British Military & Criminal History:
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Ruth Ellis was portrayed by some papers as the dashing blonde dumped by her lover while Styllou Christofi's case was hardly covered by the media. Yet they were both executed at Holloway Prison within 7 months of each other.
In his autobiography, "Executioner: Pierrepoint", Albert Pierrepoint also compare the vastly different media coverage between this case and that of Ellis and Merrifield. All three were women, yet he stated that the execution of the dashing blonde (Ellis) seemed to trouble the media more that the execution of the less glamorous Christofi and Merrifield.
The Case Details
Mrs Styllou Christofi was a 53 year old illiterate Greek Cypriot who killed her daughter-in-law out of jealousy. Earlier in Cyprus, in 1925, she was acquitted of the murder of her Mother-in-law by ramming a burning torch down her throat.
He son, Stavros Christofi who was employed as a waiter, was happily married to his 36 year old German wife Hella, who worked in a fashion shop. They had three children, and resided in Hampstead.
In 1953, Styllou Christofi arrived from Cyprus and moved in with her son and daughter-in-law. She was the classic mother-in-law and came to dominate the household. She spoke virtually no English, and her peasant upbringing in Cyprus allowed her no understanding of the modern family run by her son and daughter-in-law.
On the evening of 29 July 1954, after her son Stavros had left his Hampstead home, Mrs Christofi stunned Hella by hitting her on the head with the kitchen stove's ash plate. She then strangled Hella. Later that night, a neighbour was taking his dog into his garden, when he saw flames in the Christofi's garden. This turned out to be the petrol-soaked body of Hella Christofi.
Mrs. Christofi raised the alarm by stopping a passing car and shouting "Please come. Fire burning. Children sleeping". When the driver went to the back of the house, he saw the body and called the police. Mrs. Christofi claimed that she had woken up about 1am smelling smoke and found Hella lying in a piece of paper in her mother-in-law's room.
Styllou Christofi was tried for murder at the Old Bailey, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. She was executed at Holloway Prison on 13 December 1954.