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Murderer Immortalized in Smiths’ ‘Suffer Little Children’ Dead at 79

William H. Alden, Getty Images / Rough Trade
William H. Alden, Getty Images / Rough Trade

The murderer and inspiration for a Smiths song, whose killing spree gripped the U.K. city of Manchester in fear during the mid-’60s — and has haunted the region ever since — has died in prison at the age of 79.

The Guardian reports that Ian Brady, dubbed the “Moors Murderer” for his role in the deaths of five young children between 1963-65, passed away roughly six months after revealing he’d been diagnosed with “a lung and chest condition.” Although a prison spokesperson wasn’t willing to reveal a cause of death, it was confirmed that Brady had “been on oxygen for awhile.”

Brady is the second of the two Moors Murderers to die in prison. His girlfriend and accomplice, Myra Hindley, died in 2002, reportedly suffering a fatal heart attack after years of unsuccessfully trying to secure her release. Brady also attracted headlines for his efforts to alter the terms of his imprisonment, waging a thwarted hunger strike before being transferred to a Scottish prison where he could avoid being force fed.

The gruesome killings have long been the subject of grim fascination in the area, and were the inspiration behind “Suffer Little Children,” reportedly the first song written by Johnny Marr and Morrissey and later recorded for the Smiths’ self-titled 1984 debut. The song, released as the B-side to the single “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” attracted controversy due to the lyrics, which referenced three of Brady and Hindley’s victims by name.

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Just one of many works to derive inspiration from the killings, “Suffer Little Children” reflected a formative period for Morrissey, who later recalled his feelings from the period in his Autobiography memoir. “A swarm of misery grips mid-60s Manchester as Hindley and Brady raise their faces to the camera and become known to us all,” reads one passage. “Everyone appears to know someone who knew Myra Hindley, and we are forced to accept a new truth; that a woman can be just as cruel and dehumanized as a man, and that all safety is an illusion.”

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