But he was too small to be a Scottish police officer

The life of the man who arrested Britain's most notorious child killer is being celebrated this week by family and many local friends.

Monday, 30th May 2016, 12:00 pm
Catherine Howie with a picture of her late brother Ian Fairley, the police officer who caught Ian Brady. Picture: Michael Gillen

Ian Fairley, who was brought up near Winchburgh and died earlier this month aged 72, is most famous for his arrest of the notorious child murderer Ian Brady, and for his harrowing role in the Moors Murders investigation that also netted Myra Hindley.

But in the course of a brilliant career he was also instrumental in solving literally dozens of other murders, with a crime-busting CV like that of some high-achieving fictional crime thriller detective.

In the course of a stellar career in the top rank of the UK’s most serious crime cases the legendary top cop and his colleagues solved 77 out of 79 murders on their books.

In later life Mr Fairley put his immense inside knowledge of homicide investigation to good use as special adviser for a major television crime documentary series presented by author Martina Cole.

Last week his sister Catherine Howie and widow Diane, were joined by family members and others close to him at a cremation ceremony in Bergerac, France, where he had died after a short battle with cancer.

His passing is keenly felt in police circles in Manchester and Cheshire, where he carved a brilliant career, and after a UK service at the famous Hidden Gem RC church in Manchester his ashes have now been returned to his home town.

Catherine, who still lives close to where she and the rest of the family were brought up, said: “The thing about Ian’s career that always comes up is that the only reason he wasn’t doing it all in Scotland was that he was too short to join the Scottish police at that time – and had to go south.

“He had trained as an accountant, and worked for Lothian Regional Council, but when he got the chance he seized it – and never looked back.”

She stressed that despite his high profile and his obvious high achievement he “never boasted about any of it” – and instead quietly got on with his crucial job.

He led the commercial fraud squad at Greater Manchester Police, before acting as liaison officer for a new sexual assault centre – from which he was promoted to detective superintendent of the Southern Crime area.

She spoke with affection of the brother who had been active in the local Scouts, and who in recent years looked forward to returning home for school reunions at the former High School in Broxburn, never losing contact with people he had known as a child and young man.

“He was a genuine, kind man, one who went on to do very well – and who was very highly regarded”, said Catherine.

For many years Ian’s name was frequently in the headlines as the horrific details of the Brady and Hindley murders unfolded, but less well known is the fact that he kept in constant touch with the victims’ families and worked hard to see that they got justice.

She added that he always hoped a further known victim would be found.

Meanwhile, in private life he was the committed chairman of Solo, a charity which supports young adults from difficult backgrounds, helping them live independent lives.

He retired as Detective Chief Superintendent in 1994, having been promoted to that role in Norfolk, as head of CID, three years earlier.

Besides his widow and sister he leaves his son Stuart and stepchildren Craig, Robert and Laura.


Ian Fairley passed away close to the 50th anniversary of the day in 1966 when Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were found guilty of the series of horrific child murders that shocked Britain.

He was a young cop when his pivotal role in the investigation led him to uncover an appalling and damning collection of hard evidence – what he was to describe as a “Pandora’s Box” of horror.

A picture of one of the victims was among items found in two suitcases Brady had put in left luggage at Manchester Central railway station.

The 1960’s police hunt was to uncover three victims, and in the 80’s a fourth was found after further traumatic investigation.

A fifth was never to be discovered.

Both murderers had been jailed for life in 1966, and Hindley, claiming she had reformed, later made several appeals.

Ian Fairley was among the many who argued she should never receive parole, and she died behind bars in 2002.

Brady was found criminally insane in 1985, and has been in a high security hospital ever since.

Mr Fairley’s widow, Diane, has said that he always feared there may be more victims, and that while he was a fair man he always saw these particular murderers as “pure evil”.