Who put Bella
in the Wych Elm?
Who put Bella in the Wych Elm? is a graffito that originated in 1944 after a woman's corpse was discovered by several children inside a wych elm in Hagley Wood (located in the estate of Hagley Hall, Worcestershire, England). Among other places the graffiti has appeared on the Hagley Obelisk near to where woman's body was discovered. The victim, whose murder was estimated to have occurred in 1941, remains unidentified.
On 18 April 1943, four local boys (Robert Hart, Thomas Willetts, Bob Farmer and Fred Payne) were poaching in Hagley Wood near to Wychbury Hill when they came across a large wych elm. The wood is part of the Hagley estate belonging to Lord Cobham.
Thinking it a good place to hunt birds' nests, Farmer attempted to climb the tree to investigate. As he climbed, he glanced down into the hollow trunk and discovered a skull. At first he believed it to be that of an animal, but after seeing human hair and teeth, he realized that he had found a human skull. As they were on the land illegally, Farmer put the skull back and all four boys returned home without mentioning their discovery to anybody.
On returning home, the youngest of the boys, Tommy Willetts, felt uneasy about what he had witnessed and decided to report the find to his parents. When police checked the trunk of the tree they found an almost complete skeleton, with a shoe, a gold wedding ring, and some fragments of clothing. After further investigation, the remains of a hand were found some distance from the tree.
The body was sent for forensic examination by Prof. James Webster. He quickly established that it was that of a female who had been dead for at least 18 months, placing time of death in or before October 1941; Webster also discovered a section of taffeta in her mouth, suggesting that she had died from suffocation. From the measurement of the trunk in which the body had been discovered, he also deduced that she must have been placed there "still warm" after the killing, as she could not have fit once rigor mortis had taken hold.
Since the country was then in the midst of World War II, identification was seriously hampered. Police could tell from items found with the body what the woman had looked like, but with so many people reported missing during the war, records were too vast for a proper identification to take place. The current location of her skeleton is unknown, as is that of the autopsy report.
And now, a story.
When I was about 14, my good friends and I were all out riding our four wheelers (ATVs, whatever works). I live in the country, miles away from any town/city. It's very rural. Anyways, there were probably 6 of us, my sister and 4 of our friends.
We had been riding all day and we were headed back to my house when we decided to take a different trail back. My guy friend was in the front of the line and stopped to get a log out of the way from the trail. We were in a field with lots of holes that were covered by the tall grass, so we tried to not venture off the trails so we wouldn't damage our four wheelers. As he is picking up this huge log from the trail, I look over to the tree line at the edge of the field, which was about 15 feet or so away from me, and there is a guy in one of those scream masks that has the fake blood in the plastic of it. And he's coming right for us. I start screaming for them to go. They all turned and saw him and we hurried out of there. Before we got out of there, he was within a few feet of the back of my four wheeler.
It was one of the scariest things to ever happen to me at the time. I didn't really ride much after that.