Is Josephine Bell on ‘Under the Bridge’ Based on a Real Person?

a woman sitting on a chair
Is Josephine Bell Based on a Real Person? Hulu

In 1997, a young girl named Reena Virk died after meeting her friends at a party. Her story—a harrowing tale about bullying and abandonment—was initially told in Rebecca Godfrey’s best-selling novel Under the Bridge. Now her story is at the center of Hulu’s latest miniseries.

The show, which premiered its first two episodes on April 17, follows the events leading up to Virk’s murder, the day she was attacked, and the investigation that followed. Under the Bridge focuses on Virk’s friends, specifically a character named Josephine Bell. In Godfrey’s book, Bell’s name is changed—along with the names of many other characters, to comply with a court-ordered ban. Hulu followed suit.

Bell technically isn’t real, but her character is based on a real person—whose true name we will omit from this piece. Keep reading for everything we know about Bell.

Who Is Josephine Bell?

Josephine Bell was one of Reena Virk’s friends. In an article for Vice, Godfrey described Bell as a “blonde, delicate girl” who loved gangster rap and idolized the Mafia boss John Gotti. “Josephine boasted of stealing cars and dating Crips,” Godfrey wrote. “And she dreamed of, one day, moving to New York and joining the mob.”

One day, Virk stole Bell’s phone book and spread rumors about her. Bell was furious. Later on, at a party, she attacked Virk with a group of kids. According to Godfrey, a few days before the murder, Bell’s mother overheard a conversation in which Bell and her friend Kelly Ellard spoke about digging a grave and burying a girl. On Dateline’s 2009 specialBloodlust Under the Bridge,” Bell said, “There were jokes like that, but I never, ever said I was going to kill someone. Ever.”

two women standing next to a car
Josephine (left) and Dusty (right), played by Chloe Guidry and Aiyanna Goodfellow.Hulu

What Did Josephine Bell Do?

Bell reportedly burned Virk’s forehead with her cigarette, which prompted a physical altercation. Six other girls joined in, including Ellard, plus one boy named Warren Glowatski. Eventually, Bell ran off with five people, but Ellard and Glowatski stayed behind and attacked Virk again.

According to Today, the police found Virk’s body more than a week later. Per Godfrey’s report, she sustained blows to her abdominal area, along with “a crush conclusion injury as often seen in car crash victims, extensive bruising under the skin of her face, and a bruise in the shape of a sneaker print” on the back of her brain.” There were also eighteen pebbles in Virk’s lungs. According to CBC, a pathologist concluded that Virk drowned. However, Dr. Laurel Gray said that Virk could have died from her head injuries even if she hadn’t drowned.

What Happened to Josephine Bell?

Godfrey reports that Ellard blamed Bell for Virk’s death and that Bell would say “weird, demented stuff.” Bell denied Ellard’s claims and reportedly told investigators, “We don’t talk about murder.”

Ellard and Glowatski were found guilty of second-degree murder and received life sentences with the possibility of parole. Bell and the five other kids were convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to up to a year in juvenile detention. Bell told NBC, “I’m not responsible for her death in any way, shape, or form. I wasn’t there. I didn’t kill her.”

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