“Murder isn’t that bad; we all die sometime anyway.”
Brian Howe was found dead and covered with purple weeds and grass, days after the death of Martin Brown who died of asphyxiation. His hair was cut away, puncture marks were found on his thighs, and his genitals were partially skinned. Apart from these marks and injuries, a letter “M” had been imprinted on his stomach. This was originally an “N,” but Mary added a line to make it look like an “M.” The three-year-old boy had been strangled to death. When the investigation narrowed down to Mary Bell, she implicated herself by describing in detail a pair of broken scissors—which was confidential evidence—that had been played with by an 8-year-old boy whom Brian was allegedly with, according to Bell.
Mary’s family background may be responsible for her unusual behavior. She thought for a long time that her father was Billy Bell, a habitual criminal who had been arrested for armed robbery, but her biological father is unknown to this day. Mary claimed that her mother, Betty, who was a prostitute, had forced her to engage in sexual acts with men—particularly her mother’s clients—at the age of four. Mary ended up at an all-boys facility after her trial; she was too young to be held in prison and too dangerous to be kept in an unequipped mental hospital or an institution that housed troubled children. Her mother repeatedly sold Mary’s story to the press at the time of her daughter’s conviction. Mary was only 11 at that time. She was released after 23 years and fought and won the case for both her own anonymity and that of her daughter. This order is consequently known as a Mary Bell Order.