Police have closed the scene following a search for any human remains of the final victim of the Manchester Moors murders.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed on Friday that the search area on Saddleworth Moor had been discontinued after a tip-off the body of 12-year-old Keith Bennett may be in the location.
The force said there was currently no evidence to indicate the presence of human remains following an excavation by forensic experts.
GMP previously said that it had been contacted by an author researching the murder by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in 1964.
Keith was last seen by his mother in the early evening of June 16, 1964 after he left home in Eston Street, Longsight, Manchester, on his way to his grandmother’s house nearby.
Brady and Hindley murdered five people in total – three of whom were later found buried on Saddleworth Moor.
The victims were: Pauline Reade, 16, who disappeared on her way to a disco on July 12, 1963; John Kilbride, 12, who was snatched in November the same year; Lesley Ann Downey, 10, who was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964; and Edward Evans, 17, who was axed to death in October 1965.
Brady and Hindley were caught after Edward’s murder and Lesley and John’s bodies were recovered from the moor.
They were taken to the grassland to help police find the remains of the other victims, but only Pauline’s body was recovered.
Brady claimed he could not remember where he had buried Keith.
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 Thursday 29 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.”
Hindley died in jail in 2002 at the age of 60 and Brady died in a high-security hospital in 2017 aged 79.
In 2012 – 48 years after Keith’s death – his mother Winnie Johnson died aged 78 without fulfilling her wish to give him a Christian burial.