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DNA from 36-year-old gum leads to cold case manslaughter conviction

A 36-year-old piece of gum helped convict Osmond Bell of a 1981 murder.

A 36-year-old piece of gum helped convict Osmond Bell of a 1981 murder.  (West Midlands Police)

Talk about a long-lasting piece of gum.

A 60-year-old British man was convicted of manslaughter in March after investigators pulled traces of his DNA from a 36-year-old piece of gum left behind at the crime scene and a letter he later sent in an attempt to deflect blame.

Osmond Bell was sentenced to 12 years in prison on March 22 for the 1981 murder of Nova Welsh, an ex-lover of Bell’s with whom he had two children. The jury acquitted Bell of the more serious murder charge after the six-week trial.

Welsh was 24 – and dating a new boyfriend – when a jealous Bell “used forced on her neck, which in fact killed her,” Judge Patrick Thomas said, according to The Sun.

Bell then stuffed Welsh’s body in a cabinet. But his crucial mistake was leaving behind a piece of gum, which was used to seal the cupboard’s lock.

“Having killed her, you concealed her body, doing nothing to assuage the pain and grief of your own children,” Thomas said.

Bell was first arrested in 1981; however, he was eventually let go due to a lack of evidence. But advances in technology provided the proof needed to bring him to justice.

“The family can now have closure knowing the person who took Nova’s life has been brought to justice,” Nova’s mom, Lorna Welsh, told the BBC.