Ruth Ellis

Ruth Ellis
DOB9 Oct 1926
Kill Total
Kill PlaceLondon
Kill Date10 April 1955
VictimDavid Blakely
Ruth Ellis was born in Rhyl, Wales, but was brought up in Manchester. She worked as a waitress and had been a singer.
When she was seventeen she fell in love with an American airman, who was subsequently killed in battle in 1944. She later gave birth to his son.

1950 she married a dentist, George Ellis, and had another child, this time a daughter, Georgina.
She was divorced not long afterwards on the grounds of mental cruelty. Needing to look after two small children, she started to dye her hair blonde and became a club-manageress and prostitute. Working in London Clubs, this is where she met  racing driver, David Blakely in 1953.
Also in 1953 she had an abortion,  Blakely offered to marry her, she refused, but she could not get rid of him.
She started an affair with Desmond Cussen, a friend of Blakely, and for almost a year, managed to keep them both satisfied even though they each knew about the other.
Blakely was not happy with the arrangement and started to get jealous. He started to beat Ruth on a regular basis, giving her a black eye and a broken ankle at various times.
Blakely started seeing other women and came home one night with love bites on his back. Ruth threw him out. He was back again the next day and offering marriage again.

Wednesday 6th April 1955, Blakely carried on seeing other women, and on this day told Ruth that he had to go and visit a mechanic  Ruth was suspicious and followed him to a flat in Hampstead.
There was no response to her knocking at the door but she heard a woman’s laughter from inside the flat. The next day she returned to the flat in Hampstead and kept watch, Blakely emerged with his arm around a pretty, young girl.

Sunday 10th April 1955 (Easter Sunday) , Ruth returned to Hampstead, getting new boyfriend Cussen to drive her, arriving near the Magdala public house about 9.30pm. As she arrived Blakely came out from the pub with a friend.
Ruth reached Blakely just as he got to the driver’s door of their car. He saw her and started to run in front of the car. Ruth took a .38 calibre gun out of her handbag and fired at Blakely, who was crouching in front of the car trying to hide. Ruth ran over to him and emptied the gun into his crouching body. Drinkers came out of the pub, one being an off duty policeman.
She was taken to Hampstead police station where she made a detailed confession.

Monday 20th June 1955. Her trial began at the Old Bailey's court number one.  She pleaded not guilty. The only question put to Ellis by the chief  prosecutor Christmas Humphreys was, "When you fired the revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?"; her answer was, "It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him." This reply guaranteed a guilty verdict and the mandatory death sentence.
The jury took fifteen minutes to find Ruth Ellis guilty, she was sentenced to death.

Wednesday 13th July 1955 The Bishop of Stepney, Joost de Blank, visited Ellis just before the execution.
At 9am prisoner 9656, Ruth Ellis, was taken to the gallows in Holloway Prison. She drank a glass of brandy and was led to the trap by executioner Albert Pierrepoint.
Ellis  was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of the prison.
Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in England.

In the early 1970s the remains of executed women were exhumed for reburial elsewhere,
Ellis was removed to the churchyard of St Mary's Church in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.
Her headstone was inscribed "Ruth Hornby 1926 -  1955".
Her son, Andy, destroyed the headstone shortly before he committed suicide in 1982.

8th February 2002 an appeal was lodged with the Court of appeal. It was claimed that Ruth has suffered post-miscarriage depression, that her defence team were negligent and that she was persuaded to commit the crime by Desmond Cussen. The appeal asked that the murder conviction be changed to that of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, and that the prosecution and Judges at the time had misinterpreted the law.

16th September 2003, The appeal was heard and rejected. The court stated that as diminished responsibility had not been introduced as a defence to manslaughter until the 1957 homicide act, this element was not available to the Judge at the time, also that provocation would need to be proved, but, provocation could only be used if, she had been under duress immediately prior to the shooting, not at a much earlier time.

Back >>