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Ian Brady victim Keith Bennett may never be found, says man searching for 'Disappeared'

By Adrian Rutherford

A former detective leading the search for Northern Ireland's 'Disappeared' says he fears the missing victim of Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley will never be found.

Geoff Knupfer was part of a cold-case team tasked with locating the remains of Keith Bennett and Pauline Reade in the 1980s. They were two of five children tortured and killed by Brady and Hindley before being secretly buried on remote moorland.

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In 1987 Mr Knupfer helped recover the body of 16-year-old Pauline, 24 years after she vanished from her home in Gorton, Manchester. However, to this day, the body of Keith Bennett remains missing.

Brady, who was jailed in 1966, died on Monday without revealing the missing schoolboy's final whereabouts.

Mr Knupfer believes his grave on Saddleworth Moor - a vast swathe of peatland in the South Pennines - will remain undiscovered, due to degradation and the passage of time.

"You're talking about a remote, peat bog in the middle of the Pennines. The chances of it being found, even at the time, were small," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I'm sure that we searched the area faultlessly. There have been several searches by police and by others, and I'm as satisfied as I can be that the body is gone, unfortunately.

"I'm equally satisfied, incidentally, that Brady - until the time of his death - was suffering from severe mental issues and didn't know where the body was. I know there was a myth that he knew where it was and was hanging on to this - I don't think for one second he knew where it was."

Mr Knupfer is now a senior investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains.

Over the last 18 years, it has worked to find the bodies of people murdered by the IRA during the Troubles. But in the 1980s he was part of a team searching Saddleworth Moor for the bodies of Keith and Pauline.

Brady and Hindley had been jailed for life in 1966 for the killings of John Kilbride (12), 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans (17).

In 1985 Brady had confessed to a journalist that he was responsible for the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett.

Subsequent newspaper reports prompted Greater Manchester Police to reopen the case, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Topping. Mr Knupfer was part of the team tasked with reviewing the files.

"I spent many months working with a small team - it was effectively a cold case review as we would know it today," he said. "We put a report together to say first and foremost that we did believe they had abducted and murdered these two children, and that in all probability their bodies were also hidden on Saddleworth Moor."

Mr Knupfer began organising a search of the moorland.

The team analysed Brady and Hindley's backgrounds, talking to people who knew them inside and outside prison.

"The general consensus was that they were both very intelligent, very controlling," he added.

"Brady was suffering from serious psychiatric problems, but she was very bright, very astute and would be difficult to deal with.

"Peter Topping and I ended up cold-calling her in Cookham Wood prison and, to our complete astonishment, she said, 'Well, what is it you want to know?'

"This was contrary to everything that we had been told about her.

"She was prepared to show us areas of Saddleworth Moor - and these were her words - that were of interest.

"Later, that converted into a full and frank confession that we took over three days.

"It was a confession not only to the murders that we were investigating, but also a confession to the murders that they had been convicted of, because they had denied everything right from the word go."

Mr Knupfer accompanied Hindley on searches of Saddleworth Moor.

He added: "So far as she was concerned, she helped us enormously in the searching that we did. She visited the moor on two occasions with us.

"It was directly through information that she provided that we searched an area and finally found Pauline Reade."

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