Date Of Execution: 13 Dec 1954
Execution Place: Holloway
Executioner: Albert Pierrepoint
Styllou Christofi, aged 53, penultimate woman executed in Britain.
Styllou Pantopiou Christofi (1900 - 13 December 1954) was a Greek Cypriot woman hanged in Britain for murdering her daughter-in-law. She was the second to last woman to be executed in Britain, followed in 1955 by Ruth Ellis.
Christofi was tried in Cyprus in 1925 on a charge of murdering her mother-in-law by ramming a lighted torch down her throat. She was found not guilty and released.
She came to Britain in 1953 to see her son, Stavros, whom she had not seen for 12 years. He was working as a waiter in London and was married to a German woman, Hella, with whom he had three children.
Christofi did not get along with Hella and on the night of 29 July 1954, hit Hella on the head with an ash pan from the boiler. She then strangled her and in order to dispose of the corpse, dragged it into the garden, poured paraffin over it and set it alight. A neighbour witnessed this but did not realise the article being burnt was a body.
Christofi, who spoke little English, later ran into the street to raise the alarm and stopped a passing car saying: "Please come. Fire burning. Children sleeping". When the police arrived they became suspicious on finding blood stains in the house. Christofi explained: "I wake up, smell burning, go downstairs. Hella burning. Throw water, touch her face. Not move. Run out, get help."
Christofi was charged with murder and her trial started at the Old Bailey on 28 October 1954. Her counsel offered a defence of insanity but the jury rejected it. Christofi was sentenced to death and hanged at Holloway prison by executioner Albert Pierrepoint on 13 December 1954. Pathologist Francis Camps examined the body. Her wish to have a Maltese Cross put on the wall of the execution chamber was granted. It remained there until the room was dismantled in 1967.
Albert Pierrepoint claimed in his autobiography, Executioner: Pierrepoint, that Christofi failed to attract much media attention or sympathy because, unlike the pretty Ruth Ellis, she was less glamorous. A "blonde night-club hostess" was much more alluring than "a grey-haired and bewildered grandmother who spoke no English."
The body of Christofi was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary. In 1971 the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed. With the exception of Ruth Ellis, the remains of the four other women executed at Holloway (i.e. Styllou Christofi, Edith Thompson, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters) were subsequently reburied in a single grave (plot 117) at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.