Mother of victim of Moors murders laid to rest after lifetime of anguish
AT PEACE at last, Winnie Johnson, the mother of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett, was laid to rest yesterday after a moving funeral service.
• 78-year-old died without being able to find son’s makeshift grave
• Tributes to couragous mother who campaigned despite tragedy
Tormented to the end after a lifetime of campaigning, the 78-year-old died without fulfilling her cherished wish to find her son’s makeshift grave on Saddleworth Moor and give him a proper Christian burial.
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley abducted and murdered the 12-year-old in 1964, the only one of their five victims whose body has never been found.
At yesterday’s service at St Chrysostom’s Church, in Victoria Park, Manchester, where Mrs Johnson, a widow, was a regular attender and Keith attended Sunday school, the names of her son’s killers were never uttered.
Instead her family, friends and members of the public heard tributes to a courageous mother who battled on despite a life touched by tragedy.
A former cleaner and worker in hospital kitchens, her desire to know became ever more desperate after she was diagnosed with the cancer that was to claim her life on 18 August.
Canon Ian Gomersall, rector of St Chrysostom’s, told mourners she lived all her life in Manchester, where her son was abducted.
“I will not go into the detail of this, nor will I name here the perpetrators of that evil,” he said.
“What I will do is pay tribute to this remarkable woman. I know my words of tribute will be shared by so many people.
“I pay tribute to Winnie’s courage and determination to bring her son back to her family.
“I pay tribute to Winnie and her family’s resolve to give Keith a final resting place, which has been an inspiration to so many over the years, and we thank God for this encouraging example.”
Canon Gomersall said Mrs Johnson had shown “that we, everyday people, can have courage, strength, hope and determination, whatever assails us”.
Mrs Johnson was a humble woman of modest background and means, forced to live in the public eye for almost 50 years.
While Hindley and Glasgow-born Brady took her son, they could not take her dignity or her pride, which never failed, and for many she became a symbol of courage and decency.
She was a “practical, forthright and even formidable woman” and a “straight speaker”, the funeral heard.
Elizabeth Bond, a family friend, told mourners: “I have been in all sorts of places with Winnie while she played her public role and she never stood on ceremony for anyone. She stood fast against all that life could throw at her and kept a sense of humour along the way.
“She lived by her values – to do what we believe is right even in the hardest time; to not let ourselves be beaten and always call it how it is.”
Grandson Stephen Prescott said his grandmother was the centre of the family and, though she had a life of “struggle and hardship”, she was an “unabashed character” who always had a smile on her face and was a “shining example” to all.
The other victims of Brady and Hindley, who were jailed for life in 1966, were Pauline Reade, 16, who disappeared on her way to a disco on 12 July, 1963; John Kilbride, 12, who was snatched in November the same year; Lesley Ann Downey, ten, who was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964, and Edward Evans, 17, who was axed to death in October 1965.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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