Ian Brady and Myra Hindley lured five children to their deaths more
than 50 years ago, burying at least three on the Yorkshire Moors. This month, Brady died in hospital and reportedly left wishes that his cremated remains be scattered in the very place where he buried his victims.
What does the Torah say about this request?
Wishes of the deceased are usually sacrosanct, unless they offend, as Torah principle. The corpse of King Hezekiah’s sinful father Menashe was, according to tradition, dragged through the streets on a stretcher as a voyage of shame before his burial.
The murderous Queen Jezebel was condemned to a death in which dogs would ravage her and only spare her hands and feet for burial.
Brady and Hindley lay in wait for their victims and lured them to their deaths. This is not unlike another evil Queen of Israel, Athaliah, who murdered almost every single child heir to the throne so she could remain in absolute power.
In English law, the wishes of the dying are not legally enforceable.
Notwithstanding, Brady’s lawyer has criticised the coroner’s comment
that scattering the ashes of Brady’s victims on the Moors is “none of his business”.
Perhaps it is not the coroner’s legal business, but is there a moral duty
to avoid incurring further pain to the families?
When Samuel faced the evil Amalekite king and passed mortal judgment on him, he declared: “Just as women were bereft of their children due to your cruelty, so your mother will be bereft of you”. Samuel sliced Agag into half and departed his presence.
England has no death sentence to offer retribution – but after all the years of desolation suffered by the victims’ heartbroken families, the least one should offer them is a refusal to honour Brady’s infamous request.
ω Ariel Abel is rabbi of Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and chaplain to Army Cadets in Merseyside