When you hear about murderers and killers, generally you think of what? Adults, an angry spouse, the famous serial killers ‘John Wayne Gacy’ ‘Ted Bundy’ ‘Jack the Ripper’ ‘Jeffrey Dahmer’ etc. But do children come to mind?
Not generally; you look at a child and the worst you can think of them doing is what? Terrible Two’s, Tantrums, some times being bratty. But murdering or killing? I certainly wouldn’t believe it right off the bat. However, that’s what we’ll be talking about here. That even though some kids look friendly and safe, doesn’t mean psychopathy or other mental issues pass over them until they’re older.
Mary Flora Bell was born to a 16-year-old mother named, Betty; who did not accept her newborn daughter. Throughout Mary’s childhood, Betty would often leave home for “business trips” to Glasgow, where Mary would get a break from the consistent mental and physical abuse that Betty dealt to her daughter. Things had been so bad at home for Mary that Betty’s sister had witnessed Betty trying to give Mary away to another woman who was trying to adopt. Thankfully Betty’s sister was able to recover Mary from the woman, and brought her back to Betty.
Mary’s home life was extremely troubling, as mentioned before with the physical and mental abuse by her mother, Betty. Betty’s sister says Mary was ‘strangely accident prone’; “falling” from a window, and another time “accidentally” overdosing on sleeping pills. There are some who believe that all the accidents are because Betty wanted to rid herself of her daughter, while others believe Betty was showing symptoms of Munchausen-By-Proxy.
“Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability. Because vulnerable people are the victims, MSBP is a form of child abuse or elder abuse.”
Violence and Murder
Since Mary had seen her 5-year-old friend hit and killed by a bus, she had grown to become a strange kid; acting withdrawn and manipulative, and “hovering on the edge of violence” when she was just 10.
Her first major violent act was on May 11, 1968, where she had been playing with a 3-year-old boy. The boy “accidentally” had fallen off the top of a air raid shelter; the boys parents thinking it to be just an ‘accident’. The next day, three mothers went to the police and informed them that Mary had tried to choke their daughters. The police interviewed Mary, and lectured her about her actions, but nothing outright happened.
On May 25th, the day before Mary turned 11, Mary strangled to death the 4-year-old Martin Brown in an abandoned house in Scotswood, England. After her first murder, Mary left the house and decided to bring her friend Norma Bell (no relation) to show it off. Unfortunately for them, two local boys who had been playing in the house, found the body.
The police arrived and found no signs of violence, the only clue being an empty bottle of painkillers on the floor near the body. With lack of more substantial evidence, police determined the death was an accident, and that Martin had swallowed the pills.
A few days after Martin’s death, Mary arrived at the home of his remaining family and knocked on the door. When Martin’s mother answered Mary asked if she could see him. Martin’s mother explained to Mary that unfortunately Martin was dead and she could not play with Martin any longer. Mary told her that she knew he was dead, but she wanted to see the body in the coffin. Martin’s mother slammed the door in Mary’s face, and Mary left after that.
Some time later, Mary and Norma broke into a nursery school and wrote notes claiming the responsibility of Martin’s murder; thankfully being smart enough to not write their names. Police were eventually called, and claimed the notes to be a dark prank.
The nursery school had been broken into prior, and they used this most recent occurrence to install an alarm system. Which was used to catch Mary and Norma at the scene of the crime a few days later. The police caught the two simply loitering outside and were let off the hook since they hadn’t been actively doing anything.
While all this has been occurring, Mary had been bragging to her fellow classmates that she was Martin Brown’s killer. However, since she had a reputation as “a show-off and a liar” was the only reason no one took her seriously.
The Second Murder
On July 31st, only two months after Mary’s first murder, Mary and Norma killed 3-year-old Brian Howe by strangulation; this time however, Mary mutilated his body with scissors. After leaving the body, the two offered to help Brian’s sister look for Brian around the neighborhood. Mary suggested they search some concrete blocks, where the two had left his body, but Norma suggested that he wouldn’t be there and the group looked elsewhere.
Eventually the police found Brian’s body, and everyone began to panic; everyone except for Mary and Norma, who while doing a police interview showed odd behaviors “Norma was excited while Mary was abrasive”. The police took the girls’ reaction as a cue, and called Mary back for another interview; Mary made up a story and claimed she had seen an 8-year-old boy with a pair of broken scissors.
Now, that was Mary’s big mistake as when the police had announced Brian’s murder, they hadn’t mentioned the scissors. After Mary’s mistake, both Norma and Mary “broke down under further questioning”; Norma decided to cooperate with the police and informing them that Mary was the main culprit, while Mary admitted she had been at the murder, but Norma was the main culprit. Soon the girls were charged with murder and set a date for trial.
Mary and Norma’s Trial
The jury decided in December of 1968 that Mary was indeed the killer of both murders, and was given the verdict of Manslaughter, as the court psychiatrists claimed that Mary showed “classic symptoms of psychopathy”, and could not be fully held for her actions.
Mary was sentenced to be imprisoned “at her majesty’s pleasure” which was a British legal term that meant “an indeterminate sentence – basically, until the powers that be feel like it’s appropriate to let you out”.
While Norma was acquitted as she was seen as just an accomplice who was swept up into Mary’s influence.
Mary Bell was released in 1980 as ‘the powers that be’ were impressed at the treatment and rehabilitation; however she was not truly freely out. Instead Mary was “released on license”, meaning that “she was technically still serving her sentence but was able to do so while living in the community under strict probation”.
She also received a new identity to help give her a fresh start, and protection from tabloids and retribution past jail time. Unfortunately, tabloids were able to continuously find Mary several times, forcing her to move each time.
In 1984, Mary had given birth to her daughter, who didn’t learn about her mother’s past until she was 14, when tabloid found Mary’s “common-law husband” and tracked the family down. They were able to escape from the journalists that swarmed their home with bedsheets on their heads.
The Bell family was brought into “protective custody at a secret address”, where she and her daughter are “protected under court orders”.
Our side story also takes place in England, also a bit ago, by some 10-year-olds and a very young child.
Our above image happened in Bootle, England back on February 12, 1993. It was the last time anyone had seen 2-year-old James Bulger before he was abducted by boys Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. At the time, many witnesses believed that the boys were brothers, and that’s why no one stepped in to confront the three, and if they did, they left the boys alone soon after talking to them.
Jon and Robert originally started their day at the New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, near Liverpool, having decided to skip school; one of a handful of bad decisions made that day. The two wandered through different stores, and stole anything they could get away with before dropping the stolen items down the escalator. That was about the time the boys decided that instead of stealing items, they would steal a child. Though both boys claim that it was the other’s fault, no one knows who made the suggestion.
The First Attempt
At TJ Hughes, the two found their first attempted victims with a boy and his sister; the mother noticing that Robert and Jon were talking to her kids, the 3-year-old daughter, and 2-year-old son. The mother looked away for a moment and when she turned back, noticed that her children were gone. The mother went off looking for her kids, and was able to find her daughter. When she asked her daughter where her son was, the daughter responded, “Gone outside with the boy”.
The mother ran outside and was able to spot her son being led away with the 10-year-olds, and called him back. The boys sent back the child to his mother and ran off.
The Successful Abduction
A bit after their first attempt, the boys went back into the shopping centre and loitered near a snack kiosk before they noticed James Bulger hanging outside of a butcher shop, Bulger’s mother, Denise, occupied inside. The boys took advantage of this and lured the boy away from the shop and out of the mall.
Denise, unfortunately, had thought that her son was right next to her as she did her shopping, and it wasn’t until James was gone that she realized something was wrong. Denise tracked down mall security and made calls over the intercom for James, however it was too late.
Bulger’s Potential Saviors
On their walk towards their crime scene, the three boys passed many people on the street performing day-to-day activities, however only a handful of pedestrians stopped the boys to make sure everything was okay. On one occasion, an elderly woman, concerned about some injuries on Bulger’s face that had occurred prior while the boys escorted Bulger away, asked if Bulger was okay. The two informed the woman that they had found Bulger in his current state, and was taking him to the police station; the older woman seemed happy with this response, and left the three alone.
Not long after, a mother spotted the three and offered to take Bulger to the police station for them, however when she asked another nearby woman to watch her daughter as she assisted, the nearby woman refused saying that her dog did not like children. With the dismissal, the mother let the boys go on their way.
The trio entered into two shops and spoke with employees, who seemed suspicious of the two older boys, but did not say anything. Before finding the crime scene, the boys ran into two older boys that Robert and Jon knew; the older boys asked who Bulger was, and seemed to accept the answer of ‘Robert’s younger brother’.
With no one else to help save James Bulger, Robert and Jon continued on their way to a deserted trainyard where they would brutally murder the young boy. Altogether, James suffered 42 injuries to his face, body, and head, and was dead before further harm befell him.
With very little information initially, no one was able to find Bulger’s true killers; the police even suspecting his parents. That is until the CCTV footage of the abduction was released to the public. Ralph, Bulger’s father, had seen the footage and felt relief wash over him, telling his wife, “He’s gonna be all right, Denise. ” “He’s with two young kids – he’s gonna be all right.” But that relief would soon vanish when two days after the disappearance Bulger’s body would be found by four young children at the railway track – “just 200 yards from the nearest police station”.
The police were able to find the assault items laying around the railway, and narrowed their search to two young children, who had called in as absent on the day of the abduction. The police had a list potential killers, some parents even offering the names of their children; all to help the loss of a young boy. But, it wasn’t until the police received an anonymous call reporting that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were the names the police wanted. Even reporting that blue paint which was at the crime scene was found on the sleeve of Venables’ jacket.
With that information, the police visited the homes of Venables and Thompson and were greeted with blood their shoes and paint on Venables’ jacket. The two were arrested and brought to the station where they were interviewed separately; where after several days, Venables confessed to the murder. Thompson on the other hand, refused to admit anything, and only gave himself away by revealing exactly what James was wearing.
The Trial and The Aftermath
After nine months, in November of 1993, both boys’ trial began where court psychiatrists deemed both boys not sociopaths as they both understood right from wrong. However they were unable to determine the motives for Bulger’s murder. Thompson and Venables were sentenced to serve at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, where after 8 years, they were to be assessed to see if they could be released.
After their 8 years, the boys, now 18-year-olds, were released and given new identities to protect them from public’s wrath. As of 2018, no acts of vengeance have been enacted against Venables or Thompson. While Thompson seems to have worked himself back into society, Venables seems to have run into some issues.
Venables did not have an easy return to society and was imprisoned several times after release for illegal images on his computer, and is still in jail after his failed attempt at parole in September of 2020.
Thompson, however, came out as gay and seems to be in a serious relationship with his partner who people believe he has been informed of Thompson’s true identity.