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Hagley Wood - Bella In The Wych Elm


New Member

The Unexplained had a podcast in January on the mystery of the disappearance of "Bella" in Hagley Wood (Whispers in the Trees - in 2 parts)

The story is obviously well known locally and there are many online articles too but might also be of interest to a wider audience?


Big Gee

master brummie
I recently saw a repeat of a 'Nazi Murder Mysteries' segment entitled 'Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?'
I've read a bit about this mystery of a skeleton of a woman being found in a tree-stump on the Hagley Estate in 1943, and who has never been identified. The programme suggested that the woman whose skeleton it was, was actually a German spy and was killed by other undercover Germans, reason unknown. It was also suggested that a real German spy called Josef Jakobs had been somehow involved. He was captured shortly after landing, and was actually the last person to be executed in the Tower Of London - what a way to go down in history!

I find these theories slightly difficult to believe, but have read that 'Bella' may have been a Dutch woman who lived locally, and other rather more far-fetched theories. I did a quick scan of the net, and discovered that the chalked message 'Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?', and which appeared on walls all over the West Midlands following the discovery of the skeleton, was first seen in Upper Dean Street, Birmingham. I actually saw the message myself, years ago, chalked on a wall near Wolverhampton Grammar School.

It seems that it's an unsolved mystery that won't go away, and I wonder if anyone on the BHF has any further information, theories, etc.


Big Gee

master brummie
Thanks for this, Pedrocut. I've known about 'Bella' for a long time, but never knew until today that there was a Birmingham connection, albeit a chalked message that has since become (in)famous.

I also found out that Sir John Moore University in Liverpool carried out a recreation of the woman's face via the skull, and it seems her two front teeth were crossed, which I suppose would have been a point for people to remember her by. Still no-one added any information to the mystery.


Big Gee

master brummie
Hi Pedrocut,

sorry, I couldn't read your clippings - far too small, and when I enlarged them they wouldn't scroll up or down! But I think I may have that Birmingham Post article elsewhere.

The Charles Walton murder at Lower Quinton in 1945 is another rural killing in which witchcraft was suspected by some. However, the famous detective Robert Fabian investigated, and although it was never proven most suspicion fell upon Walton's employer, Alfred Potter. But to this day there are those who think that supernatural forces were to blame. There's quite a lot on the internet about this murder, and several books were written.



proper brummie kid
......................................................... the chalked message 'Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?', and which appeared on walls all over the West Midlands following the discovery of the skeleton ..................
These messages are still appearing in the area. There was one last year (2018) on a piece of hardboard stuck in the fencing next to the layby on the A456 in Hasbury, only about a few hundred yards from the site of the discovery. IIRC it was there for a good 12 months. Don't know if that particular one had any connection with a new book published about that time, who knows ?


master brummie
There is always a motive, PoJo, not always obvious. :D

There are many references to this on a web search, however, I do not intend to link them here as much is probably conjecture rather than fact. Besides, Hagley is not Birmingham. ;)
But there was a lot of 'graffiti' about it all, in Birmingham it seems, years before the word graffiti became commonly used as did practice of defacing buildings and other objects.
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Master Barmmie
Nellie Cole, poet, debut pamphlet Bella. Explores the Worcestershire murder mystery. Offa’s Press 2018.