reflection of past and present thoughts and aspirations
A reflection of past and present thoughts and aspirations
The Green Bicycle Murder
The murder of Bella Wright from Stoughton, on a quiet country lane in south Leicestershire in July 1919 has become one of the area's most celebrated unsolved crimes, largely due to the unexpected acquittal of the chief suspect, former schoolteacher and soldier, Ronald Light.
|The location of the murder was a field entrance off the Via Devana, the ancient Roman Gartree Road, near to its junction with the lane that leads into the small village of Little Stretton. Apart from a modern gate and mechanised rather than manual hedging, and the tarmac road surface, the scene has probably changed little. Bella Wright was found in the road, her bicycle lying beside her.|
Bella's body was moved to the nearby chapel in Little Stretton where it lay overnight, thus destroying valuable scene-of-crime forensic evidence. At first it was believed that the young woman had fallen from her bicycle but an investigation of her body on the following morning revealed that she had died of a gunshot wound.
Much of the local knowledge of the events surrounding the Green Bicycle dissipated when the men and women who lived in the area at the time moved away following the break-up of the nearby Powys-Keck estate, now part of the larger CWS farm holdings in the area. However, many of the buildings and locations pertinent to the murder enquiry remain, including the chapel.
Saturday 5th July, 1919, twenty-one year old Bella Wright left her family
home in the farming estate village of Stoughton with her bicycle, to visit
her uncle, George Measures, in the nearby village of Gaulby.
On the same evening at about 9.20pm, a local farmer, Joseph Cowell, found
Bella's body lying across the Via Devana, otherwise known as the
Gartree Road, just outside the village of Little Stretton. He moved
Bella onto the grass verge beside the road and then left the scene to summon
help. Two farm labourers guarded the body whilst Cowell sought
the local police constable.
Ronald Light lived with his mother at 54 Highfield Street, off Leicester's
London Road, only a few minutes' cycle ride from where the Gartree Road
enters the city. He had been invalided out of the army suffering from
On 12th June 1920, Ronald Light walked
from the court at Leicester Castle, a free man. In a masterly argued and
structured defence, his counsel, Sir Edward Marshall Hall had demonstrated
that there was an absence of an apparent motive. The young woman had not been
assaulted, and the prosecution had offered no reason why anyone should have
wanted to shoot her. He argued too that Bella could not have been shot at
close range by the type of revolver owned by Ronald Light. Perhaps most
importantly, Hall demonstrated that the prosecution had failed to prove that
Light was anywhere near the scene of the murder at the time.
Many still believe that Ronald Light was indeed the murderer, and more recent research has revealed traits in his character that would suggest that he certainly had the potential to kill. No other suspect has ever been offered. Others suggest that the death of Bella Wright was a tragic accident caused by a stray bullet fired by a man or boy in an adjacent field shooting birds with a rifle. In Marshall Hall's words:
"Imagine a girl cycling along a lane highly flanked by a hedge. In a nearby field a man or boy is out shooting birds with a rifle or revolver at some distance. He takes aim at a large bird upon a gate between the field and the lane. The bird is hit; but the bullet continues on its flight, or perhaps ricochets into the lane. Tragically, the girl is struck by the bullet. The man with the gun may remain sadly unaware of the terrible result of his actions."
Bella Wright's grave in Stoughton churchyard was left unattended for
many years. The vicar, perhaps overwhelmed by the crowds that attended her
funeral, even omitted to record the burial in the church register. Bella's
father, supporting a large family on a lowly farm-worker's wage, was
unable to afford a gravestone.
© Stephen Butt 2004-2006. Rev 17/04/06