TRANSCRIPT - The Green Bicycle Murder: Who Shot Leicestershire Lass Bella Wright?
[Music] This podcast contains descriptions of death and violence that some listeners may find upsetting. So, hello and welcome to episode five of the Six O’clock Knock the true crime podcast that takes a fresh look at murder the Six O’clock Knock is presented by me Simon Ford and former major crime detective Jacques Morrell in this episode we look at the mystery surrounding the death of Bella Wright in 1919 a case that continues to baffle armchair detectives now what got you onto this particular case Jacques a listener suggested it which was great after a bit of research it sparked my interest yeah I’ve read your brief and it covers an interesting period in Britain politically as well as culturally there was the end of the great war the status of our returning soldiers the suffrage movement women demanding equality some women becoming jurors the old school class system there were many firearms in circulation and the military must have built up a lot of expertise in the science of a bullet and the damage that it can do so this green bicycle case has struck a chord with you then that was also at the end of the great war and Bella Wright's family didn't get justice they just had to get on with it suck it up and live with it Bella Wright was the same age as my grandmother was so I’ve been able to reflect on the attitudes of the time where working-class women were expected to know their place and not to challenge the authority of uh the men in power okay let's set the scene for this fresh look at the case from 1919 that has become known as the green bicycle murder we've read a recent book about the case by author Anthony Brown and the title of that is the green bicycle mystery now I don't know what the listeners will think about this but I don't see much of a mystery at all. All I see is a travesty and that's a travesty of justice so Jacques we must be pretty close to the spot where Bella’s body was found now isn't we we're on the right footpath and ah there's a gateway and we're in the middle of a cornfield even today it's a field of wheat yeah but it's getting into the evening now sun's sort of dropping ahead of us now as we're looking over the cornfield towards um where she was found [Music] the text from the green bicycle mystery helps to set the scene for us on the evening of Saturday the 5th of July 1919 near the village of little Stretton in Leicestershire just down there beyond that hedgerow in the main road a solitary bicycle lies on its side its metal frame catching the glow of the fading evening Light the back wheel turns slowly about its axle producing a soft clicking a rhythmic sound soothing like the ticking of a study clock next to the bicycle lying at an angle across the road as a young woman she's partly on her back partly on her left side with her right hand almost touching the mud guard of the rear wheel her legs rest on the roadside verge where fronds of white cow parsley and pink rose bay rise above luxuriant summer foliage on her head sits a wide brimmed hat daintily finished with a ribbon and a bone she's dressed in a pastel blouse and a long skirt underneath a Light raincoat the pockets of which contain an empty purse and a box of matches the blood flecked coat tells a story the unidentified body was on Gartree road part of the Roman road between Leicester and Market Harborough a local farmer named Joseph Cowell came across the woman and he initially went to pick her up he realized immediately that she had a head injury she'd lost a lot of blood and that she was dead Cowell assumed that she may have fallen from her bicycle so he went to a place called Great Glen just down the road and told the local constable pc Hall a doctor was summonsed and all three returned to little Stretton it was Dr Williams who made a check of the area by candlelight now he confirmed that she was dead and likely to have died from her head injury using the farmer's pony and trap the body was moved to an empty house nearby remember that in 1919 even in cities like nearby Leicester transport was very different there were a few cars around there were trolley buses in town but horses and carts were still a common means of transport as was cycling PC Hall made a brief check around the scene where we stood now it was apparent that some crows had shown an interest in the body he saw that there were bird tracks in and around the blood next to the body and there were traces of blood on the top of the nearby wooden gate in the meadow beyond the gate where we're now stood a crow lay dead the long grass in the meadow was flattened into a footpath leading to the distant cornfields but pc Hall noted that there were no human footprints on either side of the gate the following day pc Hall returned to where the body had been discovered his careful examination of the ground near to where the woman was found revealed a more sinister explanation to her death a 0.455 calibre bullet was found 5 metres from where the body had lain it had been slightly embedded in the ground by a horse's hoof he returned to the unoccupied house and washed the congealed blood off the face of the corpse beneath the woman's left eye he found a single entry wound the hole was large enough to put a pencil through it this woman who was still unidentified had been shot a full post-mortem examination was carried out by Dr Williams and a second doctor his assessment although not an expert was that she'd been shot once from a distance of six to seven feet and that the bullet had exited the rear of her skull there's a couple of things worth mentioning here the location of her death had not been declared a crime scene and this meant it had not been preserved and kept secure now various people would have travelled along this stretch of road after the body had been removed and this included horses causing the horse's hoof to push the bullet into the ground we'll talk about ballistic evidence later but what Dr Williams noted should be regarded as an initial estimate the other item of interest here is the mention of a dead crow and the trail of bird tracks in blood around the body what's this space on this one yeah and remember this was 1919 and there were lots of men coming back from the front line with guns illegally in most cases so the question is Jacques who was this young woman [Music] well it wasn't long before the police were able to connect the dead woman with a report of someone going missing the night before identifying this woman was the easy bit the killer was less keen to be traced Bella Wright was almost 22 she was the eldest of seven children born to an illiterate agricultural labour and his wife she lived in a thatched cottage in the village of Stoughton Leicestershire four miles outside Leicester and just two miles from little Stretton Wright had attended school until the age of 12. following the outbreak of war she'd been working in a tire factory in Leicester she regularly travelled to work on her bicycle on her days off she was known to cycle around the area running errands or visiting acquaintances so Bella was doing nothing unusual or out of her routine on that fateful day I mean what about her personal life was she in a relationship well Bella was described as a girl with good looks and of good character she was engaged to a royal navy stoker named archie ward who was serving on a ship in Portsmouth she was also known to have other male admirers and she'd even told her mother a year or so before her death that an officer had fallen in love with her so we have a pleasant young woman going about her normal routine so what has she been doing prior to her death well interestingly she was found within 30 minutes of last being seen alive that of course is useful that will help the police investigation with such a short period in the timeline for her to be killed yeah well Bella had worked the evening shift the previous day don't forget that women were now more confident they were empowered by the work opportunities covering for the shortage of men during the war during the afternoon she finished writing a letter to her boyfriend said goodbye to her mother and then went to post the letter she then planned to visit her uncle's house in the nearby village of Gaulby when she arrived there she was with an older man who she said she'd met along the way he certainly wasn't known to her uncle's family they described him as small unshaven with a squeaky voice he also showed up again as Bella was leaving they also gave the police one more vital detail this uncle and aunt the man rode a distinctive p green bicycle hence the name that the case is known by so what do we know from witnesses about the man with the squeaky voice it appears that Bella came across him on her journey and he had accompanied her to her uncle's house although he didn't actually go in with her now there were several independent witnesses who saw them cycling together as well George measures the uncle said that he liked neither the looks nor the mannerisms of him Bella had also told her niece that she'd only met him that evening stating oh him I don't really know him at all he's been riding alongside me for a few miles but he isn't bothering me he's just chatting about the weather just before Bella left her uncle's cottage she joked about the man waiting outside I hope it doesn't get too boring I shall try and give him the slip when Bella stepped outside they heard the man say Bella you've been a long time I thought you'd gone the other way so we seem to have a confident young woman here she's used to dealing with men who engage her in conversation this man appears to have just met her although she was known to have many admirers now both of them rode away from George Measure’s cottage at approximately 8 50 and around 30 minutes later her body was found she was not though on the natural route back to her house in Stoughton police inquiries revealed nobody except Bella and her riding companion had been in the vicinity of Gartree road at the time of her death several people had seen them cycling together that evening there were also two young girls who were spoken to by the same man the police were able to compile a good description of him he was between 35 and 40 years of age between five foot seven and five foot nine that's 170 centimetres and 175 in in height he had a broad face and was wearing a grey suit a grey cap collar and tie and black boots [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] with your eyes so Jacques we've come out to the river saw just outside Leicester and Saint Mary’s Lock and Mary’s Mill this is in fact where Bella used to work and it's significant in our story because this is where some of the events in the green bicycle mystery some of those key events played out and it's quite something really to be standing on exactly the spot isn't it where some of this happened in the first week of the investigation the case had been headline news haven't it the chief constable of Leicestershire police issued appeals in both the local and the national press urging this man to come forward and assist them with their inquiries none of these appeals proved successful the police also printed and distributed two hand-built posters around Leicestershire the first was within a couple of days and the second a week later after some information came from a cycle repair shop just down the river down there in Leicester the proprietor had repaired a green bicycle for a man who collected it around midday on the day of the murder this man's description was the same as the man seen with Bella that evening the shopkeeper couldn't provide a name but said the man spoke in a cockney accent and said he was from London but visiting friends in Leicester now this caused some inquiries to be made with the metropolitan police the local detectives believed that the man was local to the area yet despite this no one came forward it took a further seven months before a major breakthrough came during this time the case went quiet the newspapers had other stories to write about things were changing men returning from the war were struggling to find work there was unrest particularly in Ireland the country had changed during the war women had been doing the work of men and they wanted more equality Nancy Astor became the first ever woman MP the law now allows women to sit on juries at court the first remembrance service was conducted at the cenotaph in London yes setting the scene really for that time that period wasn't it and it was February the 23rd in 1920 when this breakthrough happened and it was all down to a gentleman by the name of Enoch Whitehouse who was um a barge man who was driving uh guarding his barge horse-drawn and those times along the canal section of the river saw in Leicester which would have been towards our location south out of the city towards our location now and the tow rope of his barge snagged on something under the water and he brought it up to the surface and it was the frame of the green bicycle wow now coincidentally um Enoch with his barge was actually coming to this point where we stood now he was planning on mooring the barge next to Saint Mary’s Mill he was delivering coal I believe and he was delivering to the tyre factory where Bella had worked so he would have tied his barge to one of these one two three four bollards that are available down that bank on the on the key side there yeah we could we can assume so there was another as we've walked uh the route that his barge would have taken we've come from uh another lock on the canal and then it becomes the river itself at that point we've got Leicester city's king power stadium the football club in Leicester just there so we're right in the heart of Leicester but it's very tranquil here isn't it we've come along to the side of these buildings that are still that still exist you know that front onto the canal where uh obviously would have been a hive of activity um at the time well the other thing that I’ve noticed is the number of people actually cycling along the towpath so nothing's changed really in 100 and something years it's yeah it's a well-trodden route um and you know with cyclists might be more recreational now but the industry you can see you know what the reasons why the canal was here so white house having found this cycle they informed the police and they made a decision to drag the canal and other pieces of the bicycle were discovered and when they examined what they'd found they discovered that the serial numbers had been filed off both the frame and the seat log and even the BSA brand name I think it's stands for Birmingham small arms from recollection but the bsa brand name that had been filed off the fork as well whoever had gone to this effort had not been thorough enough yeah because there was still wasn't there a faint serial number visible on the inside of the front fork it had been stamped in there as well and they missed that so this allowed detectives to trace the cycle to a shop in derby that's about 30 miles from here Orton brothers that's what it was called they'd sold the cycle almost 10 years before now this expensive bsa folding bike with a distinctive colour and an uncommon coaster break had been sold in May 1910 to a man named Ronald Light oh my honey yeah oh my honey yes [Music] yeah so seven months into the investigation this is a hugely significant breakthrough now in today's criminal investigations this Ronald Light he would be categorized as what we call a person of interest he's not yet a suspect now this is irrespective whether that cycle was purchased 10 years ago or 10 days ago now before detectives trace someone in these scenarios they need to be prepared don't they they need to know as much as possible about the person they are going to encounter the Six O’clock Knock has to be timed for maximum impact so what was known about Ronald Light okay Ronald Vivian Light was born in 1885 that makes him 34 years old at the time I think he was the son of a wealthy civil engineer who had managed a colliery in Coalville that's not far from Leicester he attended the Oakham school an independent fee paying school for boys in the town of Oakham in Rutland his time there ended in disgrace however he was expelled from Oakham school in 1902 at the age of 17 for I quote lifting a little girl's clothes over her head Light then graduated as a civil engineer before gaining employment as a draftsman at derby with the midland railway and that was in October 1906. so it was during this period then that he purchased the cycle yeah he lasted in his job until 1914 when he was sacked from the midland railway he was suspected of setting a fire in a cupboard and of drawing indecent graffiti in a lavatory this guy Ronald Light he doesn't seem to know the boundaries of acceptable behaviour though does he well no not really also he was dismissed from employment at a farm where he was accused of setting fire to haystacks with the outbreak of the first world war Light underwent training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in February 1915. he doesn't sound like officer class either does he really not the greatest employment history and displaying some odd behaviour here that said maybe the war came at a good time for him maybe military service would sort him out quite yeah you could hope couldn't you but he went to France and then within two months he was back in England transferred the reason wasn't stated for that however by July 1916 he'd relinquished his commission in the royal engineers his commanding officer had decided that he was just not officer material so your gut was right there Jacques he returned to the ranks as a gunner in the honourable artillery company but was court-martialled in 1917 for forging move orders the summary there isn't there the honourable artillery company now there's not much I’ve heard about Ronald Light that I could describe as honourable yeah fair point well he was back in France in November 1917 but by August the following year he was sent back to England again classified as suffering from shell shock and partial deafness while in hospital he was accused of molesting the 15 year old daughter of an ambulance driver following recuperation at several army hospitals in England he then returned to live with his mother in Highfield street in Leicester and was demobilized eventually in January 1919 so he's now living down the road from where we are at the moment okay so the war and the military service may not have suited him but it's clear that his inappropriate behaviour towards young girls was evident from an early age he clearly had behavioural problems that was nothing to do with the war more importantly though he was now back in Leicester and he had a lot of explaining to do yeah that's right and significantly he didn't come forward in response to an extensive media appeal to trace a man matching his description seen on the green bicycle he fitted the description too which was important after all the only evidence at this point is his purchase of the cycle 10 years before he may have sold it or lent it to someone the removal of the serial numbers though that's significant yeah I think we've heard enough way I think that Six O’clock Knock is call for so Light was arrested on the 4th of march 1920 his arrest took place at the school in Cheltenham where he'd secured a position teaching mathematics this just gets worse doesn't it we've got a middle class privately educated man he's found to be untrustworthy he sets fire to things he commits a number of worrying assaults on young girls he has a poor employment record and then he gets a job as a maths teacher and it got worse for the investigators too Light denied everything he emphatically denied ever having been in or near Gaulby on the fifth of July he denied meeting or knowing Bella right he also claimed to have never ever owned a green bicycle even when he was informed that the green cycle had been identified as one he purchased in Derby he then claimed that he'd sold it several years previously with these denials the problem for the police is that they had no option but to conduct identity parades to see whether the witnesses could identify him as the man with the green bicycle and they did just that the witnesses did identify him as the man who had been riding alongside Bella Wright on the evening of his death and even the cycle repairer identified him as the man with the cockney accent who'd collected the bicycle earlier the same day and his mother's maid was questioned too she told investigators that on the 5th of July Light hadn't returned home until approximately 10 pm when he claimed his bicycle had broken down and he had to push it home on the 19th of march the police dredged the same section of canal where the cycle had been found an army pistol holster conclusively identified as having been issued too Light and a dozen live .455 calibre bullets were recovered the bullets were found to precisely match the spent bullet found at the crime scene unsurprisingly Light was charged with murder what do you think the motive was Jacques well before I answer that question Simon it's worth noting that there was much debate at the trial about whether or not he knew Bella in my opinion this was an unnecessary distraction because it all stemmed from the testimony of her uncle he was adamant that the man on the cycle had called her Bella now surely this is quite normal for people to exchange their first names when they first meet so referring to her by name does not mean he knew her personally it's worth mentioning as well that in October after Bella’s murder Ronald Light was interviewed by the police for I quote improper conduct with a young girl he admitted this but the girl's family did not want the matter to proceed and the police dropped the case my answer your question is that Ronald Light was a paedophile and quite probably a psychopath too but shooting someone in cold blood that's difficult to explain right I can see that he showed those traits of a psychopath you know impulsiveness low empathy narcissism but just shooting someone for the sake of it almost yes but the motive was he took liberties with young girls despite his age he's in his thirties he must have tried to impress them he may even have tried to impress Bella Wright maybe he showed her the gun maybe he wanted to brag about being a war hero she'd already shown that she had the confidence to reject his attention maybe she said something that angered him maybe he assaulted her and she stood up to him maybe she told him that she would report him to the police I think Bella Wright was not someone who would just put up with him and keep quiet before we look at the trial itself it's worth stating at this point that Light has made no admissions to the police apparently at his own insistence and on the advice of his barrister Light opted to testify in his own defence yes and we can imagine when the defence barrister first met Ronald Light he must have immediately seen the benefit of him giving evidence it would be apparent that he did not look or sound like a cold-blooded killer if anybody really knows what one looks like Light was a small insignificant man with a squeaky voice he was educated and articulate he would have learned Latin and other languages at that private school in Oakham he would come across as confident and well-spoken so despite the overwhelming evidence it was worth a go for him wasn't it he got nothing to lose yeah the jury of course and for that matter most of the people in the courtroom were middle class men the public and press gallery had a rail of coat hooks on the wall and it was covered in a line of trilby hats and flat caps the man in the dock was of similar appearance and background to everybody else around him would the crown court at Leicester be willing to convict Ronald Light of the gravest of crimes a capital offence the apparently motiveless murder of this young woman were there any weaknesses in what seemed overwhelming evidence he had been identified as the man on the green bicycle he had approached two young girls on the same evening the cycle the holster the ammunition had all been disposed of in the canal the ballistic evidence yeah the ballistic evidence Light's barrister was experienced in cases involving firearms and the prosecution they needed to be prepared for this [Music] the trial of Ronald Light opened in Leicester castle on the 8th of June 1920 it lasted three days three days now by today's standards that's very short I mean that said we now have more complex cases in terms of procedure legal argument and rules of evidence may be the prosecution's case was that after they left the village of Gaulby on their bikes for unknown reasons Bella had fled from Ronald Light in panic she headed south on a different a longer route home Light then took an alternative route where he ambushed her he then shot her once before fleeing from the sea to support this eyewitnesses and other individuals were introduced to testify as to having seen Light in the company of right on the evening of her murder to his ownership of the bicycle and his later efforts to both remove identifying marks on the bike his disposal of the bike the revolver holster and unspent bullets of the same calibre as the one used to kill right in the river saw in an obvious effort to conceal physical evidence linking him to the murder furthermore upon his arrest Light had proceeded to tell the police numerous lies until confronted with either proof or inconsistencies in his claims those two young girls that were approached by Ronald Light were very important it was Muriel Money who was 14 and Valerie Cavan who was 12. They would testify that on the 5th of July approximately 3 hours earlier Light had pestered them as they rode their bicycles and this was also close to where Wright's body would be found a few hours later now crucially when questioned at the trial about what the girls were saying Light simply replied they're lying crucially the trial judge instructed the jury to disregard the girl's testimony ruled their evidence inadmissible and the problem was that they made their statements on the 9th of march after light's arrest and there was a possibility that the police had suggested the date and time in question oh well okay you can imagine this was a disappointing setback for the prosecution and unfortunately it wouldn't be the last indeed according to light's testimony at his trial he came across Bella Wright near the crossroads where Gaulby Lane crosses Houghton Lane she had a problem with her bicycle and asked him if he had a spanner to help loosen a freewheel he didn't have one on him but did what he could to resolve the problem Light would later claim not to have known about Wright's death until he read a Leicester Mercury article on the 8th of July according to his evidence he realized the dire predicament he was now in and worried over the matter for some time before deciding to do nothing beyond removing his bicycle from where he normally stored it in the attic he claimed he'd failed to come forward in response to the police and media appeals to avoid worrying his ailing mother however in October 1919 Light took his bicycle from the attic before proceeding to file off the serial numbers from the frame he took the bicycle to the Upperton Road bridge in Leicester where he first detached the rear wheel remember this machine had a distinctive back-peddling brake then he continued dismantling the bicycle each section except in fact the rear wheel with its coaster brake he chucked into the river saw quote when Bella Wright was murdered I knew from newspaper reports the next day that she was the girl I had been with just before she died I knew the police wanted to question me I became a coward again I never told a living soul what I knew I got rid of everything that could have connected me with her because I was afraid I see now of course that I did the wrong thing in his testimony Light conveyed himself in a well-spoken demeanour he readily admitted to having lied to the police upon his arrest before essentially admitting to everything testified to by other witnesses presented at his trial except his possession of the revolver and Bella Wright's murder he claimed they parted company at a junction close to Kings Norton soon after she had left her uncle's cottage on cross-examination Light admitted that the holster bullets and bicycle recovered from the canal were indeed his but claimed he had disposed of these items in a panic having read the press coverage surrounding Bella’s murder and noting the general public and media consensus that the man seen riding alongside her on a green bicycle had been responsible for her death he admitted that as an officer in the army he'd owned a Webley Scott service revolver when he was posted to France he claimed that he took the revolver but not the holster he claimed that when he became a casualty all of his belongings had been left in the casualty clearing station back in France clever that isn't it he's ambushed the trial he's not only managed to explain that he did not have his army revolver on the 5th of July but he's also given the jury the impression that he was a war hero that he was injured on the western front fighting for his country and he'd simply forgotten to bring his revolver back with him despite being subjected to five hours of cross-examination Ronald Light did not contradict himself on one single occasion well his lies to the police were contradicted but of course that's not relevant at the trial is it of course nowadays the defence must put forward a defence case before the trial starts but on this occasion there was no time to contradict his story however implausible it might have been indeed yeah Marshall Hall qc stressed to the jury his client freely admitted the truth of the witnesses apart from those two young girls though who he called liars I mean the prosecution missed this potential problem surely notes were taken from those two girls when they were first interviewed and nowadays their age and significance of their evidence would be video recorded it would be preserved and presented very differently because what these young girls were saying was giving the motive of lights activities of his attraction and his interest in young girls that was key and not to allow that evidence was a huge blow for that trial and of course Marshall Hall QC emphasized the lack of a motive there was no reason for his client having killed Bella Wright yeah and of course something which would have been helped by those two girls their evidence and his history of sexual assaults and of course their evidence was ruled inadmissible well Marshall Hall added that Light had not known Bella before their chance encounter she had not been robbed she'd not been attacked or subjected to any form of sexual assault surely though the jury would see through this well Marshall Hall had one final trump card to play to discredit the prosecution case that Bella Wright was shot using a Webley revolver after all the revolver had never been found the evidence of Dr Williams who conducted the post-mortem examination was easily discredited he wasn't an expert nor was he experienced in gunshot injuries he claimed that she was shot from six to seven feet away but he couldn't elaborate he described that the bullet had passed through her skull at an angle the explanation being either the gun was fired from below the height of her head or her head could have been tilted back slightly when it was fired he was unsure whether she would have been standing upright astride her bike or indeed lying on the ground when she was shot and let's remember that her body had been moved by the farmer before the doctor had examined her and then it was removed to the house without any photographs being taken the crime scene was at risk of being discredited so at court it needed really careful explanation okay the expert witness on ballistics was a Leicester gunsmith name of Henry Clark he testified that the bullet which killed right had sustained damage this may have been caused by a ricochet and that the bullet could just as easily have been fired from a rifle as a revolver now this introduced the possibility to the stray shot fired from a distance by somebody else could have inadvertently killed right and that her death may have been the result of not murder misadventure of course in in the perfect world the police would have recovered the murder weapon and then testified it but they didn't have that luxury yeah the prosecution had made some errors in the presentation of the ballistic evidence there was another firearms expert guy named Churchill who was adamant that the fatal round had come from a Webley revolver his evidence wasn't used by the prosecution were the prosecution complacent that they had the evidence to convict Ronald Light I think maybe yes yeah possibly I mean Marshall Hall he didn't have to prove this alternative theory he barely had to instil some doubt in the prosecution's version of events could someone with a rifle have accidentally killed Bella Wright whilst out shooting crows for instance highly unlikely the problem was that the dead crow at the scene was not examined carefully or photographed they could only go on what witnesses said about it how it had died no one could say although if it had been shot with the same calibre round that killed Bella it would have been unrecognizable as a crow for a start crows are notoriously difficult to shoot farmers would like to use a shotgun to shoot at groups of them people doing it as a sport wouldn't need to use such a large round as what killed Bella Wright yeah I think at the time you could get something called a varmint gun which was um basically for shooting vermin uh rabbits rats that kind of thing and that was in the same calibre but shooting crows with it yeah I mean that's uh that's just too difficult waste of ammunition I’d say anyway would this unlikely theory and lights courtroom demeanour be enough to instil sufficient reasonable doubt within the minds of the jurors bear in mind that's the test isn't it Jacques beyond reasonable doubt so the jury deliberated for three hours before returning with a verdict of not guilty the verdict was cheered by many spectators inside the courtroom press coverage of Light had been sympathetic the media had portrayed him as an engineer teacher and an ex-army officer who was accused of murdering a simple factory girl [Music] so Jacques here we are this is the gate between the field and the Market Harborough road today it's um it's made of metal back in the day 101 years ago that would have been the wooden gate and it was here where we're standing now in this undergrowth I guess which is where Bella Wright's body was left and then later discovered yeah it brings it home doesn't it because we've got high hedgerows running along the side of the road or the track and we've got a view over fields hedge rows it's a quiet spot and of course that noise up there that would have been uncommon in the day wouldn't it people would have pointed at an aeroplane because they just weren't used to seeing them but back here down on the ground I just can't imagine anybody short of a drunken lunatic would think it was a good idea to shoot that calibre bullet at a crow on this gate knowing that the main road was on the other side you'd have to be bonkers to try that wouldn't you to even think about doing it you would indeed there's another thing Jacques back there about a mile and a half away the king's Norton junction where Bella and Ronald Light parted company she turned her back on him because they'd had a falling out and then she cycles uphill to this ridge road which is going to take her longer than Ronald Light cycling route back to Stoughton which is mainly downhill it's certainly downhill as far as little Stretton the turn-off for little strength is pretty much at the bottom of a very long incline so all he has to do burn down there hang a left up through the village comes up panting at that junction there just in time to see pedalling away along here the figure of Bella Wright what do you think yeah and I think the prosecution got that right to say that he'd headed her off what they didn't really nail down is what went wrong what made Bella deviate at that junction at King's Norton the suggestion is quite probably that he made some sexual advance on her did she threaten that she was going to go to the police and ride away saying that's not the end of the matter bearing in mind he's already only just got off an assault on a young girl hasn't he he's been arrested recently so he's angry now he's this woman who he thought he was befriending he thought he was impressing maybe he'd shown her the firearm he'd got and thought she was impressed with that she wasn't and she rejected him and she wasn't interested in him and that angered him and when she said or indicated that she was going to take the matter further he snapped at that point he was supposed to have been behaving like an officer and a gentleman in her eyes wasn't he yeah so even if she's going to go home and tell her father and her father's going to come out looking for him his behaviour is being found out again yeah absolutely yeah that would compound it would compound the previous offense and he'd only just got away with that hadn't he correct so they might have gone back into that one and started digging around and then he could have been convicted of that previous offense I’m sure he wasn't proud of his of his behaviour but he clearly couldn't control it and that's the point and a woman like Bella standing up to him probably caused him to snap Bella Wright had to be silenced yep Jacques something occurs to me we are actually right down in the corner at the moment and if I was stupid enough to take a shot at a crow on that gate from in here I would be shooting across the main road so any stray shot and given the calibre of the bullet any shot that hit a crow would be liable to hit anybody or anything coming up or down that road what do you think I think I think exactly that being here now we realize how busy this Gartree road was then people on horseback cycling people walking we're a stone's throw from the village of Little Stretton there's a footpath that runs from the gate across the field to another village Burton Ovary nearby so even youths or people shooting crows they would not do it at this location it just simply doesn't fit at all there'll be plenty of other areas to do that kind of activity yeah if you wanted to do that there are hedgerows all around this field I mean I’m guessing the fields were probably a bit smaller in those days a few hedgerows have been grubbed up but even so these are mature trees here I mean they're easily more than 100 years old ash trees and oak trees and they would have been where the crows were going to roost at that time of night so rather than shooting dangerously towards that road if I was going to be shooting a crow I’d be inclined to do it over there where you know I’m not going to shoot anybody else by accident it's just irresponsible and ridiculous to even think about shooting at a crow on that gate from in here isn't it yeah exactly and then there's the question of the junction what's the name of the junction the villages kings Norton junction which is what a mile and a half back that way that's where Bella and the man separated they went their separate ways Bella went uphill and then along this high road whereas the man went down the natural route back to little Stretton that Bella would have taken obviously they'd fallen out she didn't want to be seen with him so she comes the long way round he goes that way downhill and that's significant I think because she has to climb uphill on her bike while he's going downhill on his so although he has a bit of a pull up through the village at the end of it actually it's going to be easier for him to intercept her on the high road I mean maybe he just wanted to apologize or maybe not you're right something and this is from what Ronald Light said isn't it that they left he left her company at King's Norton junction now something happened there didn't it something happened there their brief relationship and conversation something went wrong the suggestion is obviously his sexual motive is something which she would have reacted to without a doubt she was confident she spoke as though she could deal with this man when she left her uncle's address so something went wrong there and he would have known by the route that she deviated on she would come along this stretch of road and he could catch her up yeah she turned her back on him didn't she blanked him cycled up the hill away from him but he hadn't finished with it yeah I think that's clearly what's happened [Music] before we mention what happened after the trial let's reflect on Bella Wright the victim of this tragedy Bella was buried in her village churchyard there were several hundred mourners and the vicar of Stoughton asked all those present to reflect on this poor girl another reference to her status to reflect on the girl that had been taken away from them there were many wreaths though and flowers placed on her coffin by her family her friends neighbours and colleagues none of them ever had justice following his acquittal Ronald Light returned to live with his mother in Leicester where he initially maintained a somewhat reclusive lifestyle for a time he assumed the name Leonard Estelle in December 1920 he was fined for registering under a false name at a hotel where he'd been staying with a woman by 1928 he'd moved to the isle of Sheppey in Kent and in 1934 he married a widow by the name of Lillian Lester Ronald Light died on the 15th of May 1975 at the age of 89 his body was cremated at Charing crematorium near Ashford in Kent and his ashes were scattered in the crematorium's garden of remembrance Light had no children of his own and his stepdaughter knew nothing about his trial and acquittal until after his death for several decades afterwards the green bicycle hung on the wall of an Evington cycle shop although its current whereabouts are unknown in 1987 the bullets in holster recovered from the river saw were sold at auction for six thousand dollars the shooting crows theory proved particularly popular first published by the writer Truman Humphreys in the strand magazine in 1922 it suggested that Bella might have been accidentally shot by youth shooting a crow on the nearby gate that would explain the blood on the gate the bloody bird tracks near the body and the dead crow incredibly experts believe it would have been possible for a boy lying in a meadow to shoot a crow on the gate at such an angle that the bullet subsequently hit Bella below the eye incredible indeed fortunately the most recent book by Anthony Brown that we mentioned is more balanced he even hopes that the revolver could still be in the canal and finding that could finally solve this century-old crime you know it was claimed that this case was the most fascinating murder mystery of the 20th century so what do you guys the listeners think about this case mystery or like Jacques says travesty thanks for listening to the Six O’clock Knock and do keep your suggestions coming we've enjoyed taking a fresh look at this fascinating case the Six O’clock Knock is available wherever you get your podcasts the Six O’clock Knock is presented by Simon Ford and Jacques Morell and produced by Paul Bradshaw and is available on every major listening app please help us spread the word by giving us a five star review and telling your friends to subscribe.[Music]