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Brady confidante attending tribunal

Moors Murderer Ian Brady's confidante Jackie Powell is sitting in at his tribunal, it has been confirmed.

Ms Powell, who acts as the child killer's mental health advocate, is said to be assisting his legal team in his bid to be transferred from a maximum security hospital to prison.

Last year she was arrested on suspicion of preventing a lawful burial over claims she failed to tell police about a letter which may have revealed where one of his victims was buried in the 1960s. She told a television documentary that Brady had given her a sealed envelope to pass to the mother of Keith Bennett in the event of his death.

The letter was never found and Keith's mother, Winnie Johnson, 78, died soon after the programme was broadcast last August not knowing where her son was buried. In February, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled Ms Powell should face no action as it could not be established she knew what might have been contained in the letter.

On Wednesday, fleeting glimpses of a woman sitting to Brady's right during the tribunal at Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside were caught on camera as proceedings were relayed to the press and public at Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Brady, 75, was seen chatting to Ms Powell on several occasions as he keenly read through case papers.

Tribunal judge Robert Atherton on Thursday confirmed her presence at the hearing. He said: "Her role is to assist Mr Brady's legal team. She is not here as a friend of Mr Brady."

He added he had deliberately not mentioned she was in the room at the start of the tribunal this week because she would not be giving evidence. Mother-of-two Ms Powell, from Llangennech, near Llanelli, South Wales, is said to be Brady's closest confidante and has acted as his independent advocate since 1999. She is understood to visit Brady at Ashworth on a regular basis.

Speaking last February, Martin Bottomley, head of investigative review in Greater Manchester Police's major and cold case crime unit, said the letter referred to in the Channel 4 documentary had not been found. He said: ''That in itself does not prove or disprove the letter's existence. It might have been destroyed, it might be hidden elsewhere, it may be in someone else's possession, or it may simply never have existed in the first place and this has been yet more mind games by Brady. What I can say for certain is that we have not recovered the letter itself nor any credible information that would help us find Keith.''

Brady and his partner, Myra Hindley, lured children and teenagers to their deaths, with their victims sexually tortured before being buried on Saddleworth Moor. Pauline Reade, 16, disappeared on her way to a disco on July 12 1963 and John Kilbride, 12, was snatched in November the same year. Keith Bennett was taken on June 16 1964 after he left home to visit his grandmother; Lesley Ann Downey, 10, was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964; and Edward Evans, 17, was killed in October 1965.

Brady was given life at Chester Assizes in 1966 for the murders of John, Lesley Ann and Edward. Hindley was convicted of killing Lesley Ann and Edward and shielding Brady after John's murder, and jailed for life. She died in hospital still a prisoner in November 2002 at the age of 60. Brady was moved to Ashworth in 1985 as his mental health deteriorated and has been on hunger strike since 1999 being force-fed through a tube. Brady has said he wants to end his life in prison where he could not be force-fed. The tribunal is sitting to determine whether he can be allowed to return to jail to continue serving his whole life sentence.

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