Wicked Child | The Mary Bell Case, Part One

(Top right hand corner, Mary Bell, Norma Bell. Bottom left: Martin Brown and Brian Howe. Photo cred: murderpedia.org

Hello to all my regular readers and welcome if you are new to my posts, I hope you enjoy my content and decide to stick around, I publish true crime cases every week. I wrote about a case from the 1960s recently (Gertrude Baniszewski: The Most Evil Woman Ever?) which took place in the US and the case that I have been working on this week also took place in the 1960s but this time this case was based in the UK.

A lot of people have heard bits and pieces of the Mary Bell story. I remember watching a documentary years ago which touched on her case and her story always intrigued me. I grew up on a council estate where a lot of people didn't have much money and a lot of the people that I went to school with ended up turning to crime. When I was researching this case some of the details rang a bell with me (no pun intended). I know from experience what it's like to grow up in poverty and being unsupervised as a child, playing in abandoned buildings, being careful to put your washing out to dry in case it got stolen. A lot of the children that I knew had alcoholic parents and they would be left out to play until all hours of the night, those children then went onto commit petty crimes, became dependent on drugs and some have even murdered people and ended up behind bars.

I only knew a little bit about Mary Bell and I've had the chance this week to really delve into her background (which a lot of people don't know about) and find out more about the story, what may have led her to do what she did, what actually happened and her life since then.

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I just want to quickly mention here, as with all of my previous posts, please be aware that disturbing details may be included. In this case I will be talking about child abuse and murder, so please keep that in mind in case you want to skip this post.

Let's begin...

When I mention the name, Mary Bell, you may have the image of a little girl with black hair and piercing blue eyes in your mind. A lot of us who know a little of the case, are familiar with the haunting pictures of Mary, innocent but something so cold and sinister about her at the same time.

If you're a regular reader you'll know that I like to go into the backgrounds of victims and their killers. I try to give you an idea of who the victim was and not just what happened to them when their lives were so cruelly taken. I also like to focus on the background of the killer, often you can see patterns and behaviours in their childhood, but that isn't always the case. Some killers have a picture perfect childhood and can still go on to do horrendous things.

Mary Flora Bell was born on the 26th of May, 1957 to a young mother, Betty. Betty was only 17 years old and to say she wasn't maternal is an understatement, her first words when she was presented with her newborn child was ''Get that thing away from me.'' The identity of Mary's father was never known but her mother went onto have a relationship with a man called Billy who was an unsavoury character. Billy was an alcoholic and well known to police.

Mary Bell's start in life was quite horrendous, with two neglectful parents, one who was often in trouble with the law and the other who was a prostitute and they would often disappear for weeks on end, leaving Mary to fend for herself. Depending on what source you read, Betty's family either tried to step in and offer to take care of Mary or Betty's family refused to take care of Mary. Whatever the case, she was left unsupervised on many occasions and starved of love and affection from her parents.

As well as having a difficult home life, the Scotswood area in the west end of Newcastle, England where Mary grew up was very harsh and the living was hard with many families struggling to make ends meet. In the 1960s, Scotswood had barely changed since the war and a lot of the houses and buildings were left abandoned. Mary wasn't the only child who was left to play outside until all hours, unsupervised, it was commonplace for children as young as three years old to be found playing in the streets. There was a mix of neglect and naivety amongst the parents, they were either too drunk to care, dealing with customers if they were working as prostitutes or they assumed that the children would be safe and that the older kids would keep an eye on them.

Back in those days, abandoned buildings would be left for years and children would often explore them. I remember doing this myself as a child and finding it interesting and exciting, like a little adventure. Looking back I can see how dangerous that actually was, some of these buildings have loose tiles and weak floorboards, anything could happen.

The street that Mary lived on was particularly bad with every other house reported to have had women working as prostitutes and the husbands would be in the pubs until closing time. Seeing the police banging on the door of someones house in the street became a regular occurrence and many of the families were well known to the cops.

The majority of the local people in Scotswood struggled financially and only had little bits of furniture in their houses. People would keep coal in their kitchen instead of outside in the bunkers for fear of it being stolen. They would also dry their clothes indoors in case that too was stolen. The only positive thing about the whole dire situation was that everyone was in the same boat, there was no competition, nobody showing off their fancy belongings because nobody had anything. Everyone understood each others problems because they were going through the same hardships and it was one of those places where everyone knew everyone.

Betty never wanted to be a mother and not only did she regularly give Mary sleeping tablets, she once tried to throw her out of a window, claiming it was an accident. On one occasion with the sleeping tablets, Mary was said to have 'accidently' consumed too many and became very sick.

Like a lot of women who lived in the area, Mary's mother worked as a prostitute, 7 days a week and specialised in BDSM. If Betty wasn't working from home, she was travelling up to Glasgow for weeks on end and from the age of four, Mary, who was sometimes present in the house when her mother had gentlemen callers, was forced to perform sex acts on these men.

Due to the nature of the horrendous things that Mary would have had to witness her mother doing in her line of work, investigators later believed that this is where Mary picked up her habits and tried to re-enact on other children as a way of gaining some control as she felt powerless at home.

As Mary got older, she garnered a reputation as someone not to be messed with. Although she looked angelic with her black hair, doll like face and piercing blue eyes, she could go from being a sweet little girl just happily playing to aggressive within seconds. The piercing blue eyes would fix you with a cold stare and her head would shake, according to witnesses. The girls in the playground would run away if they saw her coming and they dared not to get on the wrong side of her.

Mary was a bully and would pick on children she thought were smaller or weaker than her, she enjoyed the power over them. There was many a time where her classmates would tell the teacher that Mary tried to strangle them or put a cigarette out on their cheek, Mary would be called in and without any hesitation she would confess without a flinch, like she had no feelings about it at all. The teachers knew of Mary's behaviour and did nothing about it.

On one occasion, Mary had her hands around another girl's throat. The girl's face was red and her lips were starting to turn blue. An older child pulled Mary off of the girl just in time but again. nothing was done about this incident.

Continued in part two...

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Check out some of the true crime cases I have covered previously:

What Really Happened To India Chipchase?

The Sylvia Likens Case

The Tragic Life & Death of Marvin Gaye

The Camden Ripper: Anthony John Hardy

Deadly Obsession: The Ricardo Lopez Story

Targeted: The Kriss Donald Story

-Toxic Relationship: The Tracie Andrews Story

Stalked To Death: The Alissa Blanton Story

Rod Ferrell And The Kentucky Vampire Cult

What Happened To Dominique Dunne?

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