This is an incredible account. I know it is still controversial in the UK, but the story of Mary Bell is a lesson in the rush to demonize any child under 13 who kills. In her story I see parallels with the 12 year olds who tried to kill another young friend in their age group that has recently taken place and known as The Slenderman attempted murder case.
Just like in Mary Bell's case one girl who was and is considered an accomplice has been all ready given diminished capacity while the other 12 year may be charged as an adult. These cases seem from what I have read scarily similar to the case of Mary Bell and Norma Bell (they are, were not related). I had heard the story of Mary Bell many times before finally finding a first edition for sale in a used book store. The book was brand new with a 1990s Amtrak stub in the book.
The book is the single best true crime book I've ever read. And yes, I confess it--I'm a True Crime Junkie. So I had read summarized versions in some books that call Mary Bell the youngest Serial Killer. A complete lie if there ever was one but it sounds sensational to keep people interested. The truth is in some cases all too common and that it is common is part of the tragedy. The difference between Mary Bell and probably millions of severely abused physically and sexually children is that she at the tender age of 11 began to act out what we can only assume were murderous revenge fantasies on younger children who were weaker than her. The fact that they were both male may be more significant in light of the way she was abused by her prostitute mother and the horrible men who paid probably extra to have an 8 year old child participate in sick sex games that ended with an 8 year old being forced with no recourse against her abusive mother (and one assumes a man consenting to these sorts of acts with an 8 year old child) to have oral copulation with her mother's tricks.
When Mary killed the second boy, she tried sever his penis with scissors. What greater sign do you need about what her maybe subconscious drive was doing?
But this is getting ahead of myself. Lets start at the beginning, from the books point of view.
This is the story of two profoundly disturbed 11 year old girls who had a murder fantasy game they played and tragically acted out in the murder of two little boys who were basically toddlers. The girls never really hid their intentions in numerous disturbing incidents that proceeded the murders. They even tried to take credit for the first murder in ways they announced their announced their intentions when they vandalized the local nursery (Police took it as children playing pranks, the first boys death was thought to be a tragic accident). Mary Bell's story is compelling because once they caught the girls they confessed, maybe bragged about what they had done totally unaware of the seriousness of what they did. To them it was still a game.
By the time they got to court they had recanted their confessions each accusing the other. To the author of this book and the one that preceeded injustice was inflicted on both these children. The author was told by her editor to cover the case. She had covered the Nuremberg Trials after WWII... And here she was watching the law come down on two young girls who had no concept of what was going on around them. They each took the stand. It was clear that Norma Bell "the accomplice" was developmentally disabled. She was one child from a household who had more than 5 children. Sometimes the girls giggled in court. Which everyone took to be a sign of evil delight in their crimes instead of two little girls sitting next to each other in a very boring courtroom where they didn't understand what was going on very often entertaining themselves. So, sinister indeed. Norma Bell was allowed to go live with her family during the trial while Mary Bell stayed in custody. In the book, the women that took care of her in her lil attic jail cell said they often would have to go and track down her mother to force her see her daughter in her confinement or just make her go to court. These lay people knew that Mary had done something unimaginably horrible and knew that though they didn't know everything her mother was the root at it all. So as I remember reading, "By God we were going to make sure her mother showed up to court, its the least she could do". They felt this way because they had to deal with the woman who was Betty Bell. She was rude, unrepentant. And all ready began milking her daughter's infamy for every penny it's worth while in semi private visits crying uncontrollably about how Mary had ruined her life. To anyone who spent even the minimum amount of time around Mary Bell and her mother Betty Bell it became obvious to what caused a young intelligent girl to act out in such an aggressively murderous way. But in the court, they saw a smart little girl who they began to think of as a serial killer (in the UK, to qualify for that title you have to kill two random people in motiveless murders on two separate occasions. And in the strictest sense, maybe Mary Bell could have become a serial killer. Her horrific background, bed wetting, vandalism all fits with what is said about budding serial killers. I believe there is a chance if Mary hadn't killed at 11 and gone on the same path to adulthood she could have become an incredibly dangerous human being, like all serial killers are. But the fact of the matter is, she did these killings at age 11. And in the most perverse way, it seemed to be her loudest call for help and the one that was finally answered.).
I don't know if Norma Bell participated in the second killing. But she was present.
Only Mary was found guilty because the court never learned the absolute horrifying child abuse that was inflicted on Mary by her prostitute mother. Her mother allowed her tricks to pay to have oral sex with her daughter many years before. Before that happened she was repeatedly physically abused, her mother even drugged her to "go out and party", and her mother tried to literally kill her on at least one to two occasions that outsiders know of. Even after these abuses Mary tried to protect her mother, downplaying or trying to act like she didn't remember abuse. What she did admit to was hard because she was bound in love, craving love from a mother who always used her daughter for own ends. The author was before her death a highly respected journalist who wrote her first book on Mary Bell from being assigned to it. Mary Bell's extended family told the author many disturbing truths (though one doubts it was full disclosure, for Mary's paternity was clouded with clues that she was most likely the product of incest between her mother and grandfather!).
Though you could assume Mary tried to make up excuses for her behavior--SHE NEVER DID. The author stressed she never threw her mother under the bus in speaking with her. The hardest things for Mary to talk about were the murders and the unimaginable abuse she suffered with her mother. The only abuse that hadn't been easily crossed checked was her mother using her directly in prostitution until Mary stood up for herself and made it stop. However her mother came close to admitting that atrocity she committed against her daughter to some who told the author in her cross reference of the things Mary said. It's a fact that in the lead up to the murders Mary began to charge old men coins to look at her naked and more. In addition her mother made it clear she was to accompany her mother when she went back off doing tricks in Glasglow, putting Mary Bell at the snapping point. She ran away, she behaved aggressively towards other children. All these signs in 1968, lead to more punishment. So Mary and her best friend at11 began a murder fantasy game made up from WESTERNS SHOWN IN THAT ERA ON TV (I stress that, because those blaming "SLENDERMAN" will find not two evil 12 year old girls but two girls from some exceptionally disturbing homes....like Mary). Finally Mary snapped. The similarities with the SLENDERMAN attempted murder are chilling.
This book asks us to explore if a preteen understands if they act out murderous games it is forever. MARY BELL STRESSES THAT AFTER SHE COMMITTED HER FIRST MURDER, ALONE.... SHE DIDN'T FULLY UNDERSTAND THAT POOR MARTIN BROWN WAS LITERALLY GONE FOREVER. MARY needed to have been put in a juvenile mental hospital, instead of reform school to deal with her disturbed nature. So did her friend Norma Bell (I think in the end, as odd as it is, Norma Bell got the worst end of this by being acquitted simply because she never got the treatment she must have needed--now she has never committed a crime like this since but something was hapening in her life that led her to particpate by craving an N into the body of the seond victim, Mary superimposed her M over Norma's N....
But in 1968, they didn't have those facilities. Her friend was acquitted and they decided to let her free. In an odd way, things turned out okay for Mary as the only female in the boys reformatory where she finally at her young preteen age met adult mentors if not trained to heal and deal with her profoundly disturbed mind with psychotherapy. But just having adults she could love and trust not to hurt her profoundly helped healing her. Upon turning 16, they put her in adult prison where she remained till her schedule one parole.
MARY BELL, HERS IS A STORY THAT ALL WHO THINK PRETEENS SHOULD PROVIDED THE CRIME IS HEINOUS ENOUGH SHOULD BE CHARGED AS ADULTS SHOULD READ. I'M ONLY TALKING ABOUT PRETEENS.
After reading this book I researched child killers under 12. In most, they came from highly disturbed Families.This has left me with the conclusion that parents, families, should be heavily personally investigated in these sorts of crimes and the laws should reflect that the child should be taken for extreme psychotherapy and held for as long as MARY BELL. If abuse as extreme is found like with MARY BELL'S case, the parent or parents should face steep consequences. Not all abused kids react like Mary Bell but if you read this book, you should see that her mother's extreme abuse WAS THE CATALYST. Because of this, the parent who is responsible for their kids should face equal consequences for the abuse that led a kid who didn't comprehend her actions in the full IF AN INVESTIGATION PROVES EXCESSIVE NEGLECT &ABUSE OF THE NATURE TO LEAD A CHILD TO BECOME SO DISTURBED.....
My opinion and argument are quite simple. If your child hits a baseball through a neighbors window, or vandalizes someones property... YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR THAT ACT. And you punish your child as what befits your conscience.
My argument is in children who murder with a parent like Mary Bell's mother Betty Bell....Well MRS. BELL WAS GUILTY AS WELL AND SHOULD HAVE FACED CONSEQUENCES.
Even after Mary was convicted, her mother USED her daughter's infamy to give stories to a salacious British press on Mary Bell to fund her life. I see the preteen girls in our country, with people calling them bad seeds. There is no such thing as a bad seed. They are created.