For those who believe that being a murderer is a personal choice, Mary Bell gave a lesson to experts on how disturbed minds work. Mary Bell was not a natural killer, but she was raised to become one.
Betty Bell was born in Glasgow in 1940 and even though everyone believed that her quiet personality would lead her next to God, when she was a teenager, she started drawing away from her family. Her father’s death led her to a series of bad choices, and drugs became her whole life. In 1957, Betty gave birth to a little girl: Mary Bell.
Mary was not a lucky child and every time she needed her mother’s love, she was not there to give it to her. Being the seed of an unwanted pregnancy, Betty Bell ignored her daughter leaving her alone at home, to work as a prostitute. In fact, a night that Betty was working, 2-year-old Mary found her drugs and overdosed herself nearly to death. That was not a one-time incident.
Love was not a word in Betty Bell’s vocabulary and, whenever Mary wetted her bed, she would rub her face on the urine. Their relationship, in general, was always a little strange since Mary kept trying to draw attention, even after her daughter’s conviction when she presented presenting herself on the media as “the poor mother.” Experts now believe that Betty Bells suffered of “Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome,” according to which, parents make their children sick, weak, and traumatized to make people feel sorry for them. That’s why Betty would never leave her daughter’s side. Because she needed that attention.
By the age of two, Mary Bell started showing weird behaviors detaching herself from the environment around her. Cold and distant, she never cried as a child and when she got mad it was like all Hell broke loose. Growing up, she became unruly and rebellious putting up fights with her schoolmates, and, soon, Mary Bell turned into an unsocialized little girl who had no friends, except for Norma, who coincidentally had the same last name. Norma Bell.
In 1968, in Newcastle, three little boys discovered the body of a boy in a deserted house, and they immediately called the authorities who identified the body. It was 4-year-old Martin Brown who was lying dead with an empty box of aspirins next to him. Yes, Mary Bell had killed Martin and Norma knew everything since her friend had shown her achievement to her. The two girls headed to Martin’s aunt’s house, informing the poor woman of her nephew’s death. According to her statement to the police, later, the two girls could not stop asking weird questions like “Do you miss him now?”, “Are you sad?”, “How does his mother feel?”. Mary was proud of her accomplishment. She had just committed her first murder.
The police could not come up with a conclusion about Martin’s cause of death creating frustration among the residents of Newcastle. The very next day, Mary Bell’s teachers arrived at the school only to find the place vandalized and four different notes made the situation even more terrifying. The notes, left by the perpetrators, admitted that they were the ones who had killed Martin Brown. The authorities believed that it was just a prank and did not open a case, but the truth was that Mary and Norma were the masterminds behind this hideous act. But they had bigger problems: another murder was about to come.
On July 31, 1968, Brian Howe was missing and, after his sister started searching for him, Mary suggested the place where his dead body was. He was covered in grass, and hair was missing off his head. His legs were full of wounds, and the killer had cut part of his genital area, but every torture he had endured took place after his death of strangulation. Everyone started suspecting the two girls, especially after their joyful behavior during Brian’s funeral. They got arrested.
Mary and Norma kept accusing each other, but authorities soon revealed that Mary Bell was the one giving orders. She was a strong, manipulative character who could get anyone to do anything she wanted. The trial lasted for many days, and Betty Bell was the “drama queen” who was putting up a show every time she testified. Norma’s behavior was the one everyone should expect from a child: she could not stop crying, she was afraid, and she easily became the congenial face of the trial. On the contrary, Mary Bell was cold, distant, and with a rational explanation for every accusation against her. She was sentenced to indefinitely while Norma was free to go.
Psychologists and psychiatrists who examined Mary suggested that she presented typical symptoms of socio-pathology. She got transferred to the Red Bank Special Unit Reform School for Boys where her situation started to improve. In her adolescent years, she served for a short amount of time in a women’s prison leaving it forever behind at the age of 23. Mary moved back in with her mother and after a typical one-night-stand she got pregnant. Nine months later, she gave birth to a healthy, little girl.
Mary Bell according to experts, was now a normal, harmless person, and some years later, she got married to a man who was living with in the suburbs. In 1998, she was offered 50,000 British pounds to publish a book about her story and in 2003, The UK Supreme Court accepted her request to change her identity. In 2009, Mary had her first grandchild and since then, no one knows where she lives.