Little Stretton is one of those villages that remain blind spots on the world map until a murder occurs. Suddenly this place is robbed of its insignificance because of the strange things that are happening there. Literature and film love such villages. In the Netflix series “Dark”, children disappear in the fictional Winden, in the equally fictional British coastal community of Broadchurch, a boy is murdered in the series of the same name, and literature used a family tragedy in Hinterkaifeck, Bavaria, a good 15 years ago and named the whole thing “Tannod”. There are enough role models for all these villages and their abysses in reality. Little Stretton could be one of them.
In Little Stretton one should be able to hike quite nicely, one reads. It’s all so beautifully green, it’s also in England. But already there is the first eeriness, this hotel at the entrance to the town, for example, a Premier Inn, which in the dark, at least in pictures, is reminiscent of Norman Bates’ motel from the Hitchcock film “Psycho”. Grassland in Nirvana always has its pitfalls. Lots of grass, lots of trees, empty country lanes and few people to help when what happened to Bella Wright a little over 100 years ago happens.
On July 5, 1919, Annie Bella Wright, aged 21, was murdered in Little Stretton, England. It was dawn when a farmer found her lifeless in the street, with a bicycle beside her. At first, the farmer and the police believed it was an accident. The rear tire was broken, she might have fallen off her bike, crashed badly and hit her head. But she had no bump. She had a hole in her head and lost blood. The gunshot wound was only discovered later, she was wearing a hat and no one thought of taking it off.
In order to earn money, she had to work the late shift
The fact remains a mystery to this day, unfortunately one of countless cases that have never been clarified, a classic and tragic “file number XY unsolved”. Above all, however, the story of the victim is a story of emancipation, which paradoxically became the girl’s undoing and provokes a question that today is more uncomfortable than ever: The world is bad, don’t girls know what can happen when they are in the dark? are traveling alone? You know, but if fear prevented you from going outside, there would never be any progress.
Bella Wright always rode her bike. She worked at Bates Rubber Works, a rubber factory three miles from her childhood home in Stoughton. She worked late shifts there, drove there in the afternoon and back in the evening. That was unusual for a young woman at the time, so completely unaccompanied, but very likely she had no other choice to earn money for the family.
Everything went well for a while too. That July 5th she had a day off to visit relatives in the neighboring parish of Gaulby. Witnesses later said that on their way there, Bella was seen with a man. Both on bicycles, one of them pea green, it says it in the archive of Leicester Chronicle. The two are said to have looked familiar, as if they knew each other. 35 minutes after her visit to Gaulby, the farmer finds her dead body on the street in Little Stretton.
The case became more widely known in 2016 when the City of Leicester staged a cycle ride along the route between Stoughton, Little Stretton and Gaulby, including descendants from the family of the victim, to reconstruct what happened.
The suspect had previously molested a girl
In 2019, De Montfort University in Leicester curated an exhibition commemorating the girl. 100 years after the murder, which is still one of the most famous unsolved criminal cases in the region, the organizers wanted to commemorate the victim. For far too long, interest has focused mainly on her alleged killer. Who Bella Wright was seemed to matter less than who the perpetrator was. Leicester Police contributed a lot of material to the exhibition, protocols and notes from investigators at the time and one of the most important pieces of evidence: the green bike.
In the summer of 1919, after police investigated Bella Wright’s gunshot wound after she was buried and mourned, even after a bullet was found in the grass near the crime scene, officers spent months searching in vain for the perpetrator and motive. Although they knew that Bella had been accompanied by an unknown person shortly before her death, who it was remained a mystery – until parts of a green bicycle were pulled from the river in February 1920. The owner was found to be Ronald Light, ex-soldier, 33 years old with a suspicious past. As a teenager, he was reportedly expelled from his school for pulling up a girl’s skirt. The murder trial against him as the sole suspect began in the summer of 1920. But it led nowhere. Light’s lawyer smashed all allegations, the evidence was too thin.
Another testimony, albeit decades later, shed new light on the case: the typewritten transcript of a police officer who met Ronald Light days after his acquittal. Ronald Light is said to have told him that he actually killed Bella Wright. Accidentally, an accident. Should his confession become public, he would insist on his innocence. The document was filed. And never touched again.