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Ruth ELLIS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Pique of jealousy and rejection
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 10, 1955
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: October 9, 1926
Victim profile: David Blakely, 26 (her lover)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 calibre Smith & Wesson Victory model revolver)
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Holloway Prison on July 13, 1955 (The last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom)
 
 

 
 
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Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955), née Neilson, was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom. She was convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely, and hanged at Holloway Prison, London, by Albert Pierrepoint.

Early life

Ellis was born in the Welsh seaside town of Rhyl, the third of six children. During her childhood her family moved to Basingstoke. Her mother, Elisaberta (Bertha) Cothals, was a Belgian refugee; her father, Arthur Hornby, was a cellist from Manchester who spent much of his time playing on Atlantic cruise liners. Arthur changed his surname to Neilson after the birth of Ruth's elder sister Muriel.

Ellis attended Fairfields Senior Girls' School in Basingstoke, leaving when she was 14 to work as a waitress. Shortly afterwards, in 1941 at the height of the Blitz, the Neilsons moved to London. In 1944, 17-year-old Ruth became pregnant by a married Canadian soldier and gave birth to a son, Clare Andrea Neilson, known as "Andy". The father sent money for about a year, then stopped. The child eventually went to live with Ellis's mother.

Career

Ellis became a nightclub hostess through nude modelling work, which paid significantly more than the various factory and clerical jobs she had held since leaving school. Morris Conley, the manager of the Court Club in Duke Street, where she worked, blackmailed his hostess employees into sleeping with him. Early in 1950, she became pregnant by one of her regular customers, having taken up prostitution. She had this pregnancy terminated (illegally) in the third month and returned to work as soon as she could.

On 8 November 1950, she married 41-year-old George Ellis, a divorced dentist with two sons, at the register office in Tonbridge, Kent. He had been a customer at the Court Club. He was a violent alcoholic, jealous and possessive, and the marriage deteriorated rapidly because he was convinced she was having an affair. Ruth left him several times but always returned.

In 1951, while four months pregnant, Ruth had appeared, uncredited, as a beauty queen in the Rank film Lady Godiva Rides Again. The film starred Dennis Price, Dana Wynter, and Ruth became close friends with the production's star Diana Dors. She subsequently gave birth to daughter Georgina, but George refused to acknowledge paternity and they separated shortly afterwards. Ruth and her daughter moved in with her parents and she went back to hostessing to make ends meet.

Murder of David Blakely

In 1953, Ruth Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. At this time, she was lavished with expensive gifts by admirers, and had a number of celebrity friends. She met David Blakely, three years her junior, through racing driver Mike Hawthorn. Blakely was a well-mannered former public school boy, but also a hard-drinking racer. Within weeks he moved into her flat above the club, despite being engaged to another woman, Mary Dawson. Ellis became pregnant for the fourth time but aborted the child, feeling she could not reciprocate the level of commitment shown by Blakely towards their relationship.

She then began seeing Desmond Cussens. Born in 1921 in Surrey he had been an RAF pilot, flying Lancaster bombers during World War Two, leaving the RAF in 1946, when he took up accountancy. He was appointed a director of the family business Cussens & Co., a wholesale and retail tobacconists with outlets in London and South Wales. When Ruth was sacked as manager of the Carroll Club, she moved in with Cussens at 20 Goodward Court, Devonshire Street, north of Oxford Street, and became his mistress.

The relationship with Blakely continued, however, and became increasingly violent and embittered as Ellis and Blakely continued to see other people. Blakely offered to marry Ellis, to which she consented, but she lost another child in January 1955, after a miscarriage induced by a punch to the stomach in an argument with Blakely.

On Easter Sunday, 10 April 1955, Ellis took a taxi from Cussens's home to a second floor flat at 29 Tanza Road, Hampstead, the home of Anthony and Carole Findlater and where she suspected Blakely might be. As she arrived, Blakely’s car drove off, so she paid off the taxi and walked the quarter mile to The Magdala, a four-storey public house in South Hill Park, Hampstead, where she found David’s car parked outside.

At around 9:30 pm David Blakely and his friend Clive Gunnell emerged. Blakely passed Ellis waiting on the pavement when she stepped out of Henshaws Doorway, a newsagent next to The Magdala. He ignored her when she said "Hello, David," then shouted "David!"

As Blakely searched for the keys to his car, Ellis took a .38 calibre Smith & Wesson Victory model revolver from her handbag and fired five shots at Blakely. The first shot missed and he started to run, pursued by Ellis round the car, where she fired a second, which caused him to collapse onto the pavement. She then stood over him and fired three more bullets into him. One bullet was fired less than half an inch from Blakely's back and left powder burns on his skin.

Ellis was seen to stand mesmerized over the body and witnesses reported hearing several distinct clicks as she tried to fire the revolver's sixth and final shot, before finally firing into the ground. This bullet ricocheted off the road and injured Gladys Kensington Yule, 53, in the base of her thumb, as she walked to the Magdala.

Ellis, in a state of shock, asked Gunnell, "Will you call the police, Clive?" She was arrested immediately by an off-duty policeman, Alan Thompson (PC 389), who took the still-smoking gun from her, put it in his coat pocket, and heard her say, "I am guilty, I'm a little confused". She was taken to Hampstead police station where she appeared to be calm and not obviously under the influence of drink or drugs. She made a detailed confession to the police and was charged with murder. Blakely's body was taken to hospital with multiple bullet wounds to the intestines, liver, lung, aorta and windpipe.

Investigation

No solicitor was present during Ellis's interrogation or during the taking of her statement at Hampstead police station, although three police officers were present that night at 11.30 pm: Detective Inspector Gill, Detective Inspector Crawford and Detective Chief Inspector Davies. Ellis was still without legal representation when she made her first appearance at the magistrates' court on 11 April 1955 and held on remand.

She was twice examined by principal Medical Officer, M. R. Penry Williams, who failed to find evidence of mental illness and she undertook an electroencephalography examination on 3 May that failed to find any abnormality. While on remand in Holloway, she was examined by psychiatrist Dr. D. Whittaker for the defence, and by Dr. A. Dalzell on behalf of the Home Office. Neither found evidence of insanity.

Trial and execution

On Monday, 20 June 1955, Ellis appeared in the Number One Court at the Old Bailey, London, before Mr. Justice Havers. She was dressed in a black suit and white silk blouse with freshly bleached and coiffured blonde hair. Her lawyers had wanted her to play down her appearance, but she was determined to have her moment. To many in the courthouse, her fixation with being the brassy blonde was at least partially responsible for the poor impression she made when giving evidence.

It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.

—Ruth Ellis, in the witness box at the Old Bailey, 20 June 1955.

This was her answer to the only question put to her by Christmas Humphreys, counsel for the Prosecution, who asked, "When you fired the revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?" The defending counsel, Aubrey Melford Stevenson supported by Sebag Shaw and Peter Rawlinson, would have advised Ellis of this possible question before the trial began, because it is standard legal practice to do so. Her reply to Humphreys' question in open court guaranteed a guilty verdict and therefore the mandatory death sentence which followed. The jury took 14 minutes to convict her. She received the sentence, and was taken to the condemned cell at Holloway.

In a 2010 television interview Mr Justice Havers’s grandson, actor Nigel Havers, said his grandfather had written to the Home Secretary Gwilym Lloyd George recommending a reprieve as he regarded it as a crime passionnel, but received a curt refusal, which was still held by the family. It has been suggested that the final nail in her coffin was that an innocent passer-by had been injured.

Reluctantly, at midday on 12 July 1955, the day before her execution, Ellis, having dismissed Bickford, the solicitor chosen for her by her friend Desmond Cussens, made a statement to the solicitor Victor Mishcon (whose law firm had previously represented her in her divorce proceedings but not in the murder trial) and his clerk, Leon Simmons. She revealed more evidence about the shooting and said that the gun had been provided by Cussens, and that he had driven her to the murder scene. Following their 90-minute interview in the condemned cell, Mishcon and Simmons went to the Home Office, where they spoke to a senior civil servant about Ellis's revelations. The authorities made no effort to follow this up and there was no reprieve.

In a final letter to David Blakely's parents from her prison cell, she wrote "I have always loved your son, and I shall die still loving him".

Ever since Edith Thompson's execution in 1923, condemned female prisoners had been required to wear thick padded calico knickers, so just prior to the allotted time, Warder Evelyn Galilee, who had guarded Ellis for the previous three weeks, took her to the lavatory. Warder Galilee said, “I’m sorry Ruth but I’ve got to do this.” They had tapes back and front to pull. Ruth said “Is that all right?” and “Would you pull these tapes, Evelyn? I’ll pull the others.” On re-entering the condemned cell, she took off her glasses, placed them on the table and said "I won't be needing these anymore."

Thirty seconds before 9 am on Wednesday 13 July, the official hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, and his assistant, Royston Rickard, entered the condemned cell and escorted Ruth the 15 feet to the execution room next door. She had been weighed at 103 lb the previous day and a drop of 8 ft 4 in was set. Pierrepoint effected the execution in just 12 seconds and her body was left hanging for an hour. Her autopsy report, by the pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson, was made public.

The Bishop of Stepney, Joost de Blank, visited Ellis just before her death, and she told him: "It is quite clear to me that I was not the person who shot him. When I saw myself with the revolver I knew I was another person." These comments were made in a London evening paper of the time, The Star.

Public reaction

The case caused widespread controversy at the time, evoking exceptionally intense press and public interest to the point that it was discussed by the Cabinet.

On the day of her execution the Daily Mirror columnist Cassandra wrote a column attacking the sentence, writing "The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts will have been denied her—pity and the hope of ultimate redemption." A petition to the Home Office asking for clemency was signed by 50,000 people, but the Conservative Home Secretary Major Gwilym Lloyd George rejected it.

The novelist Raymond Chandler, then living in Britain, wrote a scathing letter to the London Evening Standard, referring to what he described as "the medieval savagery of the law".

Legacy

The hanging helped strengthen public support for the abolition of the death penalty, which was halted in practice for murder in Britain 10 years later (the last execution in the UK occurred in 1964). Reprieve was by then commonplace. According to one statistical account, between 1926 and 1954, 677 men and 60 women had been sentenced to death in England and Wales, but only 375 men and seven women had been executed.

In the early 1970s, John Bickford, Ellis's solicitor, made a statement to Scotland Yard from his home in Malta. He was recalling what Desmond Cussens had told him in 1955: how Ellis lied at the trial and how he (Bickford) had hidden that information. After Bickford's confession a police investigation followed but no further action regarding Cussens was taken.

Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister at the time, made no reference to the Ruth Ellis case in his memoirs, nor is there anything in his papers. He accepted that the decision was the responsibility of the Home Secretary, but there are indications that he was troubled about it.

Foreign newspapers observed that the concept of the crime passionnel seemed foreign to the British.

Family aftermath

In 1969 Ellis’s mother, Berta Neilson, was found unconscious in a gas-filled room in her flat in Hemel Hempstead. She never fully recovered and didn't speak coherently again. Ellis's husband, George Ellis, descended into alcoholism and hanged himself in 1958. Her son, Andy, who was 10 at the time of his mother's hanging, suffered irreparable psychological damage and committed suicide in a bedsit in 1982. The trial judge, Sir Cecil Havers, had sent money every year for Andy's upkeep, and Christmas Humphreys, the prosecution counsel at Ellis's trial, paid for his funeral. Ellis's daughter, Georgina, who was three when her mother was executed, was adopted when her father hanged himself three years later. She died of cancer aged 50.

Pardon campaign

The case continues to have a strong grip on the British imagination and in 2003 was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The Court firmly rejected the appeal, although it made clear that it could rule only on the conviction based on the law as it stood in 1955, and not on whether she should have been executed.

However the court was critical of the fact that it had been obliged to consider the appeal -

"We would wish to make one further observation. We have to question whether this exercise of considering an appeal so long after the event when Mrs Ellis herself had consciously and deliberately chosen not to appeal at the time is a sensible use of the limited resources of the Court of Appeal. On any view, Mrs Ellis had committed a serious criminal offence. This case is, therefore, quite different from a case like Hanratty [2002] 2 Cr App R 30 where the issue was whether a wholly innocent person had been convicted of murder. A wrong on that scale, if it had occurred, might even today be a matter for general public concern, but in this case there was no question that Mrs Ellis was other than the killer and the only issue was the precise crime of which she was guilty. If we had not been obliged to consider her case we would perhaps in the time available have dealt with 8 to 12 other cases, the majority of which would have involved people who were said to be wrongly in custody."

In July 2007 a petition was published on the 10 Downing Street website asking Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reconsider the Ruth Ellis case and grant her a pardon in the light of new evidence that the Old Bailey jury in 1955 was not asked to consider. It expired on 4 July 2008.

Burials

Ellis was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary for executed prisoners. In the early 1970s the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed for reburial elsewhere. Ellis's body was reburied at St Mary's Church in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. The headstone in the churchyard was inscribed "Ruth Hornby 1926–1955". Her son, Andy, destroyed the headstone shortly before he committed suicide in 1982. Ellis's grave is now overgrown with yew trees.

The remains of the four other women executed at Holloway, Styllou Christofi, Edith Thompson, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, were reburied in a single grave at Brookwood Cemetery.

Coincidentally, Styllou Christofi, who was executed in December 1954, lived at 11 South Hill Park in Hampstead, with her son and daughter-in-law, a few metres from The Magdala public house at number 2a, where David Blakely was shot four months later.

Film, TV and theatrical adaptations

In 1980, the third episode of the first series of the ITV drama series "Lady Killers" recreated the court case, with Ellis played by Georgina Hale.

The first cinema portrayal of Ellis came with the release of the 1985 movie Dance with a Stranger (directed by Mike Newell), featuring Miranda Richardson as Ellis.

Both Ellis's story and the story of Albert Pierrepoint are retold in the stage play Follow Me, written by Ross Gurney-Randall and Dave Mounfield and directed by Guy Masterson. It premièred at the Assembly Rooms as part of the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

In the film Pierrepoint (2006), Ellis was portrayed by Mary Stockley.

Diana Dors, who had starred in Lady Godiva Rides Again, in which Ellis had had a minor, uncredited role, played a character resembling (though not based on) Ellis in the 1956 British film Yield to the Night, directed by J. Lee Thompson.

References

  • Blackhall, Sue (2009). "Ruth Ellis", True Crime: Crimes of Passion. Igloo. ISBN 9781848177192

  • Dunn, Jane (2010). "Ruth Ellis," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

  • Hancock, Robert (1963). Ruth Ellis: The Last Woman to Be Hanged. Orion; 3rd edition 2000. ISBN 0752834495

  • Jakubait, Muriel and Weller, Monica (2005). Ruth Ellis: My Sister's Secret life. Robinson Publishing. ISBN 1845291190

  • Mark, Laurence and Van Den Bergh, Tony (1990). Ruth Ellis: a Case of Diminished Responsibility?. Penguin. ISBN 0140129022

Wikipedia.org


Ruth Ellis - an alternative view

Ruth Ellis has always been portrayed as the victim of a cruel boyfriend who abused her and a cruel legal system that hanged her. But is this really an accurate picture? Based upon the known facts, which are very well documented, I propose to take an "alternative" look at this famous case.

On Wednesday the 13th of July 1955 at London's Holloway Prison, she secured her place in history as the last woman to be executed in Britain. Her case is memorable because she was hanged, had she had been given a life sentence she would have been forgotten in a few weeks by most people.

Her famous "crime passionel" was recaptured 30 years later in the film "Dance with a Stranger" in which Miranda Richardson gave an excellent portrayal of this volatile and emotional woman. Sadly the film only told half the story and gave no coverage of the trial and her behaviour at it or her evidence in answer to the questions put to her.

The Crime

She had a passionate and tempestuous relationship with a young man called David Blakely with whom she often quarrelled and had recently suffered a miscarriage at the hands of after he punched in the stomach during a fight.

Blakely was a waster and a heavy drinker who used to frequent the Little Club, a drinking club which Ruth managed. He was building a racing car with his friends the Findlaters and over Easter of 1955 consistently refused to see her despite repeated visits and phone calls to the Findlater's house where he was staying. They had, unfortunately, taken on a nanny whom Ruth suspected David was having an affair with, although in truth he wasn't.

So in a pique of jealousy and rejection on Easter Sunday afternoon (the 10th of April) Ruth persuaded her other boyfriend, Desmond Cussen to drive her to Hampstead where she lay in wait for Blakely outside the Magdala public house in South Hill Park, where he and Findlater were drinking.

When they came out to the car to drive home she called to Blakely who ignored her, so she fired a first shot and then pursued him round the car, firing a second shot which caused him to collapse onto the pavement.  She then stood over him and emptied the remaining four bullets into him, as he lay wounded on the ground. One bullet injured a Mrs. Gladys Yule in the hand as she was walking up to the pub.

Other drinkers came out of the pub to see what had happened and Ruth was arrested by an off-duty policeman, Alan Thompson, still holding the smoking gun. She was taken to Hampstead police station where she appeared to be calm and not obviously under the influence of drink or drugs which she is alleged to have been taking by some on the afternoon prior to the shooting. She made a confession to the police and was charged with murder. She appeared at a special hearing of Hampstead Magistrates Court the following day where she was remanded in custody to Holloway Prison to await trial.

It has been alleged that she had previously been up to Epping Forest or Hampstead Heath and done some target practice although we cannot be sure that this was true.

The trial

Her trial opened on Monday the 20th June 1955 in the Old Bailey's No. 1 Court before Mr. Justice Havers.

Ruth appeared in the dock in a smart black two piece suit and white blouse, her hair re-dyed to her preferred platinum blonde in Holloway with the special permission of Dr. Charity Taylor, the Governor. Hardly the image of the poor downtrodden woman!

She pleaded not guilty, apparently so that her side of the story could be told, rather than in any hope of acquittal. She particularly wanted disclosed the involvement of the Findlaters in what she saw as a conspiracy to keep David away from her.

When the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Christmas Humphreys asked her "Mrs. Ellis, when you fired that revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely what did you intend to do" she replied "It was obvious that when I shot him I intended to kill him."

There were legal submissions made by Mr. Melford Stevenson, QC, counsel for the defence, regarding provocation. Mr. Justice Havers said he had given careful consideration to these but ruled that there was "insufficient material, even upon a view of the evidence most favourable to the accused, to support a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation."

Mr. Melford Stevenson said that in view of that ruling it would not be appropriate for him to say anything more to the jury.

The jury were then brought back into Court and in their presence Mr. Melford Stevenson said: "In view of the ruling which your Lordship has just pronounced I cannot now with propriety address the jury at all, because it would be impossible for me to do so without inviting them to disregard your Lordship's ruling."

Mr. Christmas Humphreys, indicated that in the circumstances he would not make a final speech to the jury either.

The Judge then summed up. After reviewing the evidence for the prosecution his Lordship said: "You will remember that when Mr. Stevenson made his opening address to you he told you that he was going to invite you to reduce this charge of killing from murder to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation.

"The House of Lords has decided that where the question arises whether what would otherwise be murder may be reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation, if there is not sufficient material, even upon a view of the evidence most favourable to the accused, that a reasonable person could be driven by transport of passion and loss of control to use violence and a continuance of violence, it is the duty of a judge, as a matter of law, to direct the jury that the evidence does not support a verdict of manslaughter. I have been constrained to rule in this case that there is not sufficient material to reduce this killing from murder to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation."  “It is therefore not open to you to bring in a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation.”

Referring to the evidence for the defence the Judge said: "This Court is not a court of morals, this is a criminal court and you should not allow your judgement to be swayed or your minds to be prejudiced in the least degree against the accused because according to her own admission she had committed adultery, or because she was having two persons at different times as lovers. Dismiss those matters wholly from your minds."

His Lordship went on: "But I am bound to tell you this, that even if you accept every word of Mrs Ellis' evidence there does not seem to be anything in it which establishes any sort of defence to the charge of murder."  The jury then retired and not surprisingly found Ruth guilty after deliberating for only twenty three minutes. It was hard to see how any other verdict was possible.

To convict a person of murder two things have to be proved, one that the person actually killed the victim and two that they intended to kill the victim (known as the "mens rea" or the "guilty mind") - clearly there was no question as to whether Ruth had actually killed David Blakely and by her famous answer to the question as to her intention when she fired the shots there could be no question as to her intent. If it had been possible to show that she had not intended to kill him the correct verdict would have been guilty of manslaughter.

Mr. Justice Havers had no alternative but to sentence her to death. The black cap was placed on his head and he sentenced her to be taken to the place where she had last been confined and from there to a place of execution where she would suffer death by hanging. To which she replied "Thank you".

Unlike many people who have just heard their death sentence Ruth did not faint or become hysterical but rather turned on her heel, smiled to her friends in the public gallery and walked calmly down the stairs at the back of the dock. She was taken back to Holloway in a prison van and placed in the Condemned unit, where she was guarded round the clock by shifts of two female warders.

She decided against an appeal (there were absolutely no legal grounds for one) and therefore the final decision on her fate rested with the Home Secretary, Major Gwilym Lloyd George. Despite considerable public and press pressure he decided against her. His decision was announced on Monday the 11th and communicated to Ruth by the Governor of Holloway. She was visited by her mother, her solicitor J G Bickford and her friend, Jacqueline Dyer, within an hour of hearing there would be no reprieve.  Petitions containing several thousand signatures were sent to the Home Office requesting a reprieve.

Execution

Death came quickly in those days, Prisoner 9656 Ellis spent just 3 weeks and two days in the condemned cell at Holloway.

There was much public sentiment at the time for a reprieve and thousands of people had signed petitions asking for clemency, including 35 members of London County Council who delivered their plea to the House of Commons the day before Ruth was to die. On the Tuesday evening, the eve of the hanging, the Governor at Holloway was forced to call for police reinforcements because of a crowd of more than 500 who had gathered outside the prison's gates singing and chanting for Ruth for several hours. Some of them broke through the police cordon to bang on the prison gates, calling for Ruth to pray with them.

Inside the usual preparations had been made.

Ruth had been weighed and the correct length of drop calculated. The gallows had been tested on the Tuesday afternoon using a sand bag of the same weight as Ruth, which was left overnight on the rope to remove any stretch. Around 7.00 a.m. on the morning of execution the trap was reset and the rope coiled up so as to leave the leather covered noose dangling at chest height above the trap. A cross had been placed on the far wall of the execution room at Ruth's request.

In her cell Ruth wrote a letter to David's mother apologising for killing him and to her solicitor telling her that she had not changed her mind at the end (about being hanged).

She was given canvas pants to wear which had been compulsory for female prisoners since the Edith Thompson debacle. She had also been given a large brandy by the prison doctor to steady her nerves and was attended by a Catholic Priest.

At nine o'clock Albert Pierrepoint entered her cell, pinioned her hands behind her back with his special calf leather strap and led her the 15 feet to the gallows. Pierrepoint recalled that Ruth said nothing at all during her execution. When she reached the trap a white cotton hood was drawn over her head and the noose adjusted round her neck. His assistant, Royston Ricard, pinioned her legs with a leather strap and when all was ready stepped back allowing Pierrepoint to remove the safety pin from the base of the lever and push it away from him to open the trap through which she now plummeted.

The whole process would have occupied no more than ten or twelve seconds and her now still body was examined by the prison doctor before the execution room was locked up and she was left hanging for the regulation hour.

Around a thousand people, including women with prams, stood silently outside the prison that morning, some praying for her.  At  eighteen minutes past nine the execution notice were posted outside the gates and after that the crowd dispersed.

Ruth's body was taken down at 10.00 a.m. and an autopsy performed by the famous pathologist, Dr. Keith Simpson which showed that she had died virtually instantaneously. Unusually, the autopsy report was later published and Simpson noted the presence of brandy in her stomach. The official report of her execution read as follows "Thirteenth July 1955 at H. M. Prison, Holloway N7": Ruth Ellis, Female, 28 years, a Club Manageress of Egerton Gardens, Kensington, London - Cause of Death - "Injuries to the central nervous system consequent upon judicial hanging." Her death was registered on 14th July 1955 (the day after the execution) on the basis of a Certificate issued by J. Milner Helme, the then Coroner for the City of London, following an Inquest held by him on 13th July 1955. Her death was registered in the Registration District of Islington, Sub-district of Tufnell as Entry Number 25 for the September Quarter 1955.

Ruth was buried within Holloway prison in accordance with her sentence but later disinterred and reburied in a churchyard in Buckinghamshire when Holloway was rebuilt in the 1970's. She was the sixteenth and last woman to be executed in Britain in the 20th century.

Did Ruth deserve to hang?

This is a very subjective question and it is always dangerous to judge a case from a previous and very different age, but having talked to people who actually remember the case I have not found anybody who felt she deserved to die for what she did.

However, in view of the evidence presented to them and the law as it stood in 1955, the jury had absolutely no option but to find Ruth guilty of murder. It was, after all, a murder that was premeditated and did not fit the legal definition of provocation as it was not carried out in heat of the moment. At that time a murder conviction carried a mandatory death sentence, leaving the judge absolutely no discretion. We do not know what the his private recommendation, included in his report to the Home Office was, but the Home Secretary was obviously advised against a reprieve in her case. Like all condemned prisoners she was examined by a panel of Home Office psychiatrists who found her to be "sane" i.e. not suffering from any mental illness that would have been severe enough to diminish her responsibility for the crime.

The problem in Ruth's case, as in so many others before and since, is the imposition of a mandatory sentence for murder. The jury were not permitted to reach a manslaughter verdict, and, in fairness, the evidence they heard simply did not justify it and thus were left only with a verdict of guilty of murder. Had they been asked merely to reach a verdict of guilty to homicide, leaving the actual sentence to be decided by others, perhaps she would have gone to prison for a few years and never been heard of again. But our system at that time was very much "all or nothing" and for that matter still is, although the mandatory death sentence has been replaced by the mandatory "life sentence". The question of whether Ruth deserved death or not was not one the jury were able to consider - if they had been it is very unlikely that she would have been hanged.

Ruth had many qualities that engendered great public interest, she was an attractive, sexy young woman, a mother of two small children and a murderer whose victim was probably seen by most people as not entirely blameless. Her crime could hardly be described as "evil", a subjective concept admittedly, but a very one important in the minds of the general public in determining the justice of a case. She also behaved with great courage at all times which no doubt, earned her considerable respect.
Not surprisingly the press gave tremendous coverage to the story and in doing so aroused considerable sympathy for her. Much was made of her recent miscarriage and of the violence she suffered at Blakely's hands.

Another major factor that induced public sympathy was the knowledge that those prisoners who were reprieved seldom served more than twelve years in prison which made execution seem a very harsh punishment by comparison. If "lifers" were known to serve thirty or forty years it would, perhaps, have seemed much more proportional.

This was a time when there was a substantial majority in favour of capital punishment but that support had been known to waver when it came to executing an actual person, particularly when that person was female, attractive and had not committed a particularly awful crime.

The evidence in Ruth's favour

There seems little to suggest that she would have been a danger to the general public had she been released on parole after serving 10 –14 years of a life sentence. She had shown no propensity to violence to anyone other than Blakely.

She had clearly suffered much provocation, of the sort that many people who have experienced a passionate relationship, would be able to appreciate even if it fell outside the strict legal definition of provocation. She had certainly been the victim of a considerable amount of violent abuse from David Blakely, much of it witnessed by their friends and her customers.

It was known that she had suffered a miscarriage 10 days before the crime, after Blakely had punched her in the stomach and it is at least probable that this would have affected her mental state.

Her crime was at least somewhat understandable unlike those who rape and murder small children and are outside the understanding of most of us.

She showed remorse and willingness to accept responsibility for her crime having made no attempt to run away or hide the truth of what she did or of what she had intended.

It would be easy to add here that she was, at 28, relatively young and that she had two small children, although these factors are, in my view, "red herrings" that should have no place in deciding whether or not to reprieve her.

How important is it to uphold the law even in "hard cases"?

In 1955 we had a mandatory death sentence for the crime of murder and in upholding the law it is very important that a sentence, once passed, be carried out even when the instinct of many would have been to reprieve. The problem in Ruth Ellis' case is that so many others were reprieved for no apparently more obvious or deserving reasons. 90% of all the 145 women sentenced to death in the 20th century were reprieved. Here are three cases from the Spring of 1955 to compare the justice or otherwise of Ruth's sentence against.

A woman was reprieved a week before Ruth died for murdering her next door neighbour with a shovel in what seemed quite as bad a crime as Ruth's. 40 year old Mrs. Sarah Lloyd was sentenced to death at Leeds Assizes on the 6th of May 1955 for killing her 86 year old neighbour, Mrs Emsley, after a long running feud between the two women. She was due to be executed on July 7th but was reprieved on the 5th. Her case had attracted virtually no publicity and it was really only her husband who made any effort on her behalf to obtain a reprieve. She served just 7 years of her life sentence for this crime.

Sgt. Emmett Dunne was reprieved at the same time for murdering a colleague, whose wife he was having an affair with, simply because the offence took place at a British Army base in Germany and Germany did not permit capital punishment, even for soldiers from a foreign country. Emmett Dunne remained in prison for 11 years, before being released on licence.

On April the 1st 1955, 28 year old Alfred "Jake" Wayman was reprieved four days before he was due to hang for the murder of his girlfriend, Josie Larvin, who he had stabbed to death, before he cut his own throat and stabbed himself. He survived this but was reprieved on the grounds that the throat wound might open up if he was hanged and lead to an unpleasant mess. He served 12 years of his life sentence.

One can only conjecture as to how the same Home Secretary could make such different decisions and they could ever be justified to the "ordinary person in the street." There was no question of actual guilt in any of these cases, so that wasn't a problem. Therefore either all four should have been hanged as the law decreed or the law should have been changed and none of them hanged. In reality, half of all convicted murderers during the 20th century were reprieved. This however made the whole system a lottery with typically an average of 11 "losers" a year - hardly justice!

Two things may have counted against Ruth with the Home Office. She shot Blakely to death and in doing so injured an innocent passer-by and she had, by the standards of the day, very dubious sexual morals. This was seen as much more serious fifty years ago than it would be now.

I have always wondered if one of the less publicised reasons the Home Office had for executing her was because of the public interest and sympathy that her case generated. I think the Home Office officials were, in the main, against capital punishment by this time and in the cynical way of the Civil Service used Ruth Ellis as a pawn in persuading parliament to abolish hanging. When there is public interest in a particular case letters are written to MP's and to the press by ordinary people who would never normally publicly express a view. In Ruth's case these were predominately in favour of a reprieve. So by executing her, the Civil Service possibly felt they were furthering the abolitionist cause. Did the same happen in Derek Bentley's case four years earlier?

In any event Ruth's case led to the Homicide Act 1957 which limited the types of murder that were capital and introduced the defence of diminished responsibility. (Ironically neither of these changes would have saved her). Capital punishment was effectively abolished nine years after her death and there were no hangings in Britain during 1956.

It is interesting to compare the public sympathy and interest in Ruth's case to the total lack of either in the case of Mrs. Styllou Christofi, hanged a year earlier.  Mrs. Christofi was an unattractive middle aged Greek Cypriot woman who had brutally murdered her daughter in law (and possibly another person previously) and in whom there was very little media interest. Albert Pierrepoint made this point to the army of reporters waiting to interview him after Ruth Ellis' execution. He had hanged them both.
Equally the other women hanged since the end of the war, Bill Allen and Louisa Merrifield, had very little attraction (sex appeal?) for the media and for various reasons elicited little public sympathy.

One has to decide whether one is in favour of the death penalty for all those convicted of capital crimes or not. If you are, you will, inevitably, have to accept that some prisoners will have more endearing qualities than others but that these cannot or should not be any excuse for a reprieve.

An "alternative" conclusion

We are told that Ruth's principal motive was jealousy and it seems reasonable to accept that this was the prime mover in her subsequent actions. It has been said that Blakely wanted to end their relationship although we cannot be sure of that, or of whether Ruth new of his intention. But in any event there are some very interesting questions raised by the case:

Why did she not try finding another boyfriend - she had plenty of potential boyfriends available?

Why did she give no thought to what would happen to her children?

Why did she choose to murder Blakely when she knew that she could well be hanged for doing so?

Why did she choose to murder him in a public place where there would be witnesses and then calmly allow herself to be arrested rather than trying to escape?

Why did she choose to kill him in the way she did thus removing any possibility of a manslaughter verdict?

Why did she play out her ice cold act in court and give the answers she did to the prosecuting counsel.

Why did she not appeal or do anything whatsoever to save herself?

It is always assumed, particularly by the media, that nobody could actually want to be executed. (Although there are plenty of cases of what the Americans call consensual execution in that country over the last twenty years.)

Although she was found to be legally sane she was also clearly not entirely "normal" in any accepted sense of the word. Normal people do not have such complete disregard for their own lives and more particularly for the lives of their children. (Her son Andria later committed suicide.)

But what if her motive was to kill Blakely and then to die herself so ending their earthly relationship and ensuring that he could not be unfaithful to her again?

It has been said that she intended the last bullet for herself although this has never been proved. Perhaps in the heat of the moment she did not count the shots or perhaps she could not bring herself to commit suicide. So was being hanged merely a form of state assisted suicide without the risk of "bottling out " at the last moment or of not actually succeeding in killing herself?

She apparently had no intention of serving a "life sentence" and being finally released an "old" and broken woman. This idea certainly did not appeal to her.

Perhaps she wanted to be punished and being hanged fitted her own romantic/masochistic image of what should happen to her for the murder of her errant lover.

As stated earlier, she was known to be in favour of the death penalty (reiterated by her in a letter she wrote to her solicitor in her last hours in Holloway.) She also seemed to have a clear idea of what execution by hanging in the twentieth century was like. On the day before the execution she told her friend Jacqueline Dyer "Don't worry, its like having a tooth out and they'll give me a glass of brandy beforehand"

Obviously we can never the innermost workings of her mind over this period but one could almost say that she did everything she could to manipulate the system to obtain her death from it.

Had she pleaded guilty she would have been sentenced to death but her testimony would not have come out and the Home Office would have simply decided for her what her intentions and state of mind were at the time of the shooting and would quite probably have reprieved her.

She was, as said earlier, found sane when examined in Holloway by prison psychiatrists, but was she sane at the time of the murder? Or was she driven mad by jealousy? We cannot know - but she effectively blocked any defence of temporary insanity by her answers to the prosecution's questions.

One can only wonder why she behaved as she did and continued to pursue her death with total courage right up until the end.

Ruth's case is principally memorable because she was hanged. Had David Blakely shot her instead of the other way round he would got little sympathy and have been forgotten within a few days after his execution.

But Ruth had sex appeal and as the last woman to hang, is still of interest now.

Much has been made of where Ruth got the revolver and of what Desmond Cussen's role in the killing was. Ruth claimed all along that she had been given the gun by a customer as security for some money. Others claim that Desmond had obtained it for her. I cannot really see what difference it makes where it came from - she wanted a gun and either had one in her possession or obtained one. In those days she would have had no problem in obtaining a gun through her wide circle of contacts. It has also been claimed that Desmond was a party to the killing. This I feel is unlikely. He drove Ruth to Hampstead - that is not in doubt. Whether he knew she had the gun is not clear and neither is whether he was aware of her intentions. He was a reasonably successful businessman and he was infatuated with Ruth. Like many weak willed men he would have done anything for her, no doubt, in the hope that she would finally love him instead of Blakely, or at least just to get her company for a while, but I cannot believe that he would have let Ruth murder Blakely in the way she did had he known of her intentions or really thought that she would have carried them out. People in 1955 knew the likely punishment for murder - Desmond would certainly have done so and also known that even if Ruth was reprieved she would have to serve a life sentence. I tend to think that he would have done his best to dissuade her from shooting Blakely rather than have been her co-conspirator - he had everything to lose by knowingly allowing what actually happened. He could well have gone to prison himself for a lengthy period for aiding and abetting her in the offence. Had Desmond wanted Blakely dead (and there is no evidence that he did) I am sure he would have found a way that was not likely to result in tragedy for Ruth and the loss of the woman he loved.

8th of February 2002

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has referred Ruth's conviction to the Court of Appeal which could set aside her murder conviction and substitute it for one of manslaughter.

Ruth's sister, Muriel Jakubait, and daughter Georgie, who died recently, have campaigned for this ever since she was hanged.

Evidence was presented to the CCRC that Ruth was suffering from post-miscarriage depression at the time of the shooting. (She had miscarried 10 days before the killing after Blakely, who was the baby's father, punched her in the stomach.) It was also suggested that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder although this condition had not been medically defined in 1955.

It is also claimed that her original defence team were negligent and that she was provoked by Desmond Cussen, who was jealous of Blakely. He gave her the gun and drove her to the pub where the shooting took place. It is further claimed that she was physically and sexually abused by her father and was beaten by her husband.

Richard.Clark32.btinternet.co.uk


Searching for the truth about Ruth Ellis

By Monica Weller

“True Detective was just five years old when Ruth Ellis was hanged for shooting her lover in front of the Magdala pub in north London, and Britain’s fascination with the case hasn’t abated since. That’s why, when writer Monica Weller, who co-wrote the bestseller RUTH ELLIS, MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE with Muriel Jakubait, phoned our editorial office to ask if we would be interested in her writing about the case for us, we jumped at the chance. Monica’s passionate conviction of the truth of Muriel’s story proved to be infectious and so we thought, why not share this startling new evidence with our readers….”   From True Detective,  April 2006

A SERIES OF 6 ARTICLES ABOUT RUTH ELLIS

By Monica Weller

Previously published in True Detective Magazine

PART ONE

The name Ruth Ellis, to most of us, conjures up the image of the peroxide blonde, nightclub hostess and part time prostitute who shot dead her playboy, racing car driver lover David Blakely in a jealous rage. She became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

The shooting outside the Magdala pub in Hampstead, London on the evening of 10th April 1955 was described as an open-and-shut case of cold-blooded murder. Ruth Ellis admitted pulling the trigger of the heavy .38 Smith and Wesson British service revolver.

The two-day trial at the Old Bailey was notable for its lack of forensic and ballistics evidence. Christmas Humphreys, counsel for the prosecution set out to prove that Ruth Ellis killed Blakely. Her defence team led by Melford Stevenson did nothing to help her. Jurors took just twenty-three minutes to find Ruth guilty of murder.

Yet the Public Record Office in Kew and the City of London Record Office still keep certain files closed on the matter until 2031. What else was there to hide?(Click on Blogroll: 30-Year rule’)

Near to nine o’clock on 13th July 1955 the two warders who guarded Ruth in the condemned cell at Holloway prison said goodbye to her. She removed her purple diamante spectacles, put them on the table and told a warder, “I won’t need those any more.”

Meanwhile at her flat in St Paul’s Cray, Ruth’s elder sister Muriel Jakubait walked into the sitting room, switched on the wireless and heard the nine o’clock pips of Big Ben with the announcement that Ruth Ellis, aged 28 had been hanged.

Some years later Albert Pierrepoint, Ruth’s hangman, told Muriel in a secret letter, “She died as brave as any man and she never spoke a single word.” Over a five-year period, Muriel received a total of nine letters from him, occasionally writing under the assumed name of A. Fletcher. Each time Ruth was mentioned in the press, Pierrepoint would be on to Muriel in a flash.

In 2003, the Court of Appeal upheld Ruth’s 1955-murder conviction and sentence. Muriel Jakubait was shattered. Key evidence was still not made public. The same persuasive Ruth Ellis story spun to the press and public in 1955 was being repeated.

Whilst writing our book ‘Ruth Ellis My Sister’s Secret Life,’ I went back over minute details of the case, scrutinising every lead. With access to records previously unavailable at the Public Record office in Kew, and new witness statements, I have presented a range of evidence that the court in 1955 never got to hear; evidence pointing to the fact that Ruth Ellis was innocent of the crime she was hanged for. She died for another person’s crime, having lied to protect him.

With what I have uncovered, I have sufficient evidence to believe the peroxide blonde killer tag was a carefully constructed cover story involving the British secret services at a time when the cold war was waging between Russia and the West. Ruth was a vulnerable young woman, used by the secret service, murdered by the establishment and whose true identity has been disguised beneath a web of deceit, lies and misinformation.

The trumped up murder charge and Ruth’s death by hanging deflected suspicion away from the real Ruth Ellis story.

In 2002 I set out to find and tell only the truth about the last woman to be hanged. I doubt that the public will ever learn the full story about Ruth, but ‘Ruth Ellis My Sister’s Secret Life’ has come very near to it. It is fortunate that Muriel has lived long enough to learn the truth.

Over the next five issues of True Detective you can discover the facts that have been buried for fifty years.

HOW I CAME TO WRITE THE BOOK

My involvement in the project came about by chance. In 2000, I wrote an article about Ron Fowler, a fishmonger in the village of Great Bookham in Surrey. Soon after it was published in the Surrey County magazine Ron asked if I wanted a good story. He told me about a woman that he used to serve fish to in West Byfleet. Her name Muriel Jakubait would probably be unknown to me but I might recognise that of her sister Ruth Ellis. Ron recalled how Muriel walked into the fish shop one day. “I asked if I could help her. She replied, More to the point can I help you? Apparently I’d been speaking to a butcher who knew Muriel. He’d told her about the fishmonger next door with a bee in his bonnet about her sister’s case.”

“I still remember that day,” Ron continued. “It was so uncanny. She was the dead spit of Ruth Ellis. She wore a pink scarf, knotted and hanging down one side of her. I stared and thought this is exactly what Ruth would look like now if she were alive. Her hair was done up like Ruth’s. It really shook me up.”

Like many people Ron had an obsession with the Ruth Ellis story. He wanted to know who was called at the trial, so tried to get a copy of the transcript. In 1989 he received a letter from the Lord Chancellor’s Department, saying that the file did not contain a transcript of the trial. They could not help him. “Another senior person phoned and wasn’t so nice: ‘As far as you’re concerned, Mr Fowler, that file lies at the bottom of the Thames.’

Ron lost touch with Muriel but I traced her to her council bungalow in Woking. At that time she was hoping that the Criminal Cases Review Commission would refer her sister’s conviction for murder in 1955 to the Court of Appeal in London. I listened with absolute fascination to her story. The Express published my subsequent article.

In 2002 Muriel and I discussed the possibility of writing her memoirs. Every week for two years we met at her home. We drank tea and talked. Surrounded by family photographs, including one of her sister Ruth, she told me about years of family secrecy; revealing intimate details about herself and Ruth and recalling harrowing memories of the day her sister was hanged. Each meeting was memorable, planned and focused. Not a stone was left unturned.

As a new author, writing this book has been the most fabulous opportunity I have ever had. It has also been the most humbling, constantly reminded that the person sitting close to me has endured terrible memories of an executed sister for half a century.

SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH

Simple fact finding turned out to be more complicated than I thought at first. It became an extraordinary detailed piece of detective work for first hand evidence in my search for the truth. I followed my instincts. I stopped looking for answers and took one step at a time in looking for facts.

Muriel told me about landmarks in her life and recollections of events. I followed up with my own solid research and investigation, comparing new findings with previously published conflicting information.

Just twenty-three days after beginning my research and detective work I was amazed when I stumbled across Dr Stephen Ward’s name linked to Ruth as far back as the late 1940’s, many years before the 1963 Profumo scandal. Ward was the society osteopath-cum-pimp who introduced Christine Keeler to John Profumo the Minister for War in the early 1960’s.

The public is now aware that Ward was involved in spying in 1963. But the Denning Report at the time merely described him as a pimp. Not a word about Ruth’s association with Ward at the beginning of the Cold War has ever leaked out.

From small beginnings a picture developed of Ruth’s life, stripped of fifty years of fictitious opinion. An unseen side of the last woman to be hanged emerged, as I dug deeper in my investigations; something not uncovered at the time of Ruth’s trial, or since.

For three years I trawled through record office files, birth and death certificates and company records dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. I tracked suspicious addresses, so-called businesses that did not actually exist and incorrect initials on official documents that enabled characters to change their identities and mislead anyone who dared to look for them.

New witnesses from all over Britain have helped with individual aspects of the story. They cast new light on Ruth’s short life, without enquiring about the true object of the story that had to be kept confidential until the whole had been written.

It has taken considerable effort to strip fact from fiction. Caught up in a tangle of new connections were clues. I kept an open mind and did not accept things at face value. The real story about Ruth Ellis began slotting into place.

Ruth had a secret double life. In 1955 it had to be covered at all costs.

This is a story of murder, intrigue, justice and most importantly, truth.

Ruth’s gruesome death by hanging protected people at the heart of the establishment. There was more to Ruth Ellis than has been admitted.

*****

PART TWO

‘Lady Godiva Rides Again’

“As a barrister for fifty years I was just putting the facts of the actual murder. I knew nothing of the background and I didn’t care.”

This was the opinion that Christmas Humphreys, the prosecuting counsel at Ruth Ellis’s murder trial, was still vehemently defending twenty-seven years later when he spoke to Ruth’s son Andre McCallum. Andre secretly taped their three-hour conversation at the Buddhist Society in London.

Just weeks later Andre, aged 38 committed suicide.

Humphreys was blinkered; for it was exactly what was going on in the background, amongst the shady characters in Ruth’s circle, that led to the shooting of her ex public schoolboy lover David Blakely outside the Magdala pub in Hampstead in 1955 and to Ruth’s execution three months later.

Ruth’s friends, some were prosecution witnesses at her trial, were more complicated than you would imagine from simple statements they made at the Old Bailey.

As I read the transcript of the trial and police statements it was clear that nobody was interested in witnesses’ backgrounds. In what appeared to be an open-and-shut case of cold-blooded murder, where a prostitute murdered one of her lovers, it didn’t matter about anyone else.

But those characters should have been investigated.

David Blakely had a darker side. During one of many visits to the Public Record Office (PRO) I was surprised to find buried in a Home Office document, that Ruth’s lover was actually homosexual. It was well known apparently in Blakely’s social circle. What is more, Ruth knew. It didn’t come out in the trial. Mr Bickford, Ruth’s solicitor, had evidence but “felt it unwise to call it.”

And that is where the truth of what really happened remained – hidden in the background for nearly fifty years.

It will shock most people to learn that Ruth Ellis fell under the spell of Dr Stephen Ward in the 1940’s. He groomed her; a fact previously unknown to the public. This sensational finding was pivotal in uncovering the real Ruth Ellis story.

Most people associate Ward’s name with the 1960’s Profumo scandal. He was the pimp and smooth, society osteopath whose patients included Winston Churchill, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret.

He introduced Christine Keeler to John Profumo, the Conservative Secretary of State for War. The scandal that Keeler was having a simultaneous affair with a Soviet spy led to Profumo’s resignation.

Years later it was revealed Ward had been a double agent, working for MI5 and for the KGB.

Those who think his spying activities began and ended in 1963 should think again.

Stephen Ward’s involvement with pretty, young girls who became the eyes and ears for his spying activities did not just start suddenly in 1963. He was recruiting girls from the late 1940’s.

Ward and his post-war close friend, society and stars’ photographer Antony Beauchamp who was married to Winston Churchill’s daughter Sarah, were working together in their sordid profession, making something of young girls from the right background. [Beauchamp coincidentally photographed Marilyn Monroe at about the same time in the US before she became famous]

Ward’s skill was “finding uneducated girls from a poor background.” He groomed and transformed them into ‘somebodies’. In return they did the dirty work, becoming a listening service for intelligence organisations, gathering information from high-powered men, generally in their beds, during the Cold War.

Both Ward and Antony Beauchamp, about whom little was known, were members of the Little Club in Knightsbridge, also shrouded in mystery, the club where Ruth Ellis would become manageress in 1953. The Press tried to portray it as some sort of low-class dive for losers.

Its membership actually included King Hussein of Jordan, film stars Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Burt Lancaster, society photographer ‘Baron’ a close friend of Prince Philip, racing driver Stirling Moss and Anthony Armstrong-Jones who became Princess Margaret’s husband.

Ruth fitted the bill for Ward and Beauchamp’s game. She was a gift; she was trying to escape from poverty and abuse; she was uneducated; she had a child to support; she had parents who took every penny she earned; and she had a family secret. Her sister Muriel gave birth to a child through incest with her father, a bully who started sexually abusing Muriel when she was six. He turned his attentions to Ruth when she was 11. Ruth made Muriel promise never to tell anyone about his obscene behaviour.

Ward, the “vice peddler” created Ruth Ellis. She was undoubtedly indebted to him. After all, he transformed her, gave her nice clothes, made her feel special.

Vickie Martin, Ruth’s best friend, was another of Ward’s proteges. She became the lover of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar before being killed in a mysterious car crash in January 1955.

By chance I discovered Ward won Ruth a walk-on part in the 1951 film ‘Lady Godiva Rides Again’ a comedy about beauty contests. A publicity still showed a beauty queen line-up. There alongside her friend Diana Dors and young Joan Collins, was Ruth with short dark hair.

Four years later on 9th February 1955, when her services were no longer required, Ruth was thrown to the wolves by Desmond Cussen, her so-called alternative lover, to fend for herself during her last sixty days of freedom.

At 11.30 p.m. on 10th April, the night Blakely was murdered, on her arrest Ruth immediately admitted to murdering him. She said, after being cautioned, “I am guilty. I am rather confused.”

In effect she signed her own death warrant.

Muriel never could understand why her sister didn’t put up a fight, if only for the sake of her children.

But it’s the circumstances of Ruth’s police statement, in a previously unpublished Home Office file, which were odd.

It sounded as if she had previously rehearsed her statement. It was word perfect. At the beginning of her performance, which she began without being asked saying, “It all started about two years ago when I met David Blakely at the Little Club, Knightsbridge,” Superintendent Crawford had to stop her and ask “Would you like this to be written down?”

Ruth had clearly been brainwashed.

To the police it was an open and shut case of cold-blooded murder. But Ruth lied. The events of 10th April did not happen as she had described them in her police statement. She was protecting someone.

The two-day murder trial was a travesty. As I leafed through the trial transcript during a visit to the PRO at Kew, the inadequate questioning of witnesses is obvious now for all to see. Ruth’s defence counsel Melford Stevenson did nothing for her. Later when I found this statement that Stevenson made on the first morning of the trial, I asked myself what was going on. He’d already decided to “Subject the witnesses of the prosecution to a minimum of cross-examination.”

Someone was being protected. And someone was determined to send Ruth to the gallows.

Official files relating to the trial, including the transcript, have been locked away for much longer than the statutory 30 years. The authorities still keep some files to do with Ruth’s trial closed until 2031. What else was there to hide?

In our book we set out evidence that the court in 1955 never got to hear. Evidence showing that Ruth was innocent of the crime she was hanged for.

We also identify the group of people in Ruth’s circle who conspired against her, planned the murder of Blakely with military precision and left Ruth holding a smoking gun.

The day before Ruth was hanged, having dismissed her solicitor Mr Bickford who represented her at her trial, she was visited in the condemned cell at Holloway prison by Mr Mishcon, now Lord Mishcon, and Mr Simmons, solicitors whom she consulted on domestic matters prior to the murder.

Simmons asked her what really happened on the day of the shooting. Ruth said she hadn’t told the truth because to do so “seemed traitorous – absolutely traitorous.” A loaded phrase, bearing in mind the details that have come to light about Ruth’s double life.

Like Christine Keeler in 1963, Ruth was in a position to bring down the government with what she knew. She was the innocent pawn in a game of espionage planned by intelligence officers whose job was to lie and who wanted to get rid of her. Ruth stood no chance against them.

The story about spying and the shadowy characters in Ruth’s circle continued to unravel by an extraordinary twist of fate. It followed my discovery of Desmond Cussen’s signature on a business document in 1964 while he was lying low at a London hotel. This was Cussen’s one and only trail left anywhere since 1955.

After Ruth’s death, Cussen and Ward moved from their Devonshire Street flats where they were close neighbours, to Bayswater addresses in London; Cussen to Lanterns Hotel in Craven Road, Ward to Orme Square. Cussen seemed to be following Ward around. When the names Ward, Keeler and Profumo cropped up later in the Atlantic hotel, I realised that Cussen who’d been staying there for two years was not there by accident. He was perfectly placed when the Profumo fiasco broke in 1963.

This discovery opened up a new line of investigation, which in turn led to the infamous spying activities of Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.

The convincing story, spun and repeated for fifty years, disguised the real Ruth Ellis. The message reaching the public in 1955 was of the common, peroxide blonde, nightclub manageress who was a part-time prostitute.

The message not reaching the public was about the poorly educated, gullible young woman, desperate for money and who probably unwittingly became involved with spying and died in a dramatic way for her country, in the process.

Five years before her death, Ruth, looking very different with natural auburn hair, frequented the White Hart Hotel in Brasted, Kent, which was more like a private club. She blended in with the special people who congregated there, including nuclear weapons bigwigs from nearby Fort Halstead, top ranking RAF and spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.

I have tracked down witnesses in London, Northumberland, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Australia who have memories of the characters involved in the story. All have spoken out for the first time.

One gentleman from Penn in Buckinghamshire casually mentioned to me that the family of Donald Maclean had lived in the village for thirty years. This led to a discovery of a secret service stronghold there in the early 1950’s.

Commentators of the Ruth Ellis story focused on Blakely’s mother Anne and stepfather Humphrey Cook when they lived at the Old Park in Penn in 1955. It would seem coincidental that in 1949 the Blakely family moved into a rented house in the village, immediately changing its name. The only documented evidence being two entries on the voters’ list for 1950 and 1951.

The defection of Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess was being planned at that time.

By 1949 Maclean was under suspicion for passing secrets to the Russians. In May 1950 he returned to England and was kept under surveillance by MI5. In 1949 David Blakely began his National Service but within weeks was released and on his way to Penn. There was no official explanation.

The Donald Maclean connection with Penn illustrates just one of the complicated trails typical of my findings. Coincidentally, Maclean’s body was brought back from Russia and buried in a secret midnight service in Penn graveyard

Of real significance is the link between Westerham, Brasted, Tatsfield, Tonbridge, Warlingham and Sanderstead on the Surrey-Kent border, more than 20 miles from London; and just three miles from Fort Halstead, with its secret complex of bunkers where Britain’s Nuclear Weapons programme began.

Ruth had connections with all these supposedly unconnected areas. Nobody has ever put two-and-two together before.

The trumped up murder charge that Ruth admitted to and for which she was hanged obscured the truth about Britain “in the grips of a spying scandal.”

*****

PART THREE

‘Who Really Fired The Fatal Shot?’

At the Old Bailey on 20th June 1955, Christmas Humphreys assisted by Mervyn Griffith-Jones and Miss Jean Southworth, instructed by the Department of Public Prosecutions, appeared on behalf of the prosecution. Melford Stevenson QC, assisted by Mr Sebag Shaw and Mr Peter Rawlinson instructed by Messrs Cardew-Smith and Ross appeared on behalf of the prisoner Ruth Ellis.

Christmas Humphreys opened the case for the prosecution. He said Ruth took a gun which she knew was loaded, and shot David Blakely dead by “emptying that revolver at him, four bullets going into his body, one hitting a bystander in the hand, and the sixth going we know not where.”

Ruth’s defence counsel, Melford Stevenson, stated categorically that Ruth was guilty. “Let me make this abundantly plain: there is no question here but this woman shot this man….You will not hear one word from me – or from the lady herself – questioning that.”

Looking at the transcript of the trial released over forty years after Ruth’s death it’s clear how Ruth Ellis, who pleaded not guilty, was given scant help by our judicial system. Her trial for murder was pushed through in just over a day. The jury taking 23 minutes to find her guilty.

It appeared to be an open-and-shut case of cold- blooded murder. There was no need for forensics on Ruth or her possessions or for investigating the case properly. Apparently nobody else was involved.

Ruth had a gun hanging from her hand. She was pointing it towards Blakely’s dead body. In the press she had already been portrayed as a peroxide blonde tart. Therefore she was guilty.

There was no need to consider if 28 year-old Ruth, the 5’2,” 7-stone woman with tiny bird-like hands, one gnarled as a result of rheumatic fever, with poor eyesight and suffering the after effects of a recent miscarriage, was physically capable of shooting anyone. Let alone repeatedly pull the trigger on a heavy man-size .38 Smith and Wesson gun that required a 10lb pull for each shot fired; it would have been impossibly large in her hand, its recoil would have knocked her backwards. All these aspects were left unsaid at the trial.

In a Prison Service file, recently opened for public scrutiny, I read that Ruth told the medical officer at Holloway prison hospital that her left hand and ankle had been affected by rheumatic fever. Nothing was made of this at her trial.

Ruth lied in court. She calmly admitted murdering Blakely. She had been brainwashed and “shielded those people who’d picked her…..The ones who promised her she wouldn’t die.”

According to their police statements, Cussen dropped Ruth and her son Andre at her flat in Kensington at 7.30 pm on the evening of the shooting and didn’t see her again until she was in prison. We now know it was a pack of lies.

As soon as I read these two sentences in Ruth’s police statement I knew she was lying and protecting someone: “I took a taxi and as I arrived, David’s car drove away from Findlater’s [Blakely’s car mechanic friend] address. I dismissed the taxi and walked back down the road to the nearest pub where I saw David’s car outside.”

She could have followed Blakely in her taxi if murder, “was on her mind.” She hadn’t spoken to him for over two days, she would not have known where he was going and she couldn’t have seen where he was going. It’s a long walk from Tanza Road to the Magdala which is the nearest pub.

Stevenson had a golden opportunity to get to the truth. Yet he did not ask Ruth what made her take a twelve-minute walk in the dark when she could have taken the taxi that she was in.

Instead he summarised, “We have heard the evidence about your taking a revolver up to Hampstead and shooting him. Is that right?” Ruth replied, “Quite right.”

At about 9 pm on the night of the shooting Moreen Gleeson, a Hampstead resident saw Ruth and Cussen outside 29 Tanza Road in Hampstead, where Ruth believed Blakely was conducting an affair with another woman. In her letter to Muriel Jakubait she wrote, “When Cussen, as I believe he is named, appeared behind her I was frightened. He was definitely intending to take charge….”

Miss Gleeson went to the police twice, and a solicitor, but they disregarded her evidence. It would have been crucial in confirming that Cussen was near to the scene of the crime.

The authorities appear to have ignored any explanation of events other than the one that would lead to Ruth’s execution.

Moreen Gleeson’s encounter with Ruth and Cussen and Ruth’s subsequent hanging, troubled her. She suffered a nervous breakdown and moved to Australia where she later became a midwife. She read something about Cussen and the murder in a national paper but dismissed it as “ill-informed.” She said, “I had been there and knew this was all wrong.”Ruth didn’t murder anybody. Cussen, her “alternative” lover, wound her up like a spring, got her drunk, drove her to the scene of the crime and put a gun in her hand.

Although appearing to fire shots at Blakely she did not fire the gun which killed him.

Desmond Cussen was an expert liar, disguised as a boring businessman and usually portrayed as Blakely’s rival for Ruth’s attention. At the magistrate’s court, when asked how long he’d known Blakely, Cussen lied saying just over two years. Then he lied at the trial saying “approximately three years.”

I have evidence of their long-term friendship. They knew each other for nearly six years, regularly visiting a ‘risky’ club together in Surrey from the late 1940’s.

In the early 1970’s, Mr Bickford, Ruth’s solicitor, made a statement to Scotland Yard from his home in Malta. He was recalling what Cussen told him in 1955: how Ruth lied at the trial and how he (Bickford) had hidden that information. After Bickford’s confession a police investigation followed but no further action regarding Cussen was taken.

I dug deeper into Public Record Office (PRO) documents. As part of my research, I wanted to compare magistrate’s court statements with the trial transcript. However the magistrates court papers were listed as FRUSTRATED (not available) at the PRO in Kew; they could not say where they were.Eventually I was permitted to view the file that contained Christmas Humphreys’ set of magistrate’s court documents at the Royal Court of Justice in the Strand. They’d been housed there since 1996.I was so alarmed at my findings on 9th May 2002, I wrote in my diary, “Papers at the Royal Court of Justice have been adjusted; gun, police, timings.” It was an understatement.Sometime between the committal proceedings at the magistrate’s court in April and Ruth’s trial in June 50 years ago, words had been mysteriously crossed through in key witness statements; other words had been inserted, giving totally different meanings.I only have photocopies of six witness statements. Altogether there are 33 subtle changes.Where did the instructions come from, for Christmas Humphreys to make those changes?It’s obvious now; Ruth was being set up. Before she reached the Old Bailey her fate was determined. The case would be guaranteed open-and-shut.

A statement made by Police Constable Thompson caught my eye. He was an off-duty policeman who happened to be in the Magdala that fateful evening. He arrested Ruth after the shooting which happened outside the pub. His words “She was holding the revolver loosely” (crossed out) “pointing it downwards at a slant” (crossed out) became “she was holding the revolver in her right hand pointing it downwards.”PC Thompson was inside the Magdala when he heard “a succession of bangs” outside. Importantly, his statement at the magistrate’s court “No shot was fired after I came out of the public house” was omitted at the trial. This key witness did not see who shot Blakely, “but listening to him being questioned by Humphreys” you’d think he did.All Melford Stevenson had to say was “No questions.”

 I noticed this statement made by Clive Gunnell who called himself a Mayfair car salesman. He was Blakely’s drinking companion at the Magdala on the night of the shooting. Originally he described Ruth pursuing Blakely and pointing the gun at his back. The statement was changed to read “The accused was firing the gun into his back,” not the same.Again Stevenson had “No questions.”Stevenson stuck to his word.

He gave the prosecution an easy time, subjecting prosecution witnesses to a minimum of cross-examination.I can only guess there was an unwritten law that exempted them from being properly cross-examined.

Mrs Gladys Yule was a prime witness for the prosecution. She and her husband Donald Maclean Yule (who was not called to give evidence) were walking to the Magdala for a Sunday evening drink. Statements Mrs Yule made between 11th April and 20th June were inconsistent. At her first court appearance she saw a youngish man run out of the saloon bar of the Magdala, “followed, almost on his heels, by a blonde woman.”At her second court appearance on 28th April she said that she saw a lady in front of the two men. “I could see her hair was very blonde and she wore a light coat.” Then she admitted she would not recognise “the blonde woman again who shot Blakely.”At the Old Bailey on 20th June Mrs Yule was not asked if she recognised the prisoner. But she was certain about what happened. She saw “A lady on the pavement in front of the public house…..and saw her chase a man.”Again Ruth’s barrister had no questions. He failed to raise any of these discrepancies.

The more I read the transcript, comparing it to witness statements prior to the trial, the more I saw the skulduggery that took place. Ruth stood no chance.At the end of the first day of the trial, Melford Stevenson, with no jury present, gained a new lease of life. He discussed at length “unlike his near silent performance in court” the question of provocation; a peculiar contrast to his court appearance.After picking his way through legal language with Stevenson and Humphreys, Justice Havers found an excuse not to allow a verdict of manslaughter and decided not to leave the issue to the jury.Justice Havers directed the jury; he was “judge, jury, defence and prosecution.The trumped up murder charge protected people at the heart of the establishment. Ruth wasn’t sentenced to death. The establishment murdered her.The Ruth Ellis story wasn’t about a crime of passion – it looked that way though.The shooting of Blakely obscured the truth about the country in the grips of a spying scandal. Ruth was hanged to protect the shadowy characters she mixed with and took her secrets to an unconsecrated grave at Holloway prison.I found a letter at the Public Record Office from a Mrs Robinson of Ealing to the Home Secretary. It summed up the case to a tee. She wrote, “The charge was murder and the case had yet to be heard. I should have demanded to hear the defence if I was the jury. The judge took away power of the jury.”

*****

PART FOUR

‘Desmond Cussen: The Alarming Inconsistences’

Over the years, Desmond Cussen, Ruth’s so-called alternative lover, has been described as a bit of a drip, an unassuming, docile, father figure. He looked like a spiv with dark, greased back hair; with a round boyish face and an unnatural looking thin moustache. He was usually portrayed as Blakely’s scathing rival for Ruth’s affections.

There are many unanswered questions about who Cussen really was; very little is known about him. The only information comes from scant details in books over the years about Ruth Ellis. Firstly he joined the RAF aged seventeen, trained mainly in South Africa, was a bomber pilot, throughout the war, flying Lancasters and was demobbed in 1946. Secondly he was wealthy, became a director of a family-owned retail and wholesale tobacconist business called Cussen and Co. And thirdly from the early 1950’s he lived in a prestigious apartment in Goodwood Court near Harley Street.

It seems odd therefore that twenty-three days after the start of my research I began uncovering alarming inconsistencies to the accepted story about him.

Was it just poor research by commentators over the last fifty years or had those writers been fed misinformation, part of the big lie being spread, to hoodwink the public about the real Ruth Ellis story? I wondered. Either way, the truth has been obscured.

In March 2002 I contacted Companies House in an attempt to find information about Cussen and Co.

Whilst examining hand-written documents on microfiche (luckily still available from Companies House archives) I discovered that Desmond Cussen lived in Garlands Road, Leatherhead with his parents, in a detached house called Dapdune. This was quite a find; the first in a series of lucky breaks, opening the door to some significant findings. It was my first lesson in detective work: examine every local connection. Garlands Road is less than two miles from my home.

Dapdune was coincidentally just 300 yards from Leatherhead hospital where Arthur Neilson, Muriel Jakubait’s father, was an in-patient for a year. He’d been sent there during the war from south-east London suffering from a cerebral thrombosis following an injury sustained in the London Blitz.

It seemed stranger than fiction that I should come across Ruth’s alternative lover, at exactly the same time as I was investigating the area around Leatherhead hospital.With further research I realised that in the late 1940’s Garlands Road was no ordinary road. Top people lived there in houses of substance. Some of the properties have been demolished but two of the original houses are still standing.

General Ironside, who was one of Churchill’s generals in the Second World War, lived secretly in one. In 1941 he was Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, in charge of the Home Guard.

One of the pleasures in my new detective role is scrutinising every new lead!So on 2nd May 2002 I wrote to the Leatherhead local paper asking for anyone to contact me if they had memories of wartime in Garlands Road. It was a long shot. 1940 is a long time ago.

I struck lucky. I received three replies. One led me to a new witness, John Steel, an elderly Leatherhead gent, with a phenomenally accurate memory for everything wartime. He was an ARP warden based in General Ironside’s house that had been commandeered by the government for the Home Guard when it was first formed.

Although he didn’t know it, Mr Steel’s recollections about the young chap who he paired up with in the Home Guard were to prove invaluable in my search for the truth.

Mr Steel told me how he teamed up with a young man, an only child, about eighteen years old, with straight fair hair, about 5’9″, of muscular build and handsome. He was from an exceptionally well to do family. He added, “He was a cut above the rest of us, well spoken and well educated, a gentleman” and lived next door at Dapdune. “His father looked like a city gent.”

The two young men worked together at night-time two to three times a week from summer 1940 until April 1941, guarding bombed places against looters and keeping watch for parachutists. He couldn’t remember his partner’s name, it was a long time ago, but said he was very good with a gun, a “crack shot.” They regularly practised shooting 303 rifles on a local rifle range. At other times they were taken in a lorry to Bisley to practise with Sten guns.

The day after our first interview I had a call from Mr Steel. He said, “I’ve remembered the young man’s name, it was Cussen.”

He had no idea, until our book was published three years later, that his Home Guard partner was the same man who would play an important role in Ruth Ellis’s life and death in 1955.

By 4th June 2002, three months after beginning my research, new light had been thrown on Cussen’s wartime activities. When he was seventeen he was not in the RAF, he was in the Home Guard working alongside John Steel. What is more, Cussen was not the docile character we’d been led to believe – even as a young man he was a crack shot.

After those discoveries I was determined to find everything I could about this very private man. In the Air Force List at the Public Record Office the entry for Desmond Cussen, 197248, was odd. It stated he achieved pilot officer status in the General Duties Branch on 10th April 1945 and left on 10th October 1945.

Nothing about Cussen was quite what it seemed.

During an interview in August 2005 on BBC Radio London, Vanessa Feltz was curious to know what Cussen was doing between 1941 and 1945. I could not give her an answer. It would appear that he was doing nothing.The only way to find out about RAF personnel is to call up their service record. As I’m not next of kin, I’d reached a dead end. Service records for RAF personnel after 1921 are MOD property.Since the winter of 2005 I have made discoveries about Cussen’s service record; that’s another story. However I strongly suspect he grew up in a family that was used to deception.The Cussen and Co microfiches led to another breakthrough in my investigation. It came as something of a surprise to find a hand written document signed by Cussen in London in May 1964. This was Cussen’s one and only trail left anywhere since 1955.He gave his address as the Atlantic Hotel, Queens Gardens in London where I discovered he’d lived for two years. It can be no accident that Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, John Profumo and osteopath Dr Stephen Ward were frequent visitors there at the same time as Cussen.The whole point is that, according to Public Record Office documents, the police in 1955 claimed they were searching for Cussen the evening before Ruth was hanged, to interrogate him about the gun used to kill Blakely; but couldn’t find him.The hanging could easily have been postponed until they’d found him. But it was not. It was all too quick.When Cussen signed the business document in London in 1964, he was still a free man.

Ruth had protected Cussen in her police statement, claiming a man gave her the gun in a club three years previously. She did not give anything away about Cussen until 12.30 p.m. on July 12th, the day before she was hanged. She broke her silence, confessing to her solicitors that Cussen supplied the gun. She had not admitted it before because of getting “someone into possible trouble.”

The day after the hanging, the front-page article of the Daily Sketch demanded, “What are the police doing about this man? Are they going to charge him? If not, why not?”

Cussen was not arrested. It all went according to plan. It’s clear to me he had some sort of immunity.He was no ordinary tobacconist businessman.Cussen and Co microfiches led to another vital discovery, more proof of Ruth’s connection with Dr Stephen Ward, who was a key player in the Profumo affair in the 1960’s, and circumstantial evidence of Cussen’s connection to the secret service. One month and thirty phone calls after beginning my detective work I traced Cussen’s accountant. He told me on the telephone that Cussen had told him in the early 1960’s [at the time of the Profumo scandal] of Ruth Ellis’s friendship with Dr Stephen Ward.By early June 2002 I had pieced together quite a dossier of first hand evidence about Cussen; a bigger picture was developing.The impression of the “ineffective drip” was quite misleading.

Quite by chance, in December 2003 I made another major discovery. I met Mr Wallis, a retired Leatherhead dentist with an interesting story to tell about the very private Paddock Club at the end of a long gravel drive in the Surrey village of Ashtead. He was a member from the late 1940’s until 1955. So too were Desmond Cussen and David Blakely.At the magistrate’s court in 1955 Cussen stated he’d known Blakely, “Just over two years, maybe three.” He lied again at Ruth’s trial when he said on oath that he’d known Blakely “Approximately three years.”I now have evidence of Cussen’s long term friendship with David Blakely. They’d actually enjoyed each other’s company for approximately six years; something that has never been made public. The pair frequently visited the Paddock Club, which was a mile or so from Cussen’s Leatherhead family home, since the late 1940’s. It was a place where the best people from London secretly congregated when there were parties on.It’s obvious now; Cussen lied about their friendship to cover the secret world they’d actually been part of for several years; a world that Ruth could have blown wide open if she had lived.From small beginnings about Cussen’s family home in Leatherhead, combined with solid research another side to Ruth’s alternative lover was emerging. Everything pointed to undercover operations and the British Secret Service.Somewhere hidden in books written about the Cold War, Cussen’s other identity is waiting to be uncovered.

*****

PART FIVE

‘Ruth Ellis Did Not Murder David Blakely…’

Ruth Ellis did not kill David Blakely. The so-called crime of passion, for which Ruth hanged, was cleverly crafted to appear that way though. It was organised like a military exercise by experts.

Take the murder weapon, a heavy .38 Smith and Wesson revolver.

When I was compiling evidence for our book, I spoke to John Ross, curator of the Crime Museum at New Scotland Yard. I told him that Muriel Jakubait wished to handle the gun (displayed in the Museum) that was retrieved at the scene of the shooting.At the end of January 2003 Muriel and I met Ross at the Museum to view the weapon used to kill Blakely.

Even I could see that the gun would have been far too large in Ruth’s tiny hands one of which was gnarled as a result of contracting rheumatic fever at age 15. This painful condition stayed with Ruth for the rest of her life.She was 5’ 2″, weighed only 7 stone and would have been physically incapable of firing one shot from a heavy, man-size gun, let alone repeatedly pull the trigger, firing six bullets in quick succession. With her tiny hand she couldn’t have even thumbed the trigger guard back.Furthermore the recoil after each shot would have knocked her backwards.

A professional would know that and hold it with two hands at arm’s length. A firearms expert advised me that accuracy with a .38 Smith and Wesson would have been hopeless except in trained hands.All these aspects were left unsaid at the trial.

It’s worth mentioning here that Peter Rawlinson (now Lord Rawlinson) Ruth’s junior defence counsel, met Ruth at the Old Bailey on 11th May one month after her arrest. That day Melford Stevenson applied for the case to be postponed until after 14thJune, “Owing to the large number of enquiries still to be made by the defence.” Ruth and Rawlinson shook hands in her cell after the three-minute hearing. In his autobiography he described her hands as “small and limp.”

On 27th May 1955, Mr W Mackenzie, medical registrar at St Giles hospital prepared a report for Ruth’s solicitor Mr Bickford. Referring to the rheumatic fever for which Ruth had been admitted to the hospital as a teenager, he said bones in her left-hand ring finger had been destroyed and were badly affected by septic arthritis. In a postscript he added, “I should be interested to know from a medical point of view, the present state of her joints.”Mackenzie wrote the report six weeks after Ruth allegedly shot her lover, aiming and firing six times with a heavy Smith and Wesson revolver.

It’s clear from a Holloway hospital case paper (opened since the publication of our book) that Ruth’s condition was known about. On 11th April the prison medical officer noted that as a teenager she had “rheumatic fever, which was followed with arthritis in the fingers of the left hand and of the ankles.” Her wedding ring was worn on an adjacent finger.Ruth’s defence counsel made nothing of this at her trial.

Forensic expert Lewis Charles Nickolls, Director of the Metropolitan Police Laboratory examined the revolver and bullets. In his police statement he explained, “In order to fire 6 cartridges, it is necessary to cock the trigger six times, as in the case of a revolver pulling the trigger only fires one shot. To pull a trigger of 10lbs requires definite and deliberate muscular effort.”

But two months later at the Old Bailey when questioned by the prosecuting counsel Christmas Humphreys, Nickolls was economical with his words. He merely said, “To fire each shot the trigger has to be pulled as a separate operation.”

It would appear he deliberately omitted the reference to the effort needed to fire the Smith and Wesson gun.Nickolls also testified at the trial that one bullet had been fired at close range, less than 3″ from the body, the other bullets, he said, were “fired from a distance.”

He explained to the judge Mr Justice Havers that the close range shot had left the usual circle of powder fouling around the bullet hole. He then repeated that the other shots had been fired at a distance.Nickolls did not say what distance. Ruth’s learned defence counsel Melford Stevenson did not ask.

Nickolls’ evidence went unchallenged.I was baffled. Why didn’t he ask Nickolls about the distance from which the other bullets were fired? It was important. One bullet was fired at close range, therefore the other three bullet wounds in Blakely’s body, had been fired accurately from a distance, out of arm’s reach. This could have been a turning point in the trial yet Ruth’s defence gave the prosecution an easy ride.

Extraordinarily Stevenson had, “No Questions.”The procedure for estimating the range of fire of a weapon had been used for some years. The gun is test fired in the lab at different distances using the same type of ammunition.

What is even more interesting is an important discovery I made in a Metropolitan Police document recently released at the Public Record Office and has never been made public: the gun broke during testing.Shut away in a previously closed file is a police statement made by Nickolls on 25th April 1955 along with a further one-page report written on the identical date but on Metropolitan Police Laboratory headed notepaper. Nickolls stated in both, “On receipt the Smith and Wesson revolver was in working order and during the course of firing in the laboratory, the cylinder catch broke as the result of a long standing crack in the shank.”

The cylinder catch revolves the barrel so that the next bullet is in place for the next shot.I find it questionable that Ruth managed to shoot six rounds of live ammunition, firing four bullets into David Blakley, then the gun breaks during testing thereby destroying evidence. If the gun had a long-standing defect, why did it not break on the first firing at the scene of the murder?Since our book was published in 2005 I found the statement Nickolls made at the magistrate’s court on 28th April. For the third time he emphasised that the gun broke during testing.However, later when I examined the transcript of the trial, which took place on 20th June, two months after the magistrate’s court hearing, I found that Nickolls failed to mention this crucial piece of evidence.When questioned at the Old Bailey he merely repeated that on receipt the gun was in working order, and “The barrel was foul and consistent with having been recently fired.”

Suspiciously he didn’t mention the gun breaking during testing. Was Nickolls deliberately silenced?Melford Stevenson QC, also overlooked this important detail. He must have known about the gun breaking.Any decent lawyer would play on the fact that no ballistics were done. One doesn’t assume anything when there is a death sentence looming.Did Stevenson choose not to explain this evidence to the Old Bailey jury? Might the results of the test firing of the gun have planted a seed of doubt in the minds of the jury about Ruth’s shooting capability?

I wonder.Stevenson could have established what really happened. But he made no attempt to show all the evidence to the jury and let them draw their own conclusions.It all looks extremely suspicious. I would say it was a set up from start to finish. I suspect that the gun conveniently broke during test firing as the results would have cleared Ruth of the murder.

At this point I should mention the afternoon of 10th April, the day Blakely was shot.Muriel told me about events at her flat in St Paul’s Cray on 11th April 1955. Her parents Berta and Arthur Neilson, Ruth’s son Andre and Desmond Cussen arrived on her doorstep unexpectedly. Berta told Muriel that Ruth had shot and killed Blakely. She threatened Muriel not to talk to a soul, to look after Andre, instructed her not to allow the boy to talk anyone and left.Andre didn’t say much to Muriel that day except that he’d seen Uncle Desmond cleaning and oiling two guns in his Goodwood Court flat the day before.Andre, who was nearly 11 years old, added quite innocently that Uncle Desmond that same day, “drove him and his mother (who was in a state) to a forest to teach his mummy how to shoot. Cussen had one gun and gave another to Ruth.

Andre thought she was funny because she couldn’t even shoot a tree and her hands kept shaking.”Andre held explosive information but was not interviewed by the police during the investigation into the crime.Was the gun produced at the trial and now housed at the Crime Museum, the crime weapon or was it the second gun that Andre saw Cussen cleaning on the day of the shooting?

Another mystery: the Metropolitan Police did forensics on the gun and on Blakely but not on Ruth. There’s no record in any file of fingerprints even being taken or evidence on her fingers or clothing of having fired a gun.It was accepted at the time that the residue from an exploding cartridge is driven backwards on to the hand that pulls the trigger.Why weren’t samples taken from the accused as well as the deceased?

What happened to Ruth’s blood spattered clothes? She allegedly shot Blakely at close range; which is a messy business. Did her light-coloured suit that she was apparently wearing show evidence of oil residue from the bullets? Forensic expert LC Nickolls said in his police statement, but did not repeat at the trial, that the Smith and Wesson he examined was oily.

There are no answers to any of these questions in any police file about the case.

* Eleanor Hogg was the policewoman who guarded Ruth all night in her cell at Hampstead police station, following her arrest. In January 2006 I managed to make contact with Mrs Hogg. She said Ruth was wearing spotlessly clean, pale coloured clothing that night. “She was clean, smart, and certainly did not have stains down her clothes. I would have remembered.”

It is standard procedure in all police stations for the arresting officer to make a list of possessions belonging to the prisoner on a charge sheet. David Blakely’s list of property in possession of the Hampstead police in 1955 was recently released for public scrutiny. But Ruth’s list of property and clothing is noticeable by its absence. The list certainly existed. According to another, recently opened, Metropolitan Police document dated 24th June 1955 (two days after Ruth was found guilty at the Old Bailey) Hampstead police handed her property to her solicitor Mr Bickford against “Receipt number 99.”

I suspect that forensics were not carried out on Ruth, and the gun conveniently broke during testing because the results would have saved her and proved she could not have killed Blakely.Too many crucial questions were left unasked. Ruth had to be found guilty. The establishment wanted her dead. Using new evidence that I’ve uncovered, I say we now need to go back to the scene of the murder, choose a dark evening at about 9.30 pm and reconstruct the crime. There are more than enough invisible clues to show Ruth was set up. She was holding a gun, pointing it at a dying man. To all intents and purposes she appeared to shoot Blakely. The so-called witnesses would have seen nothing else, only the eye-catching blonde causing a diversion. The real killer was probably standing there in full view, but totally invisible to them.

The real murderer was Desmond Cussen. He was the marksman that killed Blakely; and got away with it.

* I have used this name to protect Mrs Hogg’s identity.

*****

PART SIX

‘The Hanging’

On 7th July 2005, the day RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE was published, bombings in London shattered the heart of the capital.

From my point of view publication of the book was just the beginning. The next few months were busy.

I contacted anyone who might spread the word about new findings in our book, from editors of parish magazines and village newsletters to local newspapers in areas connected with the story.

Three years of detective work has taught me there will always be more to discover. The Sevenoaks Chronicle, Warrington-Worldwide, Cornish Guardian and Northumberland Gazette are just a few of the local papers that published reports about the book. Some appealed to readers with first hand evidence of Ruth Ellis in the early 1950’s, to come forward.

I have become even more fascinated by information that I’d not found before. More witnesses from 50 years ago had revealing things to say. New leads and new evidence has emerged, with precise details of Ruth’s movements in the late 1940s and early 1950s, all contradicting the ‘accepted’ Ruth Ellis story that’s been repeated for fifty years.

During the Christmas of 2005 I sorted through information that kept coming in.

Statements from new witnesses had one thing in common. All said Ruth had certain characteristics that had made a deep impression on them: she was a lovely, kind person with grace and style. She was not looked upon as the common peroxide blonde prostitute as she’s been portrayed over the years. That impression was untrue.

Evelyn Galilee was the warder who guarded Ruth in the condemned cell for three weeks before her execution. She remembers Ruth as a “first class woman” whom she liked and says she was not the “troublesome blonde” that warders at Holloway had strangely been told to expect.She told me about Ruth’s last few minutes before her execution.

“Prior to the drop Ruth wanted to go to the toilet. I took her in. These thick padded calico knickers were brought and I was told they had to be put on her. It was against a woman’s dignity. I said, “I’m sorry Ruth but I’ve got to do this.” They had tapes back and front to pull. I blinded my eyes from them as she put them on. “Is that all right?” she said to me. She was very calm. “Would you pull these tapes Evelyn, I’ll pull the others,” They had to be tight. It was in case anything came out. Ruth asked what they were for. I couldn’t tell her.”

Evelyn spoke to me following the publication of our book.A fact challenged by her eyewitness account is the authenticity of letters that Ruth apparently wrote and sent from the condemned cell.

Firstly, all her letters (photocopied from the originals at the Public Record Office) were written in pen. Evelyn told me categorically that “No prisoner in the condemned cell was allowed to use a pen, everything had to be written in pencil and was strictly supervised.”

Also, the “Letter officer” at Holloway prison would have blanked out names on letters that Ruth sent from prison, yet names are clearly mentioned in Ruth’s correspondence.

Finally, in Ruth’s letter dated 12th July 1955, to Mr Simmons, her original solicitor, she refers to remarks made by David Blakely’s brother in a newspaper article following her trial. Evelyn informed me that, “No prisoner in the condemned cell was allowed access to a newspaper or its contents.”

Just before I began this chapter, and thanks to a Westerham historian, I received interesting information from a woman who worked at the ‘House at Home’ public house in Westerham, in the early 1950’s.

In a conversation with Sylvia Smith, she told me that Ruth Ellis and David Blakely, who she described as a “good looking young man” frequented the pub between approximately 1951 and 1953. She recalled that on occasions “Ruth would come in on her own, invariably crying saying David had vanished.”

Seemingly this was Blakely’s habit. Sylvia remembers how the landlord, Ernie Dumbleton, would say, “Ruth’s here and boyfriend has hooked off again and she’s quite tearful. Go and have a chat with her.”

Sylvia thought the couple rented a cottage in Ide Hill or Brasted Chart, adjacent hamlets east of Westerham and a short distance from Fort Halstead. This was the high security research establishment where Britain’s nuclear weapons programme began and is mentioned in our book.

When arrested in 1955, Ruth Ellis maintained that she first met David Blakely two years before, “When I was manageress of the Little Club, Knightsbridge.” It seems they may have actually known each other a lot longer.

BBC Radio Kent broadcast a feature and News item after reading my appeal in the Sevenoaks Chronicle for readers’ recollections of the House at Home between 1951 and 1953.No one else came forward with further evidence of Ruth’s connection with the pub at this time.

So the question of their stay near Westerham remains a mystery.However as we know now that Ruth lied at her trial from start to finish, it would be fair to assume she lied when she claimed she’d only known Blakely for two years.

Recently released prison hospital records point to the fact that Ruth fabricated the main thread of her defence. Ruth is quoted as saying she shot David Blakely in a jealous rage, believing he was having an affair, the incident happening 10 days after he punched her in the stomach and caused her to miscarry their baby. But on arrival at Holloway prison, following her arrest, and before she had time to get her story straight, she told the prison doctor she had actually had an abortion.

Interestingly on 19th March 1952 a passport, number N9584, was issued to Ruth Ellis. At the time she was employed as a hostess at Carroll’s Club in Duke Street in Mayfair. She was hard up, with two children to support. Bear in mind foreign travel then was fairly limited apart from business matters. I have no information to indicate what Ruth was up to. Where she was travelling to is another mystery. I wrote to the Home Office for further details about the passport but after “thorough searches” nothing could be found. They said, “The Home Office does not hold the information that you have requested.”

A further new discovery is that Ruth occasionally visited Tatsfield, a village north-west of Westerham and home to Soviet Super Spy Donald Maclean.In Tales of Tatsfield, author Doris Geary wrote, “I had known Ruth Ellis as a kind, good looking woman; we had laughed and talked together and we had liked each other.” Like Mrs Smith, Doris Geary brought details to light about Ruth’s movements that previous commentators missed.Doris Geary’s brother, Frank Watson was the Tatsfield “cabbie” for 60 years, and chauffeur to Donald Maclean when he lived in the village from December 1950 to May 1951. On the evening of Friday 25th May 1951, Watson drove Maclean to Woldingham station. It was the night he and his colleague Guy Burgess defected to Russia.

In the spring of 1969 Ruth’s widowed mother, Berta Neilson, was found unconscious in a gas-filled room in her flat in Hemel Hempstead; she never fully recovered and did not speak coherently again. Ruth’s sister Muriel found her mother’s handbag, tucked away in a chest of drawers. In it was a small, tatty notebook-cum-address book (now kept safe in a bank vault). Muriel had wondered for years about the names in it. The notebook tells a revealing story of its own.Phone numbers and addresses of Berta and Arthur Neilson’s friends, also notable journalists of the time Peter Grisewood, Jimmy Reid and Duncan Webb and other contacts that she’d scribbled in fifty years ago, became important clues. One London address, in Kensington stood out. After months of research and trawling through electoral registers and directories I realised I hadn’t just found a safe house, I’d found a safe street! I’d uncovered a treasure-trove of spies’ addresses, all in the same Kensington street – some dating back to 1932. As far as I am aware, they have not previously been made public. All the big names in spying were there: Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Menzies, Cowgill, Sinclair, Footman, Burke Trend ……It strikes me as strange, that Ruth Ellis’s mother had this address in her notebook 50 years ago. Had she discovered the shady world in which Ruth was involved? Or was this interesting evidence just another coincidence? An early draft of RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE contained this information, but our publishers felt it was complicated and the whole section was dropped..

When I began ghost writing Muriel Jakubait’s autobiography I intended to find the truth about her sister Ruth. I hope in these articles and in our book I have at least begun to set the record straight.

There is a final post script to the Ruth Ellis story. On 21 May 2005 The Mirror newspaper published an exclusive story, NO PARDON FOR ELLIS. “Fifty years on, government turn down reprieve for hanged Ruth Ellis. Hanged killer Ruth Ellis has been secretly denied a pardon by the Government, documents reveal. The decision has been kept under wraps for fear of unleashing protests which could embarrass ministers.” I wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair for a reaction about the Home Secretary’s decision; and to HM the Queen. Sir Paul Beresford MP wrote to Home Secretary Charles Clarke on my behalf.My enquiries were met with assurances that nobody knew anything.Fiona Mactaggart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State replied to Sir Paul’s letter: “The case of Ruth Ellis has always attracted interest over the years and more particularly in this the fiftieth anniversary of her execution. However, I am unaware of the slowly building campaign to which you have referred. I can confirm that an application for a posthumous free pardon, limited to sentence, was considered and rejected earlier this year.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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