Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Bell

Manipulative

As a child, Mary was described as very manipulative and intelligent. As an adult, being interviewed by Gitta Sereny, she overly performs her sorrow, even to the writer's suspicions: "Her recovery from these terrible bouts of grief, however, was astoundingly quick, and at first these rapid emotional shifts raised doubts in me."

"Only one thing overrides them all," she writes of Mary's tragic experiences, "the discipline she has created inside herself in order to give her daughter a normal life." Both Sereny and Mary are quick to demonize Betty Bell as a mother, and elevate Mary in the role of mother redeemed. But something doesn't sit right with this simple reversal. Mary displays too much of the "drama queen" flair she picked up from her mother, and we must wonder how successful she has been at purging Betty Bell from her psyche.

Mary allowed Betty to be part of her life, even living with her after she was released from prison, despite her continued abuses. She wanted her own daughter to meet Granny. Betty prostituted her daughter in every conceivable way. She first sold off Mary to her "johns," then sold her sad story to the tabloids. We cannot know the extent of Betty's damage to her daughter. Throughout Cried Unheard, Mary has demonstrated herself to be very unreliable. There is certainly reason to lie and exaggerate her mother's abuses, which many sociopaths do to gain sympathy and justification for their behavior. Betty is dead now, and no one else has corroborated the worst of the allegations. But perhaps the silence was the product of another, more repressed era, before child sexual abuse was openly discussed as it is today.

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