19 mag 2010

The case of Mary Bell.

A portrait of a child who murdered.

In England, Mary Bell at the age of 11,

murdered and mutilated two small boys on separate occasions,

solely for the pleasure and excitement' of killing.

"Murder isn't that bad, we all die sometime anyway." M.Bell

She's known as the youngest serial killer on record.

Independent accounts from family members suggest strongly that her mother had attempted to kill Mary and make her death look accidental more than once during the first few years of her life. Mary herself says she was subject to repeated sexual abuse, her mother forcing her from the age of four to engage in sex acts with men.

Mary Bell strangled Martin Brown on 25 May 1968, the day before her 11th birthday.

She was believed to have committed this crime alone. Between that time and the second killing, she and her friend Norma Bell (no relation), age thirteen, broke into and vandalised a nursery in Scotswood, leaving notes that claimed responsibility for the Brown killing. The Newcastle police dismissed this incident as a prank.

On 31 July 1968, the two took part in the death, again by strangulation, of three-year-old Brian Howe. Police reports concluded that Mary Bell had gone back after killing him to carve an “N” into his stomach with a razor; this was then changed using the same razor but with a different hand to an “M”. Mary Bell also used a pair of scissors to cut off bits of Brian Howe’s hair and to mutilate his genitals. As the girls were so young and their testimonies contradicted each other, what happened has never been entirely clear. Martin Brown’s death was initially ruled an accident as there was no evidence of foul play. Eventually, his death was linked with Brian Howe’s killing and in August, the two girls were charged with two counts of manslaughter.

On 17 December 1968, Norma was acquitted but Mary was convicted of “manslaughter due to diminished responsibility”, the jury taking their lead from her diagnosis by court-appointed psychiatrists who described her as displaying “classic symptoms of psychopathology”. She was sentenced to be “detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure”: effectively an indefinite sentence of imprisonment.

Bell was released from custody in 1980, having served 12 years, and was granted anonymity to start a new life (under a new name) with her daughter, who was born in 1984. For a time, Bell lived in Cumberlow in South Norwood (a house built by Victorian inventor William Stanley). his daughter did not know of her mother’s past until Bell’s location was discovered by reporters and she and her mother had to leave their house with bed sheets over their heads.

The daughter’s anonymity was originally protected 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. Any court order permanently protecting the identity of someone is consequently known as a Mary Bell Order.


Martin Brown

Male - Age 4

Death: May 1968

Brian Howe

Male - Age 3

Death: July 1968

Watch the Mary Bell case

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