When kids kill kids: The story of Mary Bell
Warning: This article contains information that some viewers may find disturbing.
Is there really such a thing as evil? It's a question that has haunted humanity for thousands of years. Clergy, philosophers, and scientists have attempted to determine what drives certain people to commit horrible acts, but conclusive answers are difficult to find.
This was also the case with Mary Bell from Newcastle, England. She was born in 1957 and appeared to be a normal girl. But behind her innocent-looking facade lurked an unfathomable darkness. Do people become criminals or are they born that way? What made Mary do what she did?
From the very beginning, Mary had a difficult childhood. Her mother was a prostitute and she never knew her biological father. The man her mother married was a petty thief. Mary's mother constantly told her that she never wanted her and even tried to kill the girl, staging suspicious-looking accidents.
But Mary survived and grew up in those horrendous circumstances. By the time she was 11 years old, she already looked like a teenager and the reason for her premature aging was horrifying.
Mary later revealed that her mother had "given" her to customers. When Mary was only four years old, she became a victim of sexual abuse and spent her childhood being sold by her mother. Due to the sexual abuse, Mary began puberty early and began to develop severe aggression towards herself and everyone around her.
The more the abuse and violence against her continued, the more her anger built up inside her until finally, on May 25, 1968 it broke forth in the form of a horrible crime. On this day, Mary kidnapped the four-year-old Martin Brown and took him to an abandoned house. Then she strangled him to death.
The police did not suspect Mary at that point and she thought she had gotten away with it. She was so sure that she even asked her mother if she could go to the funeral so she could see the boy's body lying in a coffin.
But this wasn't the end of Mary's crimes. Mary had killed Martin alone and decided that she would seek out an accomplice to help her murder her next victim. Two months later Mary teamed up with 13-year-old Norma Bell (the name was a coincidence, they were not related). The two girls kidnapped three-year-old Brain Howe and strangled him to death. But this time they took things much further: using a pair of scissors, they carved an "M" in his belly and skinned his genitals.
Mary was soon arrested for the crime after boasting about it and because Norma had given the police clues. While in custody, Mary confessed not only to the murder of Brian, but also to the murder of Martin. Mary was analyzed by psychologists who quickly determined that she was a psychopath. The court case took only two weeks — Mary was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Because she was only elven and too young to be sent to prison, Mary was first sent to a special detention center for minors in 1969. Norma Bell, however, was never charged for the crime. The case made national headlines — no one could believe that a child could commit acts of such horrible cruelty.
Mary appeared to have absolutely no remorse for her crimes and talked openly about how she had clenched the boys' windpipes shut and pushed on their lungs. She was considered a threat to the general population at the prison and was eventually put in a separate security ward and subjected to "her Majesty's mercy." This meant that she would only be released when there was sufficient evidence that she would no longer be a threat to society.
Mary was kept away from the press and even though the public were curious to know more about her, there are very few photos of her as an adult.
Mary Bell spent 11 years in prison and was finally released in 1980. Upon her release, the 22-year-old received a new identity and was relocated to a new city to avoid any kind of revenge against her for her crimes. When Mary later became a mother, she received a court order that banned her real name from being published in the media. Today, Mary lives an anonymous life in an undisclosed location in England. No one knows if Mary's daughter has ever found out who she truly is.
It's a horrible story about so many destroyed childhood's. Mary herself had been a victim of abuse and neglect — by the time she was eleven she felt compelled to turn the tables and release her frustration and aggression on innocent victims. One can only hope that Mary somehow found peace with herself and was able to raise her own daughter to be a good person.