TV & Movies

Is Josephine Bell From Under The Bridge Based On A Real Person?

The new Hulu series tells the story of a Canadian teen’s murder in 1997.

Chloe Guidry in 'Under the Bridge.' Photo via Hulu
Bettina Strauss/Hulu

Based on Rebecca Godfrey’s true crime book of the same name, Hulu’s Under the Bridge revisits the 1997 murder of Reena Virk. The Canadian teen was 14 years old when she was attacked by a group of peers at a party. While only two teens were convicted of second-degree murder, six were convicted of assault, including Josephine Bell.

Like many of the characters in Under the Bridge, Josephine Bell is based on a real person. However, as Godfrey noted in a 2017 article for Vice, “Josephine” is actually a fake name given to one of the attackers to comply with a court-ordered publication ban.

Despite the fake name, the person Bell is based on played a very real role in Virk’s final hours.

A Violent Confrontation

Godfrey passed away in 2022, but is credited as an executive producer on the Hulu series (which premiered on April 17). In her Vice article, the critically acclaimed author wrote that Bell was angry with Virk for reportedly spreading rumors about her.

On one November night, Bell reportedly burned Virk’s forehead with a lit cigarette — with a group of other teens joining in the attack, too.

Darko Sikman/Hulu

Though Bell and the other girls dispersed, Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski stuck around. What happened next was, briefly, a mystery — until Virk’s body was found in a local waterway more than a week later. Both Ellard and Glowatski were ultimately convicted of second-degree murder in connection with Virk’s drowning, per the CBC.

What Happened To Josephine Bell?

According to Godfrey, Ellard suggested the blame for Virk’s death could lie with Bell, claiming her friend would often say “weird, demented stuff.” In the Under the Bridge book (which was originally published in 2005), Bell’s mom recalled her daughter talking to Ellard about digging a grave and burying someone alive. She thought it was just a “what-if scenario,” according to Godfrey, and not necessarily a serious plan.

Bell denied Ellard’s version of events (“We don’t talk about murder,” she reportedly told investigators) but ultimately did not testify against her friend. Bell herself was convicted of aggravated assault along with five other attackers. According to a 2009 NBC Dateline special, Bloodlust Under the Bridge, their respective sentences didn’t exceed a year in juvenile detention.

Bell, who is identified by her real name in the special, maintained in an interview with Keith Morrison that she was “not responsible for [Virk’s] death in any way, shape, or form.”

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