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Saturday, 6 June, 1998, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Child killer payment sparks law review
Mary Bell
Mary Bell has a new identity, which cannot be revealed
The Home Secretary Jack Straw says he is reviewing the law after it was revealed that child-killer Mary Bell has been paid to collaborate on a book about her life.

Mr Straw said he and most people would be "deeply offended" at the idea that she should make money out of the murders.

Mary Bell was 11 when she was given a life sentence in 1968 after being found guilty of the manslaughter of four-year-old Martin Brown, and Brian Howe, 3, on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

She was released in 1980 after spending 12 years in custody and started a new life for herself under a different name. In 1984 she had a baby daughter. An injunction prevents their identities from being disclosed.

The journalist who wrote the book, Gitta Sereny, has that Mary Bell was paid for her help, but that a reported figure of 50,000 had been "plucked from the air".

The book is being promoted by The Times newspaper. Its editor, Peter Stothard, defended the payment. "She got some money from the writer because the writer took the view that without her co-operation, this book would not have come into existence at all," he said.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, asked Mr Straw to look at how the privacy afforded to Mary Bell fits with collaborating on a book about the killings.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw: "deeply offended"
The Press Complaints Commission said it would investigate if there was evidence that Mary Bell was paid directly by a newspaper.

June Richardson, mother of Martin Brown, says the law should be changed to prevent Mary Bell making money from the book.

"I was absolutely devastated. I cried all night to think that this girl could make money out of my dead son and Brian Howe," she said.

"They didn't ask for this to happen to them ... it is just totally disgusting that anyone could make profit."

Author Janie Jones, who spent time in prison with Mary Bell, agrees that she should not profit from what she did.

But John Wadham, of the civil rights group, Liberty, said: "I'm not sure whether there doesn't come a point, particularly for children who have committed crimes, when they say enough is enough and we should leave her alone."

Mr Straw said the issue raised an interesting question about privacy, since Mary Bell had brought herself back into the public eye.

The PCC says it will investigate
"Mary Bell has sought privacy with a change, I think, in her name," he said.

"But if people bring themselves back into the public eye, as I believe Mary Bell has by the acceptance of this money, then a public interest, I think, immediately arises."

Meanwhile, an investigation has also been launched into reports that mass murderer Dennis Nilsen had smuggled his autobiography out of jail in an attempt to get it published.

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