“Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm!?”

One of the strangest cases of discovered remains ultimately ended in a campaign of graffiti that quite simply cannot be explained.  The tags have proven to be just as much a mystery as the bones to which they are connected.  Who is poor Bella?  And why were her skeletal remains discovered inside a massive hollowed out tree?  And why do so many people say she was ritually sacrificed?

The story begins with two youths who had broken into an area to hunt wild birds.  As their day continued, what began as a simple day of hunting quickly became an afternoon that would shake the countryside and set off one of the greatest mysteries to hit the United Kingdom in decades.

After finding little luck with the birds around outside, they found a massive hollowed out tree.  It was a crisp April morning at Wychbury hill.  The pair were not expecting to encounter another person for the remainder of the time they were at the historic grounds.  The youth climbed the tree on the outside until he got to the top and gazed down into the hollowed out trunk.  It was perhaps by chance that rays of sunlight reflected off the nearby terrain and entered into the trunk giving it an unearthly glow.  But that glow did more than reveal the insects and broken termite-eaten interior of the tree.  As it happened, the youth then spied something else quite strange residing within the tree.  At first he was not sure what it was, but as he looked closer it quickly became clear that the shape he was looking at within the tree was a human skull – one that certainly shouldn’t have been in such a secret location.  Scrambling down the tree the youths left the grounds and began contemplating whether they should inform the authorities of their grisly find.

They did eventually, and the tree was opened up.  Authorities discovered an almost complete human skeleton huddled inside along with a wedding ring.  Only one of the hands was missing, and was soon after discovered nearby.  What could have killed this woman?  And why was her valuable wedding ring still left on her hand?  The body was estimated to have been dropped in the trunk of the tree in 1941 just after the woman who it belonged to died of asphyxiation.  Unfortunately, the number of missing persons in the area was sky high for the period as the war had caused many people to simply move away without informing loved ones what was happening.  As a result, determining who the woman was originally became a needle in haystack level investigation.  As they continued to look, however, allegations that she had been ritually killed began to arise based on additional evidence discovered in the area.  Furthermore, as if the case could not get any stranger, white graffiti began appearing all over the county – and then spread to the rest of the United Kingdom and even the world.

“Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?”  The question was asked in the form of white paint a hundred times over – often in difficult to reach or bizarre places.  It was as though someone were leaving clues as to who this woman was.  But if they were intended to help authorities at first, eventually they became a pop culture reference and copycat graffiti writers soon diluted the genuine clues with equally perplexing but ultimately unrelated tags.