In the 1960s, the people of Scotswood, England, could not fathom that a child killer lived among them. The city was still recovering from the war and was considered a neglected and rough district. Many children were left unsupervised for hours to play, complete schoolwork and take care of themselves.
Among such children with a key was Mary Bell. The young girl had a reputation for violent outbursts and unruly behavior. In some cases, parents called the police because she tried to suffocate their children.
At the age of eleven, Mary Bell killed two young boys with her bare hands. Within three months of each other, four-year-old Martin Brown and three-year-old Brian Howe were found dead.
In the hands of Mary
On May 25, 1968, Martin Brown was found in an abandoned house next to a bottle of pills. The cause of his death was unknown for quite some time, as the police made almost no progress in the case.
Brian Howe, who died on July 31, 1968, was found on the ground in rubble and dirt. His legs had unusual marks and experts determined that he had been strangled by a child.
Mary Bell and her friend Norma Bell (no relation) bragged on the playground that they had murdered the boy some time after the death. During the ongoing investigation, notes written in a child’s handwriting with the cryptic messages “I kill to get back” were sent to police.
As the trail of evidence eventually led to Mary and Norma, the police attempted to speak with Mary at her home. Her father, William ‘Billy’ Bell, refused to let them in and threatened to unleash the dogs on them if they returned.
Child killer found guilty
Unable to speak to Mary directly, the police interviewed a young boy who witnessed Brian Howe’s murder. The boy explained that Mary had convinced the toddler that he had a sore throat and she could help him get better. She started by massaging his throat and tightening her grip until he choked.
That was enough evidence to arrest Mary Bell. The trial lasted nine days and she was found guilty of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility. Norma Bell was exonerated and believed to have been under the control and manipulation of Mary Bell.
The justice system wasn’t used to holding young girls, so authorities weren’t sure where to place Mary Bell. After some exaggeration, they decided to put her in a secure facility called Red Bank. She spent six years there and was later transferred to Moore Court Open Prison.
According to the Guardian, Mary Bell was “the only girl among around 20 boys at an approved school in Merseyside, she was allegedly sexually abused by a member of staff as well as by fellow inmates, to which the rest of the staff turned a blind eye.”
where is he now
Mary Bell was freed at the age of twenty-three and granted anonymity within the Order of Mary Bell. This allowed her to change her name and start a new life.
As a young adult, Mary gave birth to a daughter and led a quiet life. Until people became interested in her story and wondered where is Mary Bell now? Tabloids and reporters began following Mary and her family as they tried their best to get an updated account.
The Guardian reports: “Child killer Mary Bell was . . . in hiding after being chased from the seaside house where she lived anonymously with her 14-year-old daughter.
Much of the media frenzy stemmed from a 1998 biography called Cries Unheard: The Story of Mary Bell by journalist Gitta Serenay. Serenay received public criticism and backlash due to the fact that Mary Bell now received the remains from the book.
Serenay said: “I felt like I wanted to give her some of the money. . . because I couldn’t use it like everyone else did.”
The Resurrection of Mary Bell
Bell’s gain caused an uproar and reopened old wounds for those related to the victims. People agreed that Mary should not be allowed to receive money based on the murders she committed as a child.
The victim’s mother spoke out against Serena & Bell in an interview with the Observer: “Mary Bell died when she left prison and assumed a new identity. I thought of her as dead. I tried to have a decent life. I started to learn to hate her because she died and became someone else. Now Gitta Sereny resurrected her. Why?”
Mary and her daughter moved from town to town, sometimes going out with a sheet over their heads to escape the publicity. Mary Bell’s order continued to protect her daughter’s anonymity and was eventually extended to her granddaughter. Their names will be protected for the duration of their lives.
Mary’s mother and her life partner were not shy about giving information to the press.
The Guardian says: “Bell’s partner – a 40-year-old Geordie with a ponytail, tattoos and a lived-in look – certainly gave the reporters value for money. . . Mary was the gentlest person he had ever met, he loved her so much it hurt to say goodbye, she always wanted to work with children.
The Education of Mary Bell
Mary Bell was born in 1957 to teenage sex worker Betty McCrickett in Scotswood, England. She was exposed to her mother’s sexual practices and was “grazed” at the age of ten.
Serenia’s biography of Marie claimed that children are not innately murderous. Children’s violent crimes are often the result of not teaching them empathy and love in their first years of life. Sereny says Mary Bell was herself a victim of child abuse and an obscene environment.
Mary Bell has never confessed to her childhood crimes but is said to be a completely different person now. Her main concern is to live a normal life.