Mary Bell

Reign of terror: 25/05/68 - 31/07/68

Mary Bell Motive: No motive

Crimes: Murder of Martin Brown, 4, on 25 May 1968 and Brian Howe, 3, on 31 July 1968, in the Scotswood district of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Method: Strangulation

Sentence: Detention for life

Interesting facts: Mary Bell was only ten years old when she murdered Martin Brown. Present with her at both murders was her 13 year old friend Norma Bell, no relation. Living in a slum area of Newcastle, the children spent their days playing in the derelict houses and demolished rubble in the area. Three boys found the body of Martin Brown in one of these houses and raised the alarm. At the post mortem, the cause of his death could not be positively established, as there were no marks around his neck that should have been present if he'd been strangled. It was concluded that it had been an accident.

The day after Martin Brown had been killed, vandals broke into the local nursery school. Among the chaos they left behind, handwritten notes were found, written by a child, saying "I murder SO THAT I may come back", "Fuch off, we murder, watch out Fanny and Faggot", "You are mice Y Becurse we murdered Martain Go Brown you Bete Look out there are Murders about by Fanny and auld Faggot you Screws" and "We did murder Martain Brown Fuckof you Bastard". Several days after this break in, Norma and Mary were caught having broken into the nursery. They denied having broken into the first time.

It was realised that Brian Howe had gone missing on the afternoon of his death and Mary helped the family look for him. His body was eventually found late in the evening, between two large reinforced concrete blocks, on a wasteground known to the local children as "The Tin Lizzy". His body was thinly covered in grass and weeds. He had obviously been strangled. There were also 6 small stab wounds on his legs which had been inflicted after death. Near his body a pair of bent scissors were found. Due to the amount of pressure that was used to strangle Brian Howe, it was clear that he had been killed by a child.

Mary and Norma were caught when the police interviewed all the children of the area. They were very vague about their movements, and when questioned further, Mary remembered details she'd not remembered before, and implicated her in the murder of Brian Howe, as she described matters that had not been made public by the police that only the killer could have known. After questioning, Norma admitted that Mary had strangled Brian in her presence, and that Mary had also scratched him with a razor blade. She led the police to where this razor blade was hidden. Any such markings were not found at post mortem, but on returning to the body, it was found that the marks were now visible. A faint M had been scratched onto his abdomen.

Norma and Mary Bell stood trial in an adult court. The court room had no dock in it, so that the children could sit close to their legal teams, and their parents could also be close. Norma Bell was acquitted of the murder of both boys, whilst Mary Bell was found guilty of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. Mary spent 12 years in custody, and was released in 1980, assuming a new identity to protect herself. She gave birth to a daughter in 1984.