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Mary Bell was only eleven years old when she killed two other children with her bare hands. Decades later, where is the child serial killer now?

What is Mary Bell up to now? Does she feel any remorse her crimes?

In the 1960s, people in Scotswood, England couldn’t fathom that a child murderer was living amongst them. The town was still recovering from the war and it was considered a neglected & rough neighborhood. Many children were left alone for hours unsupervised to play, finish schoolwork, and fend for themselves. 

Among such latch-key children was Mary Bell. The young girl had a reputation of violent outbursts & unruly behavior. In some cases, parents had called the police because she had attempted to choke their children. 

By the age of eleven, Mary Bell killed two young boys with her bare hands. Within three months of each other, four-year-old Martin Brown & three-year-old Brian Howe were found dead.

In the hands of Mary

On May 25th, 1968, Martin Brown was found in an abandoned house lying next to a bottle of pills. His cause of death was left undetermined for quite some time as police made little to no progress on the case. 

Brian Howe who died on July 31st, 1968, was found on the ground in rubble & dirt. His legs had unusual marks and experts determined he was strangled by a child. 

Mary Bell & her friend Norma Bell (no relation) had boasted on the playground about murdering a boy some time after the deaths. During the ongoing investigation, notes written in children’s handwriting with cryptic messages, “I murder so that I may come back,” were sent to the police.

As the trail of evidence eventually led to Mary & Norma, the police tried to speak with Mary at her house. Her father, William ‘Billy’ Bell, refused to let them in and threatened to release dogs on them if they came back.

Child murderer found guilty

Unable to speak to Mary directly, the police interviewed a young boy who witnessed the murder of Brian Howe. The boy explained that Mary had convinced the toddler he had a sore throat in which she could help make it better. She began by massaging his throat and tightening her grip until he suffocated. 

This was enough evidence to detain Mary Bell. The trial took nine days and she was found guilty of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. Norma Bell was acquitted and considered to have been under the control & manipulation of Mary Bell. 

The justice system was not used to detaining young girls, so the authorities were unsure where to place Mary Bell. After some scrambling, they decided to put her in a secure facility called Red Bank. She spent six years there and was later transferred to Moore Court Open Prison.

According to the Guardian, Mary Bell was, “the only girl among 20 or so boys at an approved school in Merseyside, she was allegedly subject to sexual abuse by a member of staff and also by fellow inmates, to which the rest of the staff turned a blind eye.”

Where is she now? 

Mary Bell was released at the age of twenty-three and was granted anonymity under the Mary Bell Order. This allowed her to change her name and start a new life. 

As a young adult, Mary bore a daughter and led a quiet life. Until people took interest in her story, wondering Where is Mary Bell now? Tabloids & reporters began to follow Mary and her family trying their best to get an updated scoop. 

The Guardian states, “The child killer Mary Bell was . . . in hiding after being hounded out of the seaside home where she had lived anonymously with her 14-year-old daughter.”

Much of the media frenzy stemmed from a 1998 biography called Cries Unheard: The Story of Mary Bell written by journalist, Gitta Sereny. Sereny received public criticism and backlash due to the fact that Mary Bell now received residuals from the book. 

Sereny said, “I felt that I wanted to give her some of the money. . . because I could not use her, as everybody else has done.”

Resurrecting Mary Bell

Bell’s profit created an uproar and opened old wounds for those related to the victims. People agreed Mary should not be allowed to receive money based on the murders she committed as a child. 

A mother of the victim spoke out against Sereny & Bell in an interview with the Observer, “Mary Bell died when she left prison and took on a new identity. I thought of her as dead. I tried to have a decent life. I started to learn not to hate her because she had died and become someone else. Now Gitta Sereny has resurrected her. Why?”

Mary and her daughter moved from town to town, sometimes walking out with sheets over their head to escape publicity. The Mary Bell Order continued to protect the anonymity of her daughter and was eventually extended to her granddaughter. Their names will be protected for the duration of their lives.

Mary’s mother and her life partner were not shy to give information to the press. 

The Guardian says, “Bell’s partner – a 40-year-old Geordie with a ponytail, tattoos and a lived-in look – certainly gave reporters value for money. . . Mary was the most gentle person he had ever met he loved her so much it hurt to be parted she had always wanted to work with children.”

Mary Bell’s upbringing 

Mary Bell was born in 1957 to a teenage sex worker, Betty McCrickett in Scotswood England. She had been exposed to her mother’s sexual acts and was “pimped out” by the age of ten. 

Sereny’s biography of Mary argued that children do not innately murder. Violent crimes of children are often a result of not being taught empathy & love within the first few years of life. Sereny says Mary Bell had been a victim of child abuse and an obscene environment herself. 

Mary Bell never pled guilty to her childhood crimes but is said to be a completely different person now. Her main concern is to live a normal life.

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