12 Year Sentence For 11-Year-Old Serial Killer


Britain’s Youngest Killer

It was one of Britain’s most infamous crimes. Not only was it brutal and gory, but it was committed by someone you wouldn’t expect at all: a 11 year-old girl.

This is the story of Mary Bell. It’s also the story of how her murders impacted the families in Newcastle, her hometown, and of what did the government do about this 11 year-old killer.

A Nice And Quiet Town


Newcastle was a peaceful town in the north of England. Everyone got along, the streets were safe and parents allowed their children to play outside, trusting that the older kids would look out for them. Nobody expected anything bad to happen.

Martin Brown and Mary Bell were two of those children. Martin came from a loving and well-liked family. He was living a carefree and happy childhood. But things were different for Mary.

Her Childhood Was Pure Hell

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Mary’s background and home life were far from idyllic. Her mother was a teenage prostitute, and gave birth to Mary when she was only 16. She never knew who the father was. There wasn’t any love in the home.

Growing up, Mary endured an unspeakable amount of abuse. On top of that, she watched how one of her friends was ran over and killed by a bus. These events traumatized Mary and made her different to her peers in ways that would later have terrible consequences.

Disturbing Events


In 1968, Mary was present when her 3 year old neighbor fell down the stairs. Shortly after, mothers from her school started alleging that she tried to choke their kids while playing.

At first, these events might have seemed like just a coincidence or a minor, fixable flaw in Mary’s personality. But that was only the beginning.

The First Murder


Few days after those incidents, Newcastle was shaken by the death of Martin Brown. The kid had gone out to play and was found dead, with blood over his face and near an empty bottle of painkillers.

After a few days, a disturbing incident took place in Martin’s nursery school. His classroom was vandalized and trashed. The police found two hand-written notes that may have been decisive for the case.

Mysterious Notes


One of the notes said “We did murder Martin Brown”. The other one read “I murder so that I may come back”.

The Newcastle police department was bewildered by this event. At first, they ruled it out as some macabre joke by one of the school kids, and Martin’s death was sentenced to be an accident. But they would later find out how wrong they were.

Mary Bell Makes A Request

All That’s Interesting

One day before little Martin’s wake, Mary Bell had showed up at the Brown’s home. She asked to see Martin. The heartbroken parents, thinking that the girl hadn’t heard the news, told her the terrible truth: Martin had been killed.

Mary then gave a chilling clarification: she wasn’t asking because she wanted to play with Martin. She knew he was dead. But she wanted to see his body. Martin’s parents were horrified and told her to stay away. But this wasn’t the last one of Mary Bell’s macabre deeds.

Second Murder


Few weeks later, another kid in the neighbourhood disappeared: this time it was the 3 year old Brian Howe. The circumstances of his death were particularly gory.

His body was mutilated and his hair had been cut off in clumps. He had the letter M carved over his chest. When his sister found the body, she was devastated. But there was one detail about the finding that revealed a horrifying fact about the murders.

Mary Bell Was There


Brian’s sister had found his brother’s body helped by Mary Bell. The girl had volunteered to help, and she seemed to know exactly where the body was.

Also, a few days later she was seen watching Brian’s funeral procession while laughing and rubbing her hands together. But the truth wouldn’t come out until the moment when she was called to testify by the police.

The Horrifying Truth Comes Out


When questioned about her strange attitued about the murder, Mary gave a puzzling answer: she tried to deflect the question and accused another school kid of comitting the murder. But the police had already questioned that kid and he had an alibi: he was at the airport on the day of the murder.

But after a while, another school girl told the truth: Mary had came to her and told her that she was the one to commit the murders. When Mary heard about this, she first blamed the other girl, but eventually confessed her brutal crime.

Mary’s Sentence


The 11 year old girl was acquitted with manslaughter. However, she didn’t receive an ordinary sentence, on account of her age and a diagnosis of psychopathy. She was then ‘detained at her Majesty’s pleasure’.

At that time in the UK, that meant that she was imprisoned until the Queen herself deemed her to be ready to get out. After 12 years in jail, at the age of 23, Mary was free. What would her behavior be on the street?

Mary’s Life After Prison

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A lot of people in the UK had that same question in their minds. Maybe that was the reason why the government decided to give her a new identity when she was released from jail.

The justice thought that the victim’s family or some irate citizen might decide to take justice in their own hands.

Hidden From The Public

Topham PicturepointPress Association Images

For that reason, little is known about what ever happened to Mary Bell after her release. Only a few minor details have been made public.

It’s known that Mary had a daughter, born exactly 16 years after her first murder. At one point, she and her daughter were tracked down by an investigative reporter. Mary Bell seemed to be unable to avoid the public eye.

What Mary’s Daughter Didn’t Know


Her daughter was, for some years, unaware of her mother’s past and of the reason why they had to be constantly moving towns and dodging reporters.

But at one point, it became too much to handle. Reporters were following Mary Bell everywhere, surrounding her house with vans and cameras. Eventually, Mary Bell had to tell her daughter about her past. About who she was and what she had done.

Lifelong Anonymity

The Sunday Post

In 2003, however, Mary Bell decided to undertake legal actions. Her legal anonymity was about to expire. Had that happened, she would have to endure a lifelong of media harassment. There was also the possibility of being subject to mob justice.

In order to avoid that, Mary Bell launched a successful campaign to get lifelong legal anonymity for her and her family. Which would mean that nobody on the street or on the institutions would ever know who she was and what she had done in 1968. It’s absolutely chilling that this woman who killed two children when she was just 11 years old could be walking among anyone in the UK with no possibility of being found.