Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Bell

Warning Signs

"'What happens if you choke someone, do they die?"

-- Mary Bell's notebook

Investigators now looked at the mysterious death of Martin Brown as a homicide. In fact, Mary Bell's behavior after Martin's death was so flagrant, it was a wonder she hadn't been apprehended sooner. Perhaps Brian Howe's life would have been spared. But, as one local boy said, everyone knew Mary was a "show-off," and her screams "I am a murderer!" had simply been laughed at.

Even before Martin's death, other children were being hurt by Mary.

On May 11, 1968, a three-year-old boy was found behind some empty sheds near a pub, bleeding from the head. He was found by Norma Bell and Mary Bell. The boy was a cousin of Mary's. He had "fallen" off a ledge, landing several feet below. Mary would later admit to having pushed him over the edge.

The following day, three girls who were playing by the Nursery were attacked by Mary, with Norma nearby. One of the girls said that Mary "put her hands around my neck and squeezed hard... The girl [Mary] took her hands off my neck and she did the same to Susan." The police were soon called. Norma stated that "Mary went to the other girl and said, 'What happens if you choke someone, do they die?' Then Mary put both hands round the girl's throat and squeezed. The girl started to go purple... I then ran off and left Mary. I'm not friends with her now."

According to the official report on May 15, "The girls Bell have been warned as to their future conduct." Ten days later Martin Brown was killed.

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