Woman’s Body Found Stuffed in an Elm Tree
Cryptic graffiti serves as a reminder of an unsolved, decades-old murder.
On a chilly spring day in April 1943, four teenage boys were poaching in Hagley Wood, located in rural England. One of the boys climbed up an old wych elm tree in the hopes of finding some birds’ nests. What he found instead horrified them all.
Stuffed inside the tree’s hollow was a human skull, with stringy brown hair attached to the forehead and two crooked front teeth. The boys already feared getting in trouble for trespassing on private property. They didn’t want to find out what additional trouble they’d be in for their grisly discovery.
Consequently, they made a pact never to tell anyone what they saw before they each ran home.
But who could keep such a terrifying secret? In the end, the youngest of the four boys spilled everything to his father, who immediately notified the police.
The police found an almost complete skeleton with one shoe and a cheap gold wedding ring at the trunk of the tree. Her severed hand was found some distance away.
The cause of death was believed to be asphyxiation, based on a piece of taffeta stuffed in the mouth. A forensic examination also determined that the woman had been dead for approximately 18 months, which meant she had been killed around October 1941. Given the body’s placement in the small tree trunk, the killer had placed the victim there while the body was still warm and pliable.
The coroner determined that the woman was around 35 years old and had given birth at least once. Police could tell what the woman had looked like from items found with the body, yet no one in the small, insular community recognized her. Police then pinned their hopes on her unusual dentistry. Despite reaching out to dentists all over the country, none of them had patients with the victim’s crooked front teeth and malformed jaw.