Wicked Child | The Mary Bell Case, Part Two

(A street in Scotswood, Newcastle in the 1960s. Photo cred: chroniclelive.co.uk)

Continued from part one. As mentioned previously, please be aware that this post may contain details of child abuse and child murder.

Because of Mary's intimidating and often aggressive demeanour, there wasn't exactly a queue of children who wanted to be around her but she did become close friends with the girl next door, Norma Joyce Bell (no relation). Norma was a couple of years older than Mary and was quite lonely as well as having some learning difficulties. Norma was quite naive and very easily led which made her perfect in Mary's eyes because she loved to be the leader and Norma did pretty much anything that she said.

Despite Mary's neglectful parents and the abuse she suffered at home, she was very bright for her age and very streetwise. She was very manipulative and often played on the fact that she was a child to get out of trouble. She was quite capable of causing trouble all by herself but in Norma she found an accomplice, someone she could order around and she wanted to try something new. In May 1968, 10 year old Mary and 12 year old Norma asked a local three year old boy if he would like to go to the shop with them to buy some sweets. The same boy was seen about an hour later, bleeding and disorientated and had to be taken to the hospital. The boy made a full recovery but no further action was taken. 

Around the same time, the police had a report from a local woman who claimed that Mary had tried to strangle her daughter and again, no further action was taken. Years later, the girl who had been strangled said that she was too afraid to give the police the full details of what had happened in case Mary had found out. In a documentary, the girl who was now a fully grown woman, claimed that she, Mary and Norma were playing in a sandpit when Mary suddenly turned on her. Norma held her down whilst Mary tried to strangle her and then proceeded to shove handfuls of sand down her throat. Apparently Norma became scared seeing what Mary was doing and jumped up, Mary then stopped and stood up and she managed to get away from the pair.

Two weeks after this incident, four year old Martin Brown was out playing in the street as he usually did. Martin looked like a cherub with blonde curly hair, blue eyes and really long eyelashes, he was tall for his age and well built and according to his mother June, he was always into mischief and had a cheeky face. At home one day he decided that he wanted his own personal swimming pool in his bedroom so he filled a bottom drawer full of water and got water all over the place. His mother said he was always getting up to things like that. 

Like the other local children, Martin loved to play in the abandoned buildings which the locals had nicknamed ''Rat Alley'' and it was in one of the derelict houses that Martin's body was found by some local boys in an upstairs bedroom. The boys ran to June's house and told her where Martin was, June ran to the house where she saw a huge crowd of people gathering. There was a man coming out of the building holding Martin in his arms and crying. 

''This guy had Martin in his hands and he was grey and he felt cold so I took my cardigan off and put it around him and this man had tears running down his face and I said 'Is he alright?' He said 'I don't know, I don't know' and at that, two ambulance men just rushed past and grabbed him and ran past us again and put him into the ambulance,'' - June Richardson (Martin's mother) 

Martin was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital and because of the circumstances in which his body was found, the police were contacted. Nobody could figure out what had happened to Martin, some thought that he had accidentally swallowed some tablets, others thought that he had died of shock as he had a fear of stairs and possibly panicked at the idea of having to go back down them. What was even more strange was that the autopsy results showed nothing untoward and his death was put down to natural causes. 

The day after Martin's death, Mary was at Norma's house when Norma's father walked into her bedroom to find Mary choking his daughter. He pulled the girls apart and gave them a lecture. He didn't think any more about it.

The next day the police were called to a local nursery which had been broken into. Nothing appeared to be stolen but they found four random notes. The notes appeared to be written in childish handwriting and amongst ramblings contained the sentences ''I murder so that I may come back'', ''We murder, watch out'' and ''We did murder Martin Brown, F*ck off you b*stard''. 

The police put the notes down to a silly prank. Mary was at school when the police had discovered the notes, she wrote a short story about Martin's death and drew a picture underneath. ''There were crowds of people outside an old house, I asked what was the matter? There's been a boy who just laid down and died.'' 

Underneath the short story she drew a picture of Martin's body lying on the floor of the upstairs bedroom in the abandoned house. She drew a workman walking towards the building and next to Martin's body she drew a bottle with the word 'tablet' next to it. Apparently Mary's teachers didn't find the story and the drawing until weeks later.

June Richardson's sister would often babysit Mary and Norma so she would often seen them and they would always ask her how she was doing, June thought the constant questions were out of concern for her, but one day, before Martin's funeral was due to take place, Mary and Norma appeared on June's doorstep. They asked to see Martin which confused June as she knew that they knew he had died. When she reminded the girls of Martin's passing, Mary replied ''I know he's dead. I want to see him in his coffin.'' 

June slammed the door shut and fell to the ground sobbing, her husband had to call a doctor to the house to help calm her down. 

At the same time, Newcastle itself was in the middle of a huge redevelopment and a lot of the worst areas were being demolished to make way for high rise housing. On the 31st of July, Mary, Norma and some of the local children had gathered to watch some of the abandoned buildings being demolished. It was here that they asked a three year old boy called Brian Howe to come to a field with them to play there. Hours passed and Brian was nowhere to be seen and was reported missing.

Some of the locals together with Brian's mother, searched the streets and surrounding areas. Mary and Norma joined the search and seemed to be enjoying the whole thing. Sadly, Brian's body was discovered in a field, half naked, chunks of his hair had been cut off and there was stab wounds to his legs which were said to have been made postmortem (after death), using the scissors which were used to cut his hair. A razor had been used to carve the letter 'M' onto his stomach. Brian's death was ruled as a result of manual strangulation and because of how little force was used, the police finally came to the conclusion that a child must have killed him by using gradual pressure to his neck.

Due to Brian's shocking murder and the similarities with the death of Martin Brown, the police decided to re-open the investigation into Martin Brown's death. Now ruling Martin's death to be a result of homicide, the police were now looking for a suspect and the likely possibility that this suspect was a child.

Continued in part three...


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