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The Case Of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered [Paperback]

Gitta Sereny
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 9.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

2 Feb 1995
In December 1968 two girls - Mary Bell, eleven, and Norma Bell, thirteen (neighbours, but not related) - stood before a criminal court in Newcastle, accused of strangling, within a six-week period, Martin Brown, four years old, and Brian Howe, three. Norma was acquitted. Mary Bell, the younger but infinitely more sophisticated and cooler of the two, was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder because of 'diminished responsibility' and was sentenced to 'detention' for life. Step by step, the extraordinary murders, the events surrounding them, the alternately bizzare and nonchalant behaviour of the two girls, their brazen offers to help the distraught families of the dead boys, the police work that led to their apprehension, and the trial itself are grippingly re-created in this rare-study of the wanton murder of child by child. What emerges with equal force is the inability of society to anticipate such events and to take adequate steps once disaster has struck.

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The Case Of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered + When Kids Kill: Unthinkable Crimes of Lost Innocence (Virgin True Crime)
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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: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,752 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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
By Stracs TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eerily compelling and compassionate 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Case of Mary Bell 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MARY BELL 31 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
I did not like the writing style of this book. It did give all the facts but was rather formally written.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read 1 Aug 2011
By Mr. P
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read 10 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Amazon 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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5.0 out of 5 stars mary ann 2 Oct 2013
By jue
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
this was a shocking read but very interesting how a child could kill at such a younge age.i really felt for mary ann.a must read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written book. 22 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Very comprehensive on the characters of the girls involved and the types of homes, backgrounds and the 'poor small child supervision' neighbourhoods that they lived in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars the case of mary bell a portrait of a child who murdered
good read but on the downside book took extracts of other people work and was written from perspective of writer
Published 3 months ago by Jeanette
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative but depressing
an exceedingly well written book
not for the feint hearted
goes through the court proceedings in immaculate precision
totally and utterly eye opening
Published 3 months ago by adele joseph
3.0 out of 5 stars Evil
People here wanting to find answers for a child who was EVIL.
Please, don't make excuses for people's bad deeds. This is EVIL and there is no cure
Published 5 months ago by Peter Whitehead
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I bought this book as a gift but she teels me it really is an excellent, interesting book. I will bereading it when she has finished
Published 6 months ago by Miss AC Davie
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious
Started of ok but this is a long drawn out book . Mary bell was a victim of her own circumstance
Published 7 months ago by Tracey baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening.
This book makes you think. I have long said that something could have been done to help Mary before it went too far and I challenge anyone to disagree after reading this account.
Published 8 months ago by Lulabel
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book
I have really enjoyed reading this book which is a portrait of a child who came to kill. Mary Bell is still with us and I would like to ask her why she did it but this is a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sally J Armitt
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
The book was delivered fast and was very reasonably priced.The book is brand new and the price on the back of the book said 12.99 so I feel I have got myself a bargain. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jess
5.0 out of 5 stars Comment rejected
The commentator appears to believe May Bell without question who, I believe, acted from motives of self-interest and the sum of around 50,000 she received. Read more
Published 22 months ago by J. Castle
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