BELLA WRIGHT REMEMBERED – CENTENARY
Friday July 5thmarked the Centenary of the much remembered death of Bella Wright of Stoughton known as the Green Bicycle Case.
Bella, the twenty one year old eldest child of seven of a farm labourer living in a then tiny cottage in Stoughton left home one late afternoon in July 1919 by bicycle to post a letter and to visit her uncle and family in Gaulby. On the way she was seen in the company of a well dressed man with a squeaky voice and riding a distinctive green BSA bicycle. He was observed loitering in Gaulby while she chatted with her relatives and was then seen riding with her as she set off for home. This was the last time she was seen alive. As dusk began to fall Bella’s lifeless body was found by a farmer herding cows just outside Little Stretton. The local doctor and a police constable were called and she was pronounced dead, seemingly from a road accident. Her body was taken on a handcart to the tiny nonconformist chapel for safety overnight.
The attending police officer, Alfred Hall, felt there was more than met the eye and rising at dawn the next morning re-examined the site and found a discharged .455 bullet embedded in the road. Further examination of Bella’s body revealed that she had been shot through the head and so began a protracted murder hunt centred upon the gentleman on the green bicycle.
For months nothing came to light until the following February when by chance a green bicycle was accidently dredged up from the canal in Leicester. Although the serial numbers had been carefully filed off, a smaller identifying mark was found and remarkably traced back not only to the dealer but to the purchaser of the bicycle, a Ronald Light of Highfields in the City. Shortly after a holster and ammunition matching PC Hall’s find were also found in the canal and Light was charged with murder, the trial taking place in Leicester Castle. Light’s mother prudently engaged the most eminent barrister in the land, Sir Edward Marshall Hall KC whose expertise resulted in a not-guilty verdict and Light was freed. Bella had in the meantime been buried in a modest and unmarked grave in Stoughton churchyard. However, a sense of tragedy, injustice and the sheer mystery of this case has caused it to live on, not just in Stoughton and with the poor girl’s relatives, but throughout Leicestershire and beyond. The story is atmospherically recreated in Antony M. Brown’s excellent and very readable paperback ‘The Green Bicycle Mystery.’ There is also a beautifully crafted exhibition currently being displayed by De Montfort University in The Heritage Centre within the Hawthorn Building on the Newarke in Leicester.
Friday 5thand Saturday 6thJuly saw a steady stream of visitors make their way to St Mary’s Church in Stoughton and it was a privilege to welcome them, provide some refreshment and to chat with several of Bella’s relatives in remembrance of this poor local girl. We are sure that her memory will live on.