Back in college, I wrote a bunch of papers for my Criminology class, but this one is special to me. I’ve penned quite a few during my academic journey, yet only a select few have earned a place in my pride collection. I decided to convert this paper into a more reader-friendly blog post instead of keeping it in its original, formal college paper format. So, in this post, we’ll explore the intriguing life of Mary Bell, who, as a child, became a serial killer.
Her story is a chilling one, and delving into it sheds light on the complexities of her actions and the factors that contributed to her tragic path.
The paper has been formatted into a regular blog post… Not a college paper. Let’s take a look into the life of a child serial killer.
She was a 10-year-old child from Newcastle, England who strangled two little boys by the names of Brian Howe and Martin Brown in 1968.
As a child, our minds are so fragile that we are just carbon copies of our living environments and surroundings. We are easily influenced by what we see. So as a child, we think that is how life is supposed to be. But, as we grow up, we might take the things we see in our childhood into our adulthood.
A prime example of the things we learn as a child is that we take a lot of our influences from our parents and other people we are around. Which depending on our living environments could be a good or bad influence. But, in the case of Mary, her childhood showed that she was disturbed and needed help. If steps were taken early she might not have done those terrible things, but we may never know.
Mary was born in Newcastle, England on May 26, 1957. Her father was a habitual offender, always being arrested for burglary. Her mother, Betty Bell, was a prostitute. Neither one of them wanted Mary. They dropped her off at relatives’ houses and left her there for days at a time. Once Betty Bell brought Mary to an adoption agency and gave her to a woman who was moving to Australia. Mary’s aunt followed her sister to get her back.
Almost killed by her mother
When she was a baby her mother tried to kill her to make it look like an accident. By the time Mary was one year old, she nearly overdosed on some pills found in the nook of an old record player. When she was three, she and her brother were caught eating little blue pills along with candy their Aunt Cath had given them. Betty claims they must have taken them out of her purse when she wasn’t looking.
Investigators believed Mary’s mother had Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome because she didn’t want Mary, but continually put her in harm’s way. But always came back for Mary. Most of the time, Betty continually made up stories about Mary just to get sympathy from others. She once told her family that Mary was hit by a truck. Then told them the next day it was untrue. Mary was at a friend’s house who temporarily adopted her. Mary said she was used as one of her mother’s sex props, but didn’t say how. This could have possibly contributed to her devious behavior.
She was a very intelligent little girl who knew how to manipulate people with the bat of an eye. Growing up her mother was a prostitute and her father wasn’t around much because he was in and out of jail for burglary.
Mary had an inability to bond with others, which constantly made her an outcast. But she reacted to other people the way she was treated by her mother. Mary was a natural-born manipulator and very intelligent and preyed on people who were weaker than her.
Her victims Brian Howe and Martin Brown were weaker than her, by no means. When Mary was 10 years old, she walked up to two young girls at her school and asked them “What happens if you choke someone, will they die?” She then proceeded to put her hands around one girl’s throat and squeezed until her face went purple, then she let go and walked away.
The same as she did to Brian and Martin. But she didn’t let go of their throats. Her own violations as a child may have caused her to violate others. If she had not been taken into custody more killings would have probably happened. As weird as it may be she did not show remorse for killing the 2 boys. But in fact, she gloated running around school screaming “I’m a murderer!” She would also inject herself into the criminal investigations of the murders. Drawing pictures in a notebook of a child lying in the same position as martin brown was found, with a bottle near him that said tablets.
The teacher did not even reprimand Mary about the drawings. It seems as if people ignored what she was doing and just put it off as ”kids being kids.” But if I had a child or seen a child that did half the things Mary did, authorities would have been called. Children do not just go around doing the things she did.
Maybe she was craving the attention of her mother, some underlying feeling of having someone if not her mother to care for her. She watched her parents engage in destructive behavior which caused her to spiral off because of the lack of love, loss, and hate which caused her madness.
But in the end, it’s her parent’s fault for not caring and the people around her who could have helped. The past is the past and we can’t change that, so in closing, this shows what a bad childhood can do to make the child make bad decisions.
She needs Counseling
She went to many counselors throughout her childhood. These counselors were in general agreement with her. Dr. Robert Orton stated that “she exhibited the classic symptoms of psychopathology” (Scott, 2008). Since she did not show any emotions towards others. She did not feel sympathetic for killing Brian Howe and Martin Brown. But Dr. Orton did not really see a reason for criminal motivation on why she killed them.
Those who are lacking feelings are actually experiencing a disturbing emotional state. Dr. Orton believed this was due to the way she was raised. Her mother was not affectionate like other mothers normally do. She constantly felt like an outcast due to rejection from her mother, Betty Bell.
Dr. Westbury examined Mary as a child and said that “manipulation of people was her primary aim”. (Scott, 2008) She was a very intelligent girl who learned manipulation from Betty, who herself was manipulative and overdramatic; she played the part of being a mother. Mary did not interact with other children, but when she did it was violent. She was very rambunctious running through the playground yelling, and asking the other kids morbid questions.
Teachers and other adults saw this going on and did nothing. They thought it was kids being kids. It may have started out as kids being kids. However, it could have escalated when she realized she could have the power.
The Philosophy of Red Bank
While at The Philosophy of Red Bank, the facility where Mary was incarcerated, Mary was blocking out her troubled past and was discouraged from making any attempts to find reasoning as to why she was killed. A Consultant child psychiatrist said that she was trying very hard to convince people she was masculine. (Scott, 2008) At one point while incarcerated, she wanted to have a sex change but was denied by a doctor. (Scott, 2008) Mary said it was the thought of not being her, which was why it was appealing.
She could have suffered from Manic Depression Disorder, MDD diagnostic criteria include increased self-esteem, fantasies, talkative, and goal-oriented (Criteria for Manic Episode, 2000-2006). She had met most, if not all of the criteria. As an adult, she had the depressive phase of MDD, which was extreme sadness. This is evidence that she now had remorse for killing Brian Howe and Martin Brown.
She to convince herself that she had a twin sister named Paula who might have killed Brian and Martin. She became two people, the child, and the adult. But some thought that Mary was not yet thinking at an adult mentality because Mary made a transformation without the proper psychological help because as an adult she wanted to have a normal life when she was released.
Although Mary has had extensive psychological help, it doesn’t explain much on why she acted the way she did. She rejected most of the help from the facilities. Reading into her past, most of what you would find is that a lot of what happened to her as a child led her to be a serial killer.
She has had many overdoses as a young child. Her mother, Betty Bell would administer to her pills as early as one-year-old that caused her first overdose. Betty claimed they must have taken them out of her purse or other random places. When she was three years old, Mary and her brother were caught eating little blue pills. They wouldn’t exactly say what pills she took, but again Betty claims she found them in a nook of an old record player.
Soon after that had happened Mary had a serious overdose caused by eating what would be a fatal dose of iron pills that belonged to her mother. As a result, she had to get her stomach pumped. Mary, along with a friend of hers, was given “Smarties” candy by Betty, which made Mary and her friend very sick. Overdoses, for the most part of a child, can cause severe brain damage. She may have been a helpless victim of the world’s cruel way of life as a child which drove her to a life of crime by a series of major overdoses.
“In nineteen sixty-eight an eleven year old girl named Mary Bell.
Killed four year old Martin Brown, two months later strangled Brian Howe.
Mary Bell, child from hell.
Where are you now?
Are you doing well?”
Lyrics from the song “Mary Bell” by Macabre
On May 25, 1968, Mary Bell and her friend Norma lured 4-year-old Martin Brown over to a building to show him something interesting. It was a lie, just to get him alone with them. Martin did not know that today would be his last day alive.
He was last seen alive by people at 3:15 pm, he was found dead at 3:30 pm. Three boys looking for some scrap wood found him in the abandoned house lying on his back by a window. Scared, the boys ran to get help from a construction worker who remembered give Martin cookies earlier that day. He had blood and saliva sliding down his cheek and chin. The construction worker tried to revive him but Martin was already dead.
Mary and Norma went to tell Martin’s Aunt about what had happened. There was an accident and they thought it was Martin and there was a lot of blood. After the police were called to the scene, they couldn’t find any signs of violence just a bottle of aspirins nearby. They assumed he took them all. Examining the body they found no visible strangulation marks or any other marks on Martin’s little body. Examiners ruled his Death was accidental.
Tormenting the Brown family
Mary and Norma asked Martin’s Aunt “Do you miss Martin? Do you cry for him? Does June miss him?” All the while asking these questions they were always grinning. All their questions were giving her the creeps. So she told them to leave and not to come back. Martin’s mother June, heard a knock on the door opened it up and Mary was there asking her to see Martin. June said to Mary “No pet, he’s dead.” She replies “Oh I know, I want to see him in his coffin.” (Scott, 2008) After, being disturbed by Mary’s comments she slammed the door in her face.
May 27, 1968, Mary and Norma broke into their school and posted notes on the walls saying things like “we did kill Martian Brown F*** of you Ba*****” and also “You are micey y becurse we murdered Martian go Brown you bete look out THERE are murders about By Fannyand and auld Faggot you screws” [sic] (Scott, 2008) along with other messages.
The week of Martin’s death Mary was the only one who wrote in her school notebook about his death. She wrote about information only the killer would know. Certain information was not given out to the public like the bottle of aspirins lying next to Martin’s body. She also drew a picture to go with her writing about Martin, calling him the boy who just lay down and died. This entry did not strike the teacher as odd.
A couple of months past and many could not get over the loss of Martin Brown. July 31, 1968, Mary and Norma lured Brian Howe to follow them down Crosshill Road. Stopping beside a shop called Dixon’s shop, to lead him to a little pool where tadpoles are. They came up to a big long tank that had a big hole with little holes around it. Norma called to Brian “Are you coming there’s a lady coming on the number 82 and she has boxes of sweets” (Scott, 2008).
Once they got inside, Mary started to squeeze his throat asking if he had a sore throat. He started to cry. Mary now told Brian that the lady with the sweets doesn’t go to where they’re at. Mary walks over to the blocks, not too far away. She walks over and he and Norma follow, she proceeds to tell Brian he has to lay down behind the blocks.
She sat on his stomach telling him to look up and lift his chin. Being three years old he does what she says, Mary then put her hands around little Brian’s neck and told him to put his chin down. Squeezing his neck so hard, her fingertips turned white. Brian started to struggle, so Mary hit him in the head with a piece of wood. While Norma just stood there. After a few minutes, laying there senseless his face was white and bluish with purple lips.
Covering it up
They left him there behind the blocks to go home and get something. They came back with a pair of scissors and a Gillette razor. Using the instruments to make puncture marks on his thighs, skinning his genitals partially, and cutting his hair. Also cutting his ear and carved the letter “N” into his chest, which later was turned into an “M”.
They left him there and went on their merry way. Mary and Norma ran into Brian’s sister Pat who was looking for him. Very worried about her brother she had local people help look for him. Mary and Norma helped look for Brian, all the while knowing where he’s at. They come to the industrial area, where the kids often play.
Mary pointed to some large concrete blocks and says to Pat “He might be playing behind the blocks or between them.” Norma chimed in and said, “He never goes over there”. Mary wanted Pat to be shocked when found her brother. Pat decided to leave and call the local authorities to look for him.
The Newcastle police found Brian’s body at 11:10 pm that night. He was found behind the blocks covered in grass and purple weeds. Police found the wounds too bizarre because there was a slight playfulness to it with a hint of a horrifying tenderness to it which made it even more terrifying.
Reading Information about her over and over makes me think that she probably would have gotten away with it. If she didn’t gloat as much as she did. With the absurd questions, she asked Martin’s Aunt and his Mother for the notes she and Norma left in the school. She incriminated herself, by putting herself in the Police investigations. She wanted to get caught as some criminals do. At 11 years old she should have had other things on her mind than some obsession with strangulation.
Toxic mother profits
Mary Bell was housed at the Red Bank Special Unit from February 1969 until November 1973. While incarcerated there Betty Bell profited from her daughter’s unsavory reputation. Selling her story to the tabloids, and encouraged her daughter to write letters and poems that could be easily sold to the press.
Betty wanted her daughter to see how much she put up with being the mother of a well-known child slayer. Betty compared herself to Jesus saying “Jesus was only nailed to the cross, I’m being hammered.” To Betty, Mary’s life was an open book for all to read and for her to collect the profits made for humiliating her daughter even more than what the paparazzi has done.
The great escape of Mary Bell
After some time she was transferred to a less secure facility in 1977, Mary escaped. Two young men offered Mary and her fellow runaway a ride. In her short-lived time out, she lost her virginity. The guy she slept with later sold his story to the tabloids and made assumptions that she had escaped to get pregnant.
“As time went on, my nightmare was the press,” said Mary. “I never could understand what they wanted from me.” (Scott, 2008) Before her parole in 1980, Mary was moved to a hostel, where she met a married man who was determined to show her she wasn’t a lesbian.
When she later found out she was pregnant by him, it was an ethical disaster. After serving twelve years in prison for killing two babies her first thought was to kill the baby inside of her. She did have an abortion because she felt she had no choice.
Mary Bell Released
When she was released at age 23 on May 14, 1980, and stayed in Suffolk. Her first job was at the local children’s nursery. But many seemed to disapprove of Mary working there. She then moved back in with her mother and took a waitress job.
Also attended university, but was too discouraged to stick with it. But then, she met a man and became pregnant. There was apprehension over whether Mary the girl who had murdered two children should be able to become a mother herself.
Mary felt she was ready to be a mother and she was allowed to keep the child, which was born in 1984. After Mary had her child the baby was technically considered to be a ward of the court until 1992.
She went on with her life and had a daughter of her own. She claims to be absolutely unlike the “psychopathic” child killer she once was. Somehow, she had made the change, from a child killer to a loving mother without proper treatment. She declares to have a new moral awareness and profound regret for her crimes. “If you were to X-ray her insides, everyone could see anything that had been broken, was now fixed,” Mary said.
Run her out of town!
She eventually met a man and fell in love, then settled in a small town. But the probation officer had to inform the local authorities of her presence, and soon the villagers were marching through the street with “Murderer Out!” signs. She and her daughter were granted anonymity till the child was 18 years of age. But again with the press being her biggest fear, they found where she was and had to move again. Since the birth of her child, she has had to move six or seven times and had to change identities 3 times.
Telling her story in her own words
Mary worked with a woman named Gitta Sereny who wrote in 1972 a book called The Case of Mary Bell when Mary was only 15. When Mary was released she wanted people to know the real story. So, Gitta and Mary co-wrote a sequel book about her story called Cries Unheard: Why children kill, which was published in 1998. Because Mary thought if she wrote a book and told the story the press would leave her alone.
But that backfired, they were more interested now than ever. The press now found where Mary was living and exposed her as the Mary Bell, the child killer to her daughter. They left their house trying to hide so the paparazzi didn’t get any pictures. After that Mary couldn’t take it anymore and did what she had to, to protect her daughter.
Mary Bell no longer exists
With the publishing of these books, the parents or family members of the victims that were killed by the hands of Mary are outraged by the fact that Mary gets part of the profit made from these books. They feel with her permanent anonymity that she should not get money. Because her name is not Mary Bell anymore, Mary Bell does not exist, she is just a memory.
The profits made from these books should go to help the family of the victims or even go to a charity of some sort to help children.” They had a protest in Newcastle lead by June Richardson and Eileen Corrigan who each had a child killed by Mary in 1968 when she was 11. They have now launched a petition demanding a change in the law so that criminals cannot make money from their crimes.” (BBC News, 1998)
On May 21, 2003, BBC Online reported that Mary Bell had been granted lifelong anonymity. The court decided that Mary and her daughter’s identity will be kept anonymous to protect them. No one can know where they are at. She can now let go of living in constant fear of being exposed.
The sister of Martin Brown, one of Bell’s child victims, said the decision was “a mockery”. “The victims are not the heart of the subject – no one was interested in our family,” she said. But Martin’s mother June Richardson said “The best that could happen would be for her to remain anonymous and just vanish and we can get on with our lives.” (Scott, 2008) Even though that is what Mary has been trying to do all along since she was released from Red Bank was to have a normal life.
The case comes to an end…
I had never heard of Mary Bell before I wrote this paper. This paper was started in October of 2008 and completed for a final grade in November 2008. If any of you were wondering… I aced this paper. What are your thoughts on this case? Have you ever heard of Mary Bell before? Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are!
Until tomorrow, Have a great day! Remember you are a badass!