Where is Mary Bell now? She lives in anonymity with her daughter and granddaughter

Mary Bell, also referred to as The Tyneside Strangler, became a national sensation after it emerged that she had killed two preschool-age boys. The oft-emotionless Mary puzzled the media, as she seemed to show no remorse for her crimes. Bell didn’t fit any murderer’s profile, but the manner of the killings made her seem like a skilled assassin.

In both cases, she convinced the boys that she could ease their sore throats by massaging their necks. She then proceeded to strangle the boys to death. 

Mary Bell served time for manslaughter and was released in May 1980. 

The court granted Mary, her daughter, and her granddaughter a life-long anonymity order

Mary Bell spent eleven-and-a-half years in custody before her release in 1980. Authorities granted the then-23-year-old anonymity, which allowed her to settle at a place of her choosing without media interference. 

In May 1984, Bell gave birth to her first and only child, a daughter whose name has never been released. The daughter grew up unaware of her mother’s crimes until 1998 when Bell collaborated with author Gita Sereny to author a book about her case titled Cries Unheard.

The book’s release gave reporters added impetus to track down Mary. They found Mary, her daughter, and her then-boyfriend in a south coast resort where they’d lived for 18 months. 

It wasn’t the first time that reporters had tracked down Mary. She lived under the protection of the ‘Mary Bell Order,’ which protected her identity, but determined investigators still managed to track her down. 

Despite the constant pestering from the media, Mary had managed to hide her past from her daughter. However, in 1998, the truth came out: The book plus the media attention it brought made keeping the crimes a secret nearly impossible. 

Eventually, the media attention waned, allowing Mary and her daughter to settle in a new location with new names. In 2002, Mary and her daughter moved to court seeking a life-long anonymity order. 

Their lawyer argued that the protection order would protect their private lives, protect them from retaliatory attacks, and prevent media interference in their lives. Desmond Browne QC, a barrister for the News Group Newspapers, told The Guardian that he didn’t believe the pair had enough evidence to justify a permanent anonymity order:

“They are anxious before deciding their position to know whether there is proper evidence which convincingly establishes the need for what would be a very wide-ranging injunction both in respect of Mary Bell and her daughter. We take the view that the evidence is insufficient for the sort of level which is sought.”

However, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss granted Mary and her daughter life-long anonymity. She stated that the ‘exceptional’ features of the case merited the award of such an order. The judge lauded Mary for raising a ‘charming and well-balanced girl.’

The court later extended the order to cover Mary’s granddaughter, referred to in court filings as ‘Z.’

Mary has stated that she suffered abuse and neglect as a child, but concedes that they don’t excuse her actions

Mary Bell’s mother never wanted her: She resisted attempts to have Mary placed in her arms after she was born; she was an abusive mother who once sold Mary to a mentally unstable woman who couldn’t have kids. 

Bell opened up about her experiences after her mother passed away in 1995. “She had been in denial for years, her way of coping with guilt,” Gita Sereny said

In Sereny’s book, Mary claims that her mother tried to kill her and that she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of men her mother brought home. 

However, she doesn’t absolve herself of responsibility for her crimes; she says the abuse and neglect are no excuse for the murders. 

“Believe me, she suffers from guilt,” Gita added.

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