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Friday, May 1, 1998 Published at 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK


Child killer under police protection
image: [ Mary Bell: released from prison in 1980 ]
Mary Bell: released from prison in 1980

The double child killer Mary Bell and her 14-year-old daughter are under police protection as the media's conduct in covering the case comes under growing scrutiny.

Gitta Sereny: police have taken Mary Bell into custody for her safety (0'31")
Politicians have continued to attack payments made to Ms Bell for a controversial book about her crimes.

Ms Bell sought the police's help when reporters tracked her down, according to author Gitta Sereny whose payment to the killer for a book about her life sparked the press interest.

Ms Bell was jailed in 1968, at the age of 11, for the manslaughter of Martin Brown, who was four-years-old, and Brian Howe, who was three.

[ image: Has pursuit of a story gone too far ?]
Has pursuit of a story gone too far ?
Since being released in 1980 she has built a new life under a new identity.

It is believed that Ms Bell's daughter was not aware of her mother's past before the press besieged the family's home this week.

This revelation has led to the behaviour of certain newspapers to come under attack.

Good work destroyed

[ image: Paul Cavadino: press has wrecked Bell's new life]
Paul Cavadino: press has wrecked Bell's new life
Paul Cavadino, head of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) said: "Until a few days ago Mary Bell was a striking example of someone who committed serious crimes as a disturbed young child and had been successfully rehabilitated.

"Yet in a few days the behaviour of parts of the media has wrecked her homelife and turned her and her daughter into fugitives. It is difficult to see what public benefit that can serve."

Press under investigation

Concerns about media intrusion have also been expressed in the House of Lords. The Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Wakeham, said he was investigating complaints by fellow peers that the Bells had been hounded by reporters.

John Wakeham tells the House of Lords: "We are conducting an investigation." (20")
He also revealed he had started a formal investigation into the serialisation of extracts from the book in The Times. The move followed a complaint that the newspaper was breaking the Commission's code, which bans payments to criminals.

"The code says payment must not be made directly or indirectly through agents except where public interest is involved," Lord Wakeham said.

He went on to say it would be "a disgrace" if the media broke the injunction preventing the new identity of Ms Bell and her daughter from being published.

Injunction enforced

The Attorney General, John Morris, has said the injunction will continue to be enforced. This is despite critics who say Ms Bell has forfeited her right to anonymity by selling her story.

Mr Morris is also continuing to examine whether he has any powers to stop Ms Bell profiting from the book.

Book boycott campaign

[ image: Gitta Sereny: refuses to reveal how much Bell was paid]
Gitta Sereny: refuses to reveal how much Bell was paid
Bookshops are being urged to boycott the publication.

Managers of Dillons and Waterstones in Newcastle, where Ms Bell committed her crimes, have said no decision has been made yet about whether or not to sell the book.

But there are plans for demonstrations in Newcastle against the book this weekend.

The publishers Macmillan have so far declined to comment.

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