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The Case Of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered Paperback – 2 Feb 1995

33 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (2 Feb. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712662979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712662970
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Gitta Sereny has worked with disturbed children, and her dignified, compassionate book is a mile away from the usual tawdry accounts of sensational murder trials... The story of Mary Bell in all its terrifying detail is told here with fine lucidity, joined to remarkable charity and understanding." (Julian Symons Washington Post)

"Accurate and scrupulously fair" (T.C.N. Gibbons New Society)

"Gitta Sereny's clear and readable book will help many people to make sense of the story... She also draws out the lessons to be learned both by professional workers, and by society at large." (W.H. Allchin Mind)

Book Description

Why would a child murder another child? This groundbreaking book was first published in 1972 and created controversy around the subject of children who kill.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Stracs VINE VOICE on 8 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
I grew up in Newcastle, the city where Mary Bell committed her crimes, in the 1980s and as such was always aware of this case and the "folklore" built up around it in a city that won't forget these awful crimes. As such I was very kean to read "The Case of Mary Bell" to understand more of the truth behind the case and perhaps gain some insight as to how on earth an 11 year old girl comes to murder two innocent little boys. The book has not disappointed me at all.
Sereny has produces a fascinating account of the case. She is an excellent writer and as a consequence the book is very readable and her theories clear and easy to follow. Sereny was present throughout Mary's trial and subsequently visited Mary in her detention centre. She has also talked to the the vast majority of the parties involved in the case, from the police to the families of both perpetrator and victims. Her research was clearly very thorough, her presentation of events is clear and it would seem very accurate.
Sereny's examination of Mary's character and possible motivations is fascinating and she does not attempt to either condemn her as evil or diminish her responsibility for her crimes. Her opinions on Mary and her co-defendent Norma Bell (no relation to Mary) are interesting, well argued and fair. The examination of the relationship between Mary and Norma was in my opinion particularly interesting as it was key to the case. It was fascinating to read how such a young child could so manipulate an older girl and indeed the adults around her for her own ends. At the time this book was originally written, the 1970s, not much was really known about Mary's background, but Sereny has gathered as much information as she could and produces some good reasoning on what made Mary kill as a result.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. L. Davidson on 11 July 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting book - I was only young myself when this all happened, but remember it well.
This book is written in a way that anyone can understand. The book is about Mary and why she did what she did. Why do children kill other children. Its wrong we all know that, the author Gitta Sereny worked with disturbed children and tries to understand and explain why this sort of thing happens. Such a sad book, no one really knows why Mary did what she did, and if she was alone when it happened. The fact is at the end of the day Mary Bell was a child murderer. Read the book and see if you can answer any questions that are always being asked. WHY !
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Millar on 15 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
Gitta Sereny's study is split into two halves - a blow-by-blow account of the trial, and an analysis of the familial background and social circumstances of Mary Bell's life as well as her detention after her conviction of manslaughter on two counts, due to diminished responsiblity.
Essentially, Mary Bell murdered two small boys at the age of eleven in 1968, and in the second case the boy was evidently throttled, before having the initial "M" carved into his stomach after death with a razor blade, and his face sprinkled with flowers. What is most remarkable and distressing is the extent to which Mary sought attention and boasted of her crimes in notes she and her cohort, Norma Bell (no relation, acquitted of charges of murder and manslaughter), left in a nursery which they broke into, and displayed aberrant and classically psychopathic behaviour after the incident.
What is essential is that this case study is approached with an open mind, for it is a liberal social study which lays much of the blame of society for the "cries unheard", the title of the follow-up to this study. It is fair and humane, as well as perceptive and informative. As Sereny herself would say, it is compassionate without being sentimental.
An essential read for those troubled or concerned by child psychopaths and the reform of the social security and welfare system in the U.K..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scrutineyes on 23 Jun. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very comprehensive study of the Mary Bell case and what the author thought made her into the monster she turned out to be. It was a bit too sympathetically biased for me but, nevertheless it was a really good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bevlin on 18 May 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Was interesting to read what lead to the event but the book only covers the trial and immediately after.....I would have liked to know what happened to Mary Bell and Norma , what are they doing now?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P on 1 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
I read another book which commented and took pieces from this book and wanted to know more about the life of a little girl that led her to murder, so sad, gives and indept insight into her trial and life growing up, can be very upsetting but a great book.
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By Carol Domeraski on 30 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was informative but not riveting. The background information regarding Mary's family went a long way towards understanding Mary and why she did what she did. The author does keep in mind that this was a child and her reasoning skills, however poor, were a result of her upbringing and environment. The real unknown here is Norma Bell, and the author is correct when she says that her show of emotion was very influential regarding the outcome of this trial.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Parent on 10 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written book however it's very scary to see the similarities between Mary & Norma and the boys from Bulger case. It's interesting to see how people determined Mary's guilt because of how she seemed cool and controlled and never showed any emotion and Norma's innocence because she was able to show emotion. I once read with the Bulger case the police always believed Robert Thompson was the more evil of the two however it was Jon Venables to has since re-offended. In my opinion I dont believe Mary acted alone and it was only that Norma was FIRST to come forward assured her innocence. Could it be Norma was the one who was more cool and controlled.
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