Photo of the Day

Joyce McKinney – Kirk Anderson Kidnap – Epsom Magistrates. Evidence suggested the distraught Kirk was telling the truth, and the police arrested Joyce, even though she adamantly denied the charges. Frustrated by her treatment, Joyce jumped bail and fled the country with a friend.

“Madame Mayhem

Mormon Sex in Chains Case

A cloned dog, a Mormon in mink-lined handcuffs, a former Miss World contestant and a tantalising mystery. At first it seemed a straightforward example of the oddball stories which emerge during the long, slow, news days of high summer…

Joyce McKinney said she’d fallen head-over-heels in love with the Mormon man and acknowledged stalking tracking him to England. “I loved him so much,” she told a judge, “that I would ski naked down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to.”

It has been 40 years since she committed the crime that cemented her name in history for a sex scandal that captivated Britain and America. But, Joyce McKinney’s life and story still captures worldwide interest.
“Madame Mayhem,” as she has more recently been coined, was the centre of a 1970s court case known to many as the “Mormon in chains sex case” or “The Case of the Manacled Mormon.” It was shocking and absurd for the time period as well.

McKinney is an intelligent, woman who is a former Miss Wyoming World. However, McKinney had bigger plans. These plans involved kidnapping the man of her dreams. She just didn’t want him to get away.

According to the widespread coverage in British tabloids and court documents, McKinney was arrested and charged with abducting Kirk Anderson from the front steps of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was imprisoned and chained to a bed in a cottage by McKinney and an accomplice. But, there is much much more to this complicated narrative.

For Kirk Anderson it was more horrific tale, McKinney held him hostage for 3 days in a remote Devon cottage, chained him to a bed, and forced him to have sex with her against his will.

Kirk Anderson, a 21-year-old Mormon, went to London to do his duty as a door-knocking missionary, mainly because it got him out of the way of a love struck admirer. As this admirer was a 26-year-old blonde beauty queen with a shape seductive enough to grace the pages of a girlie magazine, plenty of men wondered what his problem was.

Well for one thing, she was a trifle too obsessive for him.

Joyce McKinney came out of the Appalachians, real Redneck country, to join the Church of Latter Day Saints and swiftly proved herself anything but saintly. After failing to get Wayne Osmond of that toothsome tribe, she began a relationship with young Kirk. When he tried to break it up she followed him around America, his only escape was an overseas posting.

Hence London, 1977.

But hot on his heels came Joyce. To give us the tale of The Manacled Mormon. She hired a private detective to track down her lost love and then, aided by a remarkably compliant friend Keith May, she kidnapped him, bundling him into a car, carrying him off to “a lonely love cottage in Devon.”

Preceding the crime is a bizarre love story that captivated the English-speaking world for years.

Joyce McKinney is seen in the 1973 Miss World contest. It was discovered that Joyce was not as sweet and virginal as she had claimed to be. Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE.

The Mormon sex in chains case was a widely reported scandal involving Joyce McKinney, the perpetrator in the case in 1977. McKinney a former beauty queen made headlines when she kidnapped Mormon missionary Kirk Anderson and turned him into her sex slave. At the time, the case of the manacled Mormon made headlines both in England and in the United States.

According to Anderson, he had been abducted by McKinney from the steps of a church meetinghouse, chained to a bed, and sexually assaulted by her.

Since then, McKinney has made headlines for other odd behaviour such as purchasing a clone of her favourite dog in Korea and for suing the filmmaker who turned her court case into a documentary. McKinney fled Britain before her trial and no extradition request was made by the country so she saw no jail time. This was mostly due to the courts of the time finding the idea of a woman overcoming a man and raping him to be too preposterous to be worth trying.

This eccentric one-time kidnapper has led a bizarre life and chaining up an unsuspecting Mormon missionary for sex is just the tip of the iceberg of Joyce McKinney’s crazy-fuelled life.

The surreal life of Joyce McKinney. McKinney’s lurid and fascinating — and fascinating because it was lurid — story, of the Wyoming beauty queen and the Mormon missionary she tied to a bed in an English cottage, is the basis of Morris’ documentary, “Tabloid.”

McKinney was a brilliantly intelligent, erstwhile Miss Wyoming who came out of the Appalachians to join the Church of the Latter Day Saints (better known as the Mormons) and who, after failing to get off with Wayne Osmond, began a relationship with a certain Kirk Anderson. When he decided he’d had enough, she became seriously infatuated, following him around the country and harrassing him to such an extent that eventually he requested a posting overseas. This is how he came to be in London in 1977.

But her determination to find him was greater than his ability to escape – she hired a private detective, tracked him down and came to Britain. With her was a friend, Keith May, whose position was always ambiguous, or at least unenviable: he seems to have been besotted with Ms McKinney, but to have accepted that he stood no chance of getting anywhere because of her own obsession with Anderson.

McKinney and May then proceeded to kidnap Anderson, threatening him with replica guns, bundling him into a car and taking him to a rented cottage, where he was held captive for three days. Whilst there … well, look, this is how the London Evening News of 23 November 1977 reported the committal proceedings at Epsom magistrates court:

A young Mormon missionary told today how an ex-beauty queen kidnapped him and then made love to him while he was chained to a bed in a lonely cottage.
Kirk Anderson, 21, said the girl, Joy McKinney, and her friend, Keith May, tied down his arms and legs with leather straps, padlocks, chains and rope, so that he was spread-eagled.
May then left the room while Miss McKinney tore off his blue silk pyjamas.
‘She grabbed my pyjamas from just around my neck and tore them from my body.
‘The chains were tight and I could not move. She proceeded to have intercourse.
‘I did not want it to happen. I was very upset.’ 

And their, lip-licking readers learned, the unfortunate Kirk was chained to a bed while Joyce tore off his blue silk pyjamas to have her wicked way with him.

“She grabbed my pyjamas from just around my neck,” Kirk would tell a court later, “and tore them from my body. I was very upset.”

“YES I tore off his pyjamas, but that was because I wanted to please him … It was bombs, firecrackers and the Fourth of July every time he kissed me.”

So said former US state beauty queen Joyce McKinney in an austere British magistrate’s court while facing allegations she kidnapped an unwilling lover, chained him to a bed in a rented cottage, and forced herself upon him.

It was evidence heard during a committal hearing that rocked the Mormon Church and threw a sordid shadow over beauty pageants across America.

Apart from the blonde McKinney, the story involved a young Mormon missionary, a bed in the rented English cottage and chains connected to a pair of fluffy mink handcuffs.

While all that might sound like the ingredients from a scene out of Fifty Shades of Grey, it was a real-life case. The players were: former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney, and her friend, Keith May not forgetting the victim 21-year-old Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson.

I think it’s safe to say McKinney is kind of a nut. Her love and madness become indistinguishable. As the 1972 Miss World-Wyoming with a genius level IQ, McKinney should have had her pick of men. For some reason, perhaps his upright upbringing, she chose Kirk Anderson, a rather doughy looking Mormon. One would have thought the guy would have been thrilled be involved with a former beauty queen, but it seems Anderson picked up on something in McKinney that was extremely unsettling.

Wheels of justice: Joyce pictured with her mother Marilyn and father Davis after walking free from court.

Joyce McKinney was born in Avery County, North Carolina, in August 1949, the overindulged only child daughter of two school teachers. She first made the headlines, albeit local ones, in 1972 when she was crowned Miss Wyoming, but soon tired of the world of beauty pageants and enrolled as a drama student at Brigham Young University, in Utah, the heartland of Mormon America.

Despite the fact that McKinney later denounced the Mormon religion, she was reportedly dedicated to it for a time and had converted while staying with a Mormon family during college. Whether it was her newfound religion or her flair for the theatrical, McKinney became obsessed with the then-popular Osmond family. One of the few notable Mormon celebrity families of the 1970s.

McKinney was said to have stated it was her goal to marry into their family and she had her sights set specifically on Wayne Osmond.

McKinney was 25 when she met Kirk Anderson, a hulking 19-year-old Mormon, in drama class at Brigham Young University in Utah. She’d met Kirk, she said, in 1975 and decided she wanted “true love with a boy who could read the Bible with me.”

They had a brief affair (she says she became pregnant but miscarried). But fear of excommunication forced him to give her up, unwillingly, she thought. Unbeknown to McKinney, Anderson was overcome by guilt,  and he went to his bishop for advise, who told him to sever ties with McKinney and move away from Utah and arranged for him to go to England on missionary work.

Undaunted, a besotted McKinney was not prepared to be spurned so easily. Private detectives were hired to trace Anderson from the U.S. to Ewell in Surrey, where he was living as a door-to-door Mormon missionary.

The detective discovered he was working at a church in the Surrey village of Ewell, so she spent her life savings (£9,000) to follow him, and set off in hot pursuit.

Accompanied by a bodybuilder ‘bodyguard’ she’d hired from a Los Angeles gym, a pilot and a devoted friend named Keith May, they flew on a commercial flight to Britain in the autumn of 1977.

The pilot, Jackson Shaw, recalls being ‘impressed’ by McKinney’s ‘outstanding figure’, particularly when she wore a see-through blouse and no bra at their first meeting. ‘She had this strange wig she called Matilda which she wore whenever we went out,’ he added.

But Shaw and the bodybuilder bailed out of the adventure when they saw the fake gun and chloroform which Joyce had brought with her, realising this was not the ‘rescue’ mission she had described.

Tabloids all over the world relished in the absurd sexual tale. They dubbed the incident the “The Case of the Manacled Mormon.” The gossip rags competed vigorously to see who could come up with the most dirt about the apple pie blonde from America.

Renting a 17th-century cottage near Okehampton, she and May drove to Ewell, where May engaged their quarry in conversation by posing as a potential convert.

Armed with an imitation revolver, May confronted 21-year-old Anderson on the steps of Ewell’s Church of the Latter Day Saints, and frog-marched him to a car in which McKinney was waiting. Now with Anderson the bespectacled Mormon who was 6ft 4in tall and 17st — lying in the back chloroformed and hidden under a blanket they drove to the cottage some 200 miles to Okehampton, where his kidnappers had hired the ‘honeymoon’ cottage for £50 a week.

McKinney later said that she had packed the fridge with Anderson’s favourite food and studied The Joy of Sex in preparation for what was to come.

McKinney cooked dinner and May then manacled their prisoner to a bed — spread-eagled — with a 10ft chain. McKinney says she had made up the bed with blue silk sheets with Anderson’s initials on them. She then attempted to relax him with a cinnamon oil back rub.

McKinney recalls in the film how she ripped off and burned what she describes as his special ‘magic’ Mormon underwear with its protective ‘occultist symbols’.

She says: ‘There was only one way to make Kirk get out of Mormonism, and that was to make love to him . . . because for a Mormon missionary to have a love affair is totally taboo.’

She insists that she never raped him. It’s impossible for a woman to do so, she argues, observing crudely: ‘It’s like trying to put a marshmallow into a parking meter.’

He later told a court: ‘I couldn’t move. She grabbed the top of my pyjamas and tore them from my body until I was naked.

While May is said to have chained the prisoner to the bed, Joyce McKinney tried to get him to marry her. At first, she read scriptures to him as she attempted to persuade him that he should father her children. After repeated rejections, her tactics changed. She changed into a see-through nightie, played some romantic music, spread-eagled her captive on the bed, and is alleged to have sexually stimulated him and forced him to have sex. Anderson claimed that, fearing that he would be imprisoned for weeks, he eventually relented and agreed to marry her. As soon as his chains were loosened, he escaped and went to the police.

He told the police that during his ordeal McKinney said she would ravage him until she was sure she was pregnant. McKinney and May were arrested at a roadblock in Devon three days later and charged with false imprisonment and possessing an imitation firearm. Recalling her arrest, McKinney said the police had been ‘corrupt cops’ in the pay of the Mormons.

That’s the essence of the story and you can probably understand the media meltdown that resulted. You’ve got most of what you need for a decent tabloid sensation right here: an attractive young woman, a serious young man, kinky sex, and a religious group that might as well have been a cult for all the British hacks knew of the Mormons.

Victim: Kirk Anderson. McKinney was arrested again in 1984. And, one again, this time it also involved Kirk Anderson. He reported her for sitting in a car outside of his place of employment. Found in the car she was using was a notebook full of information about his day to day activities and movements. The trunk of her car had handcuffs and chains in it. She told police that she just wanted to talk to Anderson and see how he was doing.

McKinney’s first court appearance was a melee, the media gratefully leaping on her comment to the judge that she loved Anderson so much she ‘would have skied down Mount Everest nude with a carnation up my nose for the love of that man’.

But more than that, Ms McKinney herself was sensational. It wasn’t just that photographic evidence of her modelling career which began to become available – though the pictures of course were eventually printed – but more that when she finally got into the witness-box during a bail hearing, she revealed herself to be a star. She spoke in a Southern drawl that was fabulously exotic in itself and she had no apparent inhibition, absolutely no sense of reticence at all. All these years later and social standards have changed in Britain, but in 1977 people simply didn’t stand up in court – particularly at a bail hearing in a magistrate’s court, when there was no need to say anything – and explore the intimate details of their and their partner’s sex-lives:

‘Kirk has to be tied up to have an orgasm. I co-operated because I loved him and wanted to help him. Sexual bondage turns him on because he doesn’t have to feel guilty.
‘The thought of being powerless before a woman seems to excite him.
‘I didn’t have to give him oral sex … I did do it at his request because he likes it.’

Anderson told a court: “I couldn’t move. She grabbed the top of my pyjamas and tore them from my body until I was naked. I didn’t wish it to happen. I was extremely depressed and upset after being forced to have sex.”

This sexual assult occurred three times.

Joyce McKinney and her Californian friend, Keith May. Photo: Melbourne’s The Herald.

McKinney claimed that she was saving Anderson from a “cult” and that when they had sex on his third day in captivity it was consensual.

“He was grinning like a monkey,” she alleged. “I don’t have to beg for boys’ services. I am 38-24-36, so I don’t beg. I was Miss Wyoming.”

McKinney claimed she performed oral sex on Anderson and played bondage games to help cure his “sexual problems”.

“I can’t say I got any pleasure out of sex with Kirk,” she insisted. “I was too busy trying to satisfy him.”

But prosecutor Neil Denison told the court: “A kidnapping for the sake of or because of love is no less a kidnapping than a kidnapping for monetary gain.”

Ms McKinney’s counsel said of Mr Anderson: “Methinks the Mormon doth protest too much … you have seen the size of Mr Anderson and you have seen the size of my client.”

The ‘papers lapped it up. So apparently did the magistrates, who released her on bail and then presumably went home for a quiet lie-down.

The press could hardly wait for the real thing, the actual trial, when Ms McKinney would be charged with kidnapping. (The charge of rape could not then be brought when the victim was a man, and anyway there wasn’t anyone in the country who gave a toss about the alleged victim of the alleged crime).

The rented cottage in Devon where Mr Anderson alleged he was held for sex against his will.

She was sent to Holloway prison to await trial for false imprisonment, but amid concerns over her deteriorating mental health, she was released on bail after three months.

Now the case, which had already become a worldwide cause célèbre, was about to be given a new lease of life with a sensational twist.

The Press whisked her off to parties where she met members of the Rolling Stones and the Bee Gees, and even — in a Rolls-Royce — to the premiere of the film The Stud, where she managed to upstage its star Joan Collins.

McKinney met the similarly bailed May and the pair fled to Canada, using false passports and disguised as deaf-mute mime artistes. It was later alleged that McKinney was helped to escape by her former landlady, an Irish woman, who went with her to a West End theatrical outfitters.  There, they bought the wigs and glasses which were later used in their flight from justice.

There were several nude photos of Joyce circulating all over Los Angeles and details of a shady sex life started to emerge. The public was delighted.

The trial was due to start in May 1978, but she wasn’t there – she’d jumped bail, fled the country and arrived in America, via Ireland and Canada. By now an international fugitive, McKinney reappeared staying at the Hilton hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, disguised as a nun. Before long, the Press caught up with her and she dropped her disguise to revel in her sexual notoriety – she posed topless for a number of glamour magazines before the U.S. authorities finally caught up with her and she was arrested. Once again, she was freed on bail and, by now – 1979 – there seemed to be no appetite in the UK for forcing her extradition.

She learned that Scotland Yard considered itself well rid of her, and was certainly not going to try to get her back.

She then made her way to Atlanta, and offered to sell her story to a British newspaper. The journalist sent to meet her described how he found her in another of her bizarre disguises, this time dressed as a Red Indian.

When a rival paper dredged up adverts and nude pictures which revealed her to be a former call girl, she became hysterical with rage.

At which stage, the tabloids really went wild. Without the subjudice restrictions, they were able to print all the salacious details they’d acquired of her career in soft-core porn and every last piece of tittle-tattle that had accumulated around this extraordinary woman.

The Daily Mirror led the pack, having built up a far more substantial dossier than their rivals. At a time when The Sun was beginning to take over as the most popular ‘paper in the country, the Mirror had a fabulous story with which to fight back. It went to town and back again, even producing this book as an enduring tribute to their coverage. Apparently it’s a fantastic read. Really top quality tabloid sensationalism, with the story padded out to fill up a paperback and 16 pages of photos.

Joyce with a carnation. She famously said she would ski naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up her nose if Kirk Anderson asked her to.

She resurfaced once more in 1984, when she was arrested near Salt Lake City Airport, where Kirk Anderson – the Mormon she had kidnapped – was working.

A few years down the track and her very public humiliation had not cooled her passion for Kirk Anderson.

Anderson had thought it had all seemed over. She was charged in Utah with harassing her heart’s desire; he was now married with three children and wanted nothing more to do with her, Ever. She was arrested for stalking him outside the office where he worked. “I never expected Joyce McKinney to reappear in my life in any shape or form,” said a shaken Anderson.

Police reportedly found chains and handcuffs in the boot of her car, suggesting she was hoping to repeat her sexually motivated kidnapping.

“I just wanted to see that he was happy,” she explained. And then it was farewell to the former Miss Wyoming and the Manacled Mormon.

Locals, who knew of her racy past, treated her with suspicion, if not fear. She had a taste for litigation and was described as ‘one wild woman’. In a rare comment on the Mormon affair, she said in 1999:

‘I loved Kirk and all I really wanted was to see his blond-haired babies running round my home. ‘Nobody can understand what it is to lose the man you love to a cult, and I believe that is what the Mormons are.

Back in Britain nobody knew what a cult was.’

Years later, McKinney would make headlines again for cloning her dog and suing “Tabloid” documentary director Errol Morris, once again throwing a spotlight on McKinney, still larger than life but — if it’s possible — nuttier than ever.

The Herald’s coverage of the case for Melbourne readers. Photo: Melbourne’s The Herald newspaper.

Improbably, she made headlines again in 2008, when a woman claiming to be a Hollywood scriptwriter and calling herself Bernann McKinney (aka Joyce) turned up in South Korea.

(But as the eccentric Joyce McKinney beamed joyfully from the world’s television screens on Tuesday, vague bells began to ring.)

A ‘Californian woman’ had paid £25,000 to a South Korean laboratory to have her dead pitbull terrier cloned, in the first transaction of its kind. ‘Bernann McKinney’ had saved tissue from the ear of her beloved ‘Booger’, which was frozen after the dog died, and then used as DNA source material to produce five pitbull pups.

So was the alleged American, ex-beauty queen background and the unusual devotion to pitbull dogs. Surely it wasn’t? Could the new owner of the world’s first commercially cloned pups be the same woman who had gone on the run from British justice 30 years ago, having been the star of one of the most bizarre, entertaining and downright saucy court cases in living memory?

Cloned pups’ owner unmasked. Ms McKinney aka Bernann McKinney with one of her cloned dogs. The animal-lover, who was thrust into the limelight after her pet dog was cloned by Korean scientists, at first vehemently denied that she is was the former beauty queen accused of a bizarre and salacious sex scandal that fascinated the world. Photo: AFP/GETTY.

Reports from Seoul, explaining that ‘Bernann McKinney’ (aka Ms McKinney) had paid for the procedure to create five genetically identical replicas of her pet in the first transaction of its kind led to furious speculation about her true identity.

For veteran journalists, there was something oddly familiar about the dog lover who had paid a scientist to have five puppies cloned from her pit bull, Booger.

The features were older and heavier, but they were remarkably similar to a former Miss Wyoming whose antics provided shock and titillation in equal measure in the late 1970s.

Initially she denied it, but eventually she had to admit that, yes, she was Joyce McKinney.

Through tears, she explained that she went public with her efforts to replicate Booger, who died two years previous; hoping people would be able to focus on that story rather than the “garbage” of the past.

British tabloids first recognized the blond woman’s smiling face when she appeared in news photographs this past week with the five pit bull pups she paid South Korean scientists to clone. McKinney, who initially denied a connection between the two women, acknowledged that she was one and the same after the AP ran a story noting the striking similarities in arrest records and court documents for the names Bernann McKinney and Joyce McKinney. They had the same birth date and Social Security numbers, the same hometown of Newland, N.C., and Joyce McKinney’s middle name is Bernann.

But McKinney said that, as far as she’s concerned, the Joyce McKinney of then, 31 years ago doesn’t exist. She maintains her innocence and says the woman of all those years ago is a “figment of the tabloid press. … I don’t want that garbage in with the puppy story.”

“It’s taken years of therapy to get past this,” she said. “We go to church and serve the Lord and try to lead good lives and do good things.”

The revival of interest in the story led the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris to produce his 2010 film, Tabloid, based on the media sensation surrounding the story. The film gives extra details, from press reports of the day and from participants in the story, to the use of a (possibly fake) gun during Anderson’s abduction, and Anderson being tied up during his alleged rape by McKinney. The film also gives further details regarding McKinney’s work as a call girl, earning funds for her team’s international adventure by offering bondage and S&M services around the time she became obsessed with Anderson.

When director Errol Morris offered to “clear her name” with a documentary about tabloid excess, she leapt at the chance. McKinney told filmmakers that she is an “incurable romantic,” and that it is impossible for a woman to rape a man.

While the film suffered from having to rely on McKinney’s dubious account of events — Keith May died in 2004 and Kirk Anderson, now a travel agent in Utah, refused to speak — its producers say they wanted to take her version of events ‘at face value’.

The question which still hangs over the whole saga — whether the bondage sex was consensual or coerced — is never answered. Tabloid’s producer, Mark Lipson, believes that even if Anderson had willingly gone to the cottage and slept with McKinney, once the story broke, he would have been under enormous pressure from his church to pin the blame on her.

One former Mormon missionary, Troy Williams, says in the film that the guilt that a pure young believer like Anderson would have felt over his pre-marital sex ‘could have been overwhelming’. Williams, who does confirm the idea that Mormons wear ‘sacred’ protective underwear to guard their chastity, said the McKinney story had become a cautionary tale told to young Mormons about the dangers of rapacious women. To most of the public, however, it was simply a jaw-dropping saga of sexual obsession.

Her story was also documented in a novel titled, “Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon” by Anthony Delano in 1978, covering her court case, and the documentary aptly called, “Tabloid,” by Academy Award-wining director and filmmaker Errol Morris, which centred around the media frenzy that followed.

In Morris’s documentary film, he brings to life the fascinating true story of the wildly eccentric, bizarre and most likely delusional character of Joyce McKinney.

Joyce McKinney was a beauty queen in the 1970s and was a former Miss Wyoming before going to Brigham Young University, in Utah, to study drama.

Like McKinney’s life, Morris’ documentary takes you on a surreal and almost unbelievable journey into the heart and mind of McKinney, whose actions were partly inspired by Theodore Dreiser’s “The Second Choice,” a short story she read in high school.

“I’ve always been attracted to tabloid stories,” says Morris. “They involve people who have stepped outside the normal parameters of human existence, but they are not so outside of our own experiences as to seem unintelligible—people who, like in the case of Joyce McKinney, have done things that are truly remarkable and even close to being unbelievable. These kinds of stories represent a kind of portal—a wormhole in reality. You can go through and discover something utterly remarkable that you would not be aware of otherwise.”

We are a curious species shaped by our heart’s obsessions. Sometimes we get trapped on spin cycle and can’t escape the lies of our own deluded narratives. These head trips are often more powerful and pleasing than the reality we live, where life can be hard, boring, cruel and, most importantly, too real.

Promised that the film would “clear her name,” McKinney claims it portrayed her as a sex-crazed stalker instead.. Director Morris admits: “Joyce was amazing. We used to joke: if there was an Academy Award for best performance in a documentary, she’d win.” But McKinney loathes the film: “It’s not my story. What they did was unconscionable.”

She insists she and Anderson had a consensual romance at their Devon cottage and tales of abduction and rape were concocted by the Mormon Church. Visually impaired and using a guide dog, she alleges that producers broke into her home and threatened her dog would die if she didn’t sign release papers for the documentary. McKinney claims that producer Mark Lipson broke into her home and threatened: “Sign it! Sign it or the dog will die!” he allegedly raged.

Puppy love: ”Bernann McKinney’ (aka Joyce McKinney) with one of the pitbull pups cloned from the ear of her beloved ‘Booger’. Want your precious pet to live forever? South Korea’s dog cloning clinic makes it possible. Bernann Mckinney aka Joyce McKinney with her cloned pit bull terrier dogs at the Seoul National University. Since 2006, the facility has cloned nearly 800 dogs, commissioned by owners or state agencies seeking to replicate their best sniffer and rescue dogs. Photograph: (Getty)

In January 2016, McKinney filed suit against Errol Morris, claiming that she had been misrepresented in the film and that Morris and others related to the documentary’s production had broken into her home, stolen personal items related to the case, and threatened the life of her service dog if McKinney did not sign release papers allowing them to use her footage for the film. Legal representatives for Morris stated, “Evidence will show that [McKinney] willingly — in fact, eagerly — participated in the lengthy interview that is featured in the film.”

Beyond pursing the idea of absolute truth, Morris said he was “really interested in how people see the world. How [Joyce] saw the story, how she saw herself in the story, is a big part of the story for me.”

And, as far as the truth about what happened in Devon, there’s only McKinney’s version available. Anderson’s not talking, and May, McKinney’s accomplice, died in 2004.

“This is not a claim that there is no such thing as truth,” Morris said. “On the contrary, there is such a thing. We may not be able to grab ahold of it, but there is such a thing. Something happened in that love cottage.”

By the late 1990s, Joyce McKinney was back in her home state of North Carolina, dogged by ill health and often in a wheelchair, living on benefits in a remote holding with three ponies and a fiercely devoted pit bull called Hamburger for company. “I love those pit bulls,” she explained. “They’re such sympathetic animals.”

She admitted in 2011, sitting in her small, junk-filled house outside the California town of Riverside — which she shares with an elderly male friend named Elliott — the years have not been kind to Joyce McKinney.

There has been no romance in her life since the manacled Mormon, she says. ‘I was afraid to have a love affair of any kind after Kirk, I was afraid to kiss a man. So I chose just to be celibate. As Bridget Bardot once said: “I gave my youth to men and I give my old age to dogs.” Dogs and children love Joyce McKinney, they sense in me an innocence, a gentleness.’

Now 66, she says she remains an ‘incurable romantic’ — yet the overriding impression is of a woman whose entire adult life has been defined by the fallout from those extraordinary days in Okehampton. (In his only public pronouncement since his kidnap, Kirk Anderson said 20 years ago that revisiting the episode was ‘like scraping a scab off a wound’.)

For her part McKinney — who even rang the Utah cinema showing Tabloid to see if Anderson had come to watch it — will not let go.

‘He loved me, too,’ she says bluntly. ‘This is not a story of unrequited love. Kirk chased me. The guy was an incredible romantic.’ So determined is she to prove that it was not a kidnap but a consensual stay in the cottage that she is working on a book that she says will set the story straight.

She remains as pathetically deluded as ever, seeing an international Mormon conspiracy to ruin her behind every setback in her life. She even claims that the faith financed the new film (it didn’t), though that has not stopped her attending half-a-dozen screenings across the U.S.

Typically eccentric, she likes to arrive in disguise, then jump up at the end, stunning the audience by yelling: ‘I’m Joyce McKinney!’

When she is at home, she would have anyone believe she spends much of her time taking calls from Hollywood producers and stars clamouring to turn her life story into a film. ‘Kirsten Dunst called me the other day. She wants to buy the rights to my story,’ she revealed breezily. ‘I was kind of flattered. But she doesn’t look like me.’

No one seems to know quite how McKinney supports herself, given that there is no evidence she has ever had a job since the 1977 scandal. The handful of people who know her believe she survives off money that her elderly father give her from his savings.

She may have few human friends, but she has her animals. She says she wants to rescue dogs from the local pound and train them to help handicapped people. ‘I’m really good at training dogs,’ she says.

In her home town of Minneapolis — a tiny, working-class community nestled among the thick woods of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains — the locals had a rather different story to tell about the woman who moved from there to California years ago. Several recalled the time she threatened to set her snarling pit bull on the sheriff and his deputies when they went to serve papers on her for a local misdemeanour.

The film may portray her as a loveable eccentric, but few people there remember the funny side of Joyce McKinney. Her parents still live in the small weather boarded house where she grew up, and the consensus among the neighbours is that she was the sort of person you wanted to avoid. She had a reputation for suing anyone for anything, including a neighbour whose barking dogs McKinney claimed were disturbing her. She was in trouble with police on several occasions, including alleged burglary and soliciting in 1994. In the same year, she was briefly committed for psychiatric treatment and doctors found she had been abusing cocaine, morphine, and cannabis.

During 2004, she was charged with instructing a 15-year-old boy to break into a house in the neighbouring state of Tennessee, apparently to raise money to buy a false leg for a beloved horse. She left Minneapolis for California soon afterwards.

So will there be another chapter in the strange story of Joyce McKinney?

The film’s producer, Mark Lipson, believes her exploits would make a great musical. ‘She sees herself as this princess and she crosses the ocean with her conspirators to save her prince,’ he says. ‘There’s something really operatic about this story.’ So could we yet see the story of the Mormon and the pneumatic blonde retold on the stage? Where Joyce McKinney is concerned, sadly anything seems possible.

McKinney never did write the book of her life, but as long as Joyce McKinney lives and breaths, she may never be forgotten … she won’t let us.

Forty years after her bizarre exploits scandalised Britain, it is hard to reconcile the overweight figure who now shuffles around a scruffy Californian home with the curvy blonde bombshell whose story created such a splash of colour in the depths of the dreary, strike-torn Seventies.
I’m elderly now, I have a heart condition, I’m crippled and partially blind,’ she said. ‘I’m just a little old lady, looking back, eyes misting, on an incredible lost love.’

“This isn’t what I wanted,” she lamented. “I just wanted a little house with Kirk. To be able to have a hot dinner with him when he gets home from work. To stand by him. Why can’t I have that?”

It would seem that many years on, the notorious Miss McKinney had once gone to extraordinary lengths to get her longed-for ‘babies’.

In the end, they were to be the offspring of a dead pitbull ear, rather than that of a bespectacled Mormon trussed in the missionary position in a honeymoon cottage on Dartmoor, next to a pair of ripped, light blue silk pyjamas.

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