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Case Study: Myra Hindley

Case Study: Myra Hindley


The story of lady killer; Myra Hindley has widespread attention. Hindley was convicted of killing five children. She worked in close conjunction with his lover Ian Brady who she was obsessed with. Her history from childhood to adulthood is faced was faced with many triggers of offences. For instance, Hindley upbringing, lack of parental support, disruption of attachment, and her association with Brady contributed to her criminal behaviour. Hindley had psychopathy characteristics such as attraction to unusual, lack of empathy, pursuit for pleasure and excitement and aggression. This study is based on the case study of Myra Hindley. The paper establishes that the criminal behaviour of Hindley is attributed to some triggers in her experiences from childhood to adulthood. Theories such as behavioural theory, cognitive theory, personality theory and social learning theory will be used to explain the triggers of Hindley criminal behaviour.

Table of Contents



4Definitions of the Offence

4Understanding of Legal Definition of Offenses

5Behavioural Definition of Hindley

6History of the Offender

6Life from Childhood to Adulthood

7Events that triggered Offending Behaviour

9Theoretical Explanations of Behaviour

9Cognitive Theories

10The Personality Theory

10Behavioural Theory

11Social Learning Theory




This case study is based on one of the most notorious serial killer named Myra Hindley. Hindley was convicted of serial murder of about five children. She committed the murders with her partner Ian Brady (BBC News, 2002). All her murders involved young children who were tortured before being killed. The murders were called Moors Murders since after being murdered; the bodies were disposed in Saddleworth Moor. Hindley is regarded as one of the most disreputable female serial killers in history (BBC News, 2002). Both Hindley and Ian Brady lured their victims in a rented car before taking them to a secured place where the victims were tortured and raped before being killed. Hindley played the role of a submissive girlfriend in the killings since she did whatever she was told by Brady (BBC News, 2002).

The analysis of Myra Hindley murders is of interest since it will offer an insight of the causes of serial killing. The objective and purpose of this paper is to highlight the reasons why Myra Hindley committed crime using psychological theories of criminology. First, the paper will highlight the legal definition of the offenses committed by Myra Hindley and the behavioural definition linked to the offenses. Also, the paper will briefly describe the life of the offender from her childhood to adulthood and the triggers of her offending. In addition, the paper will justify the life events and the triggers of offending using psychological theories.

Definitions of the Offence

Understanding of Legal Definition of Offenses

According to Criminal Code of Western Australia (1913), when an offence is committed, there are some people who are deemed to have been involved in the offense and are guilty and may be charged by the court of law. For instance, any person who act or aid another person to commit an offence is considered guilty of the offense. In her statement, Hindley admitted that she only took part in the murders as an accomplice of her lover Brady (Jamet, 2012). This by law constitutes an offence which is charged by the court of law. Hindley was charged with conspiring to commit murder of three young children. However, in two instances, Hindley committed murder alone without any influence from Brady. According to Criminal Code of Western Australia, Hindley engaged in unlawful homicide or manslaughter (Jamet, 2012). If an individual unlawfully kills another person he or she is considered guilty of murder.

An individual who is guilty of homicide or manslaughter is liable to life imprisonment or death sentence. Hindley was convicted and sentence to life imprisonment due to the murder of her victims (Jamet, 2012). Hindley released a statement indicating that she used to bring her victims to Brady who would torture and rape them before killing and disposing their bodies. She did this due to her loyalty and submissiveness to Brady (Steel, 2012). However, in some instances, she took part in the murder alone; she tortured one of her victims and forced him to pose for a picture before killing him. According to Criminal Code of Western Australia, such an offense carries life imprisonment. In addition to murder, Myra Hindley also took part in indirect penetrative sexual offense since she brought her victims to Brady who raped them before committing murder (Steel, 2012).

Behavioural Definition of Hindley

Myra Hindley had antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder is characterised by an inescapable pattern of disregard for other people’s feelings and emotions (Morrissey, 2003). This disorder often occurs when an individual is young. Hindley did not conform to social norms since she was young and took part in activities that are grounds for arrest such as fighting. In addition, Hindley lacked remorse and guilt as she was indifferent to her victims. She did not hesitate to torture or kill her child victims (Morrissey, 2003). She was aggressive which was witnessed in her emotionless torture of victims. In addition, her behaviour was characterised by deceitfulness. She lured her victims in her car by deceiving them and using aliases for her personal pleasure.

Also, Hindley craved for excitement. She was not satisfied with the life she lived and she did not find her life very exciting (Morrissey, 2003). She even cancelled her engagement with her fiancé Ronnie Sinclair. When she met Brady, she thought that he was what she wanted and would even offer her the excitement she needed. She satisfied her desire through murder of child victims without any empathy. Myra Hindley also possessed psychopathy behaviour. Psychopathy behaviour is characterised by inability to have social life, egocentricity, impulsiveness, need for stimulation, manipulative, lack of empathy and guilt and promiscuous sexual behaviour (Whiteman and Akutagawa, 2004). Hindley possessed all the behaviours of a psychopathic person.

History of the Offender

Life from Childhood to Adulthood

Myra Hindley was the first born of Mr and Mrs Bob Hindley. She was born in 1942 in a neighbourhood with slum elements (Morrissey, 2003). Her father served in the Parachute Regiment and therefore he was not around for the first three years of Myra’s life. In the three years, Nellie, Myra mother raised her with the help of her grandmother. When Bob returned, he bought a new house in a poverty stricken surrounding and started menial labour work. He returned back a different person since he started drinking heavily and beating his wife (Jamet, 2012). After one year, Myra sister was born and due to lack of finances to support two children, Myra was sent to live with her grandmother at the age of four. From her father, Myra learnt how to defend herself and when she engaged in a fight, her father gave her attention she wanted. She made this reputation of a fighter and children in the neighbourhood feared her (Steel, 2012).

Despite her chaotic upbringing, Myra Hindley was a scholastic child. She did well in school and during holidays, she did babysitting work. In her teens, boys did not find her attractive and called her “square Arse” (Steel, 2012). She loved reading and found adventure doing it. Aged 15, one of Myra’s closest friends, Michael Higgins drowned which made her very devastated. However, when his friend was buried, she became fascinated. She then stopped schooling shortly after. She became obsessed with recoiling sights and incidences. At 17, she was engaged to Ronnie Sinclair (Steel, 2012). Her father suffered a stroke which made him more embittered to the wife.

In order to protect her mother, Myra beat and humiliated her father. She moved from work to work looking for excitement. At 19, she called off her engagement due to her attraction to Ian Brady. She became obsessed with him due to his weird characteristics. After sometime, the two started dating and Brady introduced Hindley to reading books by Hitler and others. She was obsessed with Brady and whatever his fantasy she would indulge (Steel, 2012). She even posed for pornographic videos and pictures. His friends and family noticed that she changed after meeting Brady. One time, Brady drugged and raped Myra and this was the beginning of their fantasies together which was raping and killing children.

Events that triggered Offending Behaviour

One incident that triggered the offending behaviour of Myra Hindley is poverty. Hindley family lived in a poverty stricken neighbourhood and it was tough for the parents to provide the needs of the children (Steel, 2012). When Hindley dad was in war, the mum was not able to provide the needs of the family and they had to live with the grandmother. Even after the return of the father, life was still hard. The mother was unemployed and the dad worked as a casual worker and this was not enough to take care of a family of two children. According to Leech et al. (2003), poverty is an inhibitor of the satisfaction of psychological needs and may lead to aggression and violence.

In addition, when life became hard due to the addition of another child, Hindley father decided to send her to live with her grandfather when she was only four. This may have led her to feel betrayed and abandon (Steel, 2012). After she was born, his father was not around and did not experience fatherly love. She did not have time to develop a relationship with her father and she only relied on her grandmother for comfort and support. This led to the growth of feeling of abandonment and betrayal. In addition, Hindley experienced disruption of attachment from both the father and her close friend. One of her closest friend drowned and died instantly which made her devastated (Steel, 2012). This was the beginning of her bad choices since after this she dropped out of school to look for employment. She lacked a close relationship with the father, which may have led to aggression and rage.

Moreover, Myra Hindley adapted the aggressive behaviour from her father. Hindley father met some hardship while trying to get back into his normal routine after his involvement in the World War 2 (Steel, 2012). Bob Hindley was a drunkard and occasionally beat her wife in front of his children. Myra learnt this from the father and started engaging in violent incidences. In an event of any violence, her father supported her and gave her attention she desired. She fought with boys in the neighbourhood and also his father in her defends for the mum. Eggleston and Laub (2002) illustrated that a child is able to learn violent behaviour from people around his social circle. Her father was an authoritarian person and she took this behaviour from him.

Hindley association with Brady made her to make some transitions in her life. Initially, Hindley was in pursuit for excitement (Steel, 2012). She regarded her life as boring and needed something to change this. She did not want to live a normal life and was fascinated by weird scenes. Meeting Brady brought a lot of excitement in her life. Brady introduced her to the life she wanted. She gave her books by Hitler and Sade to read and satisfied all her sexual fantasy (Steel, 2012). She became infatuated with him and did whatever he told him to do. This was the beginning of her offending behaviour as killing children and torturing them brought about so much excitement. Hindley and Brady started working as a unified front in murder of small children.

Theoretical Explanations of Behaviour

Cognitive Theories

Cognitive theories are focussed on how people understand and think about the world around us. Thinking entails memory, intelligence and reasoning. Criminals have different ways of thinking. Criminals perceive every action is correct and do not foresee any consequences of their actions (Rebellon, 2006). Cognitive theories argue that offending behaviours are as a response to specific opportunities. People pass through different moral development stages from childhood to adulthood; from pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional. Offenders have poor moral reasoning and often stuck in the pre-conventional stage. In addition, aggression and offending behaviour is founded upon stored behavioural repertoires learnt during childhood (Rebellon, 2006). Prescribe aggressive behaviour relies on past experiences of opportunities, rewards and punishments. Hindley learned offending behaviour from his father. He saw his father beating his mum and adapted to this self-defence behaviour (Steel, 2012). His father rewarded her when she engaged in violent behaviour which made her think that fighting and violence was accepted.

The Personality Theory

According to personality theory, antisocial and offending behaviours are consistent over time. Behavioural consistency is based on an individual’s tendencies to behave in a specific manner in a given situation (Lynam and Gudonis, 2005). Such tendencies are regarded as personality traits. Criminals often have common personality traits such as emotional coldness, high hostility, lack of empathy and aggression among others. People who show these personality traits are at high risk of committing crime. Such personality traits are contributed to factors such as poverty, poor parental behaviour as well as low intelligence (Lynam and Gudonis, 2005). Hindley lived in poverty and did not have a close relationship with the parents. This may have contributed to her possessing personality traits such as lack of empathy, aggression, violence, and high hostility. In addition, Hindley possessed psychopathy behaviour such as insensitivity, lack of sympathy and troublesome behaviour.

Behavioural Theory

Behavioural theory argues that behaviour is shaped by childhood experiences. There are three courses that trigger behaviour; classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning (Donnellan et al., 2005). Classical conditioning highlights that human behaviour is shaped through conditioning. Behaviour can be conditioned by development of attachment and observation of other people’s behaviour. Lack of close attachment may lead to aggression and separation distress. Process of operant conditioning involved incentives, rewards and punishers. When an individual offend and receive reward and incentive in return, the probability of offending increases (Broidy et al., 2003). When a child is punished due to an offense, probability of offending again decreases. Reinforcement of aggressive behaviours is possible through rewards and incentives. Hindley offending behaviour was shaped by his childhood experiences. She lived with an aggressive father who advocated for self-defence mechanism. Whenever Hindley engaged in violence, she was not punished but received the attention from the father (Steel, 2012). In addition, destruction of attachment resulted when she lost her close friend who drowned. This may have contributed to her aggression and offending behaviour.

Social Learning Theory

Behaviours are shaped by the immediate environment and experiences. It argues that an association with a criminal may increase the likelihood of an individual to offense. The frequency of offending is dependent on imitation from close association (Rebellon, 2006). Behaviour is shaped by external and internal forces. Close association with a criminal may make an individual commit crime. Hindley committed murder as a result of her association with Brady. Brady introduced Hindley to torture books. She changed her image and character due to her obsession for Brady (Steel, 2012). Brady shared his fantasy with her about raping and killing young children and Hindley agreed to engage in it. Her relationship with Brady who was a criminal contributed to Hindley committing murder.


Hindley was convicted of killing five children in conjunction with her lover Brady. The two were sentence to life imprisonment for their rape, torture and murder offences. There are many factors that led to Hindley committing murder. Hindley lived in poverty and lacked a close relationship with her parents. This led to the development of psychopathy behaviours such as lack of empathy, manipulative behaviour and aggression. According to personality theory, an individual commit crime due to personality traits such as hostility, coldness and lack of empathy. In addition, Hindley lived in a hostile environment and had a violent father. According to behavioural theory, Hindley may have learnt aggressive and violent behaviour through her past experiences and environment. Her father’s acceptance of violence also triggered her offending behaviour. In addition, in accordance to social learning theory, Hindley association with Brady who was a criminal contributed to her murders.

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