Author Andrew Sparke’s investigations into a famous real-life murder mystery took a massive leap forward this year with a cold case breakthrough that might identify a murder victim that has eluded police and private investigators for decades.
In Search of… Bella in the Wych Elm is the second edition of Andrew’s investigation, which draws together all of the myths and theories surrounding the Worcestershire mystery of the unidentified woman’s body secreted in a hollow tree during WWII. But now Andrew has also published a book that has brought the cold case back into the open again with astonishing new research. Who Put Bella in The Wych Elm: Vol.1 The Crime Scene Revisited, by 15-year-old student Alex Merrill, was written using research conducted by his father, and has released for the first time an astonishing facial reconstruction of the murder victim.
“I’ve long been fascinated by the mystery,” said New Street Author and publisher, Andrew Sparke. “My own book deals with the fascinating folklore that’s grown up around the unsolved murder but I’m now privileged to be publishing Alex Merrill’s book too. The most extraordinary thing in the book is the facial reconstruction by Professor Caroline Wilkinson’s team at Liverpool University made possible by computer mapping the available photographs of the skull. For the first time since her murder, we can see what Bella looked like.”
The Merrills have applied modern investigative techniques to determine where the original investigation went off track. The police at the time eliminated from their enquiries many women reported missing who might now meet the revised physical descriptions of Bella and the extended timelines for her death, so it might now be possible to match the Bella reconstruction with one of those missing persons.
“The murder isn’t solved yet, of course,” says Sparke. “But this is a massive step forward.”
Andrew will be discussing the new findings at the 75th Anniversary Evening event at Stourbridge Town Hall on Sat 21st April. Organised by the filmmaker Jayne Harris, there will be a showing of Tom Lee Rutter’s horror film Bella in the Wych Elm and a panel discussion of developments in the hunt for Bella’s identity.