Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Bell

Martin Brown

"There has been a boy who Just lay down and Died."

-- Mary Bell's notebook

Martin was last seen at approximately 3:15 pm, and was discovered at 3:30, lying on the floor of a boarded-up house. Three boys foraging for some scrap wood had found the child on his back next to a window, with blood and saliva trickling down the side of his cheek and chin. Panicked, they called out to the construction workers outside, who remembered giving little Martin some biscuits earlier that day. They raced up the stairs and tried to revive him, but Martin was already dead.

One of the boys noticed Mary Bell and a friend coming toward the house, and stopping directly below the window. "Shall we go up?" said Mary. They squeezed through boards to get inside. Mary had brought Norma to show her that she had killed Martin. But they were told to go away.

The girls then went to find Martin's aunt to tell her that there had been an accident, that they thought it was Martin, and that there was "blood all over." "I'll show you where it is," said Mary to the distraught woman.

Strangely, the police could not find any signs of violence. A bottle of aspirin was nearby -- perhaps he ate them all. There were no visible strangulation marks or any other marks on the child, and therefore the authorities believed his death was accidental. The Criminal Investigation Department was not called in.

The official report on Martin Brown declared the "cause of death open." But the Scotswood community couldn't simply let go of the tragic death, so they marched and protested against the dangerous conditions of the condemned buildings in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the true menace of Scotswood, Mary and Norma, were giving Martin's aunt the creeps with their prying questions. "They kept asking me, 'Do you miss Martin?' and 'Do you cry for him?' and 'Does June miss him?' and they were always grinning. In the end I could stand it no more and told them to get out and not to come back."

June Richardson with a photograph of her son Martin Brown, who was murdered by Mary Bell
June Richardson with a photograph
of her son Martin Brown, who was
murdered by Mary Bell

Martin's mother, June Brown was also bothered by the girls. After hearing a knock, June opened the front door to find Mary standing there. "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. I was just speechless that such a young child should want to see a dead baby and I just slammed the door on her."

Mary's ominous behavior was by no means exclusive to Martin's grieving family. On Sunday, the day following Martin's death, Mary celebrated her eleventh birthday by trying to throttle Norma Bell's younger sister. Fortunately, Norma's father saw Mary's stranglehold on the girl. "I chopped Mary's hands away," he said, "and gave her a clip on the shoulder."

But the day wasn't over yet. The next morning the staff at the Day Nursery at Woodlands Crescent would make a chilling discovery.

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