So, I think that was the point where I realised things had to change, obviously, my health was rapidly deteriorating, my hair was falling out, I felt awful all the time, I would get sick constantly, I would throw up tons of blood when I was being sick, my teeth were showing signs of the bulimia (they are trashed now so I’ve got to get them fixed… and rather ironic that something I did to try and make myself look better ended up making me so much worse) obviously I was still thin but I thought I looked fat- there was just too much going on in my head.

So, I broke up with my boyfriend, had a few weeks feeling like shit and literally just decided to get my shit together and take back control. I just woke up, on my own one morning and said, “You give up and die, or fight it and enjoy your life just like everyone else”. I decided to slowly wean myself off being sick- I allowed myself one day a week to binge and purge (although I would not recommend this for someone in recovery). And then I met this other guy- he really helped me, the guy I’m with now- well the guy I’m engaged too. He really boosted my confidence; he would sit up and talk to me all the time. He was honest with me but harsh, he said, “if you’re sick once in my house then you leave and don’t come back”, and from that day, I haven’t been sick again.

So that really did fix me- a guy who supports me through everything, amazing friends, great family- I just made myself be grateful and not throw away what I was taking for granted. Don’t get me wrong, there is not one day I wake up and don’t feel fat- but I think that an eating disorder is something, which you manage. Now I can balance, I can eat junk food but then the next day, balance it out with healthy food. Its give and take I guess, and I’m still not an expert in how to eat right but I’ve been recovered for 8 months, which is pretty awesome, and I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get it, but in the end, I did…

So if nothing else, I am an example that if you surround yourself with people who support you and you believe in yourself, you can overcome anything- literally, if I can spend 7 years in a world of eating disorders and counting calories, cutting into my arm each time I ate, and come out the other side- than anyone can do it.

You just have to accept the problem for what it is and fight it. I kinda use that approach for most things in my life now.

Anyways, thanks for reading what is essentially a pile of waffle,

Much Love,

Sammy X