The Green Bicycle Mystery. Part Six: The Investigation.


In the previous “Green Bicycle Mystery” article, the young police constable PC Alfred Hall had a feeling that the body that was found in the small country road in Leicestershire was no accident.

He kept revisiting the scene until he found any evidence to confirm his suspicions. After the third time examining the scene he found a used bullet around six yards away from where the body of Bella Wright lay.

He immediately examined body again that was being stored in a disused chapel nearby. He (and Dr Williams) found two holes in Bella’s head. An entrance wound under her left eye and an exit wound under her hat on the back of her head.

These were missed on the first examination due to the low lighting used and the amount of congealed blood.

The case is now being treated as a murder.

The murder in the media.

The police investigation now began. A handbill was circulated around the surrounding villages describing the strange man and his bicycle. It read:

“At 9:20 pm, 5th instant, the body of a woman, since identified as Annie Bella Wright, was found lying on the Burton Overy Road (Via Devana), Stretton Parva, with a bullet wound through her head, and her bicycle lying close by. Shortly before the finding of the body, the deceased left an adjacent village in the company of a man matching the following description:
Age 35-40 years, height 5’7” to 5’9”; apparently usually clean-shaven, but had not shaved for a few days, hair turning grey, broad full face, broad build, said to have a squeaking voice and to speak in a low tone.
Dressed in a light rainproof coat with green plaid lining, grey mixture jacket suit, grey cap, collar and tie, black boots and wearing cycling clips.”

The press, local at first but rapidly spreading to the national media within a few days starting printing articles about the case. The discovery of the bullet was a bit too late for the next day’s press, so stories such as “local women found dead” didn’t mention murder.

The small headline on the Leicester Daily post read simply “Woman Cyclist Death” and including very little detail.

“Unidentified female found dead by a farmer on the highway by Stretton Parva” “To all appearances, the deceased had fallen from her machine. Onto her face, which was bleeding profusely…. According to both medical and police opinion deceased must have had a seizure whilst riding, but whether the death was directly due to the seizure or the fall is at present uncertain.”

But the days after the discovery of the bullet, some papers published sensational reports. Including a story about a mad man riding around Leicester’s countryside on his bicycle whilst wielding his revolver, shooting young women.

After reading such reports, a man living in his mother’s house in Leicestershire decided to dismantle his custom green bicycle, file off all the serial numbers and dump them in the Grand Union canal. Along with his holster, several bullets and maybe even the revolver itself.

Crime scene revisited.

Superintendent Herbert Taylor visited the crime scene again but found nothing new.

He did match up the dead crow with the bloody bird footprints found next to where the body was found. The bird was even more mysterious with the introduction of the bullet found. Taylor sends the dead bird off for analysis.

Harry Cox, a bicycle shop owner.

For the first few days of the investigation, information about the case were coming into the police at a steady flow.

Harry Cox, a bicycle repair shop owner came forward to the police with information regarding the pea-green bicycle. He had repaired the unique bicycle that the police was looking for.

Unfortunately, the owner of the bicycle had not given his name. However, he did confirm the owner of the bicycle did match the description of the man that was on the handbill.

The cycle shop owner did have a small conversation with the owner. The man was from London with a slight “Cockney” accent. and was visiting friends in Leicester. The man was also recently demobilised from the war.

The fact the man was from London was both negative and positive. It was negative because the man could off easily left town and returned to London. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack. But the fact he was from London meant that the case would fall under the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Police and the case could be bolstered by everything the Met had to offer.

The local police got into contact with Scotland Yard who immediately sent Detective Chief Inspector Albert Hawkins to Leicester to lend his expertise tot he case.

DCI Albert Hawkins arrives in Leicester.

Detective Albert Hawkins arrived in Leicester and immediately questioned Bella’s friends, family and colleagues.

He also questions Archie Ward, Bella’s boyfriend at the time who was serving in the Royal Navy. Archie was a prime suspect and he had travelled up from Portsmouth as soon as he heard about Bella. Archie was cleared as soon as he was questioned.

Bella’s funeral.

On the afternoon of Friday the 11th of July, Bella’s funeral was held at St. Mary’s and All Saints Church in Stoughton. Hundreds of people lined the streets to pay respects to Bella.

The Hymn “Brief life is here our portion” was sung. Bella was buried in the graveyard. Her grave laid unmarked for some time until around …. when the proceeds of a local book about the mystery were used to pay for a small marble gravestone.

If you visit her grave today it is very well kept with an abundance of flowers laid on top.

The police attended the funeral to see if the man on the green bicycle would make an appearance. He did not.

The case going cold.

For the next few weeks, the case was beginning to ground to halt. There was no more new information coming forward and all the leads that they had come to nothing.

No weapon was found. Hedgerows and fields were searched and trampled for miles around the scene looking for the weapon.

A new handbill was released around the whole of Leicestershire, with the award now at £20.

The first inquiry.

The first inquiry was held at Joseph Cowell’s cottage. It only included two witnesses, Mary-Ann Wright, Bella’s mother and Joseph Cowell.

The proceedings were short and the body was formally identified. It was then released for burial.

The inquest was adjourned until the 25th.

The second inquiry.

On the 25th of July, another inquiry was held at Great Glen village hall. Joseph Cowell was in attendance alongside Dr Williams and PC Hall.

The inquiry started with medical evidence. Starting with the examination undertaken by Dr Wiilaims in the disused chapel with extremely low lighting.

They then moved on to the gunshot wound. Small bits of gravel from the road and shards of metal was found in the wound. The Dr comes to the conclusion that the gun was no more than 4 or 5 feet away from Bella when she was shot.

No bruising or any markings of any kind of struggle was present on Bella’s body. She was not sexually assaulted. There were some scratches on Bella’s face but they were due to Bella either standing or riding her bike whilst she was shot.

The inquiry was delayed for another two weeks to allow for more evidence but maybe this was just wishful thinking. Two weeks passed with no more information.

The third inquiry.

The third day of inquest was again held in the village hall of Great Glenn on the 8th of August. The first person to give evidence was Harry Cox, the bicycle repairman who had conversed with the mystery owner of the elusive green bicycle. He said:

“I had half an hours talk with the man, and he said he was a demobilised officer and working for a firm in London. The firm, he said, had told him he could have another two or three weeks holiday on full pay as they were not very busy.”

From the way he spoke, I should say he was a Londoner. He spoke with a cockney accent fairly quickly, he had a squeaky voice.

“Just before he left my shop he told me he was fed up messing about the town and he was going to have a run out in the country. He rode off in the direction of Evington.”

The next witnesses where Bella’s family who had been in her uncle’s cottage when Bella visited. They explained of meeting with the man in the street outside Geroge’s home, how he had hung about for hours and how he left with Bella. He was the last person to be seen with her whilst she was alive.

The final witness was a gunsmith from Leicester, Henry Clarke.

Henry Clarke’s statement.

Henry Clarke was a local gunsmith who owned a shop in Leicester. He explained that the bullet found by PC Hall was indeed a .455 calibre round (PC Hall was correct). It could have been fired by either a rifle or a revolver, though if it had been the latter, it would of be certainly a service revolver.

He disagreed with the earlier inquest and mentioned if the gun had been fired from four or five feet away, he would have expected to find scorching or burn marks on the victims face due to the black powder. Something which officers confirm had not been present on Bellas’ face.

PC Hall also spoke how he had found the bullet. The inquiry was again adjourned for another two weeks. The fourth day of proceedings was swift due to no more evidence and the only order of business was to pass the verdict that the case was certainly “wilful murder against some or persons unknown”

As the year 1919 finished, there were no new leads and the case was stone cold.

View part seven of the case, “A Stroke Of Luck”, here.

You can view all the “The Green Bicycle Mystery” articles and the map of all locations mentioned by clicking here.

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Article Sources: DMU exhibition, The Green Bicycle Mystery by Antony M. Brown

If you are interested in the “Green Bicycle Mystery” then we recommend the following book (Click on the images or links below)

The Green Bicycle Mystery (Cold Case Jury Collection 1)

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Thomas is fascinated by the city's long and varied history. He also hates to discuss himself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.


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