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Rejecting a Monster



In death, as in life, he’s still arousing horror and revulsion. When the Moors Murderer Ian Brady died in May 2017, most people who heard the news would have been glad that an evil person was no longer breathing the same air as they were. It was the end of a hateful and horrific story – for most people, that is.

But death is never the end of the story for the funeral industry. It doesn’t matter who someone is or what crimes they have committed: no-one’s body is going to bury or cremate itself. It won’t evaporate, dissolve into smoke or crumble to dust if it’s thrown away. No, it has to be taken away by professionals and buried or cremated according to the law. In Brady’s case, the choice was cremation. Some people will think that’s appropriate: he was burning in Hell from the moment of his death, so his body should go the same way.

But where should it do so? When a notorious criminal like Brady dies, no funeral director or crematorium wants to take on the job of dealing with the body. And particularly not in the area where the criminal committed his crimes. Brady tortured and murdered his victims in Manchester and buried them on the Moors to the east of the city. He will always be remembered and despised there, and no funeral business would want to stain its good name and reputation by dealing with his cremation.

Nor would his home-town of Glasgow be any more willing to take on the job. Some newspapers reported that Brady wanted his ashes scattered there, but that was undoubtedly a hateful idea to Glaswegians. If it was done, it must have been done in secret, just like the cremation itself. The crematorium that finally accepted the job was probably a long way from both Manchester and Glasgow. It might even have been overseas, in France or one of the Scandinavian countries. The body might even have been handed over anonymously or under a false name, as though it belonged  to someone from the homeless community.

If that wasn’t the case and the crematorium knew exactly who they were dealing with, I hope that they did so professionally and with due respect for his earthly remains. Although Brady didn’t deserve respect during his lifetime, mistreating a dead body isn’t just futile: it’s also bad to the people who do it. They’re lowering themselves, behaving in a barbarous and uncivilized way.

And we can be sure that Brady would have laughed at the thought of it. He enjoyed his notoriety and the hate and revulsion that so many people felt for him. It made him feel powerful and important. He didn’t believe in God or souls or the afterlife and he would have been sure that death was the end. Nothing done to his corpse would have hurt him and he would have been pleased to think that other people were responding to his crimes in an ugly and futile way. He had a low opinion of the human race and such behaviour would have confirmed it.

National Federation of Funeral Directors