On 25 May 1968, the day before her 11th birthday, Mary Flora Bell strangled four-year-old Martin Brown. She was believed to have committed this crime alone. Between that time and the second killing, she and her friend Norma Joyce Bell (no relation), age thirteen, broke into and vandalised a nursery in Scotswood, leaving notes that claimed responsibility for the Brown killing. The Newcastle police dismissed this incident as a prank. On 31 July 1968, the two took part in the death, again by strangulation, of three-year-old Brian Howe.