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No human remains on Saddleworth Moor, but plenty of questions
‘If I’d have seen that jawbone on the day, I’d have called the police there and then’
Dear Millers — just before sending this briefing we got hold of Russell Edwards, the amateur investigator whose tip-off has prompted a renewed police search for the remains of Keith Bennett on Saddleworth Moor. Bennett was one of five “Moors Murders” children killed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s, and his family have endured years of false alarms. We asked Edwards how much conviction he really has that he has discovered the boy’s elusive remains — more on that below.
We also have news of a new nature reserve in Wigan, based on 738-hectares of former industrial wasteland, and plenty of great stuff to do this week, including a talk with Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, a show from world-renowned circus Cirque du Soleil, and the Bolton International Film Festival.
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This week’s weather
Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says we’re in for a typical autumn week, “turning cooler by the weekend.”
Tuesday 🌧 Turning wet from the west as rain moves in after a dry start to the day. Breezy. Max 17°c
Wednesday 🌧 Wet and windy with moderate to heavy rain. Wind gusts up to 40mph. Drier towards evening. Max 16°c
Thursday 🌦 Windy with sunny spells and blustery showers. Cooler. Max 15°c
Friday 🌦 Breezy with widespread showers. Cool. Max 14°c.
Weekend🌧 Chilly with showers on Saturday, then briefly settled into Sunday.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
Big story: Questions mount about the search for Keith Bennett
Top line: The search for Keith Bennett, a victim of the “Moors Murderers” Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, continues today. On Thursday, amateur investigator and crime author Russell Edwards told police he found a child’s jawbone on the moors, sparking a new search and a media frenzy.
Context: Bennett, from Longsight, was murdered in 1964 and is the only victim of the Moors Murders to never be found. His mother Winnie dedicated her life to finding his remains but died without having done so in 2012. The rest of his family has endured decades of fruitless searching.
The investigator: Edwards, from Birkenhead, is a cold-case obsessive who has been searching for Bennett for the past seven years, enlisting a team of experts including geologists and forensic archaeologists. Elsewhere, he claims to have identified Jack the Ripper via a silk shawl he said belonged to a Ripper victim. That claim has been broadly criticised. One expert called Edwards’s book on his findings “history at its worst”.
We spoke to Edwards earlier today. He says he completed a dig on the 1st of September and found what looked like adipose tissue — essentially fat tissue that breaks down to a sort of mucus in soil. He took photographs and showed them to Dawn Keen, a forensic archaeologist, the next day. She spotted the jawbone.
“We didn’t see it on the day,” Edwards says of the bone. “If I’d have seen that jaw bone on the day I’d have called the police there and then.” He says it wasn’t until last Wednesday, when a second expert, an osteoarchaeologist, identified the jaw bone that he called the police and presented them with his evidence.
GMP started searching the site on Friday. In the ensuing media storm, the jaw was reported as a “skull” and Edwards appeared on a number of news sites and was interviewed by broadcasters, including GB News, where he was asked why police haven’t yet found the evidence he left for them.
I don't know, because I'm not in touch with the police. I don't know what they're finding or why they haven't found this piece of evidence that we clearly have. We've left everything in situ, because obviously it's a live crime scene.
On Facebook, Alan Bennett, Keith’s brother and closest surviving family member, expressed frustration at Edwards’ claims:
Instead of doing the rounds of media outlets, maybe that bloke should return to the moor and be a lot more accurate about the facts and location of his find.
Edwards told The Mill: “He'll [Alan] be negative with absolutely anybody trying to find his brother for him. I've spent seven years doing this, it isn't as if I've just taken a spade, gone to the moors and found Keith.”
Doubts: Aspects of what Edwards told us didn’t seem to make sense. Why didn’t he tell the police as soon as the first forensic archaeologist spotted the jawbone on the 2nd of September? Why wait for the second opinion? “I’ve been doing this for seven years, I wanted to be sure,” he says. He also told us: "basically it's just about being able to see what other people can't see. I've just got the ability to do that."
When we spoke, Edwards had just left the police, who wanted to download the images he took directly from his phone, images that he won’t share online, because of “taste”. Nevertheless, he’s confident he has made a breakthrough in the case. “The geological findings say that there's human bones in this site,” he says “they're [the police] gonna have a very, very tough problem, if they don't find anything, explaining why they haven't found anything when people see what we actually have.”
Specialist officers from GMP have now reached 3ft deep in their search — deeper than the graves of the other Moors Murder victims — and have found “no physical evidence of a jawbone or skull.” The search is set to continue. Edwards says: “we were about three foot deep when we found it.”
Home of the week
This delightful two-bed bungalow was formally the gatehouse for Balderstone Hall in Rochdale, and the original part of the building is over 200 years old. It’s on the market for £200,000.
Your Mill news briefing
Wigan and Leigh Flashes, a nationally important site for rare wildlife, has been officially designated as a nature reserve. The 738-hectares of former industrial wasteland is now one of the biggest urban nature reserves in England, and the first in Greater Manchester. "The unique wetlands in Wigan and Leigh were forged by nature reclaiming former industrial land," says Marian Spain, the chief executive of Natural England. It should come as no surprise that, as with all big developments in the city region, Mill members were ahead of the curve. We teased the designation back in May, in our interview with Mark Champion, one of the reserve’s conservationists.
The public inquiry into the future of Hulton Park, in Bolton, opens this Thursday. Peel wants to turn the land into a golf course; campaigners want to preserve the greenbelt they would need to dig up. Also, an ancient monument — Chequerbent Embankment, 200 metres of railway embankment built in 1828 — has been thrown into the mix. Peel’s plans would require the demolition of 80m of the embankment to make way for a through road, Historic England has submitted a letter to the inquiry advising Peel “significantly reduce” the amount of embankment removed to 20m. Go deeper, and read our feature on the Hulton Park plans.
Greater Manchester’s decarbonisation plans were revealed at GMCA’s meeting on Friday. Over the next five years, the combined authority intends to retrofit the fabric of (basically insulate) 140,000 homes; install enough solar panels to generate 10 terawatts of energy per hour across the city region; replace 190,000 vehicles with electric alternatives; connect 8,000 homes to heat networks and install 116,000 heat pumps in homes. Total cost? £65bn.
Our favourite reads
Abel Selaocoe Finds a Home in Improvisation — The New York Times
“The voice does things my body cannot imagine, but my musicality can,” South African cellist Abel Selaocoe tells music writer (and former Mill contributor) Hugh Morris. Selaocoe, who performs with Manchester Collective, lives in Chorlton and has just released his debut album ‘Where is Home’. Known for his electrifying, intimate performances, Selaocoe’s music floats between genres. “There are things that go beyond language, the things that are just part of the human instinct”.
Manchester United — The New Yorker
This old piece turns its attention to the launch of Manchester International Festival in 2007. “Being England’s second city, like being Prince Charles’s second wife or Posh Spice’s second innovatively named child, means always being in the shadow of the one who got there first. In Manchester, however, an enterprise is under way to assert the city’s primacy,” writes Rebecca Mead.
The Curious Tale of the Manchester Mummy — Manchester’s Finest
This is the story of Hannah Beswick, who became the ‘Mummy of Manchester’. After being traumatised by her brother’s ‘death’ (he was almost buried alive after being mistakenly declared dead), she developed a fear of being buried alive. When she died in 1757, she was embalmed by Dr Charles White, the founder of Manchester Royal Infirmary who had a fascination with mummification. Almost a century later, she was finally buried in Harpurhey Cemetery in an unmarked grave to deter grave robbers.
Our to do list
✍ Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, who has been described as “the most lethal, vital, screamingly funny truth-teller of our time”, will be at the Royal Northern College of Music for an evening. The event is “like a giant support group” with other people “to check they didn’t just hallucinate six years of pure chaos”. Starts 7pm. Book here.
🎭 It’s the last week of the Royal Exchange’s production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which follows the Wingfield family “spending the course of the place slowly being crucified on their own everyday agonies,” writes Sophie Atkinson in our recent review.
📽 Bolton International Film Festival is running until Sunday. There’ll be workshops, including the BBC Writersroom and a documentary film showcase, including one about albinism ritual crimes in Africa. Starts 11am. Info here.
🎪 World-renowned circus Cirque du Soleil will be in Manchester performing their show Corteo, which tells the story of a joyful procession through the eyes of a clown called Mauro. Starts 8pm and runs until Sunday. Book here.
🖼 There’s an excellent exhibition on at Castlefield’s Saul Hay Gallery, called Out of the Ordinary. It’s by artist Mandy Payne, who focuses on twentieth-century inner-city social housing. The exhibition features Manchester’s famous ‘Toast Rack’ building. Info here.
🍄 As part of UK Fungus Day, Station South is holding ‘A Night with Pink Oyster’, a project by singer Ali Matthews, whose music has its roots in jazz. There will also be tasty mushroom canapes. Starts 8pm. Book here.
🎶 And if you’re planning ahead, tickets are now available for Manchester Baroque’s concert at St Ann’s Church next Saturday (15th). It will feature a lovely mix of chamber music masterpieces by Bach — and members of his very talented family. Book here.