Mary Bell: the 11-year-old serial killer

Emily Aiken ‘20, Editor-in-Chief

Mary Bell was born on May 26, 1957 in Newcastle, England. Almost 11 years later, she commited her first murder, and ended up killing two young boys in the United Kingdom. 

Mary had a very traumatic childhood. When she was born, her 16-year-old mother, Betty, immediately said to the doctors, “Take that thing away from me.” She emotionally and physically abused Bell. She began selling Bell to prostitution at the age of four. Betty even attempted to kill her on several occasions, feeding her enough pills to result in several overdoses. 

Her childhood was the perfect recipe for disaster. She became obsessed with death and had developed patterns of violent behavior. On May 11, 1968, Mary was playing with a three-year-old boy when he fell from the top of an air raid shelter. It was ruled as an accident. The very next day, three mothers came forward claiming to police that Mary tried to choke their daughters. After a brief interview, there were no charges pressed. But a few weeks later on May 25, Mary strangled Martin Brown, a four-year-old boy, in an abandoned house.  Police found the body next to an empty bottle of pills, so his death was ruled an accident. Mary later broke into a nursery and vandalized it. She left notes behind admitting to the murder. Police believed it was just a harmless prank. 

Two months later, Mary, now 11, and her 13-year-old friend Norma Joyce Bell (no relation) strangled three-year-old Brian Howe in a suburb of Newcastle. Mary later returned to the crime scene and carved the letter “M” into his stomach and mutilated the body with scissors. 

Police began their investigation, and both of the girls were acting extremely strangely. Both were telling very different stories, and Mary’s high interest in the investigation itself was concerning. When the girls were finally arrested, Mary’s response was “fine by me.” 

Mary was found guilty in late December. Her friend Norma was acquitted because they thought she had just fallen under Mary’s bad influence. Bell served a 12-year sentence and got out in 1980 when she was only 23 years old. Four years later, she had a daughter, but her media presence has been highly skewed ever since she got out. Some view her as someone trying to right her wrongs, while others still see her as dangerous and side with the families of the victims. Today she is 62 years old and not much else is known about her or her daughter’s lives. 


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