Moors murders: search on Saddleworth Moor for Keith Bennett ends as police found no human remains

Greater Manchester police say the week-long search for the Moors murders victim is at a close.

Greater Manchester Police say they have now concluded an extensive search on Saddleworth Moor - and have found ‘no evidence’ of human remains.

Author Russell Edwards, who has been investigating where Moors murder victim Keith Bennett’s remains may be, tipped off police that he had found what he believed to be a human jawbone at Saddleworth last Thursday.

Officers launched a hug search last Friday (30 September) in the area, including with forensics investigators and a police drone and informed Keith’s brother Alan Bennett of their inquiries. They have remained at the scene since, carrying out painstaking examinations and digging in the area.

A fresh search team arriving on Saddleworth Moor at the weekend Credit: Matthew Lofthouse / SWNS

However, GMP confirmed today (7 October) that the search has been brought to an end “following completion of excavation by accredited forensic experts, [who] concluded that there is currently no evidence to indicate the presence of human remains.”

Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Jackson said: “Since 1964, Greater Manchester Police has remained committed to finding answers for Keith Bennett’s family. Keith’s family is central to any action we take in relation to this case and the thoughts of everyone involved remain them. Dedicated officers remain in regular liaison with them to ensure they are updated on any progress we make.

“We have always said that we would respond, in a timely and appropriate manner, to any credible information which may lead us towards finding Keith. Our actions in the last week or so are a highly visible example of what that response looks like, with the force utilising the knowledge and skills of accredited experts, specialist officers and staff. It is these accredited experts and specialists who have brought us to a position from where we can say that, despite a thorough search of the scene and ongoing analysis of samples taken both by ourselves and a third party, there is currently no evidence of the presence of human remains at, or surrounding, the identified site on Saddleworth Moor. However, I want to make it clear that our investigation to find answers for Keith’s family is not over.

“We understand how our communities in Greater Manchester feel about this case, the renewed interest in it and the shared desire to find Keith. Much of Saddleworth Moor is private land so we would ask that members of the public, in the first instance, report any perceived intelligence to their local police service. The discovery of suspected human remains must be reported immediately to enable the use of specialist resources to investigate appropriately.”

Keith Bennett's body has never been found

Who was Keith Bennett?

Keith, 12, went missing in 1964 while on his way to visit his grandma in Longsight.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were later convicted of his murder but his remains have sadly never been found, and the serial killers both died without revealing his whereabouts.

His mum Winnie also died in 2012 without being able to bury her son, who was one of five young people murdered by the pair. Three of the Moors murder victims were later found buried on Saddleworth Moor but Brady claimed he could not remember where he had buried Keith.

Keith’s brother Alan posted on social media earlier this week that he was ‘frustrated’ by Mr Edwards’ claims and that he thanked police for their efforts on the moor, but did not believe the spot was not where Keith was buried. He also recalled earlier tip-offs which had been investigated but amounted to nothing.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Cheryl Hughes of GMP today said: “The investigation into Keith’s disappearance and murder has remained open since 1964 and it will not be closed until we have found the answers his family have deserved for so many years. We are thankful for their continued support of our ongoing enquiries. This has been a distressing time for them and we ask that their privacy is respected.

“We understand the confusion which may have been caused to Keith’s family and communities across Greater Manchester by reports to the contrary. We hope that by giving this detailed update today, we provide reassurance that GMP are committed to finding accurate answers for Keith’s family.

“In response to the report made on Thursday 29 September 2022, officers met with the member of the public who later provided us with samples and copies of the photographs he had taken. He also took officers to the location from which he had obtained these and provided grid references.

“In the days since, independent accredited forensic archaeologists and certified forensic anthropologists, together with GMP’s Crime Scene Investigators, have completed a methodical forensic archaeological excavation and examination of the identified area and beyond. An accredited forensic geologist also took a number of soil samples – analysis of which is ongoing.

“The items given to us by the member of the public have been examined by a forensic scientist and though this hasn’t yet indicated the presence of human remains – more analysis is required. With regards to the photograph, we have sought the assistance of a forensic botanist. We are now utilising the knowledge and skills of a forensic image expert to put a standard anthropological measurement to the object to assist with identification. At this stage, the indications are that it would be considerably smaller than a juvenile jaw and it cannot be ruled out that it is plant-based.

“The excavation and examination at the site is complete and, to reiterate, we have found no evidence that this is the burial location of Keith Bennett.”