‘Bella in the Wych Elm’? Grisly discovery that left police force stumped
POLICE have in the past dismissed any talk of Satanism, and publicly stated the position of scattered bones suggested they had been displaced by wild animals.
They concentrated on claims that Bella was a prostitute, slaughtered by a twisted punter.
There is one thing beyond argument. Detectives attempting to solve the crime hit a wall of silence.
The murder was uncovered by Fred Payne, Tommy Willetts, Robert Hart and Bob Farmer, young boys who ventured into the coppice in search of bird eggs.
The vision of what they found would stay with them for a lifetime.
Bob scrambled up an old wych elm tree and let out a piercing scream. There, wedged in a hollow, was a skull.
He would later recall: “There was a small patch of rotting flesh on the forehead, with lank hair attached to it. The two front teeth were crooked.”
It would be some time before the boys, fearing they would land in hot water for trespassing, raised the alarm.
After all, they were unsure the remains were even human.
In the end, it was the youngest of the egg collectors, Tommy Willetts, who informed his father about what lurked in the woods.
Police immediately swooped on the dark, eerie parcel of land. What they discovered sent a chill down the spine of hardened detectives.
Pathologist Professor James Webster left no stone unturned in his bid to identify the body.
He deduced the corpse was warm when placed in the tree. Bella had died from asphyxiation, caused by the plug of taffeta.
Detectives scoured national dental records and every missing person file, but drew a blank.
Now, at last, they have something to work on.
Peter Douglas Osborn believes the image on this page will finally provide the answers that have eluded police for decades.
A depiction of what ‘Bella’ could have looked like – complete with crooked front teeth – reconstructed from pictures of her skull
Tommy Willets was one of the boys who found the body