Did Ruth Ellis really shoot David Blakely?
The world certainly thought so in 1955. It’s said that on Easter Sunday of that year, she had followed David Blakely – a racing driver – to outside a London pub.
When she confronted him – their relationship had been stormy of late – she took a revolver from her handbag and shot him repeatedly. He died at once.
Ruth did not run away or try to hide. She was arrested and taken to trial for his murder. She was found guilty and in July was hanged. She was the last woman to hanged in Britain.
The case caused an outcry. There were already strong feelings about the rights and wrongs of legal executions in Britain and the death of this young, attractive mother brought them to the fore. She was only twenty-eight.
She didn’t deny the murder in court. But in recent years, new details and evidence have come to light.
Who was Ruth Ellis?
She had been born in Wales. She did not come from a good family and later reports, after Ruth’s death, revealed that she and her sister had been abused by their father.
When Ruth was fourteen the family moved to London and Ruth went out to work as a waitress. Later she moved on to modelling work. The photograph you see here is from one of her fashion photoshoots.
She fell in love with a man from Canada and had his baby. It was then that she found out that he was married with children – he had a complete family of three children back in Canada.
She continued with modelling work ,plus clerical jobs until she began to work in a London nightclub until, at the age of twenty three, she married an older man. The marriage didn’t work out but it did leave Ruth with another child.
Returning to the nightclub to work, she was promoted to manager. The club had a varied clientele but included people from society and those who were wealthy or well-known. It was here she met David Blakely.
She also began seeing a man called Desmond Cussen. He too was rather glamorous, having been an RAF pilot in the recent war. He was now a director of the family firm. Ruth continued her relationships with both men.
Was Ruth Ellis guilty?
There’s no doubt that her punishment was extreme. Hanging was abolished in the UK shortly afterwards. There were no real degrees of murder in those days and ‘crime of passion’ was certainly not an excuse.
In court, no allowances were made for the fact that Ruth had suffered a miscarriage just ten days before David Blakely was shot and killed. There was no mention of the fact that he was physically abusive towards her and that she believed that her miscarriage had been caused when he kicked her in the stomach. There was no consideration for the fact that her death deprived two young children of their mother.
Consider these allegations also:
- It was later discovered that Ruth hadn’t taken a taxi to follow Blakely, as had been said in court. It transpired that Cussen’s had driven her there
- It was also discovered that the gun had belonged to him and that he had taught her how to shoot
- Ruth was a tiny woman. She was about five feet tall and weighed approximately ninety pounds. It was never explained, or questioned, in court how such a small woman could have repeatedly fired a heavy gun- and with no recoil effects.In a police report that was not read out at court, an expert said that to fire the gun repeatedly needed ‘deliberate and muscular effort’. It was also not reported that Ruth had a gnarled and weak hand due to rheumatic fever. Experts say that just one shot would have produced a recoil that would have knocked Ruth off her feet and yet she supposedly fired steadily and repeatedly from a standing position
- One theory is that Cussens shot Blakely and Ruth was a bystander but she confessed to the crime for two reasons. The first was that, as a woman, it was expected that she would get off lightly – particularly with a view to Blakely’s abusive behaviour. The second, it’s suggested, is that Cussens promised to look after her family financially during her jail term
- Ruth was portrayed to the public as a peroxide blonde tart. Yet it was discovered that some years before the shooting she regularly socialised with people such as actress Deborah Kerr and her Battle of Britain pilot husband at elite venues. She often made a foursome with them – her partner being Stephen Ward
- Stephen Ward was known as ‘society’s osteopath’ but was also involved in undercover spying activities. It’s said that Ruth was recruited by him to be part of his network and that ultimately, Ward wanted Ruth and Blakely ‘out of the way’ and silenced. Could he or his organisation have manipulated and stage-managed the shooting?
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July 13, 2015
These are the kinds of stories I love, because of course, there’s mystery..in the history. It’s too bad she was hanged. Was she ever given another chance before her death to tell the true story, or did she go to her grave with lips sealed? If she kept quiet, were her children taken care of by Cussens? It’s all very interesting!
July 13, 2015
It’s fascinating Nancy and I think that in the future, we’ll learn more.