TRIBUTES have been paid to the mother of child killer Mary Bell’s first victim who has died aged 68.
June Richardson devoted her life to helping others after her son Martin Brown, four, was strangled in 1968.
She reached out to hundreds of parents as she campaigned for victims’ rights.
Last night, her daughters and colleagues spoke of a brave, dignified and kind-hearted woman who used her own heartache for good.
Sharon Richardson, 40, said: “We are very proud of her. She put her pain to one side to help others.
“She helped so many families. If she could be there for someone, she would be.
“We have had beautiful messages of condolence from all over the country. She will be hugely missed by a lot of people.”
Her sister Linda Brown, 46, added: “She never got over what happened. How do you ever get over it? She still marked our Martin’s birthday every year.”
The nation was scandalised in 1968 when Bell – aged just 11 at the time – killed Martin in a deserted house in the west end of Newcastle. Three months later, she killed and mutilated three-year-old Brian Howe.
Sentenced to indefinite detention, she was released in 1980 after 12 years behind bars.
June was moved to speak out in 1998 after writer Gitta Sereny paid Bell for interviews in a book about her early life.
She became an outspoken campaigner for the rights of victims and always handled herself with dignity.
June even supported Bell’s daughter’s bid for anonymity, saying she didn’t blame her for the crimes of her mother, although she could never forgive Bell herself.
She also worked with the National Victims’ Association (NVA) and Mamaa (Mothers Against Murder And Aggression).
Sharon said: “There was nothing out there for her when Martin died, there was no victim support in place in those days.
“Once the immediate tea and sympathy was gone, there was no one to talk to who could understand. She didn’t want other families to feel that isolation.”
NVA founder David Hines, from Jarrow, South Tyneside, met June when his own daughter was murdered 20 years ago. He said: “She will be very sadly missed. I don’t think she did anyone a bad deed in her life.
“Most of us human beings are selfish, but she truly cared about other people.”
He added: “She said something wonderful to me, which was that she was ready to leave this life and see Martin again.
“I thought how brave she was. Most people face death with trepidation, but she just wanted to be with Martin. I am devastated that I can’t make it to her funeral.”
Lyn Costello MBE, the founder of Mamaa, said: “Over many years, June campaigned for and supported many parents who have been bereaved by homicide.
“She was a formidable voice in the victims community and her lasting legacy will be the input she had in developing how we have come to understand the trauma that affects these families.
“From a personal point of view, June became a very close and much loved friend. I will miss her greatly.”
June, who originally lived in Scotswood, but spent her final years in a cosy caravan in Amble, Northumberland, also leaves seven grandchildren.
She passed away from small cell lung cancer on April 2 and will be laid to rest tomorrow in a private family funeral.