Facts of Bella in the Wych Elm

I am rethinking this page... there is a lot of information in the West Mercia Police files,
which might best be shared as an actual book. I have some theories...

A place to review the actual facts of the case in relation to the numerous theories.
I ordered a copy of the police files from the Bella in the Wych Elm case and plan to review them,
and share the facts of the case here - separate from the speculation. [2017 10 07]

The general tale goes something like this. In April 1943, a group of boys were searching for bird's nests in Hagley Wood. Spotting a hollow tree, one boy climbed up and peered into it. Instead of a bird's nest, he found a skull. The boys made a pact of secrecy but one of the boys told his father about the gruesome discovery. The police were notified and, in addition to the skull, discovered skeletal remains in the hollow tree, with some bones scattered outside the tree.

A forensic exam determined that the remains were those of a short (5 ft tall) woman in her mid 30s. She had given birth at least once and had been dead around 18 months.. The cause of death seemed to be asphyxiation due to a piece of taffeta found in the jaw of the skull. The teeth in her lower jaw had some irregularities which gave police hope that she could be identified through dental records.

Police conducted an exhaustive search throughout England. The checked missing persons' lists. They canvased dental records. They tried to track her shoes. They tracked down many tips but, in the end, came up empty handed. The woman was apparently unknown and unmissed.

An added twist to the case was that, beginning in 1944, graffiti began appearing on walls and monuments in the area asking "Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?" Did the graffiti artist know the name of the deceased woman? The police searched for missing women named Annabella, Isabella or simply Bella... no luck.

In the 1950s, a woman who called herself Anna Claverly wrote to a newspaper intimating that she knew the killer. Her name, it would turn out was Una Mossop, ex-wife (some stories say "cousin") of Jack Mossop. According to Una, Jack had become involved in a German spy ring with a Dutchman named Van Ralt. After one night of drinking with Jack, Van Ralt and his girlfriend had an argument and Van Ralt strangled the woman. Jack helped the Dutchman stuff the woman's body into a hollow tree. An alternate version suggests that the woman passed out drunk and the two men stuffed her body in the tree to teach her a lesson. Months later, Jack had recurring nightmares and confessed to his ex-wife what had happened. Jack eventually ended up in an insane asylum where he died in 1942.

Despite Una Mossop's information, there was still no clue as to the identity of Van Ralt's girlfriend and the case ran cold. In 2013, an enterprising journalist discovered the photograph of Clara Bauerle in the possession of Josef Jakobs' possession. Reading some of the documents in Josef's MI5 files, in which Josef indicated that Clara might be sent to England after him, the journalist suggested that Clara Bauerle could be Bella in the Wych Elm.

And so it lies... there have been a lot of rumours about who Bella could be, many fueled by speculation rather than fact. But... in the last few years, the police files on Bella in the Wych Elm were released to the Worcester Archives. I ordered a copy of the files and hope to separate fact from fiction and truth from speculation. Stay tuned as I work my way through the files. [2017 10 20]

Discovery in the Wych Elm

Police Investigate the Wych Elm

Forensic Examination of the Remains
Clues for Identification

Possible Victims


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