Murderous Children: 11-Year-Old Serial Killer Mary Bell

Mary Bell at the time of the murders, in 1968.
Mary Bell at the time of the murders, in 1968. | Source

Mary Bell, The Tyneside Strangler: "I Murder So That I May Come Back"

It was the summer of 1968 in Scotswood, a community north of London in England. Martin Brown's lifeless body was discovered lying on the floor inside a boarded-up, condemned house, with blood and saliva trickling down his cheek. With no obvious signs of violence, police believed the 4-year-old's death to be accidental at first.

A few weeks later, 3-year-old Brian Howe was found strangled in an industrial area, where the local children were known to play. He was found with various strange wounds, including puncture marks on his thigh, his genitals partially mutilated, and clumps of his hair cut off. In addition, a few days later another mark would become evident on his belly, where it looked like someone had tried to scratch the letter "M" into his skin with a razor blade. A pair of broken scissors lay nearby.

The community was in a state of panic, and the police were looking for an answer. They started questioning all the children in the area. Two children in particular seemed to be acting very strange; Norma Bell, age 13, seemed excited by the murder, and the detective noted that throughout questioning she kept smiling, as though it were a huge joke. 11 year old Mary Bell also reacted oddly, and was being very evasive (despite the common last name, Mary and Norma were not related).

As their investigation continued, Mary continued to act strangely. At one point, she claimed she had seen another 8-year-old boy with Brian the day he was murdered. She claimed she had seen the 8-year-old hit Brian, and that at one point she saw him playing with a pair of scissors. But, the boy she pointed the finger at had been at the airport the afternoon of Brian's murder, and by mentioning the pair of scissors, Mary had implicated herself. The pair of scissors had been confidential evidence; if Mary knew about them, then she had to know something about the murder.

To police, it was becoming clear that one or both girls were involved in the murder. The day that Brian Howe was buried, Mary was observed by a detective standing outside of the Howe's house. The detective was horrified to see Mary, watching while the coffin came out, laughing and rubbing her hands together. He decided something needed to be done immediately, before another child died, and so he questioned Mary's friend, Norma Bell, again before Brian's funeral. This time, what Norma told the police shocked them.

Mary's Victims

Left: 4-year-old Martin Brown. Right: 3-year-old Brian Howe.
Left: 4-year-old Martin Brown. Right: 3-year-old Brian Howe.

A Childish Letter From a Child Murderer

One of the notes left behind by Mary & Norma in the vandalized nursery.
One of the notes left behind by Mary & Norma in the vandalized nursery. | Source

What Happened & Why?: "Get That Thing Away From Me!"

Though both of their stories would change over time, the story that Norma told police the day of Brian's funeral was enough for the police to pick Mary up immediately. According to Norma, Mary had told Norma that she killed Brian, and she had brought her to the boarded-up house afterwards to show her his body. Mary described to Norma how she had squeezed his neck and strangled him, she said she had enjoyed it.

When the police questioned Mary, she was still evasive, and admitted to nothing. She refused to make a statement, and accused Norma of lying and trying to get her into trouble. Mary was let go at first, but after additional information provided by Norma, she was brought back into the station, and finally admitted to being there when Brian was killed, but she pushed all the blame onto Norma for the murder. Nonetheless, both of the girls were arrested and charged for the murder.

Leading up to, and during the trial, much new evidence and information was found. Just two days after Martin Brown was found dead, a nursery school in the area was broken into, and vandalized. School and cleaning supplies were strewn about the room, and four disturbing notes were left behind. The childishly scribbled notes were filled with profanity, but most unsettling, was the notes about murder, including one that started "We did murder Martin Brown...". Another one said "I murder so that I may come back". At the time, the police still assumed Martin's death was an accident, and wrote the notes off as a sick joke. Mary would later admit to writing them for "a giggle".

It also came out that Mary had been overheard by other children screaming "I am a murderer!", and pointing to the house where Brian was found, saying "that's where I killed". Mary was known to tell tall tales, and her claims weren't taken seriously. During her incarceration while awaiting trial, Mary made many strange comments to the women working as guards, including "I like hurting little things that can't fight back". Mary's lack of emotions, unresponsiveness, and strange behaviour led psychiatrists to label her as psychopathic.

When it comes down to "Why?", it is a hard question. Mary acted alone in killing Martin Brown, and though both girls pinned the blame on each other for Brian Howe's death, Norma's story that Mary was the culprit seems more believable. Yet, Norma returned with Mary to the crime scene, and helped to mark and mutilate Brian's body after death with a pair of scissors and a razor blade. Were Mary's actions a result of a little girl who was born psychopathic and emotionless? or were her psychopathic actions a result of deep trauma?

Mary was described as very manipulative, and intelligent. She was known to be violent, and to lie often. This violent streak began when she was still a toddler, family said, she would lash out at them and hit them. In kindergarten, she had wrapped her hands around a classmate's throat and squeezed. It's unthinkable to imagine a little girl with such violent rage. When family members started to come forward about what Mary had endured in her young life, it started to make a little more sense as to how a young girl could turn into a violent and emotionless psychopath.

When Mary was born, her mother Betty's response was "get that thing away from me!". She was eager to drop Mary off with relatives whenever possible, and even once tried to give her to a woman who had been denied an adoption. Betty's sister, who had followed Betty, managed to get Mary back from the woman. Family member's say that Mary, at only 2 years old, started to become cold, detached, and withdrawn.

Other stories from family members came to light; Mary had watched her five year old friend get hit and killed by a bus. Mary's mother was a prostitute. Mary was frequently given intentional drug overdoses by her mother. It is believed that Betty suffered from Munchausen By Proxy, or MSbP, where a caregiver intentionally harms a dependent, in order to get attention from themselves. Betty loved the attention, and even lied to family members at one point that Mary had been run over by a truck and died. Most tragic of all, Mary alleges that her mother prostituted her out, using her as a sex prop and allowing her to be sexually abused by Betty's clients. While family members have not corroborated this particular allegation, if it is true, especially taking the other information into account, it could definitely help explain Mary's strange behaviour, and why she was so devoid of emotion.

A Murderous Child Released...

Mary Bell as an adult.
Mary Bell as an adult.

Trial, Verdict, Sentencing & Aftermath

Mary Bell and Norma Bell were both charged with two counts of manslaughter.  Both girls testified during the trial, implicating each other in the crimes.  It was noted, however, that the girls still seemed to have a strange bond between them.  Court appointed psychologists testified that Mary displayed classic symptoms of psychopathy, and therefore was not completely coherent, nor responsible for her actions.

On December 17th, 1968, the girls were give their verdicts.  Norma was acquitted of all charges against her.  Mary was convicted of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, in due to the psychological assessment presented at trial.  She was to be "detained at her majesty's pleasure", which is basically an indefinite sentence of imprisonment.

Nearly nine years later, in 1977, Mary would briefly escape from the adult prison she had just been transferred to, but was quickly caught.  Despite that, she was released from prison after serving just 12 years, in 1980.  She was 23 years old.  She was granted anonymity to start a new life, under a new name. 

Mary gave birth a daughter in 1984.  There was great concern about whether or not Mary should be allowed to keep her child; after all, she had murdered two children.  In the end, Mary was allowed to keep and raise her daughter.  At one point, after "Cries Unheard" was published (see more below), and it was discovered that Mary Bell had been paid for telling her side of the story, there was a media uproar.  Local law officials, who had been made aware of Mary's whereabouts, revealed Mary's local and indentity, and there was a large outcry from the local populace.  Her daughter had not been aware of her mother's past.  Mary went to court, and was granted lifelong anonymity for both her and her daughter.

Want To Know More About Mary Bell & Her Crimes?

There are two books that have been written by one author specifically on Mary Bell, Gitta Sereny;

The Case of Mary Bell - first printed in 1972, this book is longer in print.

Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill, The Case of Mary Bell - released in the late 90's, this book is still in print as far as I know.

There is also a third book about murderous children that profiles Mary Bell;

Children Who Kill: Profiles of Pre-teen and Teenager Killers by Carol Ann Davis

Also: 5 Part Video Documentary Series on Mary Bell is posted below the 'Comments' Section.

Comments 73 comments

3 Finger Reader 5 years ago

I'm a true crime fan myself, and while familiar with Mary Bell, the case continues to fascinate me. This is an excellent hub overall. The writing is clear, clean and expertly paced. I think you have gained a fan and follower. I'm on my iPhone right now so I cannot add you to my "follow" list tonight, but I will very soon.

Seems like you and I have a lot in common. My hope is that we may become hub buddies.

Julie / 3 Finger Reader

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi Julie,

Yes, it really is a fascinating case! I only found out about it recently, and was shocked I had never heard of it before. It's very hard for people to wrap their heads around a child being capable of doing such evil things. The controversy about whether she was responsible for her actions at such a young age, especially considering what she went through in her childhood prior to the crimes, is also quite interesting.

Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it. We do seem to have a lot in common, and I hope we can become hub buddies too.

jeffduff profile image

jeffduff 5 years ago from Southwest Wisconsin

Very well written hub on a disturbing topic.

By the way, my wife may not be too thrilled if we become hub buddies. :)

But, I will become a follower, anyhow.

-- Jeff Duff

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks Jeff.

Haha, well you can let your wife know it would be purely platonic; I'm only interested in checking out your hubs ;)

awoodog profile image

awoodog 5 years ago from B.C. Canada

That is quite a story, it really is hard to believe that a child could commit such a crime. We are starting to hear all too often about child violence. Thanks for writing about this.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Great article! I'd never heard of any of this.

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks for both your comments!

It is really hard to believe that children are capable of such violence. I had not heard about it until recently either, the story really captured my attention.

electricsky profile image

electricsky 5 years ago from North Georgia

Thanks for your comments.

What a cold blooded young thing she was. I wonder if she has changed as an adult?

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

She has never re-offended, and she did raise a daughter without incident, so I guess that shows some sort of change? I read recently that she is actually a grandmother now. It's hard to imagine that someone so psychotic could have changed so much as an adult, but I guess it is possible!

travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

Children learn their adoptive behavior from the socio-environment they're dwelling. Acquired disruptive behavior and devoid of emotion are indications that those child are psychopaths that can endanger other normal kids. Well-detailed hub. Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination.

nell79 profile image

nell79 5 years ago from United States

I remember watching this story on TV. They made it sound like it was a given that Mary's mother had prostituted her out from the age of 5, I believe. Interesting to hear more details about it here. It's a very upsetting story.

Congrats on your HubNugget Nomination :)

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

It is always so hard to believe that children of that age are capable of such awful crimes. Congrats on your Hubnugget nomination.

megmccormick profile image

megmccormick 5 years ago from Utah

Congrats on your HubNugget nomination and interesting topic. As a school psychologist I've worked with my fair share of young sociopaths and their parents. They are indeed the creation of their parents and as we are finding out more and more a genetic pre-disposition (again inherited from their parents). Sad sad stories.

Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Hiya Antonia, Congratulations on having this hub on Mary Bell as a Hubnugget Nominee. I was a very interesting read, to say the least. A well-deserved nomination. All the best to you.

Happy Holidays,


Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank you everyone for your comments, and your congratulations on the Hubnugget nomination! I was very surprised, but obviously happy to be nominated.

Mary Bell is definitely a good example of the problem with juvenile offenders; when they commit a horrible "adult" crime, we want to treat them as adults. It's easier to lock them up and forget about then, then it is to dig deeper and found out what could have caused them to become a killer. Yet, in most cases, there is more to the story than that; psychological problems that are born from trauma, pain and abuse that they've had to endure. We are then faced with a question that has no one right answer for every case; do we hold them accountable as adults, assume that even with rehabilitation they are too risky to allow back in society? After all, if they could do some horrible things as a child, what would they be capable of as adults? or do we recognize that they are still children, who have often had traumatic childhoods, and give them a lighter sentence, and counseling, and hope that they will not kill again?

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Wow, what a sad and crazy story. Very horrifying and heartbreaking. Hopefully something can be learned from it, and help people in the future.

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks for your comment oceansnsunsets. Yes, it is sad and crazy. I think it will probably be a case that is studied by child psychologists for years to come, and hopefully they are learning from it. Hopefully this tragic story can at least bring them some insight into the circumstances that can turn a child into a dangerous predator. It might also help them learn how to help other children in the future, and what the best course or rehabilitation for other children from similar childhood circumstances might benefit from.

Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 5 years ago

Such stories never cease to fascinate me. It's hard to imagine enduring what children such as Mary must have endured before becoming true psychopaths. I can only imagine the upbringing her own daughter must have had, which I would think would have been marginal at best. I sure hope I'm wrong about that, but when you have no empathy and your only experience with childrearing was being raised by a cold, sociopathic mother, I can't imagine you have many functional skills to fall back on. Very sad.

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks again for your comment Jaynie.

It really is hard to imagine. The entire story is so interesting, and has so many webs tangled up in it, it would be hard to untangle them and figure it out. I think it is always a shock when a child get killed, and always a shock when a child kills, but what is most disturbing and different about this case is that it was a young child killing other young children - most of the cases of child killers are teenagers. Mary was so young, that it is truly shocking to imagine how she could already have developed the tendencies of a serial killer. It's also hard to imagine someone who has shown such evil at such a young age growing into a mentally healthy individual who is not a danger to society. Yet, we also hope rehabilitation is possible, and maybe it did indeed work. Though as you said, I do wonder at what kind of upbringing her daughter must have had. I actually read recently that she was now a grandmother, as her daughter has had a child.

GonzoAve profile image

GonzoAve 5 years ago from Columbus, OH

I truly enjoyed reading this, what an awesome hub!!

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank you GonzoAve, I appreciate that! :)

MaryNeal 5 years ago

Thanks for pointing out that there are juvenile murderers. In fact over 2,230 children were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Children face the same consequences for crimes as adults, except execution. Therefore, don't you agree they deserve the same or more protection from self-incrimination? Every American should have the right to an attorney when interrogated, and we have a right to the Miranda warning that will advise us of that right before questioning begins. However, I am NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT THAT AT HUB PAGES. My article entitled JUVENILE JUSTICE: KIDS 4 CASH was unpublished by HubPages editors. The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding in March 2011 whether social workers and armed police can interrogate children in school absent their parents' knowledge and consent, without any attorney present, and without being given the Miranda warning that anything said could be used to prosecute the kid. In fact one seventh grader is in prison now based on confessions he made under those circumstances. I denounce censorship, and thought HubPages would be a place I could publish important news about justice decisions that are being made that will have far-reaching consequences for Americans for many years. But the attack on freedom of press regarding issues that impact prison profiteers' income is extreme to the point that I have found no place on the web that is above censorship.

The message on my JUVENILE JUSTICE: KIDS 4 CASH article that HubPages editors unpublished says it needs revision. What shall I revise? The fact that two cases are before the U.S. Supreme Court to determine if America will discriminate against children and allow police, prosecutors, and judges to take unfair advantage of their youth to channel them into prison to benefit prison owners and investors? Should I delete the parts where a six-year-old was Tasered? What about the part where a student at a school for brain damaged kids was beaten by the school police? What part of my article is to be censored? What part is to be hidden like the 2003 secret arrest and murder of Larry Neal, my mentally, physically ill brother who police tired of arresting on misdemeanor disturbing the peace charges? Perhaps it is my Bible quote that must be censored to satisfy HubPages editors. I quoted Biblical warning that in the Last Days, people would be without natural affection and love money rather than God or each other.

I await HubPages' instructions on what part of my article made it "below acceptable standards." In case they fail to respond, look for the article online anyway under the same title: JUVENILE JUSTICE: KIDS 4 CASH. Determine for yourself if it was unpublished at HubPages because the article was unacceptable, or was it the behavior of justice officials that was unacceptable and ineligible to be published.


Mary Neal

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank you for your comment Mary Neal. I don't know why your hub was deemed unacceptable, but you are right. People really need to start to pay attention to these things. We cannot treat our children as though they are adults, just because they commit what is considered an "adult crime". It is also our responsibility to protect them, and clearly that is not a priority in the judicial system.

noring 5 years ago

that what so sad what the mom did to her daughter thats why she became the way she was when she was just a little girl..u know and that so nice that she is a really nice grandmother and mom

Aneesa birmingham 5 years ago

I just dont think murders really give a damn they just go ahead and some still dont even learn it disgusting.

Aneesa birmingham 5 years ago

It,s quite shocking how a murderouse evil 11yr old child can do that maybe it,s involved in her violent past

GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 5 years ago from Northern California


freann faith 5 years ago

so sad. I think no child can do such thing if he's just given enough love and attention by his parents. Anyway, I'm glad I came to pass by this page. Very well written indeed.

Loving momma 5 years ago

I six week old baby was brutally murdered by a five year old and absolutely nothing happened to the kid so things like this really make me hate throwed off individuals like that if they are a child or not

IntimatEvolution profile image

IntimatEvolution 4 years ago from Columbia, MO USA

That's crazy stuff.

Mercredi profile image

Mercredi 4 years ago

Well written Hub. I've never heard of this case before! Thanks for the interesting read!

one2recognize2 profile image

one2recognize2 4 years ago from New York

Very glad I stumbled onto this hub. Very well written and I too love True Crime Stories. As a society we try to believe a child cannot be capable of such crimes but they truly are and are hardly brought to light, thanks for doing an incredible job in doing so. Voted up and interesting.

mary 4 years ago

i know her ... She came to she did not do it . A demon made her she couldn't fight it , im 12 hes got weaker he tries to get me i manage for now i shes a nice girl ;) belive and help her go to heven she will stay till you belive pass on.... Mary peace be with her ;)

sean 4 years ago

It says Scotswood, North of London. They could just say Newcastle. I lived in that area in the 1990s

American Romance profile image

American Romance 4 years ago from America

soooo, where is she now? What happened to her? Does she work? I want to know more??

Kavanagh 4 years ago

Hey i like your information on these cases. Ive read alot on this Mary Bell if what was stated about here upbringing is true, he be used inas a sex object for money by her own mother. On that basis i think her parents should be to blame for those little boys that their daughter murdered. Mary should have still been punished she was still in the wrong but it sickens me to think her mum was still exploiting the girl and making money by selling stories to the tabloids when she should have been in jail for life

Nick Hanlon profile image

Nick Hanlon 4 years ago from Chiang Mai

Wow....didn't kow about Mary.She'd be 55 now.I for one don't know how much punishment a child should receive for such a crime.Great hub btw.

Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 4 years ago from US

It is hard to believe a child could do things like this. I use to read true crime exclusively but never about children, just so hard to fathom. I have come upon a couple children in my life though that had looks to put the fear of death in me, lol.

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

fascinating article. so hard to believe children will be involved in such heinous acts!

citations 3 years ago

there are no citations, is this merely a recitation of the youtube documentary? are there any citations in that?

Antonia Monacelli profile image

Antonia Monacelli 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

No, it's not a recitation of the youtube documentary, it's an article compiled from research done through a wide variety of sources. There are no citations because this is not a scholastic essay or academic article, so I don't need to provide citations.

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

I have never heard of this particular case, although I am pretty well read on the subject. I thought the US had a monopoly on psychopaths like this, but I can see now it is a worldwide phenomenon. Great hub!

handymanbill profile image

handymanbill 3 years ago from western pennsylvania

Great hub. I enjoyed reading. i was surprised that so young a person would be able to commit a Crime such as this.

creativeaqua profile image

creativeaqua 3 years ago from India

Unbelievable! It is nice that the court has given the two anonymity for life. Hope they are happy today.

victoria1800 profile image

victoria1800 3 years ago from Whitechapel UK

Great informative hub. I am a big fan of true crime and have previously read up on this case. It still shocks me how a young girl could commit such crimes, and it is surprising that she has never reoffended. I look forward to reading more of your work.

carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 3 years ago from Northeast United States

Wow never heard of this case before ! It sickens me on how someone that young could commit such a haneness crime and laugh about it. Some this sounds demonic, but I strongly hope she was saved and hasn't had any compulsions to harm anyone since. I really strongly hope her daughter lives a peaceful and happy life. Thank you for taking the time to write this disturbing yet educating hub.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Very interesting hub about an extremely disturbing case Antonia. I too look forward to reading more of your hubs as I am interested in true crime.

belleart profile image

belleart 2 years ago from Ireland

this is probably one of the most disturbing true crime stories I have ever read! mostly due to the age obviously, but regardless of the age, its still a really sickening story. Good hub

FullOfLoveSites profile image

FullOfLoveSites 2 years ago from United States

This story really saddens me. I think she has a serious psychological disorder. It's surprising that she is allowed to raise her daughter. Maybe her heart was changed after all. I've heard that Mary has become a grandmother recently.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 2 years ago from Upstate New York

What a chilling story! I wonder if child psychopaths can ever be completely rehabilitated. I wouldn't want to live in the same town as the "new" Mary Bell, or raise children there. I hope her child isn't also subject to a dysfunctional home. These things tend to be perpetuated generation after generation; though it is entirely possible to break the chain.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

What a sad and shocking story. Truly gruesome. I had no idea someone that young could by a psychopath already. So sad that this woman is out among the rest of us and has had a child yet. I hope she is truly 'cured.'

philabustah profile image

philabustah 2 years ago from Boston, MA.

Could this be a "white people disease?" It seems that mental illness runs deeper than anyone, (including the medical profession), recognizes. I know that there are people of color who are mentally ill as well. However, it seems that anytime it comes to light, White people, (American, European, Russian), top the list of absolute psychopathy. It's either that, or they tend to be the ones who are sensationalized. For instance, if we talked about the Mexican drug cartel, would that not be more learned than inherent behavior?

Galadriel Therese profile image

Galadriel Therese 2 years ago from Voorhees, New Jersey

This hub was very well-written and informative; I only have one critique, and that is the label of "serial killer". Mary Bell was not a serial killer. Often that moniker is used for any person who killed more than one person, but there is a great deal that goes into the psychological profile of a person who truly is a serial killer. Ted Bundy, for example, was a true serial killer. Mary Bell did not fit that category, despite the fact that she murdered two children. The fact that she never re-offended means that she could not have fit. I'm being nit-picky, and I apologize, but serial killers (and really, murderers of all kinds) are my area of study. (I am a HIT at parties, let me tell you) Child murderers are especially fascinating, as are the implications of the affect of nurture on potentially psychopathic children. Did Mary Bell's upbringing cause her to become a killer, or was she always going to turn out that way, but because we know of her childhood we can see that as an excuse? Of course, we will never know. There have been many killers, serial and otherwise, who grew up in loving environments; Ted Bundy, again, is an example. Really, very fascinating. Thank you for writing this hub, as I actually was unfamiliar with the case. I think I need to brush up on my European murder history!

Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 2 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

This is a very disturbing story and the more scary as you do not know of all the others out there. I do for a fact know about the damage a psychopathic sibling can do to the other siblings psychologically without inflicting any bodily harm leaving those kids scared for life and no one the wiser.

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

This is a very interesting story. It reminded me of the movie, The Bad Seed, but I think the movie fell short of explaining why the child became that way. I wonder if there is any hope for psychopaths so that they can reform.

jlpark profile image

jlpark 2 years ago from New Zealand

Thanks for an interesting hub.

It's intriguing to see what the first few years or even weeks of life can affect the way in which a person develops. With her history, you want to feel sympathy for Mary, but at the same time, revulsion at what she was able to do without emotion. Scary!

Word Pools profile image

Word Pools 2 years ago from United States of America

Wow - I can't imagine how a child so young could be a murderer, especially a serial one. But the story of her background does help explain some things. It is scary!

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

What a scary sad story! Thanks for sharing. I have not heard of this murder case caused by kids.I enjoyed reading it.

mochirajackson profile image

mochirajackson 2 years ago from Liverpool, United Kingdom

Hi, I just saw this while exploring hubs. It's horrible to think that children can be killers but I'm sure you will also know the case of James Bulger, who was killed by two ten-year olds in the UK. This happened near to where I live and everyone I know was horrified but, as you have written in this hub, the family background does have a lot to do with both of these cases. Great hubs - voted up.

daborn7 profile image

daborn7 2 years ago from California

Wow, very interesting and sad indeed. I cant even imagine a child doing such things. I know it happens, but what a sad situation. Thanks for sharing.

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

I've been reading a lot about psychopathy and looking at documentaries, etc. but this is the first time a coherent link was made between childhood experience and psychopathy. Thank you for helping me to find the missing link on its possible causes.

Sami Hanson profile image

Sami Hanson 2 years ago from Kansas

Unfortunately antisocial personality disorders are the only disorders that cannot be treated, but it does go to show you how critical a secure attachment to one's caregiver can be. Just that withdrawn, insecure, and cold attachment style predisposed Mary to her lack of emotion and empathy because it was never stimulated.

That being said, sociopaths cannot be helped, nor cured. She should have never been let out of prison.

Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Interesting hub - I'd not heard of this case before. If she did change, bring up a daughter and become a grandmother, she could not have been a true psychopathic personality, as they don't change. Hopefully, she did better by her daughter than her own mother did by her.

nickico profile image

nickico 2 years ago from New Jersey suburb

Interesting and very sad. I had never heard of this case. This hub was very well written.

littlecat2013 profile image

littlecat2013 21 months ago

Thanks for an interesting read. Mary Bell's case is fascinating and disturbing. It is interesting to read how such young children are capable of such evil actions.

Simongreedypig 18 months ago

that vicious little beast, should be released out of jail in 2080, not 1980. when she was only 11-years-old. she killed Martin Brown,4 Brian Howe,3 she deserves to go to hell. Mary is lucky that they don't have guillotines in the 1960s, only in the 1872. I hope she feels guilty for what she did 47 years ago.

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hubber8893 6 months ago

Very well written article, terrific too.

haley todd 4 months ago

Towards the end it seems Marys daughter was raised much better then she was. I wounder why Mary gave her a better life, due to the fact she ended 2 others. Does she still feel the same way when she was little? Has she change? Whats her view about people and death? There are so many questions i want to know. I really want to explore her brain.

haley todd 4 months ago

I see her as a girl who was given no chances from the beginning. Given no love but was given plenty of hate from her mother. The emotions she probably once carried could have faded away with her will to care. Instead of looking for mental feeling. she sought for physical feeling towards others. she was 11 years old. she never got to live her life yet she already made mistakes because she was numb inside and out. Without love and care from the start you progress backwards instead of moving forward. I feel pity for her. The children who where caught in her storm where killed by what she felt deep inside. I she was given more time and help she could die without any regrets. The brain can turn off important things to make it more easy to bare tragic events in reality.

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines

Wow, makes you hair stand on end...

Jeff 3 months ago

Here mother, Betty, is a despicable human being. She sounds like a complete sociopath. She should have been sent to jail for being the one responsible for all this. She is a disgusting human being. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that such a vile individual exists. Lock that horrible human being (scratch that, calling her a human being is being too generous. I'd say she's more like rat or cockroach, but even that is giving her too much credit, and is an insult to rats and cockroaches.) in a cell and throw away the key.

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grand old lady 3 months ago from Philippines

I enjoyed this hub a lot, not just because it's about crime and children, but because it explains the psychology of why a child can sometimes kill. However, I wonder -- other children who have been abused have not become murderers, although they developed multiple personalities or manifested their dysfunction in other ways. What makes one child kill, another not, even if both have been abused? Excellent article.

Raja 4 weeks ago

It was most horrifying real time teenage serial killer story I have ever heard. It gave me Goosebumps all the time. Very well done

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    Documentary On Mary Bell & Her Crimes - Part One

    The Mary Bell Case: Part Two

    The Mary Bell Case: Part Three

    The Mary Bell Case: Part Four

    The Mary Bell Case: Part Five

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