“I intended to kill him”
Born in Rhyl, Wales on 9 October 1926 Ruth Ellis (née Neilson) was a good time girl, former model, club hostess and probably part-time prostitute. In 1953 while working as hostess of The Little Club in Knightsbridge, London she met a weak character by the name of David Blakely, a bisexual three years younger than her, and a racing driver.
Theirs was a stormy relationship peppered with violence and infidelities. In March 1955 she suffered a miscarriage (she already had two children) and Blakely tried to put some distance between himself and his naturally emotional girlfriend. This behaviour made her obsessively jealous and she became depressed. On Easter Sunday 1955 she armed herself with a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver and went to the Magdala Tavern in Hampstead where Blakely was drinking. As he left to walk to his car, Ellis shot him four times, wounding passer-by Gladys Yule in the process. She then calmly waited for the police to arrive. The murder would lead to her being the last woman in Britain to be hanged.
Magdala Tavern, 2a South Hill Park, London, England
Easter Sunday 10 April 1955
Ruth Ellis’s trial opened at the Old Bailey on 20 June 1955. Ellis was asked what the purpose was of her visit to the pub, “I intended to kill him,” she replied. It took the jury just 23 minutes to find her guilty on 21 June. On being sentenced to death Ellis simply said “Thanks”. It was widely expected that she would be reprieved but Home Secretary Gwilym Lloyd George refused to sign the commutation orders.
Ellis spent just 23 days in the condemned cell and was hangman Albert Pierrepoint’s 16th female client. She wore her own clothes, apart from a compulsory pair of canvas knickers. Five minutes before the allotted time a telephone reprieve was received but a quick check revealed it to be a hoax call. In December 2003 an appeal by the Ellis family that the verdict should be set aside and replaced with one of manslaughter was turned down.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The last two women to hang in Britain (Ellis on 13 July 1955 and Styllou Christofi on 3 December 1954) both killed out of jealousy, both murdered their victims in the same road — South Hill Park Road, Hampstead and both were hanged by Albert Pierrepoint. Ruth Ellis’s original solicitor was Victor Mishcon who later represented Jeffrey Archer and Diana, Princess of Wales.