Mary Flora Bell is born in May 1957 in an impoverished slum area in the West End of Newcastle called Scotswood. It is a close-knit, working class community, with local children frequently playing out in the derelict streets, often for hours without parental supervision.
Mary’s home life is a nightmare of extreme abuse and deprivation. Mary’s mother Betty McCrickett is a mentally unstable alcoholic, who works as prostitute and is often absent from the family home and her young daughter. In book about Mary called “Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell”, author Gitta Sereny talks about how as a child, Betty would force her daughter to take part in prostitution. Other family members would tell Sereny that in the early years of her life, Betty would try to kill Mary, trying to make it look like an accident.
There are suspicions that Betty suffered from the psychiatric disease, Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, where caregivers fabricate health problems of those in their care, in this case, her young daughter, Mary.


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