Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

On the 18th of April, 1943, four local boys were hunting for animals in Hagley Wood near to Wychbury Hill when they came across a large Wych Elm tree. The youngsters were excited upon finding this tree, as they knew it would contain lots of birds nests that they could poach from. What they discovered instead, however, was far more gruesome.

As one boy climbed into the hollow trunk, he found a small skull. Thinking it was an animal skull, he picked it up and examined it. He was terrified when he realised it was a human skull, with hair and teeth still in tact. As the boys were trespassing on the land, they never breathed a word of their macabre encounter to anyone and ran home. After a while, the youngest boy (Tommy Willetts) began to feel remorseful about not telling anyone. He admitted to his parents what had happened and they immediately phoned the police who set up a forensic investigation around the tree. Officers discovered much more than a female skull: They found a full human skeleton. It seemed as though the victim had been dismembered as a hand was found next to the tree. This particular hand had a gold wedding ring on it. Whoever this woman was (now known throughout the community as Bella), she had been married. 

The skull found in the Wych Elm

But why hasn’t this mystery been solved? It may be because the country was in the middle of World War Two, and a record amount of people went missing during this period. However, police have concluded that there are two possible victims: 

1.) Unknown Dutch woman– Jack Mossop had confessed to family members that he and a Dutchman called van Ralt had put a woman in a tree after she passed out drunk. The men had been drinking with her at a local pub in the village and had aimed to make her so inebriated that they could rape her. After passing out, they thought they had killed her, panicked and put her in a hollow tree. It was never confirmed whether or not this is Bella in the Wych Elm.

2.) Missing prostitute– A second possible victim was reported to the police in 1944 by a Birmingham prostitute. In the report she stated that another prostitute called Bella, who worked on the Hagley road, had disappeared about three years previously.

As of 2019, the true identity of “Bella” hasn’t been revealed.


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