In 1943, four teenage boys (Robert Hart, Thomas Willetts, Bob Farmer and Fred Payne) trespassing in the Hagley Woods area of Worcestershire, discovered something unexpected inside a wych elm tree. Instead of the bird’s nest they were looking for, they found a human skull. Scared to be caught, they vowed to each other not to ever speak of it again, but the find worried one of the boys so much that he told his mother & father.
When the police investigated, they found a mostly whole female skeleton down inside the trunk of the tree. The bones of one hand were missing, but they were located close by from the rest of the body.
There was also a shoe, small pieces of tattered clothing, and mock wedding ring with the woman, who would have been 30-35 years old. Police estimated she’d been in the tree for about 18 months.
Further study revealed a piece of taffeta cloth in the mouth of the skull, suggesting suffocation as the cause of death. Every dentist in the country was contacted, in the hopes of garnering a positive ID from dental records. Even though the woman appeared to have recent dental work, no dentist had any record of her.
Roughly six months after her discovery, graffiti started appearing. “Who put Bella down the wych elm?” and other similar sentiments begged the question; who’s Bella, and who knows more than they’re letting on?
Who this woman was or who might have killed her is still a mystery, though there are at least a few theories. The most interesting of which had Bella as a Nazi Spy named Clarabella who was scheduled to parachute into the area in 1941.
One notion that surfaced early on in the investigation was that Bella could have been the victim of a black magic ritual.
According to some experts , the fact that Bella’s hand was severed from her arm and the bones scattered bore similarities to an occult ceremony known as the “Hand of Glory.” They also concluded that the murder was somehow connected to another case potentially involving witchcraft—the murder of Charles Walton, who was stabbed and pinned to the ground with his own pitchfork in the nearby village of Lower Quinton.
Developing the theory that witchcraft was involved, it was noted that the plant, belladonna—also known as deadly nightshade—and witch-hazel are both widely associated with the occult and, according to local legend, so is Hagley Woods. The fact that “Bella” was entombed inside a tree rather than being buried was also indicative of a ritualistic slaying, The theory that “Bella” was executed for some crime against a coven quickly gathered steam and remains a favourite theory even today. Investigators working on the case, however, dismissed the theory, declaring that the bones from Bella’s hand had simply been scattered by animal predation.
Today, Many paranormal accounts have been reported in and close to the woods from dark shadows, the sound of crying and the figure of a women in white being seen walking the woods late at night and the Haunting Nights Team are looking closer at this story so watch this space.