Mary Bell: the story of the 11-year-old serial killer

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Horror and thriller cinematography has often offered us to stories of wicked and cruel children, films such as Children of the Corn and Village of the Damned are an example. But sometimes reality can overcome fantasy. As in the case of Mary Bell.

Mary Flora Bell was born on May 26th, 1957 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Daughter of Betty, a woman who prostituted herself by profession, while her father has remained unknown to this day. A few months after the birth of his daughter, Betty married Billy Bell, a criminal with a history as a thief, who served as father for Mary. Newcastle upon Tyne was a rather violent and high crime rate area, and Mary soon began to behave very aggressively, vandalizing and beating up classmates.

On May 25th, 1968, on the eve of her eleventh birthday, Mary is with her friend Norma Jean Belle. The two decide to set a trap for Martin Brown, the son of a neighbour, only 4 years old. They attract him with the excuse of giving him candies, taking him to an abandoned house nearby, and then Mary will strangle him to death.

The parents of the child, not seeing him return, called the police and the body is found the next day. The case was dismissed as an accident, as there were no obvious signs on the child’s body that suggested an attack.

After three weeks something unusual happens in Martin’s kindergarten. Someone had sneaked inside and had carried out vandalism: they overturned classrooms, destroyed chairs, and on the walls they wrote that Martin had been murdered. The police investigates, but in the end the case is closed stating that it is an episode of vandalism, without ulterior motives.

July 31st, 1968: Mary and Norma decide to strike again and they target Brian Howe, a 3-year-old boy. Like the previous murder, he is lured with the excuse of a candy and later strangled. But this time they went further: they engraved an “M” with scissors on the chest of the baby, they cut his hair and his genitals, leaving the corpse on a field.

The body is found the same day and the police will think about the action of a pedophile. Subsequently, the case is linked to Martin’s death, and the hypothesis of a serial killer begins to take place.

About 1200 children from the area are questioned and two girls aroused particular suspicions: they were Mary Bell and Norma Jean Bell. Their responses did not convince the investigators and under the pressure of the interrogation Mary declared that she was responsible for both murders.

In August 1968 the two were arrested. Mary is found guilty, while Norma was acquitted as she was considered an inactive spectator of the killings. Mary declared that Norma had lied and that she had been actively involved, but the investigators did not believe her statements.

On December 17th, 1968, Mary Bell was sentenced to life in prison. Mary remained in prison until 1980 when, after several psychiatric treatments during her detention period, she was declared healed.

She is thus released and assigned a new identity. In 1984 she had a daughter, until their identity was discovered by a reporter, forcing them to flee. The girl remained anonymous until 2003, and on May 21st of the same year Mary Bell, thanks to a legal battle, obtained the extension of anonymity for her and her daughter, guaranteed for life.

The story of Mary Bell has remained etched in the common imagination as the case of the youngest killer in the United Kingdom, capable of atrocious and terrible acts at just 11 years of age, acts which have broken the lives of young and innocent victims. A creepy story that demonstrates the unpredictability of the many facets that make up existence.

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