Black humour

The Knife used to know Saddleworth Moor quite well, and it is indeed a harsh, unforgiving sort of place. Much of it looks the same, repetitive peat mounds and trenches. It would be very difficult to find anything there. I also worked in the local hospital at the time that Brady and Hindley assisted in locating the body of one of their victims. It was taken to the hospital mortuary. Horrible, horrible stuff. 

There are few chapters in British criminal history as desolate and awful as that. Yet the weird thing is, all these years later, despite the enduring horror of the case, there are moments of unintentional humour. Over time, almost anything can acquire a comedic angle. Look at The Producers, or even more outrageously, Shalom Auslander’s Hope: a Tragedy, where Anne Frank is found alive in the narrator’s attic (as her publisher advised her: “Stay dead, nobody wants a live Anne Frank.”)

Dr Keightley
Dr Keightley

So with Ian Brady, who is famously on a hunger strike, because he wants to die, often bitterly complaining that he is being kept alive, against his will, by the state. Lots of people agree with Brady that he should get on and starve himself to death. Except:

Ian Brady “makes himself toast every morning” despite having been on hunger strike since 1999, his mental health tribunal has heard….”It is his continued stance that he is on hunger strike because of his perceived battle with the Home Office….The reality is that we know Ian makes himself toast every morning.”

By any standards, that is a rubbish hunger strike. Just as bizarrely, his confidant of 25 years, a Dr Alan Keightley, has written a warts and all book about Brady and his crimes, using ‘insider’ knowledge. As Dr Keightley says:

The manuscript is upstairs in the attic, although I’ve already agreed a deal with a publisher. It’s an amazing story..

Upstairs in the attic?? What’s that about? When you realise that Dr Keightley is a 69 year old man wearing a longish blonde wig, it sort of begins to make sense.

None of this is to mock the many people affected by these murders and their aftermath. Just a reflection really on the fact that sooner or later, the worst human experiences become infiltrated by humour, albeit often in an unusual way.

Hospital doctors see this all the time. It’s a kind of omerta, as a lot of the things you see and hear you just can’t share easily with anyone, but they’re funny in some way or another, just the same.


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