Date Of Execution: 12 Jul 1955
Crime Location: The Magdala, South Hill Park, Hampstead
Execution Place: unknown
Ruth Ellis, aged 28, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. She was the 15th and youngest woman hanged in the 20th century.
In 1953, Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. At this time, Ellis 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. She 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.
Ellis 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 Cussen 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 Cussen'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 ¼ 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.
see Sussex University - Ruth Ellis and the Emotional Economy of the Death Penalty
see Ruth Ellis in the Condemned Cell - Durham University