British Military & Criminal History:

1900 to 1999.

HOME

THE 1950s

Home - Criminal Cases - The 1950s - Ruth Ellis

Introduction

Ruth Ellis, aged 28, was the last lady executed in the UK. Her trial at The Old Bailey and execution at London's Holloway Prison on 13 July 1955 aroused great public interest and coverage by the newspapers of the day. This contrasted with the lack of media interest in the case of two other ladies executed before Ruth Ellis: Louisa Merrifield in 1953 and Styllou Chrisofi in 1954.

The Case Details

Ruth Ellis was part of the Soho nightclub scene of 1950s London. She was a hostess at a night club. During this time she met and had a stormy love affair with a car racing driver called David Blakely. However, Blakely had been pointedly avoid Ellis and she had continued affairs with several other men.

On Good Friday 1955 Ruth Ellis caused a disturbance outside the Hampstead flat where David Blakely was staying with some friends. Blakley refused to come out and he did not answer several phone calls that Ruth Ellis made to the flat. Ruth Ellis eventually left the scene when Blakely telephoned the police from the flat.

On Easter Sunder, 2 days later, at 9pm, Ruth Ellis saw David Blakely through a window of the Magdala Tavern, a pub located on the edge of Hampstead Heath. However, Ellis did not enter the pub and she waited outside.

Blakely left the pub with his friends at 9.20pm, ignoring Ruth Ellis who he noticed was waiting outside. Ellis took out a loaded revolver from her handbag and fired a shot at Blakely. This first shot missed Blakely, but ricocheted off a wall, injuring a passer-by. Ellis's fired a second shot and this hit David Blakely and he fell face down on the roadside. Ruth Ellis then walked over to where Blakely laid and fired four bullets into Blakely, emptying the revolver. An off duty policeman came from the pub and took the revolver from Ellis, who offered no resistance to the police officer. David Blakely was dead on arrival at hospital.

A newspaper paid for two defending barristers at her subsequent trial for Blakely's murder at the Old Bailey in London. Ellis seemed not concerned that she was on trial for her life, and was asked the following question by the prosecution at her trial:

Prosecutor: "Mrs Ellis, when you fired that revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?"

Ellis: "It is obvious that when I shot him I intended to kill him."

Ruth Ellis was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. The newspapers clamored for a reprieve, but the Home Secretary announced on 11 July that the execution would go ahead as planned. Two days later, Ruth Ellis was hanged at Holloway Prison in London.

After her execution, her Post-Mortem was carried out by Professor Keith Simpson at Holloway Prison. She was then buried within the prison's graveyard.

In 1971, her remains were exhumed and re-buried at St. Mary's Church in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

Post-Mortem Report

After every execution, a Post-Mortem examination was performed on the executed criminal's body. The main purpose of the examination was to find out whether the execution had been carried out correctly, and the prisoner had not been asphyxiated by a bungled hanging. The pathologist report would be presented to the coroner's inquest, which would normally return a decision that the deceased had died as a consequence of judicial hanging.

Normally, the reports are not published but the Post-Mortem Examination performed on Ruth Ellis was published. The Post-Mortem examination on Ruth Ellis was carried out on 13 July 1955 at London's Holloway Prison.

In this case, the Post-Mortem was conducted by the pathologist Professor Keith Simpson in the morning just after her execution. The inquest was held later in the afternoon, and Ruth Ellis was buried within the prison grounds. She was later exhumed and re-buried in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

EXTERNAL EXAMINATION
Nourishment. Well Nourished. Evidence of Proper Care and attention.

Height: 5 feet 2 inches. Weight: 105 lbs.

Marks of Violence, Identification etc. Deep Impressions around neck of noose with suspension point about 1 inch in front of the angle of the Left lower jaw. Vital changes locally and in the tissues beneath as a consequence of sudden constriction.

No ecchymoses in the face - or, indeed elsewhere.

No marks of restraint.

How long dead. 1 Hour.
INTERNAL EXAMINATION  
Skull, Brain Meninges Fracture-dislocation of the spine at C.2 with a 2 inch gap and transverse separation of the spinal cord at the same level.
Mouth, Tongue, Oesophagus, Larynx, Trachea, Lungs Fractures of both wings of the hyoid and the Right wing of the thyroid cartilage. Layrnx also fractured.

Air passages clear and lungs quite free from diseases or other change. No engorgement. No asphyxial changes.

Pericardium, Heart and Blood Vessels No organic disease. No petechiae or other evidence of aspayxial change.
Stomach and Contents Small food residue, and odour of brandy. No disease.
Peritoneum, Intestines, Etc Normal.
Liver and Gall Bladder Terminal congestion only.
Spleen Normal.
Kidneys and Ureters Slight terminal congestion only.
Bladder, Etc  
Generative Organs Lower abdominal operation scar for ectopic pregnancy operation in Left tube, now healed. No pregnancy.
Other Remarks Deceased was a healthy subject at the time of death.

Mark of suspension normally situated and injuries from judicial hanging - to the spinal column and cord - such as must have caused instant death.

CAUSE OF DEATH Injuries to the central nervous system consequent upon judicial hanging.
Blog | UK Medals | Remembrance | War Crimes | Spying | Courts Martial | Criminal Cases | Index | Contact