This month, I was concerned to learn that two briefcases belonging to Moors Murderer Ian Brady are not being released to Greater Manchester Police. The existence of these briefcases gives hope, however limited, that some information regarding the body of young Keith Bennett may yet be found. I put in a call to the Chief Constable and have arranged a talk with the officer leading on the case, through which I will offer any assistance I can in ensuring these belongings or papers are submitted to investigating officers as soon as possible. Anything else is just cruel, not just to Keith’s family, but to our whole community.
Because as a community, the tragedy and injustice of the Moors Murders still hangs over us. I was in Stalybridge Buffet Bar with friends in the Spring of 2017 when the news of Brady’s death broke. You could see the news disseminating round the pub, phone by phone and chat by chat. Many people were visibly moved by the news –relief that the killer who had caused such devastation across our area was gone, but also anger that he’d gone without shedding any light on Keith’s resting place.
All across and nearby the triangle of East Manchester most affected by these terrible crimes –Gorton, Hattersley, and Saddleworth- empathy for the Bennett family is acute. As I drive along the M62 across the Saddleworth Moors between my house in Stalybridge and my parents in Sunderland I often say a prayer for Hindley and Brady’s victims. I pray especially that Keith’s surviving relatives, including his brother Alan, will be granted the closure they so dearly need. The whole community needs closure, too.
And yet, as a local community, we are tremendously resilient. We have had to be. We have survived not just the Moors Murders, but the unprecedented scale of the horrendous crimes of Harold Shipman, the terrible police murders by Dale Cregan, and most recently, our share of the trauma of the Manchester Arena bomb. As a tight knit community, you are never very many degrees of separation away from someone directly affected by these heart breaking losses. It is no surprise that some Tameside GPs have reported higher than average levels of post-traumatic stress disorder. And yet we will never let it define us.
Because we are a community that comes together. That looks after our own. That looks to the future. At the latest Mossley Soup event, a wholly community led initiative which raises funds for struggling community groups to bid for, I took a step back for a moment just to cherish it. Tameside has seen council budgets absolutely decimated for almost a decade, but this is not a community that licks its wounds, this is a community that pulls up its boots.
Likewise in Broadbottom, I understand villagers have started up a 500 Acts of Kindness scheme, with 500 givers each giving a pound a week, with £500 then being paid directly to people struggling through the most desperate of circumstances, towards help that the dearly need, be it towards funeral costs, or a helping hand out of homelessness. We are a community characterised by generosity, action, and pragmatic humanity. We get on with it.
I am immensely proud of my constituency, in so many ways. Of its unique location enjoying the best of both worlds between the cultural and economic power house of Manchester and the rolling Peaks and Pennines. Of its industrial heritage and continued proud record of quality manufacturing. Of its continued improvement despite the harsh challenges of austerity, from rising educational attainment levels, to gutsy new independent businesses. But I am especially proud of its resilience. Nothing can floor us here – not floods, not moor fires, not unspeakable tragedy. We are a community of doers, and we look out for each other. Thank you, each of you, for your part in that.