On May 25, 1968, two boys scavenging for some scrap wood discovered the body of Martin Brown, four, in an abandoned house at Margaret’s Road, Scotswood district of Newcastle, UK. They reported their discovery to the construction workers who rushed to the place.
When the police arrived, two girls Mary Flora Bell, 11, and Norma Bell, 13, (not related) were also at the scene. Although investigation showed that the death of Martin was an accident, police noticed questionable behaviors of both girls.
During the wake of Martin, Mary knocked on Brown’s home and asked if she could see the boy. June, Martin’s mother told her he is dead to which the girl replied, ‘Oh, I know he’s dead.’ She was grinning and she added ‘I wanted to see him in his coffin.’
Few days after, Mary was caught by Norma’s father trying to choke his 11-year-old daughter. The next morning, Day Nursery at Woodlands Crescent was vandalized with alarming notes written on the walls that read “Fuch of, we murder, watch out, Fanny and Faggot,” and “We did murder Martain brown, fuckof you Bastard.” Security personnel found the two girls hanging around near the building but denied participation in the break in.
On 31 July 1968, Mary and Norma accompanied Pat to look for her three-year-old brother, Brian Howe. They led her to an industrial area and Mary pointed to some concrete blocks. However, Norma insisted that Brian would never go there.
Later that night, police discovered the body of Brian covered with grass between the concrete blocks. He had been strangled. A broken scissor was also retrieved nearby which believed to be used to imprint the letter “M” on his stomach. His penis was also maimed.
The police invited Mary and Norma for questioning. During the inquiry, Inspector James Dobson observed the same disturbing behavior of Mary and Norma. The police officer said Mary was misleading and acted strange while Norma seemed excited and continually smiling.
When Brian was about to be put to rest, Detective Dobson saw Mary standing in front of Howe’s home. She was watching and laughing as the family brought Brian’s coffin out of the house.
After the boy’s funeral, Norma confessed that it was Mary who killed Brian. However, Mary’s statement pointed out the other way. The girls were restless inside their separate jails in Newcastle West End police station. They were brought to trial on December 5, 1968.
The trial lasted nine days. Norma was acquitted of all charges while Mary was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She was sent to Red Bank secure unit since the judge considered her dangerous.
Mary Bell served 12 years and was released with a new identity in 1980.
But why did Mary Flora Bell acted the way she acted? Psychiatrists who observed her put the blame of the girl’s psychopathology on Betty, her mother.
Mary was born in May 26, 1957 to Betty, 17. Betty was a drug addict and prostitute dedicating herself to sadomasochism. Relatives held that she wanted to get rid of Mary by dropping her to adoption agency but would always change her mind and come back for her daughter. Family members claimed that Betty had attempted to kill her through “accidental death” such as “Mary fell from a window” and “accidental overdosed from pills.”
Mary showed signs of anger. Since five years old, she tortured animals and choke children on the playground. Experts analyzed that perhaps her mother asphyxiated and resuscitated her during prostitution’s sessions. Mary later admitted that she was sexually abused by her mother obliging her to participate in sex acts with men since she was five.
After Mary’s conviction, Betty often visited her but she would be upset after her visits. One doctor wanted Betty to stop coming and the staff at Red Bank detested the excessively dramatic and manipulative mother. Her mother profited from her unsavory reputation. Betty sold her stories to media while encouraging her to write more letters and poems that could be vend to the tabloids.
What puzzled her psychiatrists was when Mary was released from prison, she lived with Betty allowing her to be part of her life still.