Monday, 8 June 2015

The Green Bicycle Murder

This is another one of those puzzling cases in which a suspect is acquitted of murder leaving the questions of just who was responsible for another person`s death and more importantly, why?  The victim in question was 21 year old Bella Wright, whose body was found in a lane close to Long Stretton, in Leicestershire, on July 5th 1919.  Bella had a nasty bullet wound to her head and Police discovered a spent bullet near to her body.  The Police enquiry established that Bella, who worked in a factory, had left the home of her uncle, three miles away, and was witnessed riding her bicycle in the company of a man whose bicycle was green.  The man was later spotted in the immediate vicinity of where Bella was found deceased.  The investigation ran cold, but was reawakened seven months later, when the frame of a green bicycle was pulled from a canal.  But there was much more discovered in the canal.  A holster for a revolver and some ammunition.   The serial number was still visible but identifying features had been removed.  The serial number led Police to Ronald Vivian Light.

    Light, a former officer in the Army, was now a teacher at Cheltenham School.  He had reason to be in the area.  His disabled mother lived in Leicester.  Light was charged with the murder of Bella.  He went on trial at Leicestershire Assizes in June 1920, and finally had to admit that the green bicycle found in the canal was his own.  He had previously told Police that the bicycle was not his, despite the serial number linking him to it.  The reason for this deception, he told the court, was he feared the effect of the case and he being arrested, would have on his disabled mother.   He empathically denied the charge.  Light had a formidable attorney fighting his corner.  None other than Sir Edward Marshall Hall.  The prosecution's case was that the holster and ammunition belonged to Light.  These, said the prosecution, were the same calibre of the round that killed Bella.  But Marshall Hall said that a .45 calibre bullet would have made a larger exit wound.  His hypothesis was supported by a firearms expert who stated that the fatal wound could have been caused by a rifle shot.  

    Hall maintained that Bella could have been hit by a shot from a nearby field.  There was no known motive for the murder, and there were no signs of attack on Bella.  Hall brought up Light`s excellent war record, and he gave a good account of himself in the trial, so the jury voted for an acquittal.