Mary Flora Bell (born 26 May 1957) is an English woman who, as a child aged 10–11 in 1968, strangled to death two male toddlers in Scotswood, a district in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was convicted in December 1968 of the manslaughter of Martin Brown (aged 4) and Brian Howe (aged 3)
Since her release from prison in 1980, she has lived under a series of pseudonyms. Her identity has been protected by a court order, which has also been extended to protect the identity of her daughter. In 1998, Bell collaborated with Gitta Sereny on an account of her life, in which she details the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her prostitute mother and her clients.
Bell's mother Betty (née McCrickett) was a prostitute who was often absent from the family home, travelling to Glasgow to work. Mary (nicknamed May) was her first child, born when Betty was 17 years old. It is not known who Mary's biological father was. For most of her life she believed it to be Billy Bell, a habitual criminal who was later arrested for armed robbery, but Bell married McCrickett when Mary was a baby.
Independent accounts from family members strongly suggest that Betty had more than once attempted to kill Mary and make her death look accidental during her first few years of life. Her family was suspicious when Mary "fell" from a window, and when she "accidentally" consumed sleeping pills. On one such occasion, an independent witness saw Betty giving the pills to her daughter as sweets. Mary herself says she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse, her mother forcing her from the age of four to engage in sexual acts with men.
After the "fall" Mary experienced, it was reported that she had suffered brain damage as a result, but now this damage is attributed to childhood abuse from her own mother. Mary had damage to her prefrontal cortex, an area associated with voluntary movements and decision-making.
On 25 May 1968, the day before her 11th birthday, Mary Bell strangled 4-year-old Martin Brown in a derelict house. She was believed to have committed this crime alone. Between then and a second killing, she and a friend, Norma Joyce Bell (1955–1989; no relation), aged 13, broke into and vandalised a nursery in Scotswood, leaving notes that claimed responsibility for the killing. The police dismissed this incident as a prank.
On 31 July 1968, the two girls took part in the strangulation death of 3-year-old Brian Howe on wasteland in the same Scotswood area. Police reports concluded that Mary Bell later returned to his body to carve an "M" into the boy's abdomen and used scissors to cut off some of his hair, scratch his legs, and mutilate his genitals.
Conviction and imprisonment
On 17 December 1968, at Newcastle Assizes, Norma Bell was acquitted but Mary Bell was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The jury took their lead from her diagnosis by court-appointed psychiatrists who described her as displaying "classic symptoms of psychopathy". The judge, Justice Cusack, described her as dangerous and said she posed a "very grave risk to other children". She was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure, effectively an indefinite sentence of imprisonment. She was initially sent to Red Bank secure unit in Newton-Le-Willows, Lancashire – the same facility that would house Jon Venables, one of James Bulger's killers, 25 years later.
After her conviction, Bell was the focus of a great deal of attention from the British press and also from the German magazine Stern. Her mother repeatedly sold stories about her to the press and often gave reporters writings she claimed to be by her daughter. Bell herself made headlines in September 1977 when she briefly escaped from Moor Court open prison, where she had been held since her transfer from a young offenders institution to an adult prison a year earlier. Her penalty for this was a loss of prison privileges for 28 days.
Life after prison
In 1980, 23-year-old Bell was released from Askham Grange open prison after serving 12 years and was granted anonymity (including a new name), allowing her to start a new life. Bell allegedly came back to Tyneside on several occasions and had lived there for some time after her release. Four years after finishing her sentence she had a daughter on 25 May 1984. The girl knew nothing of her mother's past until reporters discovered Bell's location in 1998 and the pair had to leave their home with bedsheets over their heads.
Bell's daughter's anonymity was originally protected only until she reached the age of 18. However, on 21 May 2003, Bell won a High Court battle to have her own anonymity and that of her daughter extended for life. Consequently, any court order permanently protecting the identity of a convict in Britain is sometimes known as a "Mary Bell order". The order was later updated to include Mary's granddaughter (b. January 2009), who was referred to as "Z".
Mary's current whereabouts are unknown.
Text sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Bell