Police are digging on the Moors for murder victim Keith Bennett after a skull was found, it has been confirmed.
The boy was snatched 58 years ago but his body was never found.
But now, detectives are digging an area of land after a skull believed to be of a child aged around 12 was found on Saddleworth Moor.
The development came after author Russell Edwards put together a team of experts to try and solve the case.
Greater Manchester Police’s Martin Bottomley said: “We were contacted by the representative of an author who has been researching the murder of Keith Bennett, a victim of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.
“Following direct contact with the author, we were informed that he had discovered what he believes are potential human remains in a remote location on the Moors and he agreed to meet with officers yesterday afternoon to elaborate on his find and direct us to a site of interest.
“The site was assessed late last night and, this morning, specialist officers have begun initial exploration activity.
“We are in the very early stages of assessing the information which has been brought to our attention but have made the decision to act on it in line with a normal response to a report of this kind.
“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been discovered and this is expected to take some time.”
The statement added: “We have always said that GMP would act on any significant information which may lead to the recovery of Keith and reunite him with his family.
“Officers met with Mr Edwards yesterday evening (September 29) and he was able to locate a site of interest and provide us with further details of the work he has been carrying out.
“We are at the very early stages of assessing the evidence which he brought to our attention, but have taken the decision to excavate an area of land with a view to determining what lies there.
“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been uncovered, but out of respect for Alan Bennett, who we regularly maintain contact with, we have informed him of this potential development.
“Alan does not wish to be disturbed at this time and we would ask that his request for privacy is respected.”
Last night, forensic anthropologists were examining potential samples of body tissue taken from the area.
It is hoped the breakthrough could help police crack the infamous case which has been unresolved for six decades.
Keith Bennett – who was last seen on June 16, 1964 – is the only victim of the Moors murders who has never been found.
Murderer Hindley died in 2002 and Brady passed away in 2017, but they never revealed the location of the boy’s body.
Forensic archaeologist Dawn Keen, who specialises in the study of human remains, remotely supervised the “grave cut”, reports the Daily Mail.
She said yesterday: “I do believe there are human remains there. They [police] have got to look.
“From the photographs, I saw the teeth, I could see the canines, I could see the incisors, I could see the first molar.
“It is the left side of an upper jaw. There is no way that it is an animal.”
Another unnamed archaeologist added: “It is a human skull. It cannot be anything else.”
Mr Edwards described the moment he made the discovery, saying: “The smell hit me about 2ft down. Like a sewer, like ammonia.
“It was on my clothes I stank of it. The soil reeked. I worked as a gravedigger when I was 19 that hits you, that smell of death. It is distinctive…
“I was overjoyed. Then we found blue and white striped material. Then I stopped. I put everything back as I found it.”
The expert believes the skull belongs to Keith, but DNA tests will have to be carried out before this can be officially confirmed.
He added: “This is about peace for Keith and closure for the family.”
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley are two of the most notorious killers in British criminal history.
Few have attracted such notoriety or public loathing as the Moors murderers, so-named after they kidnapped and murdered five children over 18 months, between July 1963 and October 1965.
The pair were jailed for life in 1966 for murdering five children – Pauline Reade, 16, John Kilbride, 12, Keith Bennett, 12, Lesley Ann Downey, 10, and Edward Evans, 17, all from the Manchester area.
Brady and Hindley, who were both in their 20s, lured the youngsters to their deaths, sexually torturing their victims before burying them on Saddleworth Moor in the Pennines above Manchester.
Pauline disappeared on her way to a disco on July 12, 1963, and John was snatched in November the same year.
Keith was snatched on June 16, 1964, after he left home to visit his grandmother.
Lesley Ann was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964 and Edward was killed in October 1965.
The couple later took snapshots of themselves standing over the graves.
The bodies of John, Lesley Ann and Edward were discovered at the time of the latest killing, in October 1965.
Edward, who was battered to death with an axe, was found in an upstairs room at Brady and Handle’s Manchester home.
Lesley Ann’s body was discovered on Saddleworth Moor on October 16 after a tip-off to the police by a 12-year-old neighbour who had been there with the couple.
Photos of the moor found at the house also led to the discovery of John Kilbride there later that month.
Brady was jailed for life at Chester Assizes in 1966 for the murders of John, Lesley Ann and Edward.
Hindley was convicted of killing Lesley Ann and Edward and shielding Brady after John’s murder, and jailed for life.
In 1987 the pair finally admitted killing Keith and Pauline.
Pauline body was found on the moor later that year, but Keith’s body has never been found, which has been a source of constant torment to his mother Winnie Johnson.
The woman, who died in 2012, had made a DVD appealing directly to Brady after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2011.
In the appeal, shown on ITV1’s Daybreak, she asked Brady to reveal the location of her son’s body, saying it was her “last chance”.
At her funeral, there was no mention of the evil pair who brought her so much pain.
Instead, her family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of a “remarkable woman”.
Five years ago, a man revealed he had been approached by the Moors murderers as he sat swinging alone in a park in the dark.
Far from being scared, Tommy Rhattigan told Channel 5’s The Moors Murderers: Left For Dead that Hindley shot him a coy look and a smile, which lured him in.
“I can still remember now the very strong smell of perfume, and hairspray. And her eyes, she had these blue eyes. They looked really, really kind and she spoke really kindly,” he recalled.
But while Hindley asked why he was out at night alone, and if he was afraid of the dark, Ian “was looking backwards and forwards and everywhere. Just waiting.”
As an impoverished child who spent his days begging and stealing, when Hindley invited him back to their house for a jam sandwich, he couldn’t resist.
“She said ‘are you hungry?’ I said, ‘yeah’. She said, ‘come on then, do you want to come back for a jam butty and we get you off home? I said ‘yeah!'” he remembered.
But the minute they arrived back at their house and the front closed, the mood changed.
Tommy could hear muffled talking in the kitchen and when Myra brought his bread and jam into the front room, she banged it on the table.
“She had completely changed. Her eyes had completely changed. That smile wasn’t there, she asked me what was wrong,” he said.
In a move that probably saved his life, he asked for a glass of water. And why Hindley returned to the kitchen, he heard Brady snap at her, “just f***ing wait!”.
Fearing that he was in danger, he decided to escape. But instead of heading for the door, in his panic, he decided to use the window – only it wouldn’t open.
“I was panicking so much that I felt physically sick,” he said.
Finally he managed to wriggle out, but got tangled in the curtain as Hindley came into the room shouting, “the little sh*t is getting away.”
She grabbed his foot by the ankle as Brady shouted, “the b*stard”, but thankfully, his momentum kept him going.
“If I hadn’t got out of that window I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now. I know that for sure,” he said.