FOR over four decades, David Smith has been vilified by the public following accusations thrown at him by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady about his involvement in the Moors Murders.
Even though Hindley later confessed that she and Brady had lied in an attempt to reduce their sentences, many people have remained defiant that Smith, who reported the pair to the police after witnessing one of the murders, played some part in the crimes.
But after almost 45 years, during which numerous writers and film-makers have failed in their attempts to get Smith to tell his story, a local author has managed to persuade him to do just that.
‘Witness’, written by Carol Ann Lee, from Wilberfoss, is made up with interviews, archival research and, most importantly, Smith’s own vivid memoirs of his life before, during and after the Moors Murders.
Lee met Smith during her research for ‘One of Your Own’, a biography of Myra Hindley published in 2010.
The 42-year-old believed Smith had a very interesting story to tell and, despite his reluctance to be interviewed initially, she eventually convinced him to talk about his past.
Lee visited Ireland several times, which is where the father-of-four now resides with his second wife.
She explained: “I’d written ‘One of Your Own’ and David Smith had never really told his story before because he had suffered so much abuse after coming forward and informing the police about Brady and Hindley. He had given interviews in the past to the press, but unfortunately they had been twisted and it hadn’t been told right.
“Over the years he had enough and he moved to Ireland. He got a completely new life. But I was aware that he had a very interesting story to tell. When I approached him for the book on Myra Hindley he didn’t want to be interviewed directly for that but, with me persuading him, he did eventually agree to a meeting and we really hit it off.
“His wife was really keen that he should tell his story as well. So, because we did get on so well, he did finally agree. He felt that after all the time it was right. He’s got children and great grand-children and together he and his wife wanted the truth to be told - for them, more than anything.”
Smith, who was the chief prosecution witness in the Moors Murders trial, was married to Myra Hindley’s sister Maureen and his relationship with Myra and Brady is revealed in some depth throughout the book.
Despite being instrumental in bringing Hindley and Brady to justice, the accusations the two of them made about Smith caused him and his then wife Maureen to suffer years of abuse which he also recounts in the book.
Lee believes the treatment the couple received was completely unjust and was due to the fact that people were unable to take their anger out on Brady and Hindley.
She said: “I understood why the public had been so angry towards him. I think it was a very misplaced anger and I think the problem was they couldn’t get at Brady and Hindley, but they could get at David and his wife Maureen. I think it was a matter that David and Maureen became substitutes in the public eye for Brady and Hindley, unfortunately.
“But as far as I was concerned, because I was born after the Moors Murders occurred, when I was growing up and I read about these crimes I didn’t understand then why people had been so horrible to him.
“I wouldn’t want to call him the hero of the piece, and I know he wouldn’t want to be called that, but certainly he was the person who put a stop to the crimes and really enabled the police to link the other murders together, which they hadn’t been able to do until that point.
“So I never saw him as a villain or as the third Moors murderer. Having said that, with this book I still want people to make up their own minds. I don’t like telling people what to think.”
In terms of background research for the book, Lee already had in-depth knowledge of the Moors Murders after writing ‘One of Your Own’, for which she conducted interviews with victims’ families and policeman who worked on the case, as well as Hindley’s supporters.
She said: “I did a lot of background research when I did ‘One of Your Own’. I kind of had a good base there - not just about when the murders occurred, but also the time they occurred in.”
Lee, who spent two years writing ‘Witness’, hopes her new book will help keep the Moors Murders in the headlines and provoke a public demand for the police to reopen the search for Keith Bennett, the only Moors victim yet to be found.
“I want people to be aware that there is still one child missing, Keith Bennett. That was partly David’s motivation for doing this book We want to keep the case in the public eye until Keith is found. It would be fantastic if the police would consider searching again on the moor,” she said.
She added that Brady may have photographs in his cell that could lead to Keith’s unmarked grave, but claims that because Brady was never charged with his murder it is against human rights legislation to search his cell.
Lee has written a number of biographies and historical studies, mainly on Anne Frank and the Holocaust, as well as two novels and three children’s books.
Witness is out now for £11.99, published by Mainstream.