Letter: Where is our compassion for the most damaged children of all?

THE UNFORGIVABLY insensitive circumstances of the disclosure, even if ultimately inevitable, to Mary Bell's daughter of her mother's past, was solely the responsibility of Bell and Gitta Sereny. The likely public and press response was clearly foreseen.

As renowned and admired a journalist as Sereny may be, a strictly academic work for circulation among researchers could have served the purpose equally well without any element of sensationalism. The compassion which Sereny says underlies her approach to the subject is commendable, but must blunt any claim to professional objectivity.

If Bell has experienced genuine remorse for her crime there should never have been the need for financial reward to induce her to co-operate. The argument that payment is justified by her impecunious circumstances must have a hollow ring to those countless families in this country who are condemned to poverty and dependency on the state, and have in their cupboards no skeletons whose bones can be made to rattle so profitably in the commercial publishing market.

In choosing her title, Cries Unheard, Sereny could be seen to be especially insensitive. The cries that went unheard were just as much those of Bell's victims and, for Sereny, despite her protestations of sympathy and regret, those of the victims' families ever since.

PA Bevan

Witney, Oxfordshire