Regular readers will know this is a story I’ve been fascinated by this case for about 15 years. I first read a brief one paragraph summary of the then-70-year old mystery in a newspaper and it’s never been far from my imagination ever since. In 2006 I set about writing what I thought would be the definitive work on the case, a long article that ended up sprawling into The Hangman’s Breakfast, my never-to-be-published (for which you ought to be truly thankful) dark history of post-World War 2 Britain, seen through the dark lens of true crime reportage. I thought I’d written the last word on a mystery that would never be solved, but since then there’s been several other books published about it, some desultory TV coverage, and even a feature film. However, none go as far as Alex Merrill, a 15-year old boy from Halesowen who together with his father Pete, has produced a two-volume study of the mystery of ‘who put Bella in the wych elm’, one that revisits the original police files and offers a radical new theory on what happened, as well as the first facial reconstruction of what Bella might have looked like. Pete Merrill commissioned me to produce art and design for the two volumes, together with internal illustrations. I was very pleased to be involved, and I’m glad to see it finally go to print. Published by APS Books in Stourbridge, you can order copies from Amazon.
Here’s the cover to my 2006 essay about the case:
Not giving a shit, she decided, is like the defrost option on a car’s heater than miraculously unfogs the windshield, allowing you to see where you’re headed.
Richard Russo, Empire Falls
Photograph taken at Hawkchurch, Devon, January 2018.
It is hard not to see into the future, faced with today’s blind architecture – a thousand times more stupid and revolting than that of the other ages. How bored we shall be inside!
Photograph taken in Morley, Leeds, May 2009.