Mary Bell

Mary Bell

British juvenile offender convicted of murdering two boys
Date of Birth: 26.05.1957
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Mary Bell
  2. Early Life
  3. The Murders
  4. Life after Incarceration
  5. Continued Anonymity
  6. In 2009, reports emerged that Mary became a grandmother.

Biography of Mary Bell

Early Life

Mary Flora Bell, the first daughter of Betty McCrickett, was born on May 26, 1957. Her mother was a prostitute who frequently worked in Glasgow. Betty conceived Mary at the age of seventeen. For most of her life, Mary believed that her father was Billy Bell, a hardened criminal who was later arrested for armed robbery. Billy married Betty when Mary was very young. However, evidence collected by journalist Gitta Sereny suggests that Mary's stepfather and her mother were not even acquainted before her birth. According to various witnesses, Betty repeatedly attempted to kill Mary in her early years, attempting to make it look like accidents. Family members began to suspect foul play when Mary "fell" out of a window and "accidentally" ingested sleeping pills. One witness saw Betty giving Mary tablets, pretending they were sweets. Mary herself claimed to have been sexually abused; her mother forced her to sleep with men since she was only four years old.

Mary Bell

The Murders

On May 25, 1968, the day before her 11th birthday, Mary Bell strangled four-year-old Martin Brown in an abandoned house. The crime was committed by Mary alone. Before the second murder, Mary and her friend Norma Joyce Bell (no relation), aged 13, broke into and vandalized a children's institution in Scotswood. They left a note in which Mary took the blame for the child's murder. The police considered the note to be a sick joke. On July 31, 1968, Mary and Norma killed three-year-old Brian Howe, once again by strangulation, in an open lot in the same Scotswood area. According to police reports, Mary returned to the lifeless victim and carved the letter 'N' on his stomach with a razor blade. Using the same blade, she scratched the letter 'M' on Brian's hand. Mary also cut off a lock of his hair with scissors and mutilated his genitals. The testimonies of the arrested girls contradicted each other, and many details of the murders of Martin and Brian remained unclear. The jury delivered an open verdict in Brian's murder case since there was no evidence of violent death. Mary's grip was weak, and there were no signs of violence on the toddler's body. However, her involvement in Brian's death was established in the second case. In August 1968, both girls stood trial on two counts of murder by sudden and unexpected intent. On December 17, 1968, the court acquitted Norma Bell, while Mary Bell was found guilty of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. The jury took into account the testimony of the court-appointed psychiatrist, who stated that Mary exhibited "classic symptoms of psychopathy." Judge Cusack considered Mary "very dangerous to other children" and sentenced her to be detained indefinitely. Initially, Mary was sent to St. Helens, Lancashire, to the same correctional facility where, 25 years later, Jon Venables, one of the killers of James Bulger, would be placed.

Mary Bell

Life after Incarceration

After her sentencing, Mary Bell became the focus of British media attention and also gained interest from the German magazine 'Stern'. Her mother repeatedly sold stories about Mary's life to the press and provided journalists with "writings" allegedly penned by Mary. The case of the child killer resurfaced in September 1977 when Bell managed to escape from the open prison "Moore Court," where she reportedly returned after three days. The fugitive claimed to have been with boys who took her virginity. The statement was highly contradictory, considering her history of sexual exploitation by her prostitute mother. Nevertheless, Bell lost prison privileges for 28 days due to her escape. For a while, Mary lived in the South Norwood remand home, a building designed by inventor William Stanley. In 1980, at the age of 23, after spending 12 years in various institutions, Mary was granted freedom. She was given anonymity, including a new name, and Bell was given a chance to start a new life. Four years later, on May 25, 1984, Mary gave birth to her daughter, Bella. Bella knew nothing about her mother's past until 1998 when Mary and Bella were exposed by journalists. The mother and daughter were forced to leave their home, hiding their faces under sheets.

Mary Bell

Continued Anonymity

Initially, anonymity for Mary Bell's daughter was granted only until she reached adulthood. However, on May 21, 2003, Mary won a legal battle in the High Court, securing lifelong anonymity for both herself and her daughter. Since then, the court's decision to award permanent anonymity to convicted individuals in the UK is often referred to as the "Mary Bell ruling." Mary Bell became the subject of two books by Gitta Sereny: 'The Case of Mary Bell' in 1972 and 'Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell' in 1998. The second book provides a detailed account of the scenes of sexual violence inflicted upon Mary and reveals the clients of her mother, who engaged in sadomasochistic relationships.

The release of 'Cries Unheard' sparked controversy, as Mary received money for her collaboration with Gitta. Tabloid press condemned the journalist's methods, and Tony Blair's government even attempted to find legal means to prevent the publication of the book. The attempt to show that a criminal has no right to profit from their crimes was unsuccessful.

In 2009, reports emerged that Mary became a grandmother.