Thursday, 26 August 2010

I Knew Cat Woman. Exclusive!

Midway through my sandwich this lunchtime my jaw dropped involuntarily as I read the name of the infamous 'cat woman' of Coventry - the object of the worldwide Facebook hate campaign following CCTV footage of her petting a cat and then callously flinging it by the scruff of the neck into a wheelie bin where it remained imprisoned for 15 terrified hours and might well have starved to death had the owner not heard faint miaows just in time.

Fifteen years ago I worked with Mary Bale at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Coventry. Not surprisingly she was younger then - with long wavy brunette hair and quite a bit slimmer than now, which explains why I didn't immediately recognise her. Quiet but competent and pleasant is how I remember her. It was common knowledge that she had had a raw deal in life. The love of Mary's life - Alan - the slimy area sales manager had unceremoniously dumped her, impregnating another woman and marrying her within months - giving her the life that Mary presumably yearned for and felt should have been hers. Worse still their paths crossed on a regular basis when he visited our branch to berate us on sales figures and give us new unattainable monthly targets 'We're a retail outlet now' was his motivational catchphrase. I lasted 18 months. On bank picnic outings he was also in evidence with NEW woman and baby in tow, which must have been unbearable for Mary. In fact I recall her commenting so on at least one occasion.

Whilst what Mary did was horrific and awful (and I speak as a major cat lover), it also speaks volumes to me of someone who is treating another creature as cruelly as perhaps she herself feels she has been treated. She obviously lives a narrow enclosed life cosseted with her elderly parents (symbolic wheelie bin), presumably with no way out in her eyes until they die, no man on the horizon and she even seems to have given up her choir according to one newspaper article, which as I recall was pretty well her only hobby outside the bank.

Nor is Mary the first former colleague of that branch to go nutty and make the Daily Mail. Receptionist Cheryl ended up in court to be bound over for repeatedly harassing her parish priest with unwanted teddy bears and sexual overtures, despite previous warnings.

Strangely both are middle-aged spinsters who lived with their elderly parents and had had love affairs with bank managers go sour beforehand. In fact Cheryl had even tried to sue the bank when one affair with a married manager went wrong and was off work for many months on more than one occasion with depression.

Unforgiveable as Mary's cruel act was, she can little have imagined it would be caught on CCTV, let alone become world news within days leading to Facebook hate group campaigns and customers clamouring for her to be sacked. She is certainly in the process of paying an extremely high price for her moment of madness, even without the death threats.

Personally I think RBS should suspend her until she has completed a compulsory psychiatric assessment and any court should enforce a treatment order. I may not have known Mary that well, but I know her enough to know that the real Mary used to be kinder than bitterness and disappointment have evidently moulded her and her worst crime until now had probably been lousy taste in men and an inability to move on in life when things didn't work out. She was almost one of life's 'good girls' - ie 'if I'm a good girl, life will reward me' When their lifelong good behaviour does not reap the rewards they feel deep down that it should, it is not unknown for the Mary's of this world to snap.

Many criminology studies have also concluded that if cruelty to animals is not nipped in the bud it can soon escalate into cruelty to humans. Many serial killers have a proven background or even 'apprenticeship' of cruelty to animals which has eventually escalated.

Then again Coventry was a funny place. People, particularly without partners, tended to go either nutty or turn into alcoholics there. Luckily I got out in time. Just.

Meantime, the power of the internet can also have a funny side


Steerforth said...

I think that qualifies as "Breaking News"! Sell your story to the tabloids. You're a cat lover who unwittingly befriended Mary Hale - there must be a story there.

My dad worked with Mr Christie, of "10 Rillington Place" fame. I was always urging him to exploit the connection, but he always replied "Well I didn't really know him. He was a quiet chap who kept himself to himself."

Dan said...

A very well-balanced consideration. No-one deserves such a rounded attack, and, like any other such witch-hunts, I suspect people like to turn on others at the nearest opportunity, which conveniently deflects their own failings or worse. That said, it was a weird and rather despicable act. Sadly, people do worse to animals and humans every day.

Steve said...

I must admit when I first read the story (in The Metro of all places) I was disgusted by her actions. But since then I have been more disgusted by the witch hunt and the campaign against her. And people wonder why we need a police force? It's not to punish wrong doers; it's to stop the do-gooders from reducing society to mob rule!

Lucy Fishwife said...

My grandparents lived in Cambridge and during the summer of 1975 the Cambridge Rapist was very active around and about - my grandmother always said "I don't know how it is that the police can't catch him, I'm sure that kind person gives off a palpable aura of evil". He turned out to be Mr Cook, her gardener...

Tessa said...

As a cat lover myself, I was horrified when I saw what this woman had done. But, seriously folks ... death threats? Get a grip, FFS.

As your story illustrates, Laura, Mary Hale is obviously mentally ill. But she's nowhere near as sick as the people who are issuing fatwas on her.

As for the Cat's Revenge? That's the cat's pyjamas!

Anonymous said...

Has anybody considered the fact that she just doesn't like cats? I hate them too and still laugh when I see the footage.

What's really annoying is how shocked an appalled everybody wants to be seen to be in this overly PC country of ours. There is a lot of serious abuse of vulnerable people in this county and all the media can be asked to report on is a prank on a cat by a dotty old dear.

Anonymous said...

Author should improve their spelling: competant, impregating, cosetted & harrassing stuck out like sore thumbs.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Gee I just love anonymous commentators - they reveal more than they think about themselves.

You mean 'improve her spelling' Anonymous 2? Well yes, Blogger could do with a spellcheck facility now you come to mention it.

Anonymous 1, I like the way you have the guts to identify yourself as a cat hater. Not. It may interest you to know that dating sites warn against dating individuals who don't like animals - apparently they are more likely to be domestic abusers and harbour psychopathic traits.

Anonymous said...

Poet Laura-eate

Anonymous 1 here. I'll send you my private email address if you want to know who I am. I can't be bothered to set up yet another web account which is why I log on as Anon.

I have a dog and love it to bits. I've had birds, hamsters as well. It's cats that I just don't like. I don't trust them and hate seeing what they do to their 'prey' for amusement.

Anyway, the main thrust of my post was to make the point that this story has been blown out of all proportion. The media in this country is happy to pick up stories like this, where they don't actually have to do any work while serious offences are covered up by those with influence. As an example, do an internet search about the cover up that has taken place in Scotland involving some high ranking Civil servants and a young girl with learning difficulties.

In the grand scheme of things, this cat prank should be one of those 'and finally' items at the end of the news and not a headline.

As for your shameful expose of private details and second rate psychological analysis. I'm just glad I haven't worked with somebody as indiscreet and opportunistic as you. The 'revelations' which you've made here are very private to Mary Bale and her misguided action do not warrant the publication of them on a blog, even though only a handful of people will ever read it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Sagittarian said...

Hi Laura, good post. Hope all's well with you. xx

Wisewebwoman said...

thank you for the thoughtful post Laura.
In my village there is a woman who was abandoned most shamefully by her husband. Her history was one of abandonment too.
She tried to drown her dog of 5 years in a most horrific way and it made headlines when a couple saw what she was doing in the ocean and rescued the dog and phoned the police.
I did write a short story about it.
Often powerless people will act out like this.
I have sympathy for both the animal and the perpetrator.

garfer said...

Those to whom evil is done do evil in return. Why a cat though? Wouldn't Fred Goodwin have been better, decomosing among the KFC boxes and used nappies.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Hi Steerforth - I can't help thinking that these things always seem more intriguing than they really are, particularly when one's memories of someone are actually quite ordinary.

Dan and Steve - yes, I definitely agree that the mob-rule thing is scary, but hopefully it will die down again as quickly as it flared up.

Lucy, your grandmother must have spent the rest of her life downing vats of hot sweet tea - what a shock for her!

Tessa, quite. And those who issue death threats do themselves no favours as caped crusaders for animals - quite the contrary.

Anonymous, (whichever one you are), of course you are entitled to dislike cats - just not treat them cruelly. That is why we have laws against animal cruelty. I dislike tropical fish and reptiles but would never dream of treating either cruelly (and have even been known to feed friends' fish while they are away and they were all still alive when the owners returned!) As for indiscretion re Mary Bale, I consider that telling the inside story of someone I once knew is doing her more service than the death threats she has been up against by people who didn't know her from Adam and have evidently taken it upon themselves to presume she goes around behaving like this normally. In addition I was not only a colleague of Mary's but a single carer for an elderly relative in Coventry myself for a time, so yes, I think I know something of the pressures she has been under, even though my life eventually took a different direction and depression never got a chance to take hold and do weird things to me.

Cheers Sagittarian

WWW - thanks for sharing the eerily similar story. I do hope your neighbour got the help she needed and the dog got a new home if she was no longer able to look after it. I suppose that particular story is not so dissimilar to these increasing stories of parents killing their children to 'save them from the world' or stop their ex-partner getting custody. Or because they have financial problems, are depressed, or even out of revenge to get their partner back.

Well quite Garfer. But I do believe that Mary needs help rather than being a deliberately evil person.

Oliver said...

A very sad case. But at least the cat got its own back. Perhaps, it could have a crack at the undercover spelling police.