Is Josephine Bell Based on Reena Virk’s Real Friend? What Happened to Her?

Image Credit: Darko Sikman/Hulu

A terrible tragedy exposes the troubled lives of teenagers in a small Canadian town in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge.’ Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Rebecca Godfrey, the show follows the investigation into the murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk. In getting to the bottom of what happened to Reena, the show also delves into her friendships, especially in the months building up to the murder. It is those friendships that decide what happens to her, and in the show, Josephine Bell emerges as the person whom Reena admired but who also started a chain reaction that led to her death.

Josephine Bell’s Arc in Under the Bridge is Based on Nicole Cook

‘Under the Bridge’ is based on a true story that explores the events surrounding Reena Virk’s death, and almost every character in the show is based on a real person, though their names have been changed for legal purposes. While writing her book, Rebecca Godfrey also decided to keep the real names of the people out of the story. Josephine Bell’s character in the book and show is based on Reena Virk’s real friend, Nicole Cook.

While the names may have been changed, many things about Josephine are picked from Nicole’s life. Her character is shaped entirely by Nicole’s personality, right from her love for Biggie to her obsession with mafia gangs and her desire to one day be a part of a gang. She also had trouble at home and ran away a lot. She would find refuge in group homes, and it was in one such group home that she met Reena Virk, who was immediately taken by her.

Whatever spark of friendship they had faded soon enough, and Nicole decided she didn’t want to be friends with Reena anymore. But then, Reena found her diary, called up all the numbers, and spoke bad things about Nicole, angering her in the process. Nicole decided to retaliate. She discussed what was to be done with her best friend, Kelly. Later, Nicole’s mother said she heard her daughter talk about murdering and burying someone, but it was just a jest, Nicole said. She wanted revenge, but she didn’t want to murder Reena. A plan was hatched to invite Reena to a party, and from there, things took a very, very dark turn.

Image Credits: Dateline/MSNBC

The next day, unaware that Reena was actually dead, Nicole returned to the crime scene with Kelly and another friend, Missy, according to whom Kelly claimed to have drowned Reena while Warren Glowatski watched. The girls also found Reena’s sweater and shoes and forced another girl in the group home to hide them. Reportedly, they also made the girl call the Virk house while Reena was declared missing.

When the cops came asking questions, Nicole and Kelly swore not to rat out one another. As the case unfolded and Kelly’s true involvement in Reena’s murder came to light, Nicole kept her mouth shut. True to her word, she never spoke a word against Kelly, never showed up to testify against her, and never appeared in any of the hearings, including her parole. This was after Kelly had tried to shift the blame towards Nicole, who was made aware of it through the tapes the cops played for her.

Nicole also refused to show any sense of guilt or remorse and didn’t believe that her actions were in any way responsible for what happened to Reena, even though she was the one to incite the violence. She confessed to having put out a cigarette on Reena’s head and kicking her till she was knocked out but refused to consider herself responsible for her death under any circumstances. In contrast to this, the autopsy of Reena’s body revealed that she had several injuries even before the drowning, which would have been very damaging for her. The coroner, Dr. Laurel Gray, testified in court that the nature of her head injuries was such that she wouldn’t have survived it even if she hadn’t drowned.

By the time the case was wrapped up, eight teenagers were arrested for their complicity in the crime. Nicole Cook was one of the six teenagers who were charged with aggravated assault and tried as minors. All of them received a sentence of up to a year to be served at Victoria’s Youth Custody Center. The next time Nicole Cook came into the limelight was when she appeared in Dateline’s ‘Bloodlust Under the Bridge.’ According to Rebecca Godfrey’s book, Josephine Bell was later found to have been working as a stripper in a club called The Fox. It is possible that this might be a reflection of Nicole’s real-life journey, considering that the author refrained from fictionalizing any events in the book. Since then, Nicole has stayed away from the media limelight and enjoyed her privacy.

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