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New 'Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm?' film answers some questions whilst raising others

By Carl Jackson | Dudley entertainment | Published:

A victim of witchcraft? A Nazi spy? Or a girl simply walking across the fields to save wear and tear on her shoes?

They are all theories which have been put forward throughout the decades in a bid to solve the mystery of 'Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm?'

But in this new documentary, of that very title, they are fleshed out more than ever before.

Filmmaker Jayne Harris is behind the documentary investigating 'Bella's' death

The chilling tale of the skeleton found by children in a tree in Hagley Woods in 1943 has all the hallmarks of a horror-fiction classic. So it is no surprise that the true story, along with its varying explanations ranging from the simple to the bizarre, has gripped the town of Stourbridge ever since.

This hour-long film captures the eerie terror of the incident from the outset as it opens to the creepy jingles of a children's mobile and never lets up in tension.

It immediately gives the victim a sense of added vulnerability - and perhaps innocence - which makes her brutal killing ever the more startling.

Filmmaker Jayne Harris is behind the documentary investigating 'Bella's' death

The audience, present at its first screening on Friday, was always kept on the edge of their seat with swift visual changes.

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They included stills of authentic case documents, graphic photographs of the remains, believable recreations of the possible scenarios which could have led to the death, interviews with experts and present-day footage from the scene and its surroundings. While sharp audible cues keep the nerves jangling.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the production is how thoroughly researched every part of the mystery has been carried out.

The documentary delves into who was behind mystery graffiti which appeared after the body was discovered in Hagley Woods in 1943

Each element is carefully dissected including the origins of the graffiti which started appearing around Stourbridge afterwards and the identity of the victim herself, which is heavily focused upon.

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It even details how the Express & Star played a part in re-igniting the case after it had seemingly gone cold.

In expert fashion the film outlines each of the major theories behind Bella's death but then just as you think you know 'who did it' it provides compelling new evidence which dismisses some of the arguments altogether.

Hagley Wood still holds the answers to how Bella's body came to be in the Wych Elm tree

While other suspicions are left open and with new questions raised from the documentary.

The state of the case of today is sure to leave most baffled.

Filmmaker Jayne Harris, for whom this is her first major production, narrates throughout. Ahead of the documentary's unveiling she said she merely wanted to make a 10-minute YouTube film out of 'personal interest' in the story. Even when the project snowballed into its final form she admitted thinking only 15 to 20 people would come to see it.

Judging by the 400-plus crowd who packed out Stourbridge Town Hall and applauded enthusiastically at the end, public interest in the mystery of 'Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm?' is still as fervent as ever more than half a century on.

The film will be screened again at the venue on October 31 for Halloween and then available to view on Amazon Prime aftewards or purchase on DVD from www.hdparanormal.com

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
Reporter - @cjackson_star

Senior reporter for Staffordshire and Walsall.

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