Gualtiero Jacopetti, with whom Belinda Lee was romantically involved, seen here with Italian actress Monica Vitti
One valuable source of information has been the biographer of the Italian film director Gualtiero Jacopetti who was injured in the crash on 12 March 1961 when the pair were travelling together from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
But Belinda wasn't just lucky with her toys. Even at that early age, the future film star charmed all who met her, recalls Sir Richard's sister, the poet Meg Peacocke who also grew up in Budleigh. "I don’t even remember seeing her," Meg told me, "but know that she was thought to be an astonishingly pretty child who captivated others, like my brother."
Budleigh Salterton, after all, is and certainly was in the old days, a conservative sort of place. Meg Peacocke's memories of Belinda and her family are hazy, but they reflect such an outlook, typical perhaps of a small, but comfortable seaside town. “All I recall is that Belinda’s mother was considered vulgar, as she was smartly dressed. Respectable Budleigh didn’t do Smart... Poor woman, I doubt she had any friends. I wonder how they arrived in Budleigh: it seems an improbable place for them."
“I gather she actually had some talent as an actress – but being exceptionally pretty is likely to have been little more than a curse, specially in those days, unless you had vast abilities to go with it," concludes Meg Peacocke.
Have those days changed, I wondered. Even recently, when the subject of a commemorative blue plaque for this talented and beautiful actress came up, I was struck by one Budleigh Salterton resident's dismissive comment. "Belinda Lee died very young after a sordid adolescence.”
Dig around on the internet and you’ll find that Belinda still has her admirers, fascinated by the story of “the girl from Budleigh who became a stunner.”