Birmingham & Black Country

Osmond Bell found guilty of 1981 killing of ex-partner

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Media captionHow chewing gum helped to catch a killer after 35 years

A man whose DNA linked him to the killing of his ex-partner has been convicted over her death more than 35 years after the crime took place.

Nova Welsh was found dead in a cupboard at her home in Birmingham in 1981.

Advances in DNA science led to Osmond Bell's conviction. His DNA was found on chewing gum used to secure a lock on a cupboard containing her body.

Bell, 60, was found guilty of manslaughter by a majority verdict. He was jailed for 12 years.

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Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Osmond Bell had denied playing any part in Ms Welsh's death

Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court, who had deliberated for more than a week, cleared Bell of murder.

Ms Welsh, who was 24-years-old, had two children under the age of six with Bell.

During his trial, the court was told a "one-in-a-billion" profile matching Bell was also discovered on a letter sent to try to deflect suspicion for Ms Welsh's killing.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Mother-of-two Nova Welsh was found dead in a cupboard

Bell, of Regent Road, Handsworth, denied playing any part in Ms Welsh's death, claiming to have been subjected to a "dark and terrible" four-day police interrogation in the days after her body was found.

The former television engineer claimed he had been allowed to handle and read the letter during a break in police interviews.

He was charged with murder in August last year after a cold case review.

Image caption Bell's DNA was also found on an anonymous letter blaming another man for the killing

Ms Welsh is believed to have been killed in the early hours of 27 July 1981 at flats in Lighthorne Avenue, Ladywood, and her body was not discovered for up to three weeks.

A post mortem revealed she died from pressure to the neck.

Sentencing Bell, Judge Patrick Thomas QC said there had been a background of domestic violence but that Ms Welsh had broken free.

When Ms Welsh got a new boyfriend, "making use of her freedom", "jealous" Bell was unable to let go and he attacked her in her flat, he said.

The judge said: "The evidence you felt jealous of her new relationship is clear."

Image caption Inside the cupboard where Ms Welsh's body was found

He added: "Having killed her, you concealed her body, doing nothing to assuage the pain and grief of your own children."

The judge said there was no evidence the killing had been pre-planned but had resulted from "a quarrel in her home".

Bell was told he would serve half his sentence behind bars and half out on licence.

His barrister Jeremy Dein QC, said the crime had been "almost certainly in panic by a man of 24" who had since lived an unblemished life of good character.

Following the verdict, Ms Welsh's mother, Lorna Welsh, said her daughter could finally "rest in peace".

"The family can now have closure knowing the person who took Nova's life has been brought to justice," she said.

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