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THE GREEN BICYCLE MYSTERY RETOLD BY MARTIN SHARP

Bella_WrightPic

Bella Wright. The Victim.

RonaldLightPic

Ronald Light The owner of the green bicycle

THE GREEN BICYCLE MYSTERY

A well-attended meeting of Evington’s History and Heritage Group crowded into Evington House on Thu 20 Nov to investigate our very own real-life local Murder Mystery. Expert on this matter , Martin Sharp gave an entertaining talk on the notorious Green Bicycle Case , which arose from the discovery of a young woman cyclist’s body on the side of the Little Stretton-Gaulby road back in July 1919. ( see the Echo of Dec 2012 for a report of local cyclists visiting her grave).

21 year old Stoughton girl Bella Wright was at first thought to be the unfortunate victim of a traffic accident or to have died of natural causes. A diligent local bobby , re-examining her body after an inconclusive inspection by an elderly doctor , discovered a small bullet-wound above her left eye.   A return to the scene found a .455 calibre bullet cartridge. Further enquiries highlighted a mysterious second cyclist on a green bicycle who Bella had at first accompanied to Gaulby , where her uncle lived , but then attempted to avoid on her return to Stoughton by taking an indirect route home.

Investigations stalled for five months until the frame of a green bicycle was dragged up by a passing coal barge on the River Soar. Although most identifying marks had been filed off this expensive machine , enough remained to allow it to be traced to a shop in Derby then to its purchaser Ronald Light , now a teacher in Cheltenham. Further dredging in the Soar brought up an empty holster and some .455 bullets , which Light admitted were his.

A high-profile trial of Light at Leicester Castle saw him prosecuted by the Attorney-General and defended by the leading barrister of his day , Sir Edward Marshall-Hall. Light was portrayed by his defence as an ‘officer and a gentleman , left shell-shocked by the war’. With no conclusive forensic evidence to link him to the killing Light was controversially acquitted , in the glare of national publicity.

Martin illustrated his talk with photographs of the scene of the crime and of the homes of the Wright and Light families , as well as contemporary press reports. In a feast for conspiracy theorists , he revealed Light’s less than gentlemanly history of molesting women and inglorious military career , possible Masonic connections between judge , lawyers and Light’s family , and a possible previous relationship between Bella and Light described by her fellow workers at St Mary’s Mills rubber factory.

A 1964 television documentary on the affair decided the killing was probably accidental , a stray shot from farmers shooting crows with rifles. There is a photocopied review of this TV programme alongside the WW1 exhibition in the foyer of Evington House. A 1993 book by Wendy East concluded however that Ronald Light was indeed guilty.

A show of hands in Martin’s audience would have gladly sent Ronald Light to the gallows , but in the absence of a smoking gun the mystery remains. Bella’s grave in Stoughton churchyard is marked by a small memorial stone bought by public subscription organized by local historian A.W.P. Mackintosh.

( For information on the Local History Group’s upcoming Programme see the noticeboard in the Main St Co-op , or email Chris Hossack : chris_hossack@yahoo.co.uk)

Anthony Yates