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Crimes of the Times
The Green Bicycle Mystery (1)

by H.L. Adam
(from: The Fifty Most Amazing Crimes of the last 100 years edited by J.M.Parrish & John R.Crossland, published 1936)

In the year 1919, a young woman named Bella Wright, aged twenty-one, was living with her parents - her father was a farm labourer - at a village called Stoughton, not far from Leicester. Bella, a very good-looking girl, worked as a rubber hand at St. Mary's Mills, Leicester. Previously she had held positions with other manufacturers in the district. She was a rather "reserved" girl, one who did not readily make friends. At least, that is what was said of her where she lived. She used to " keep herself to herself." But naturally a girl with her good looks was bound to attract the opposite sex, and she numbered many admirers among male acquaintances. One of these was a young sailor, with whom she had a kind of " understanding," although there existed no definite engagement between the two. At the time of the tragedy the young fellow was on board H.M.S. Diadem, stationed at Portsmouth. From the time she left school and before going to work in a factory, Bella had been a domestic servant at Leicester. Her domestic service ended in May, 1917.

On Saturday, July 5th, '919, Bella Wright, who had worked on a night shift, arrived home early. She then went to bed until four o'clock, when she went out on her bicycle to post some letters at Evington, a village about halfway between Stoughton and Leicester. Cycling was a hobby with her and she invariably went alone. Having, apparently, posted her letters, she evidently turned round again and cycled back to Gaulby, there to pay a visit to her uncle, a roadman called Measures. She arrived at her uncle's cottage a little after seven in the evening, accompanied by a man who rode a green B.S.A. bicycle. He waited outside while she went in to see her uncle. He was there for more than an hour, ambling about, walking up and down the village street. Bella's friends saw him and asked her about him; but she did not appear anxious to tell them anything about him, and gave vague replies. She said that she did not know him, that he had overtaken her saying that he came from Great Glen. He wanted to find the way to some village which she did not know. He had then continued riding alongside her. Her uncle said that he did not like the look of him. Some time later he went to the window and looked out, exclaiming, "He's there still."

Bella laughed. "Oh, then I shan't go yet," she said, adding, "I shall try and give him the slip." She was not at all alarmed about the stranger.

That was the last that her friends saw of Bella alive.

As she was riding away with the stranger, the latter was beard to say, "I thought you had gone another way, Bella you have been so long."

The time was then about eight-thirty.

About an hour later a farmer named Cowell was driving his cattle along the Burton Overy road, in the direction of Stretton, when he caught sight of something black lying in the road. He thought possibly it might be a rug or a bag of some kind which had dropped from a trap. When he reached it, however, he was astonished to see that it was the body of a young woman. He lifted her up, but when her head fell back he realised that she was dead. He removed her to the turf by the side of the road. There was much blood upon her head, and on the ground where her head had lain there was a pool of blood. A few yards away a bicycle lay on its side. Cowell thought that she might have met with an accident while cycling. He got a horse and rode as hard as he could for the police.

Soon the police and a doctor were on the spot. The doctor made a cursory examination of the body and came to the conclusion that the girl had met with an accident while riding her bicycle and that she had died from exhaustion, or from loss of blood. The body was then removed to a cottage close by.

It seems that this case might very well have been regarded as one of accidental death, based upon the doctor's opinion, had it not been for the shrewdness of a local police constable. He was not satisfied that the death was accidental, so the next morning he paid a visit to the spot in the lane where the body was found and made a close inspection of it. His perseverance was rewarded by the discovery of a bullet, which had been forced into the ground by a horse's hoof. He then reported what he had found, and the doctor made a further and closer examination of the body washing the blood from the head. There was then revealed one bullet-hole on the left side of the face, just beneath the eye, and another on the other side of the head, near the temple. A bullet had entered on the left side, penetrated the brain, and emerged on the opposite side. possibly the bullet found by the constable was the one that had been fired at her.

It was not long before the identity of the murdered girl was made known. The body was that of Bella Wright, who had last been seen riding side by side with the mysterious man on his equally mysterious bicycle. Who was he? Nobody knew. The police investigations brought many interesting facts to light. For instance, there were several people who came forward and declared that they had seen Bella and her male companion not far from the scene of the murder. A man named Atkins said that about seven o'clock he had seen a girl riding a bicycle with a man following close behind her. The man was riding a green bicycle. Another man named Nourish said that he was driving along near Gaulby when he saw a girl and a man riding bicycles the man on a green machine. Then two schoolgirls said that, while out riding, they were accosted by a man, who followed them and rode with them for some distance. He was on a green bicycle.

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Tuesday 20 December 2005