« Stuff You Missed in History Class

The Hagley Woods Murder

2016-10-31 | 🔗

In 1943, a skeleton was found in a tree near Birmingham, England. More than 70 years later, it's still unknown who the deceased was and how the body ended up in an elm tree.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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accurate. Bravo with any order again, that's the tracker dot com, promo code, history, In the back of your mind, you ve always had the feeling that there's something strange about reality. Theory is definitely apart. Mechanical must scientist punch heavily on our award winning science podcast affable your mind. We examined neurological, quandaries, cosmic, mysteries, evolutionary marvels and our Trans human future. You episodes come out two things in Thursday's on Itunes, Google play Spotify and anywhere in your pocket. welcome to stuff you missed in history from Housetop work stuck. I will look into the matter only Brian, I'm crazy and its hollowing Tracy time now, the birthday today to celebrate. How are we working to talk about a history mystery? It's gotta
Anything it's got a blister mystery body, it's got witches, Scott Espionage, it's got everything and it's never been solved, though, as we get to the end of the episode. We're gonna get into some interesting mass tries to sort out the situation, but I don't spoil any that so, let's just hop right in the nineteen forty days, a grisly discovery, was made in a tree and was too sure England. On April eighteen of nineteen, forty three for teenage boys were looking for birds nests and they sent the best climber up an palm tree in the hollow of the tree, he did not find a birds nest. He found a skull. Usually you bought, it might be an animal skull, but when he pulled it from its place in the tree, he realized. No, it was a human skull,
and there was also a little bit of decomposing flesh, still attached to the skull as well as a patch of hair and the skull had distinctive teeth. They were crooked and therewith sort of what looked. What looks and pictures like, almost pronounced over by, but also some lower jaw defamation. The boy whose names were Robert Heart Thomas will, its Bob Farmer and Fred Pain or terrified they were also really worried that they were gonna get in trouble because they had been trespassing and Hughley Woods. This estate, which was near Birmingham private. They had no permission to be and they're looking for nests. They had also been hunting rabbits, so they basically been poaching and they had been doing all of that that day, when their permission, so the boys promised each other that they would keep it a secret. They put the skull back in its spot in.
and then they left, but the youngest boy of that group Tommy will it did not in fact keep their secret. He was really deeply upset by the discovery and he eventually confessed. His troubles to his father and his father immediately contacted police and, of course, investigation began when the police examined this elm tree. They found not only the skull but also additional remains, including the majority of the skeleton. There are also pieces of clothing. a wedding band and a single shoe with crape soul. The skeletal remains of one of these bodies. Hands were also found buried me the tree examination of the remains by a pathologist concluded that the skeleton was a woman who had been between thirty five and forty when she died. She was five feet or one point: five meters tall brunette and had probably in birth. At some point, another man involved in the investigation was forensic biologist, Doktor John Lund, who at the age of
One hundred and one told the BBC Radio Show Punt p. about his examination of the remains that Interview happened in twenty fifteen, so he had been were under James Webster, Appy West Midlands Forensic Science Laboratory- and he kept notes on the case- the body arrived at his lab on April twentieth, nineteen, forty three two days after it had been discovered. The bones had absolutely no remaining flesh. The hare that was attached to the skull was quite, Joel, but he determined that it had not been chemically treated with color or any kind of curling solution, and the woman Webster Inland concluded had been six by a piece of taffeta that had been shoved in her throat. Additionally, it was believed that the body had been hidden in the tree while it was still warm feet first and that it had been there for about a year and a half placing her death somewhere around October of nineteen forty one.
Effort, started immediately to try to identify what appeared to be the victim of a murder missing persons. Reports were company for anybody who might line up with this mystery discovery. There were detailed the options of what she had probably been wearing, based on what Webster had been able to extrapolate from this issue in the clothing remains that had been collected the there a whole reference through the dental records, with dentists from all around great Britain. but because of a war missing persons records were something of a mess at this point. But even so, All known listings were reviewed for a possible connection, literally thousands and thousands of records, but nothing matched no result. Dental dental records either, despite the fact that she had some unique features, including that job deformity and recently pulled tooth
been pulled shortly before she died and they really cast a wide net by placing this information in dental journals, hoping that they would find a dentist that we recognize any of this information, but the case went cold, a small clue. Finally came from a man who had been working in management and one of the areas, industrial companies he had reported to the police in July. Nineteen. Forty one that he was walking to his home near hag. We would- and he heard a scream another person, a teacher who was also I'm a path but coming in opposite direction, had confirmed that he too had heard this screaming, and police were called to the scene at the time that these two men heard this screen, which would have been close enough to the October death estimate to ban a possible connect. The murder but police and nineteen forty one found nothing where the two men had heard the woman screaming and they found nothing when they revisited the scene in nineteen. Forty, three after reviewing that nineteen forty one report just as the
They seem to be running entirely cold in December of nineteen. Forty three odd graffiti started popping up in the area. squirreled in various places, where the words who put Bela down the witch ELM, There are actually a lot of very variations on the phrase, including who put Bela down the witch ELM and who put Bela in the witch ELM there, also some were in some instances of graffiti that strayed from this question format, and said things more like haggling. Bela and, as a point of note, as we say this, we're not saying which here since you might be thinking what, with this being Halloween when we say the child, the spelling is w. Why c h? That's a tree also known as a Scots so However, in several things that I read there,
but they were adamant that this was in fact not a witch elm, but another type of elm. That's often mistaken, for one just wanted to include them in the interest of horticultural history and to clarify that it is not witches in the hollow any sense. At this point, it is creepy, though yeah, even without that spelling difference still creepy These graffiti messages appeared to be the work of a single person there, all written in the same type of chalk en bloc letters, and it was considered that they may be somebody trying to play a prank. But had been no leaves in the case that had actually pan out up to that point. So these our missives, opened up to new lines of investigation number one is there really someone named Bela who might be involved in this body that had been found in Hughley Woods, or to who was the artist behind the graffiti, and did they actually know something about the murder, but nothing,
the name Bela, not the dental records, not the hunt for the graffiti artist seem to lead to any actual information. This woman seem to be entirely untraceable and, as the months dragged into years, all kinds of other theories started the pop up about the identity of this woman in the tree and before we get to those Theories is started popping up in an effort to explain the skeleton and haggling woods. Let's take a brief break and want to have a word from one of our sponsors.
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don't wait, go to stamp start common before you do anything else. Click on that microphone at the top of the homepage and type in stuff that stamps dot com and enter stuff. So we pay you a little which means that the beginning in the actual which sense not in the W Weiss each tree sense, so we're getting there Professor Margaret Marie of University College, London, who was an anthropologist, Egyptologist, archaeologist and full clearest, put four The theory that Bela as she had at that point, become known thanks to that graffiti, had been the victim of a ritualistic, occult murder Murray. Evidence to support this theory was the fact that the hand bones had been found away from the body, and she believed that ceremony that had claimed, but was life, which is one which is called the hand of glory in which the hand cut from the victim could be used for divining or protection as part of the press.
this of witchcraft and the sensational nature of this idea really took hold in both the press and the public imagination. Sir, me of this, they tonic ritual abuse, panic it is about. Firstly, the same thing that that was not really founded in reality. So One another murder victim was discovered in a neighbouring village. This, when a man who was pinned to the ground with a pitchfork, started linking the two deaths, even though it had been two years between the two sky, yard he was spurred on by Margaret Murray, started investigate this witchcraft angle, because there had been, No other new leads in the case when asked All the other leave the got them. Nowhere had no real information that was gathered as a result of Maurice theories and I note, while Margaret Murray was famous for a time in the early twentieth century as an expert image, but that in the air quotes on witchcraft.
Most of her writings on the subject were controversial at the time and they were eventually debunked and she was largely discredited. She is actually on my short list for an episode all her own, but she was basically kind of vacancies, you're. The first time I read through this outline, I got to this description of her purported. Satanic, not satanic, but like her purported ritualistic a code order, and I was like really rare. The actual anthropologist for real did you did you just make this up like what really You know she used logic that made them to her but I dont know that she was kind of fabricating these in an effort to be to be
sleeping or sensationalist. I think she might have believed them, but I will do more research on her, perhaps in the future review that will be in October episode next year. I may be can't wait till the Wolesi epithet at school to that so ten years after that initial ITALY discovery in the tree. There was another possibility that came to light. This time Women going by the name Anna from cleverly contacted the press in a letter. She was responding to it theory of article that had bitten been written and nineteen fifty three about the murder sanction. He knew who had killed. Bela Anna's claim was. The Bela had in fact been part of espionage play gone wrong. and the letter read finished, articles regarding the witch ELM crime by all means. They are interesting to your readers, but you will never solve the mystery the one
person who could give the answer is now beyond the jurisdiction of earthly courts. Much as I hate having to you Now the plume. I think you would appreciate it if you know me the only clues I can you are that the person responsible for the crime died insane in nineteen forty two and that the victim was dutch and arrived illegally in England about nineteen forty one. I have no wish to recall anymore Anna's story cast Bela. As a dutch woman, he was passing information from a british officer to a trap, he's artist who appeared and local theatrical protections. That appease artist. Would then path, but am fell on to the Germans. Bela in the story had become too knowledgeable about this chain of s of information and she was killed because of that knowledge, and then her body was taken to Hughley Woods where was hidden in the tree course, this flashing out of the story pass that initial letter came because the police got involved, of course, once the Prescott this letter and they
in turn, and because the area around was too sure, was home to a number of munitions factories during world war. Two it had been scrutinised by the Nazis for information during the war. It had also been a target so priorities did pursue this new german aspiring angle with some level of vigour. Some aspects of Anna story checked out. There had been this man connected to a german aspiring in the area, but he had died in Stafford Mental Hospital in nineteen forty two and as it turned out that man was related to aunt, and his real name was unanimous up unit. Had she told police been married to Jack massive and he had can best the murder to her before his death, it was her understanding that he, along with a dutch man named Van Rolt, who was also involves, meant to scare. woman by waving her in the tree when she was passed out because she was a meal created they, did not actually intends to kill her.
The idea was it she would wake up stuck in this tree and see the error. Her ways and being foolish and would straighten up an act rates the police were unable to locate those of emerald character and it appears that they sort of abandoned the trail there. years later, however, another woman named Judith, Donovan, told police and investing there's that she was Jack, massive sort of distant cousin. I think her he might have in her husband's cousin and that their entire family basically knew that Jack had been a trader and that he had been connected to women's If so, it sort of supported this spiralling idea and the fact that he may have been connected to the woman in the witch home. Another decade asked before. Another theory emerged and this one kind of combined the previous two notions when nineteen sixty eight a book called me, by witchcraft was published written by David, Mccormick, Mccormick pen.
explanatory narrative in which the women from the tree had been a Nazi spy named Clarabella, who was also in a corpus according to Mccormick who said that he had been able to look at german intelligence reports that listed the women by her code name. She was called Clara. his assertion was that the Bela in the graffiti was referencing Clarabella Mccormick's book indicated that Clara had been sent into the county of West Midlands by parachute and nineteen forty one, but that she was never heard from again. Of course, these roads all proved to be fruitless like all the others had in terms of turning up any real information on the case. At the time, threefold decades, after Mccormick's Booker's was released the case of Belarus identity once again gained attention and, at the same piece of the puzzle, started to come together in the minds of interested parties for one when the case closed, which was actually in two thousand five. The case file,
was published, and in it there was a mention of a search for Bela's body to be exude so that dna evidence can be gathered, because that would certainly be helpful, but that search was for her body was unsuccessful. It turns out that this failure to fight her body was in part because they had been looking in completely the wrong location and presumed that fella had been buried locally. But in fact her remains had gone to the University of Birmingham to a colleague if the original pathologist in the case for additional testing- and that was a detail that had sort have been lost The sixty some years since the case had been active before was closed in two thousand five and on Fourchan, Lee. The skeletal remains disappeared from the universities, records and their lab lost every time in any records from the universe. the Birmingham about any testing that was done on those remains have also vanish. This has led to some speculation of a cover up, but it could also just be really terrible.
Keeping yeah. I'm gonna hold out hope that one day it will be one of those look. What we found in our own collection, Psych, set of human, remains that nobody, wild correctly and the thing to keep in mind too- and I know this from my years- working in the library- is that there were things that happen during more time that really messed up record keeping. You know it was necessarily that people were lazy or trying to cover anything up. There was just there were times when an error rate would happen and everything would be shuffled around and stuff got lost. Yet Even if you are really careful, human beings still make errors. You have a gigantic. Why are still ninety nine percent? Accurate? That's a bunch of errors anyway having up we're going to talk about an five file that might actually give some weight to the narrative is that Mccormick kid had reconstructed but first ruins quit break for a word from one of our awesome sponsors days
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go pair and get twenty percent off your first order. When you go to me on these dot com, flash history, that's me on these dot com, slash history! For twenty percent off your first water. One more time me Andy's dot, com flesh history. So another bit of information that also shed light on this possibility that Mccormick's theory had some truth to it. A declassified file British national archives are Gestapo agent, Joseph Jacobs, who was an inexperienced under trained agent that was sent to gather information on weather patterns in the London area. Jacobs had parachuted India, Cambridge sure in nineteen forty one broken his ankle in the drop and was arrested by the home guard, which was We were to defence organisation that was part of the british army. One of the items that Jacobs was carrying when the home guard apprehended him was a photograph that photo was
picture of a woman named clear about early, a singer and film actors that Jacob said was also his paramour. He also his captors, that clear about was a nazi secret agent and was supposed to parachute into West Midlands. The two of them were supposed to have made contact. Jacobs was executed by firing squad in the late summer of nineteen. Forty one, and this turned out to be the last execution at the Tower of London. He could also easily be an epoch. subject on his own. These Emma five records on Jacobs included an investigation of barley. She was born in nineteen o meaning that a nineteen forty one she would have been thirty five, which was the right age to put the pathology report of the witch s back big them. and she did work and music halls in the West Midlands area. For two years before World war, two began an she learn to speak English, with no trace of a german accent,
When the woman who had been calling herself Anna contacted the police in the nineteen, fifty is claiming to have knowledge of the crime she had mentioned a music hall in the information that she gave to the police While this might seem too tightly wrap up the identity of Bela quite nicely because the pieces do seem to fit together, Joseph Jacobs Grim, author, who has long examined the details of our grandfathers life actually obtained a desert. Difficult, are clear about early indicating that in fact, she died in Berlin in December nineteen, forty two of Verona poisoning. I e not stuffed into a tree in England. Of course, gossip a huge avert, a variety of other possibilities about Bela's identity. She might have taken shelter in the tree during an air raid and guns stuck I have been murdered by a lover and limbs clumsily hidden in the tree she may have the traveller or a Romani who was killed out of mere suspicion, and there
even believe that, at least in terms of plausibility seems fairly valid. So on April, seventh of nineteen forty four, a sex workers from Birmingham told is that a woman that she knew have gone missing on haggling, or in that area three years earlier, and that woman's name was Bela. If this inference garnered follow up from the police. It does not appear to have gotten much traction, incidentally, this whole graffiti of put Bela in the witch ELM has continued in a seven decades, since the murder was discovered, there's an obligation hag we park, Cobby, which very oblast, and it's been the most frequently hag locations in the nineteen. Seventy, presumably at this point, its kids trying to be spooky and the spelling has changed from W. Why the eight to w I tcp. It's definitely not somebody trying to communicate a kind of clue about be unsolved, murder case at this point.
kill me way over here, but exactly and it's very possible It never was anything but people pulling pranks, but we just don't know in twenty four team, a statistical now since, of all of the known data in the haggling woods, murder was done by recent Norman Fenton and Martin Neil using Bayesian analysis, and they determine a number of things they there are actually in the BBC radio piece it we mentioned earlier, but then they also wrote a paper separately were they explained at all, and that thing is fabulous, so it will be in the show notes, but the first thing that they did When is it? There is a ninety nine percent probability that they cause of death was criminal. That one is the completely unsurprising
correct, there's a ninety seven percent probability that Bela was not british less than two percent chance that she was dutch and an eighteen percent chance that she was german. There is a ninety three percent probability that Bela was still alive when she was put in the tree. That's awful that kind of holds that whole story that the men had put her there to scare. her and then she had somehow become stuck. There's a thirty three percent possibility that Jack Moslem was involved in her death and seven percent, that it was some kind of intelligence service, in order to increase that probability to a ninety five percent chance. That method was above the reason model would have required for additional witnesses, in addition to unanimously and his cousin Judith, and there is a twenty five,
percent probability that Bela was a spy and a sixteen percent probability that she was a prostitute in their paper. Study, the research were very clear with there are lots of variables that can wait really quickly changed the whole statistical picture, for example working under the assumption that police involved in the investigation really did exhaust all the leaves in each instance where they felt like there was a dead end. They left a stone unturned, here there than the models shifts significantly additionally there's the credibility of various witnesses. Yes you increase or decrease the credibility raving various witnesses that model changes really quickly as well, but, of course, all of those numbers do not settle this crime conclusively and Bela story remains a mystery in considering the age of the case. It is unlikely that this murder will ever be solved unless, as Tracy mentioned earlier there,
What worthy universally lab file suddenly turn up so that, as our spooky unsolved mystery for Halloween and we hope yours is safe and that you do not end up in a tree steadily down. I mean about you, can cover arbitrary safely. If you want to do that, but I have never climb a tree really. That is their dirty and I'm scared. That's the bottom line. Mother had very clear rules about how large the branch could be for us to safely climb a tree and if we climbed up into branches that word narrower than that, I think it had to be at least as as big as our arm I can refer. It was our armor leg. There was a body part that we had to compare before we put our weight on any tree: limb yeah, my mother, I my mother's, very concerned with safety
I've had many friends silly years who are big into three climbing and they always look at me like I'm some sort of mountain when I make of never claimed a tree, and I feel no urge to change that yes m listener? Male do I do I have three visas of us nor mail, but their brief. The first one comes from our listener. Cayley she sent us a lovely parcel. She sets high Ladys had been a long time listener to the pond cast, and I finally decided to write in after the John Brown Rate episode. I am a museum cure or for the National Park Service and currently work in Harbours fairy one yeah I'll, give you that I'm on my way our email, but I forgot this one- will always remain a parcel. That's a you haven't, seen it
moved here earlier this year from Georgia. I was so excited to listen to the episode, because it gave me more insight than I had already gathered. Keep doing what you do. I enjoy every episode as it gets me through the Monday tasks at work, stay, fabulous, Kelly and keenly also sent is cool magnets and state quarters system if the level of partial. Thank you kindly thus, the coolest fats awesome, that's really cool, and then I have to emails from our very recent broadcast on Vincent Price of persons as high Ladys. I listened to your recent Victoria price interview and I was delighted to hear engine that someone had emailed her about their Vincent price, cooking blog, because that someone was me my partner- and I have been huge fans of in surprise since childhood, and we love to cook. So we decided to do thirty one days of Vincent price cooking for the month of October. It seemed fitting check out the blog. If you would like- and let me know if you ve tried any the recipes we ve tried or any. We haven't that you recommend that blog can be found at thirty one days of Vincent.
the peace that tumblr com lovely interview with a tory? Isn't she just incredible the answer to that? Is yes, she's amazing, so I did look at their blog and thereby out there doing such lovely little things there making yummy stuff it makes me want to make all the tarts, because he has a lot of talk in that book. My favorite is still the lobster bisque, it's very heavy enrich, but it's so delicious. Ah, my next one is a fun story, above in surprise, from someone we ve had a couple. People mentioned that they ve seen him lecture or that they ran into him at some point. There lies in this one was very sweet, so it comes for listener. Babet. She says your interview with victory. A price was wonderful in it reminded me of my and pray story in nineteen sixty eight, I was on an eighth grade trip into New York City and we were allowed to scatter once we were at the Whitney Museum of Modern art, and I was with a friend you're, a very modern piece of art, a bolder surrounded by a series of concentric circles of different stipes types of stone granite. I noticed a very tall and
who man in the room who looked also familiar, but I wasn't sure who he was my friend, who probably recognized him goaded me to get his autograph but I still wasn't sure who he was so I did what any brave, but confuse team would do. I walked up to Heaven who are you he smiled and bent the waste until he was closer to my height of five four and in his remarkable deep voice. He practically, and why, and as soon I heard that voice, I knew exactly who he was, and I asked for his autograph, which he gave me written in very beautiful script. Vincent price was my first celebrity signing slash autograph and a thrill that I will never forget does the swedish story. I love that story. How we I mean on on social media we ve gotten so many cute, like sort of brief stories. One person had treated at me and said that a friend that she knows lived not far from him,
She was a girl and he would sometimes bring cookies out to the kids at the bus stop while they waited like they're. Just seventy cute little stories that have come up. That at least, is delightful. If he would like to write to us, you can do so at history. Pie cast a house of works dot com. You can also find us across social media. As Mr History, that's at twitter, at missed in history, Facebook, dot, com, slash Mr History, Instagram, I've missed in history August in history, that tumblr dot com and on Pinterest outcome, Slash missed in history. If you would like to come to our parents site house of works, do you can type almost anything that you can think of in the search bar, and you will get a load of content to delight and entertain yourself? You the visit Tracy and me at least in history, dot com where we have all of our old episode. The entire archive of the show, as well as show notes from the last several years that Tracy and I have been on the show and the occasional other goody sir, come and visit us at missed in history. That car
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