THE legendary ‘Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm’ murder mystery is being explored in a new book by Black Country poet Nellie Cole.

The 22-year-old, who grew up close to the Halesowen-Hagley border, has taken inspiration from the mystery – which began in 1943 when the remains of a woman were found inside the hollow bole of a wych hazel tree in Hagley Wood.

An ensuing investigation failed to identify her, or solve the puzzle of her death, and although the case remains unsolved, anonymous road-side graffiti still asks ‘Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm’ – keeping the mystery alive 75 years later.

Nellie’s latest poetry book ‘Bella’, published by Offa’s Press, takes the reader down the winding paths of the intriguing tale.

The poems plot their way through records, reports, maps, and the make-believe, using real and imaginary evidence to try and make sense of the nebulous figure of ‘Bella’.

Nellie, who studied creative writing at the University of Birmingham, said: “I have always been inspired by the mystery, and keen to write about it.

“While at university I found my voice through poetry, and began the collection about Bella for my final year project.”

One of Nellie's poems, ‘Bluebells’, recounts the early search for evidence in Hagley Wood, while ‘Spirits Raise Bella From the Wych Elm’ goes on a supernatural journey across Clent and Wychbury Hills, placing Bella amongst a pantheon of mythical Midlands figures.

The publication of ‘Bella’ follows exhibitions of Nellie's Black Country poetry at Dudley Museum and Birmingham's Pen Museum.

Copies of ‘Bella’ are available to buy online at, priced at £5.95.

Nellie will be reading some of her poems at spoken word night ‘Permission to Speak’, being held at Claptrap the Venue, in Stourbridge High Street, on Wednesday, September 12, from 7pm.