How Notorious Child Killer Mary Bell Lived Full Happy Life After Prison

Published on July 20, 2020

Little girls are often thought to be quite sweet, but not all children are good. Mary Bell was not yet a teenager when she killed two little boys. This shocking crime shook her English hometown because it just made no sense. How could a little girl so badly harm two little boys? What could drive a ten-year-old child to commit such grueling acts? Most countries don’t have many effective ways to prosecute this kind of behavior in a child, which led to some interesting results here.

mary bell child killer 1

A Most Disturbing Set of Crimes

Mary Bell was not a normal child. She did not receive a normal or healthy childhood and did not know how to behave in a safe manner. After years of abuse, Mary decided to abuse someone of her own. Her first kill was Martin Brown, a four-year-old in the neighborhood. He was reportedly strangled to death, and police quickly began to search for a killer but had no leads. Of course, who would suspect the young neighbor girl down the street? What about two of them?

martin brown murder victim mary bell

Martin Brown, 4 was the first victim of child-killer Mary Bell.

For her next crime, Mary recruited a friend. Norma Bell was another child in the neighborhood. For reasons that are beyond comprehension, Norma Bella agreed to help Mary with her next kill. The two strangled Brian Howe, another local toddler, who was only three at the time. Worse, Mary proceeded to carve up the corpse with a pair of scissors. It is a disturbing sight to imagine.

brian howe victim of mary bell

With the help of a friend, Norma Bell, Mary kills her next victim Brian Howe.

How To Treat A Child?

Given Mary’s age, figuring out a reasonable punishment was difficult. Had she been an adult, she would have simply been locked away in prison for life. Since she was so young, the judge knew that something needed to be looked into. Assuming that no child was simply born evil, the judge requested that she be looked at in a medical facility. After a psychiatric evaluation, it was determined that Mary was a genuine psychopath. Since it was unlikely that she would be able to be trusted in public, she was ordered to be imprisoned for the safety of the public with an endless sentence. The judge feared she would never be safe to return to the public and didn’t want to take any chances.

It was later revealed that Mary had several reasons for her concerning behavior. In her childhood, she had herself been severely abused both physically and sexually. Her mother had little care for her well-being and was apparently a known prostitute in the area. This left Mary in many dangerous circumstances and these events no doubt left their mark on her young mind.

mary bell as a child with mother

Young Mary Bell was physically and sexaully tortured by her own parents. Her mother was also a prostitute.

A Prison Break

Though you would expect to hear more about Mary getting into trouble, the truth is that she was fairly well behaved in prison. She did not commit any violent crimes, but she did partake in a prison break at one point. Other than that, there is no evidence to suggest that Mary created any problems during her stay.

Despite the judge’s indefinite sentencing, it was determined that Mary could handle being set free. Though many were uncomfortable with this reality, the courts made their decision and allowed Mary to take on a new chance at life. She served a total of twelve years in prison, a time span that would be difficult for anyone, particularly from such a young age. Mary was able to leave, but under one condition: she couldn’t be herself.

mary bell women prison newspaper

Mary was too well known and people were very worried about her release. Despite the fact that she had spent half her life in prison, most people did not believe that she should ever be released. They were scared and angry, and this meant that Mary wasn’t safe. To help with this, the courts gave her a new identity and let her head out to start over with a new life. She was only twenty-three and was able to start a somewhat normal life.

Her Family

Given her history of child-killing, the idea of Mary being a mom might make your head spin. Regardless, Mary did have a daughter and enjoyed living with her and raising her. In fact, Mary is now a grandma and has a beautiful granddaughter. Many find this development unimaginable, which is why they continue to hunt her down.

mary bell adult now

The Mary Bell Law

Mary was offered a chance at a new life, but not everyone believed that she deserved one. People continued to seek out her new identity and even began to make trouble for her family. This resulted in a law change that would offer indefinite protections for Mary and her family. The idea was that their identities would be completely protected until they died. Mary defended her new life as best she could and has continued to do so to this day.

If you thought the story of Mary Bell is crazy, just wait till you read about another child serial killer called Charlie Brandt. After that, ready about what happened to Kyron Horman, a 7-year-old that vanished completely.

Listen to "277 | Mary Hell // Mary Bell "The Tyneside Strangler"" on Spreaker.

Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell

The mob will move on, the pain never can

The Guardian 06, Dec, 1968

34 comments on “How Notorious Child Killer Mary Bell Lived Full Happy Life After Prison”

  1. Thanks for your excellent article. 2 quick points -
    1. Are their sources of Bell being abused other than Sereny?
    2. What is the source re Bell's grand child? I've not seen that before.
    Many thanks

    1. I was also wondering about your first point. Gita Sereny did some good work but I found her rather naive and very quick to accept excuses from psychopaths

  2. It's quiet disturbing that a girl that killed twice got the right to be unidentified and could keep her own child. I really don't think that I would like to discover that a baby killer was my next neighbour, specially with my child around. I'm sorry, she did her sentence but as she has the right to have a life, I have the right to protect my child from a murder that actually, nobody can guarantee that will not kill again. And as I said, how come she got a child and could keep it?

    1. Nobody can "guarantee" that YOU won't kill again, or haven't killed before. And the only reason the public doesn't get to know if she's around them, is because pearl-clutching reactionary morons like you kept hunting her down for their own reasons.

      1. Obnoxious comment. You sound like a smug, condescending entitled fool who has never experienced or encountered real pain

    2. U are absolutely right in what u say she should never of been allowed to look after her own child she could of killed that to and abused it what the hell was the system thinking about clearly not the welfare of her child I would not want to live next door to her either I would want to bloody kill her for what she did to those 2 innocent wanes

    3. How do you know your current neighbour isn’t a child killer, or an aspiring one? How do you know your current neighbour isn’t more dangerous than Mary Bell?

  3. Everyone has all their own theories but no-one ever thinks of the families that were left devastated by this i was 10 years old when my brother brian was murdered by mother myself and family were just left to get on with it no help at all.television programs pestering us decades after the event all for ratings . What a very caring society we have in the uk

    1. My heart grieves for yours and your family. The loss of your brother, in such a devastating way,is a pain nobody should ever feel.

    2. I'm sorry for what you've been through Raymond.I'd like to think we've got better at supporting victims but I'm not at all sure we have.

  4. If there was ever the opportunity to free her it was right to do it, she was a very young child when it happened after all.
    Go for it mary, you've paid your debt to society and I bet your a good mom and grandma

      1. Understandable to feel that way. Nothing that happened to her excuses her actions but she was a child, herself. She obviously has learned from her very sad mistakes and had gone on to live a productive and hopefully a happy life. At the end of the day, you can’t play ‘God’. You don’t need to forgive her, or change your opinion but she was given a second chance for a reason and it’s not yours, or anybody’s right to decide if she deserved it or not

    1. Sorry u are wrong yes she was a child and she did suffer abuse with her own parents but she still took the life of 2 innocent wanes and then she was allowed to bring up her own she could of murdered that one to she did not do long enough in jail as far as I'm concerned and if I had kids I certainly would not want her next door to me

  5. It amazes me to read that she’s protected. Wow I grew up being beaten and sexually abused. I have not nor would I ever kill someone. She was deemed a psychopath that dont just Go away. And Mary is all upset bc she can’t work with kids. I wonder why. I’m so sorry for the families who didn’t receive any help and have to deal with this forever

  6. I think she was my next door neighbor I'm pretty sure off it because my husband recognise her she lives in Truth Cornwall .

    1. Throw back, no, Jen's fault, probably. I uploaded this blog post back last year, but just covered the story now. I feel like you are pissed that you're not the first to comment on something. lol

  7. Nicole didn't know you couldn't write cursive? You didn't write her Love letters while in the fox hole or locked up in the mental institution? Surprising. Or if you did were they all block print in crayon ? Ahhh the courting methods of you crazy kids.

    1. Marty don't forget, you were also born and raised in the great (somewhat literate) state of South Carolina. Anything that looks bad on me, also applies to you, and Mr. Donald Henry Gaskins.

      But to answer you question, NO I sent her emails from the fox hole and used the public phone in the institution.

  8. Hi.
    What would you think about the comparison between gypsy rose and this case? I understand there is an age difference but with regards to taking into account the abusive background. Even though it was presented in the gypsy rose case I think the jury doesn’t understand this kind of abuse I think the sentencing was too harsh.
    I have been with you since the beginning, y’all are excellent. I gained a lot of respect when you did the man kept alive after radiation. Jen you are my favorite ….

  9. Leanna wright (misspelled) this case has it all a infant, minority ( I Know you value diversity) unsolved , South Carolina based and not covered by every podcast in the world, hey Nikki.... Rollin to 300...

  10. As a born & bred scouser this brings back memories of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. I remember the case so clearly even though I was only a child myself at the time, but everything changed after that. There was life before James Bulger and a completely different kind of one after him. My mum would not let me move & adventures past the front porch alone where no more. God bless his little soul.

  11. Cries unheard is great book.
    I feel sympathy for Mary. Unlike the lynch mob who think a terribly abused child should pay for her crimes, forever.
    People should leave her alone.

  12. Sorry but she should have had life imprisonment.
    She murdered innocents and now is free to live her life.
    Wrong on all counts.
    The bible says an eye for an eye.
    Even a child knows right from wrong.
    She is an evil murderer.
    She lost her right to any kind of life having taken the lives of others.
    British Justice is pathetic.
    She took innocent lives for her own sadistic pleasure and now she is free to enjoy life.
    What the hell is wrong with our justice system,??
    In America she would have been given a lethal injection.
    Why do people keep saying she was just a child???
    Punish her to the max.
    British justice totally sucks.

  13. Bollocks. The youngest person executed in America was 14. They wouldn’t stick a needle in the arm of a 10 year old. Don’t even get started on the American justice system - now THAT ‘totally sucks!’

  14. One thing that always bothered me about this case was the role of Norma Bell. She was clearly less culpable than Mary but I think she was extremely fortunate to get off scot free. I wonder what she did with her life.

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