Myra Hindley gets a degree from her prison cell

The Guardian, January 11 1980

Myra Hindley has passed her final examinations and has been awarded an Open University degree in Humanities, the culmination of six years of study in Holloway and Durham prisons.

Her supporters believe the result will add weight to their efforts to have her moved to an open prison from the maximum security women’s wing at Durham, which is renowned for its austerity.

But Miss Hindley, aged 36, who has served 13 years of her two life sentences for the Moors murders, has said in recent letters to friends that she fears the news will be turned against her.

She wrote: “After all, what will it matter to the decision-makers that I’ve obtained the degree when I wasn’t sent to prison because I was an illiterate? The public are only concerned with the myth they’ve been saturated in.”

Miss Hindley applied to the Home Office for permission to take the degree in 1972 while was she was still in Holloway Prison. The Home Office agreed and, following the normal routine with prison students, paid her tuition fees.

In one of her letters she writes: “Of course, there will be complaints from honest, hard-working members of the public who have had to pay through the nose for their degrees, forgetting or perhaps not knowing that I too paid taxes from leaving school until coming to prison.”

She was given some time off from prison work to study but she writes: “It’s not the quantity of time that matters but the quality. I would say that a good third of my degree was worked at during the nights until dawn when it was finally quiet enough to concentrate.”

She took six courses, including economic and social history, twentieth century poetry, renaissance and reformation culture. Her literature tutor told her she should take an MA, and another tutor is said to have told her he had learned from her more than he had taught her.

“I’m happy about the BA,” she wrote, ” mainly because of my mother, for I know she’ll be proud of me. But it means nothing to me. No, I lie, I do feel an amount of pride, for it was a challenge.”

In Durham, where she has been for the last three years, she spends 14 hours a week using a sewing machine in the prison workshop. Apart from that, she spends most of her time alone in her cell.

In November she was transferred to hospital suffering from pleurisy and on her discharge she was given a warmer cell to prevent a relapse. Her supporters say she should not be on the secure wing at Durham which was designed for Category A prisoners and temporarily closed eight years ago when conditions were said to be too inhumane for the top-security male inmates. .

Miss Hindley has not been a Category A prisoner for seven years, and Sir Louis Petch, the former Parole Board chairman, has recently said that he thinks she is no longer dangerous.

The Home Office last year said her case would not come up before the Parole Board for consideration until 1982 at the earliest.

UPDATE: Myra Hindley was never released and died in prison in November 2002.