Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, September 13, 2020


 A vexing case in the annals of murder, the "Green Bicycle" affair may be a case when the culprit got awat with murder.

Twenty-one-year old Bella Wright, a girl of "good looks and of good character," was bicycling to her uncle's home in Gauby.  Bella Wright often bicycled that summer around the villages in the area to run errands or to call on friends and acquaintances, as well as bicycling to her work on the late shift at a rubber factory.  On the way to see her uncle she met Ronald Light, who was also bicycling and asked him if he had a spanner so she could tighten a loose bolt on her bicycle.  Light reportedly did what he could and offered to bicycle with her to her uncle's house.  While he waited outside, she told her uncle that she had just met him and that he seemed to pose no threat.  The uncle had a natural dislike to the man, but did not know his name, only the he rode a green bicycle.

Bella's body was found half an hour after she had left her uncle's home.  Bloodied, lying beside her bicycle, and shot at least once under the left eye.  A call went out to identified the man on the green bicycle.  No one came forward.  In November of that year, a coal barge happened to snag the frame of a green bicycle.  The area was dredged and other pieces of the bicycle were found.  The serial numbers had been filed off the frame and the seat but a faint number was found on the inside of the fork.  This led to Light, who was arrested on March 4, 1920, at Dean Close School in Chettenham, where he had been hired as a mathematics teacher two months before.

Light's background was questionable, to say the least.  At the age of 17 he had been expelled from school for lifting a girl's dress over her head.  He also tried to seduce a 15-year-old girl and admitted to indulging in improper conduct with an 8-year-old girl.  At age 28 he was fired from a job as draftsman for setting fire to a cabinet and for drawing indecent graffiti in a bathroom.  Later, he was fired from a firm for setting fire to the haystacks.  In 1915 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers; a bit over a year later he resigned his commision "at the request of a superior officer."  He then became a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was court-marshalled in 1917 for forging orders.  Light was demobbed in 1919, officially suffering from shell shock and a deaf ear, and was sent home to undergo psychiatric treatment.

Light's background, the fact that he was seen with Bella Wright a half hour before her body was found, and the fact that he did not come forward, even after admitting he read about the murder in the nespaper a few days after the body was discovered, all combined to make him appear guilty.  Oh, and he also dismantled his distinctive-looking bicycle, sanded off the serial numbers, and threw the parts and his empty holster and ammunition into a canal.

After a highly publicized trial Light was found not guilty, mainly because of his attorney's assertion that there was no motive.  Criminologist and students of true crime are divided on this case.  H. R. Wakefield, in his 1930 book The Green Bicycle Case argued that Light was innocent.  In 1993's The Green Bicycle Murder, author Christine Wendy East argued that Light was guilty and that the contemporary class structure had helped his release.  (Light was from a wealthy family and Wright was the first of seven born to an illiterate agricultural worker.)  Others wondered if the death was the result of an accident, a bullet going off while Light was showing the girl his gun, perhaps.  Three days after Light was acquitted, the Leicester Superintendent of Police wrote a note claiming that Light had confessed to Wright's accidental death; the validity of this not has been questioned.

So.  Did he do it?  Did he get away with murder?  That seems to be the opinion of the piece below:

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