When we think of serial killers, we usually dream up an older man, perhaps with the tell tell “killer glasses”. Usually preying on women and children. We often think of middle aged men with crazy fetishes and god complexes. Well, at least I do. But how often do we imagine children to be the killers themselves. Mary Flora Bell has kicked our ideas of what a killer should be, to the curb and has unlocked a new fear, a child monster. At just ten years old, Mary Flora bell committed her first murder.
Born May 26 1957 in Corbridge, Northumberland England to a well known prostitute named “Betty” who often left Mary in the care of her sometimes present, sometimes un-present “father”. Though Mary’s biological father was unknown, she spent most of her life believing him to be William “Billy” Bell. A violent alcoholic and habitual criminal. Throughout her young childhood, Mary suffered frequent injuries while in the care of her parents. And her Mother, despite the many allegations of neglect and abuse, refused to give up her custody. It was later said that she used Mary for her BDSM clients as she (Betty) was a dominatrix, and she often allowed her clients to sexually abuse Mary in Sado/Masochistic sessions.
During her early years in school, Mary exhibited violent behavior, often attacking and attempting to strangle the other children, causing all but her future accomplice, the young Norma Joyce Bell (no relation), to alienate her.
In early May of 1968 after a young boy was seen bleeding a confused, wandering the streets, Mary Bells true nature began to uncover. The boy informed authorities that while playing with both Norma and Mary, he had been violently pushed by Mary form the roof of an old air raid shelter. Approx. 7ft to the ground, not even he next day, police were informed that Mary and Norma had attempted to strangle 3 more children later that evening. After being questioned by the police, both girls vehemently denied any responsibility in the incident with the young boy, claiming that had simply found him after he had fallen and had left to find help. However in the matter of the strangling of the other children, while Mary continued to feign ignorance in the matter, Norma, now becoming afraid of Mary herself admitted that Mary had indeed attempted to “throttle” each of the girls. Saying, “Mary went to one of the girls and said, ‘What happens if you choke someone; do they die?’ Then Mary put both hands ’round the girls throat and squeezed. The girl started to go purple. I told Mary to stop, but she wouldn’t. Then she put her hands around Pauline’s throat and she started to go purple as well…another girl, Susan Cornish, came up and Mary did the same thing to her.”
Though after taking the girls statements, the police let the girls go due to their age proving in just a few short years to be a terrible, terrible mistake.
May 25 1968, it’s the day before Mary’s 11th birthday, and Mary spent the morning claiming her first victim. In the upstairs bedroom of a rundown home, Mary claimed the life of four year old Martin Brown in her favorite grotesque fashion, strangling. The boy’s lifeless body was discovered by neighborhood children playing in the house that afternoon.
The little girl actually showed up to the scene of the crime, in true killer fashion as CPR was attempted on Brown’s body. Only to be shooed out by the devastated adults. Mary made her way to Martin’s aunts house and casually informed her that her nephew had had an accident, stating that she thinks it’s Martin but can’t tell because he was covered in blood.
Mary and Norma spent her birthday, the following day breaking into a nursery and vandalizing it. Mary actually left a series of notes admitting the murder and taunting police but the notes, clearly written by children, were dismissed as nothing but a sad prank.
Two days later, Mary showing her growing sick psychotic tendencies, actually went to the mother of Martin Brown asking if she could see him, when his mother replied that he had passed away, her chilling response? “Oh, I know he’s dead; I want to see him in his coffin.”
July 31 1968, the body of 3 year old Brian Howe was found lodged between two concrete bricks by a search party attempting to locate the boy, who had been missing for hours. He had not only been strangled, but he had also been stabbed numerous times (presumably with the pair of scissors found a few feet away from his body), his hair had been crudely cut from his head, and his genitals had been mutilated. This time though the coroner was able to determine that the killer had to be another child due to the small amount of force used in the otherwise brutal attack.
An investigation was launched after the discovery of Brian Howe’s body, with investigators interviewing children all over the area. Both Mary Bell and Norma were interviewed, and initially were let go, but after a second round of interviews, Mary incriminated herself after trying to blame the murder on an unidentified 8 year old boy, stating that she saw him trying to cut off a cats tail with the scissors but was unable to due to the scissors being broken, the broken scissors being a detail only the killer would know.
Norma, unable to hold this secret for long, ended up straight up confessing her involvement to a detective. She explained how Mary had killed Brian by strangling him. Norma stated that while they were playing, Mary “seemed to go all funny” pushing him to the ground while strangling him. She had then turned to Norma and said, “my hands are getting thick, take over.” After which Norma ran away leaving Mary alone with the poor boy.
A full forensic examination placed both Norma and Mary at the scene of the murder, confirming Norma’s story. Both girls were charged with the murder of Brian Howe and underwent a psychological evaluation. Norma’s results showing that she suffered from learning disabilities and was (for lack of a better word) “slow” and submissive. Mary on the other hand was an intelligent and cunning character who suffered from psychopathic personality disorder Due to the girls age, the trial, lasting nine days was heavily publicized, the media releasing the photos and names of both girls. Both girls denied their involvement placing the blame on the other girl. Though the media pointed out Mary’s lack of empathy, heavily focusing on her psychopathy and her ability and high probability to commit more murders in the future. Norma was acquitted of the charges while Mary was charged with manslaughter of both the boys, the judge stating that Mary was dangerous and she posed a very grave risk to other children. She was sentenced to be held at Her Majesty’s pleasure a much needed indefinite sentence for the young Mary Bell.
After having served almost 12 years in custody, Mary Bell was released back into society in 1980, at the age of 23, her whereabouts are currently unknown.