Maxine is not another Myra – or a Mary Bell

spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London), on the furore over Maxine Carr.

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics

When Myra Hindley died in 2002, many were content to see the end of the Moors murderer and the 35-year national obsession with her. However, it seems that some miss her so much that they want to invent a new Myra in Maxine Carr, former partner of Ian Huntley, the Soham murderer. But an ersatz Hindley is surely the last thing that any of us needs.

During the Soham murder trial last year, when Carr was charged with conspiring with Huntley, it was revealed that, while she was held on remand, other prisoners had screamed that she was Myra Hindley Mark II. That soundbite predictably led the news, and another monster was born. To court populist support, successive grandstanding home secretaries had intervened to ensure that Hindley died in prison. Now, as Carr’s bid for early release from her three-and-a-half-year sentence provokes a backlash, David Blunkett has altered the rules to give the Home Office the final say.

Nobody wants to see child-killers let off lightly. But Maxine is no Myra clone. Hindley lured five children to be tortured and murdered by Ian Brady, her lover, and she helped him to bury the bodies on the moors. Carr played no part in the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, or the disposal of their bodies. The jury found her guilty of perverting the course of justice by giving Huntley a false alibi, but not guilty of the more serious offence of aiding an offender. Thus they accepted that Carr had not known or believed that Huntley was guilty when she tried to cover for him.

Carr, unable to countenance the possibility that her partner was a perverted child murderer, instinctively tried to defend the person she loved. Others among us might easily have done the same in such unthinkable circumstances. The trial evidence revealed how Carr had been shattered as the truth about Huntley became clear.

It was right that Carr was convicted for lying to the police. But the real impact of those lies was to delay Huntley’s arrest by a few days at most.
That hardly puts her on a par with Hindley. Carr, having served half her sentence, quite properly applied for early release under the existing rules. No doubt there is a debate to be had about the principle of these schemes. But that is no excuse for the Home Office to single out Carr or anybody else for special treatment, and alter the rules overnight for political ends.

Nor, by the same token, should Carr be given special treatment after her release. The Times reports that there are plans to provide her with a secret home, a new identity, and round-the-clock police protection. Those who justify such extraordinary measures make comparisons with Mary Bell, who as a child was convicted of killing two other children, and has since been released and granted lifelong anonymity by the courts.

But Carr is no Mary Bell either (and not just because her face has been all over the media for 18 months, making anonymity all but impossible). She did not kill anybody, and was not a child when she committed her offence.

She should not have to take responsibility for Huntley’s actions. But as an adult, she should take responsibility for her own, do her time and get on with her life. The authorities, however, have rejected her request to return home to live quietly with her mother and to wear an electronic tag in Grimsby, where opinion is said to be divided, with some seeing her as another of Huntley’s victims. Officials claim that anything so straightforward would be too risky. But if one thing seems guaranteed to draw attention and get some people’s blood up, it is their plans for extravagant and expensive security measures to protect her from those they see as the mob (aka, the public).

For more than 30 years, Myra Hindley played the role of Evil in a grisly public morality play, to be dragged out, along with the haunted families of her victims, whenever anyone needed to prove that they were on the side of Good. Now some want to cast Maxine Carr in the same role. At a time when society finds it harder to draw a firm line between right and wrong, and when former criminals can become celebrities, how convenient it seems to have a little hate figure against whom all can unite. This smacks of the morality of the jailhouse, where every offender can take some solace from spitting at child-abusers. Unsurprisingly, former inmates have now announced that everybody inside hates Carr, too.

It is not Carr’s prospects that worry me, but those of the rest of us. Of course it would be better if we had never heard of Huntley and Carr in the first place. The best outcome now would be if we never heard another word about Myra Mark II.

This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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