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Mary, Mary... Quite Contrary
April 15, 2003 1:20 PM   Subscribe

"Mary smiled and asked to see Martin. I said, ‘No, pet, Martin is dead.’ She turned round and said, ‘Oh, I know he’s dead. I wanted to see him in his coffin,’ and she was still grinning."

Mary Bell was convicted in 1968 for the murder of two boys: Martin Brown, age 4 and Brian Howe, age 3. And how old was Mary? She was 11. Released on license in 1980, Mary is in court again, this time to determine if she can retain the state-granted anonymity she has enjoyed since her release. But should one remain anonymous after profitting from their own biography?
posted by grabbingsand (26 comments total)

 
Correction: the anonymity has been in force officially only since 1998.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:29 PM on April 15, 2003


why shouldn't she? she served her time and not writing about it was never part of her sentence.
posted by hob at 1:37 PM on April 15, 2003


The facts of the Mary Bell case always fill me with sorrow.

It's a shame that the gutter press can get away with anything - hounding people, ruining people's lives, maliciously spreading lies, presenting editorial as fact, etc.
posted by daveg at 2:02 PM on April 15, 2003


There's a super-creepy song about her by Monte Cazazza. I can't find an mp3 of it though. I just remember the lyrics:

Mary Bell, child from hell, one half wicked, one half good...
posted by padraigin at 2:39 PM on April 15, 2003


thanks for the links, this case has always fascinated me and i had no idea that mary was in the news again.
posted by t r a c y at 2:41 PM on April 15, 2003


There's something about mary... (someone had to say it)
posted by banished at 2:45 PM on April 15, 2003


I just wish she hadn't killed two little boys, who never had a chance to tell their story.

I am a father. I would have devoted my life to finding her.
posted by UncleFes at 2:46 PM on April 15, 2003


It's a terrible thing that this irks but Newcastle is not just an economically depressed community 275 miles north of London.

Some local colour.
posted by squealy at 3:31 PM on April 15, 2003


Who on earth would want to attack an 18-year-old girl, just because her mother was convicted of killing two children in 1968?

Well, as UncleFes so aptly put it, how about anyone connected to the victims, for starters.
posted by squirrel at 3:43 PM on April 15, 2003


Trouble is, in the age of the internet, Mary Bell has no chance of keeping her identity secret. Any web page located on a server outside England or Wales can quite happily reveal all her details.

Not that this should happen. We don't try children as adults for the very simple reason they are not adults. That she knew right from wrong is no different from saying that any 11-year-old who understands the basics of politics should be allowed to vote. She served her time, and I would hope that no foreign website will give her identity away.
posted by salmacis at 3:59 PM on April 15, 2003


From Squealy's link:
A nine year old girl called Mary Bell killed a smaller boy called Brian Howe. She had previously killed Martin Brown in an empty house.

The full horror came out at the trial at Moot Hall assizes, and Mary was incarcerated for 12 years. Although free now and living in Suffolk, she is still a pathological and unreformed killer.

posted by krunk at 4:30 PM on April 15, 2003


Crime Library has a good section about Mary Bell, past and present.

(I hadn't realized that the original Crime Library had been bought by Court TV until I went to find this article, which I'd read years ago--but good for them I guess, they have been doing a quality job for years.)
posted by padraigin at 4:49 PM on April 15, 2003


only girl among 20 or so boys at an approved school in Merseyside, she was allegedly subject to sexual abuse by a member of staff and also by fellow inmates, to which the rest of the staff turned a blind eye

Krunk, even ordinary prison sentences does little to reform anybody, but putting a kid in prison is barbarism. Obviously she was - and perhaps still is - dangerous, but there is something inherintly wrong with convicting children. They should be helped: No wonder she wasn't cured of her mental problems.

For crying out loud, she was eleven!

But is perhaps even more alarming that people can't let it go thirty years past - that they can't drop the lynch mob mentality. Those people seems so concerned with persecuting this modern day witch, but they should look themselves in the mirror; what they are doing is evil.
posted by cx at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2003


cx: Sorry, my comment was rather vague -- I agree with you, I was just pointing out that the quote from squealy's link was rather odd and contradicted all the other articles.
I thought it was strange that a site about Newcastle would randomly pass judgement on the sanity of a former resident.
posted by krunk at 6:13 PM on April 15, 2003


er, padraigan: the link you gave is the basis for this FPP :^)
posted by krunk at 6:18 PM on April 15, 2003


We don't try children as adults for the very simple reason they are not adults.

Tell that to Nathaniel Abraham.
posted by eilatan at 6:57 PM on April 15, 2003


er, padraigan: the link you gave is the basis for this FPP :^)

d'oh, I didn't read that one, only the newspaper links. Mea Culpa.
posted by padraigin at 7:16 PM on April 15, 2003


For crying out loud, she was eleven!

But is perhaps even more alarming that people can't let it go thirty years past - that they can't drop the lynch mob mentality. Those people seems so concerned with persecuting this modern day witch, but they should look themselves in the mirror; what they are doing is evil.


Ok, since you're so fond of her she can move in with you.

Don't like that idea? Obviously not, because you realize she's probably still dangerous. Calling people "evil" and a "lynch mob" for having natural concerns about a world that could produce something accomplishes nothing. All the self-righteous moral debate in the world does not negate the fact that the Mary Bells of the world need to be dealt with and that in a civilized society we have at least some reasonable expectation that our legal system will keep us safe from them.

I am not without compassion for the abuse she sufferred and believe that the bastards who abused should be rotting in a cell somewhere as well. But by the same token, I know people who have had horrendous childhoods and while they may have their problems, they've never done anything on this level.

But is perhaps even more alarming that people can't let it go thirty years past

The kids she killed will be dead forever.
posted by jonmc at 6:36 AM on April 16, 2003


jonmc - she's served her time. Anything done to her (and her 18-year-old daughter) is vigilante justice. If you feel strongly that child killers shouldn't be out in society, lobby to have their sentences increased. Don't make them the target of whatever form of torture the outraged masses want to give out.
posted by Summer at 7:10 AM on April 16, 2003


summer, I don't like lynch mobs, either, but it's not like being apprehensive about this woman being loose makes you an evil vigilante.
posted by jonmc at 7:46 AM on April 16, 2003


There's a super-creepy song about her by Monte Cazazza.

!!!! WOW! You score huge points for knowing that! If you ever find that mp3 let me know!! That and "Tiny Tears"....
posted by evilcupcakes at 8:28 AM on April 16, 2003


Thank you jonmc.

Summer - "can't let go?", "she has served her time"? Did you read what became of the mothers of these murdered children? Their other children? When will they have served their time? Who decides that? When do they get peace? Some things are unforgivable, this being #1. Mary Bell has no right to anonymity. None. Bell's daughter shouldn't be attacked for who her mother is, but if she ever has children, she sure as hell better never leave them alone with mom.

If it was my child taken from me like this you can damn well bet that EVERYONE would know who did it and I would dog the killer for the rest of their life. I have known several people who have lost children, from what I have seen there isn't anything that eases the pain even a little except time. I'm sure that letting go would be a blessed release but it's impossible.
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 12:18 PM on April 16, 2003


Oh come off it, she was eleven. It was horrible, but she was a child too. England does not have a good record on mob justice, and she very likely needs the protection of anonymity to avoid becoming the target of the same fear filled people who ransacked that pediatrician's office a few years ago.

This is 35 years old now. Either she's better or she's not (I notice she hasn't killed anyone since being let out), but she did, in fact, serve her time. Justice has been done. The families might have call to want revenge. It would be wrong for them to get it, but more than understandable for them to want it. But the fact is that she is not being protected from the families of the kids she killed, but from the hundreds of people who would make it their personal business to seek revenge on their behalf, or whip each other into a frenzy about the childkiller in their neighborhood until someone ended up lynched.
posted by Nothing at 2:26 PM on April 16, 2003


No, you come off it. It doesn't matter how much time has passed. She may have been 11, but an 11 year old who strangles small children should be locked up either forever or until they can be absolutely certain (is this possible?) that this person is completely cured. You may think "justice" may have been served in the eyes of the british legal system, but probably not in the eyes and lives of the families left behind.

Have you ever known anyone who lost a child in an accident or to a murderer? Are you a parent? Unless you have first-hand experience you have no business telling people to get over it.

Revenge? Um, no. Prevention against it happening again and keeping the children she has access to, safe. I certainly am not advocating vigilante justice. If there is a childkiller in my neighborhood I want to know about it. Mary Bell's daughter didn't know her mother was a murderer. How would you feel if you let your kids go over to her house and then found out that the neighbor you know as "Sue Smith" is Mary Bell?
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 10:11 AM on April 17, 2003


Well put, Nothing.

WKG: No amount of punishment will mend the wounds of the parents, no amounts of punishment will bring back their children alive. The parents will probably never stop suffering from this tragedy, but neither will the killer. She has lost a huge portion of her life being tormented and molested in prison when she should have been treated and helped.

You say, people should be kept in prison until we are sure they won't offend again, but prisons don't work that way: Nobody heals from going to prisons; they only become further embedded in a criminal life style. Thus, prisons aren't for rehabilitation: Prisons are for punishment, and so one has to ask oneself whether one believe Mary Bell has suffered enough. I say, she has. She was a kid, and she was obviously mentally ill; in other words she couldn't be held responsible for her actions. Considering then, that the only purpose of her punishment was to soothe a vigilante mob and the blind anger and fury of the bereaved - themselves wanting to destroy a kid - it seems unbearibly hard that in addition to her much too long prison sentence is disallowed the chance of building a proper and normal life for herself and for her family.

If prevention really is the goal, people should welcome Bell's family into their homes. The risk of such a thing happening again is non-existant, but the risk of doing an injustice to Bell and her family is overwhelming.
posted by cx at 3:33 AM on April 19, 2003


"Thus, prisons aren't for rehabilitation: Prisons are for punishment, and so one has to ask."

If prisons aren't for rehabilitation, why are prisoners given education and counseling? I don't want to get into the prison reform debate, I think we all know prisons are a mess and that true rehabilitation is fairly rare.

Being a kid doesn't excuse her crime and who's to say she isn't mentally ill anymore? When she took other people's children away and deprived them of their rights, my opinion is that she forfeited hers to have a "normal" life.

It's a grand leap to say the threat of this happening again is non-existent. I've read no proof of that. How is welcoming Bell into their home preventing anything? I fail to see your logic.

Never did I say that Mary Bell deserved any of the things that happened to her. What I said was that no one has the right to tell victim's families when their time for grieving or feeling the loss is up and to get over it. I also said that people have a right to know if a convicted child killer lives in their area.
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 12:26 PM on April 21, 2003


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