It’s hard to know what to feel after hearing the news that the infamous David Smith, accidentally caught up in the most notorious set of crimes in Manchester history – the Moors Murders – has died.
Smith had a hard life and a broken childhood in impoverished east Manchester in the 1950s and ’60s, and on marrying Myra Hindley’s sister, Maureen, had the misfortune to meet the loathsome Ian Brady, unquestionably the most evil figure in the city’s history. Brady had gone from petty crime to planning major escapades and then onto carrying out sickening attacks on children.
He ensnared Smith into aspects of his criminal domain, but not the sordid elements, and when Smith was cajoled into watching Brady’s final criminal act as a free man – the cold-blooded murder of 17-year-old Edward Evans in October 1965 (picked up by the milk-vending machine at Central Station) – he decided he’d had enough and shopped Brady and Hindley to the police.
Officers arrived at the murder scene, Hindley’s grandmother’s council flat in Hattersley, and arrested Brady for what they thought was a pedestrian murder, unaware that they had caught the perpetrator of the disappearance of and, it turned out, the sadistic murders of a number of young children from east Manchester over the previous few years.
Smith was innocent of these murders but the public, rather than thanking him for ending the atrocities, for being the chief witness for the prosecution, hounded him, claiming “he must have known”. He didn’t. David Smith died of cancer in early March 2012 in Ireland.