Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Bell

Brian Howe

  "Brian Howe had no mother, so he won't be missed."

-- Mary Bell

"Are you looking for your Brian?" asked Mary Bell. Brian's sister, Pat, was worried about the missing toddler, who should have been home by now. A small, three-year-old boy with fair hair, Brian Howe usually played close to home. Mary and her best friend, Norma, eagerly offered to help search for him. They led Pat through the neighborhood, looking here and there, all the while knowing exactly where Brian was.

Mary Bell
Mary Bell
They crossed the railroad tracks to the industrial area, where the kids of Scotswood often played among construction materials, old cars, and dangerous wreckage. Pat was worried -- only a few weeks ago little Martin Brown was found dead inside of a condemned house. Mary pointed to some large concrete blocks. "He might be playing behind the blocks, or between them," she said.

"Oh no, he never goes there," insisted Norma. In fact, Brian lay dead between the blocks. Mary wanted Pat to discover her dead brother, Norma later said, "because she wanted Pat Howe to have a shock." But Pat decided to leave. The Newcastle Police would find his body at 11:10 later that night.

Brian was found covered with grass and purple weeds. He had been strangled. Nearby, a pair of broken scissors lay in the grass. There were puncture marks on his thighs, and his genitals had been partially skinned. Clumps of his hair were cut away. The wounds were bizarre: "There was a terrible playfulness about it, a terrible gentleness if you like, and somehow the playfulness of it made it more, rather than less, terrifying," said Inspector James Dobson. Brian's belly had been signed "M" with a razor blade. This cut would not be apparent until days later. It appeared that someone had imprinted an "N", and that a fourth mark was added (by a different hand?) to change the "N" into a "M".

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