ABOVE: ORIGINAL OIL PAINTING BY IN- HOUSE GLOUCESTERSHIRE ARTIST PAUL BRIDGMAN HERE ON DISPLAY AT THE JAIL WITHIN OUR ” DARK TOURIST ART GALLERY ”
ABOVE : ORIGINAL OIL PAINTING BY OUR IN-HOUSE GLOUCESTERSHIRE ARTIST PAUL BRIDGMAN DEPICTING THE FAILED ATTEMPT TO HANG JOHN “BABBARCOMBE” LEE IN EXETER PRISON.
THIS PAINTING NOW BEING HERE ON DISPLAY AT THE JAIL.
FIRSTLY, AND FOR THE RECORD
A FORMAL STATEMENT FROM ANDY JONES, OWNER & CURATOR OF THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL ……
IT HAD BEEN BROUGHT TO OUR ATTENTION THAT THE HIT CHANNEL 4 TV SERIES – FOUR ROOMS, FIRST BROADCAST AT THE END OF MAY 2011, FEATURED FELLOW CRIME MEMORABILIA COLLECTOR STEWART P EVANS, AUTHOR OF THE 2004 PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK ENTITLED “EXECUTIONER- THE CHRONICLES OF JAMES BERRY VICTORIAN HANGMAN” . HE TOOK ONTO THE SHOW A SO-SAY JAMES BERRY HANGMAN’S NOOSE CLAIMING IT TO HAVE BEEN THE ORIGINAL ONE USED ON BERRY’S FAILED EXECUTION OF JOHN ” BABBACOMBE ” LEE ON JULY 23RD 1885 AT EXETER JAIL .
WE WISH TO MAKE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT THIS WAS NOT THE NOOSE USED, AND THAT THE ORIGINAL HANGMAN’S NOOSE , ALONG WITH A PERSONALLY HANDWRITTEN AND SIGNED LETTER FROM JAMES BERRY TO THIS EFFECT,DATED 3 JULY 1897(WRITEN DURING HIS RETIREMENT YEARS ) ARE HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL ON PUBLIC DISPLAY . (SEE ORIGINAL NOOSE AND LETTER PICTURES HERE ABOVE & BELOW FOR REFERENCE )
THESE EXHIBIT ITEMS WERE PURCHASED AT AUCTION BY THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION BACK IN THE YEAR 2000. STEWART HAD ALSO ATTENDED THE AUCTION WITH A VIEW TO PURCHASE BUT WAS SUBSEQUENTLY OUTBID BY OURSELVES .
THE PROPOSED SALE OF THE OTHER NOOSE OWNED BY STEWART P EVANS FAILED TO SELL ON THE CHANNEL 4 TV SERIES “FOUR ROOMS” . THIS WAS PROBABLY DUE TO KNOWLEDGE THAT THE ORIGINAL NOOSE AND LETTER OF PROVENANCE FROM THE EXECUTIONER -JAMES BERRY WERE KNOWN TO BE HERE ON PERMANENT DISPLAY AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION , LITTLEDEAN JAIL, UK .
ON A PERSONAL LEVEL ANDY JONES WISHES TO ADD IT WAS DISAPPOINTING TO NOTE THAT WITH FELLOW CRIME MEMORABILIA COLLECTOR AND FORMER POLICE OFFICER STEWART EVANS HAVING KNOWINGLY BEEN AWARE OF THESE FACTS, HE STILL SADLY TRIED TO DECEIVE TV SHOW PRODUCERS , THE VIEWING PUBLIC , AND OTHER FELLOW COLLECTORS OF CRIME MEMORABILIA .
REF: ORIGINAL JAMES BERRY CALLING/BUSINESS CARD
FURTHERMORE & FOR THE RECORD WE WOULD WISH TO ALSO ADD THAT WE HAVE HERE ON DIPLAY AN ORIGINAL JAMES BERRY PUBLIC EXECUTIONER CALLING/BUSINESS CARD . ( SEE BELOW)
AS AUTHOR STEWART P EVANS WILL ALSO AGREE AND ACCEPT ANDY JONES OF THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION HAD ORIGINALLY INTRODUCED HIM TO THE FORMER OWNER OF THIS CALLING CARD – JOE MAWSON ( NOW DECEASED FORMER CRIME MEMORABILIA COLLECTOR ) .
JOE HAD, AS RECOMMENDED BY ANDY JONES ,SUBSEQUENTLY PROVIDED WITHOUT CHARGE TO STEWART, AN IMAGE OF THIS CARD FOR HIS BOOK, AS ACKNOWLEDGED WITHIN THE CREDITS OF HIS BOOK. #
HOPEFULLY THIS WILL RESPECTFULLY PUT THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON THESE SAID FRONTS.
ABOVE: An original oil painting by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman of James Berry , here on display at The Crime Through Time Collection , Littledean jail .
Above & below: The original James Berry personally handwritten and signed letter that had been originally acquired alongside his noose, for which Berry clearly states the provenance of this noose as being both the one he had used in his first execution and thereafter the historic failed attempted execution on John “Babbacombe” Lee.
ABOVE & BELOW: AN ORIGINAL JAMES BERRY EXECUTIONER CALLING/BUSINESS CARD AND ORIGINAL LETTER FROM SCOTLAND YARDS BLACK MUSEUM CURATOR BILL WADDELL AKNOWLEDGING SIGHT OF THIS EXTREMELY RARE EXHIBIT PIECE .
THIS CALLING CARD HAVING BEEN PARY OF THE JOE MAWSON ( DECEASED) CRIME MEMORABILIA COLLECTION, LATER ACCQUIRED BY THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION. THIS ITEM ALONG WITH THE OTHERS FEATURED HERE ARE NOW ON PUBLIC DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL .
Below: A rare and unseen personal photograph of fellow crime memorabilia and ephemera collector Joe Mawson who was the previous owner of the exceptionally rare James Berry Executioner calling/business card.
This calling card having been previously featured in the book below and now on permanent display here at the jail.
ABOVE & BELOW: THE BOOK WRITTEN BY STEWART P EVANS ALONG WITH A PERSONAL DEDICATION AND THANK-YOU NOTE TO PREVIOUS OWNER OF THE JAMES BERRY CALLING CARD JOE MAWSON .
A COPY OF ORIGINAL SIGNED PHOTO OF JAMES BERRY – EXECUTIONER AND HANGMAN
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE BACK ON 05TH OCTOBER 2000 RELATING TO THE UPCOMING AUCTION SALE OF THE NOOSE AND HANGMAN’S LETTER …….SUBSEQUENTLY BOUGHT BY THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION, NOW ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
ABOVE: TRUE CRIME MAGAZINE FEATURE ON LITTLEDEAN JAIL INCLUDING A REFERENCE TOO THE ORIGINAL NOOSE USED BY JAMES BERRY ON THE FAILED EXECUTION ON THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG ….JOHN ” BABBACOMBE ” LEE. ACQUIRED FROM AUCTION IN THE YEAR 2000 ALONG WITH FIRM LETTER OF PROVENANCE FROM JAMES BERRY STATING THAT NOT ONLY HAD IT BEEN USED ON LEE , THAT IT HAD ALSO BEEN USED FOR HIS FIRST EXECUTION IN 1884 . TO ALL OTHERS THAT CLAIM THEY HAVE THE ORIGINAL NOOSE USED ON LEE ……. SORRY BUT ITS HERE ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL ALONG WITH THE HANDWRITTEN AND SIGNED LETTER OF 03RD JULY 1897 FROM JAMES BERRY ‘ ON HIS HOME ADDRESSED LETTER HEADED PAPER
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE FEATURING THE HANGMAN’S NOOSE USED BY JAMES BERRY ON THE FAILED ATTEMPT TO EXECUTE JOHN ” BABBACOMBE” LEE FEATURED IN THE WESTERN DAILY PRESS ON NOVEMBER 21ST 2002
ABOVE: Certificate of inspection of failed trap door
Above: Certificate of John Lee’s prison release
John Henry George Lee (1864 – c. 19 March 1945), better known as John “Babbacombe” Lee or “The Man They Couldn’t Hang”, was an Englishman famous for surviving three attempts to hang him for murder. Born in Abbotskerswell, Devon, Lee served in the Royal Navy, and was a known thief. In 1885, he was convicted of the brutal murder of his employer, Emma Keyse, at her home at Babbacombe Bay near Torquay on 15 November 1884. The evidence was weak and circumstantial, amounting to little more than Lee having been the only male in the house at the time of the murder, his previous criminal record, and being found with an unexplained cut on his arm. Despite this and his claim of innocence, he was sentenced to hang.
Execution attempts and aftermath
On 23 February 1885, three attempts were made to carry out his execution at Exeter Prison. All ended in failure, as the trapdoor of the scaffold failed to open despite being carefully tested by the executioner, James Berry, beforehand. As a result, Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Lee continued to petition successive Home Secretaries and was finally released in 1907. The only other man in history known to have survived three hanging attempts was Joseph Samuel.
Many theories have been advanced as to the cause of the failure, but Home Office papers show that the official report stated that incorrect assembly of the gallows mechanism allowed the trapdoor hinges to rest upon an eighth of an inch of drawbar, preventing them from opening when the doors were weighted. This incident helped lead to a standard gallows design to prevent a recurrence.
Later years and identifications
After his release, Lee seems to have exploited his notoriety, supporting himself through lecturing on his life, even becoming the subject of a silent film. Accounts of his whereabouts after 1916 are somewhat confused, and one researcher even speculated that in later years, there was more than one man claiming to be Lee. It was suspected that he died in the Tavistockworkhouseduring the Second World War. However, one recent piece of research concludes that he died in the United States under the name of “James Lee” in 1945. According to the book The Man They Could Not Hang by Mike Holgate and Ian David Waugh, Lee’s gravestone was found at Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee.
ABOVE : Iconic English Folk Rock Band Fairport Convention’ s 1971 album cover entitled “Babbacombe Lee”
Below: The Hanging Song performed by Fairport Convention .
Above & below : One of several handwritten and signed James Berry letters to include close-up image here on display at Littledean Jail
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND MOST CERTAINALY HISTORICALLY UNIQUE ENGRAVED 1861 HALF PENNY COIN PRESENTED BY JAMES BERRY PUBLIC EXECUTIONER TO J.BREEZE, 25 JULY 1886
ABOVE , Sadly unsure as to the origins and historical significance of this equally historically rare and unique 1861 half penny coin, which is intricately engraved,
” Presented by J. Berry Public Executioner to J Breeze, 25th July 1886″.
This was presented some 17 months after the failed execution by James Berry of John “Babbacombe” Lee on February 23, 1885 .
( If anyone can shed any light on the significance of this coin and whom J Breeze was, please let us know.)
ABOVE AND BELOW: Pictured here are both sides of this rare coin, giving an indication of the actual size.
PLEASE NOTE FOR THE RECORD : THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL OR IT’S OWNER ARE NOT AFFILIATED IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM TO ANY POLITCALLY MOTIVATED, EXTREMIST, THE ESTABLISHMENT, OR OTHERWISE MOVEMENTS, CLUBS, ETC, ETC….
WE ARE SIMPLY A DARK TOURISM ATTRACTION THAT TOUCHES UPON TABOO, THOUGH HOPEFULLY HISTORICALLY EDUCATIONAL SUBJECT MATTERS … THAT OTHER MUSEUMS OR VISITOR ATTRACTIONS DARE NOT COVER …….
Above : Three IRA members shot dead in Gibraltar 6 March 1988
On a quiet Sunday afternoon in Gibraltar, the SAS shot dead three members of the Provisional IRA who were planning to bomb a military parade on the peninsula. They were unarmed. ‘Operation Flavius’ attracted much controversy, including allegations of a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy. It began a period of 14 days that was to prove one the darkest of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. Photo: IRA members fire a volley of shots for three comrades killed in Gibraltar
DEATH ON THE ROCK
HERE IS A BRIEF INTERACTIVE DOCUMENTARY AND INFORMATIVE INSIGHT INTO THE STILL, SO CLAIMED, CONTROVERSIAL SAS EXECUTIONS OF THREE SUSPECTED IRA TERRORISTS DURING OPERATION FLAVIUS IN GIBRALTAR 1988
A SUBJECT MATTER THAT IS FEATURED HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL WITHIN OUR “TERRORISM AND COUNTER TERRORISM EXHIBITION “
In addition to Bravo Two Zero he has written two other autobiographies and a number of fiction books.
Andy McNab, Chris Ryan and Bravo Two Zero feature here at The Crime Through Time Collection at Littledean Jail within our SAS Who Dares Wins Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) exhibition, so if you are in the area please do drop by and pay a visit .
AN INTERVIEW WITH SAS HERO ANDY McNAB ABOUT BRAVO TWO ZERO.
BELOW IS A PICTURE OF THE ORIGINAL BRAVO TWO ZERO PATROL MEMBERS
(Bravo Two Zero patrol members. From left to right: Ryan, Consiglio, MacGown (obscured), Lane, Coburn (obscured), McNab (obscured), Phillips, Pring (obscured).
Trooper ‘Mike “Kiwi”Coburn’ (pseudonym) former NZSAS Captured by the enemy, later released. Author of Soldier Five (2004). Referred to as ‘Mark the Kiwi’ in the books.
BELOW IS A BRILLIANT BATTLE SCENE CLIP FROM THE BRAVO TWO ZERO FILM STARRING SEAN BEAN AS ANDY McNAB
BELOW IS A BRIEF GALLERY OF SOME OF THE PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION ITEMS FROM ANDY McNAB , CHRIS RYAN AND OTHER SAS MEMBERS NOW ON DISPLAY HERE AT THE SAS EXHIBITION WHICH ARE FEATURED IN AND AMONGST VARIOUS OTHER BRAVO TWO ZERO RELATED EXHIBIT ITEMS .
FORMER SAS BRAVO TWO ZERO HERO CHRIS RYAN SEEN PICTURED HERE WITH ANDY JONES FROM THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
BELOW IS A HAND SIGNED PICTURE OF SAS HERO CHRIS RYAN
HAND SIGNED BY CHRIS RYAN ,
BELOW IS A LINK TO THE WIKIPEDIA PAGE ON THE COVERING OF SAS MISSION IN IRAQ DURING THE FIRST GULF WAR- BRAVO TWO ZERO
Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955) was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.
Original oil painting of Ruth Ellis by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman , on display at The Crime Through Time Collection , Littledean Jail , Forest of Dean , Gloucestershire , UK
BELOW IS A BRIEF ORIGINAL NEWSREEL FOOTAGE SURROUNDING THE CONTROVERSIAL EXECUTION OF RUTH ELLIS ON THE 13TH JULY 1955BELOW IS AN ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN AND SIGNED LETTER FROM RUTH ELLIS TO A PREVIOUS VISITING LADY FROM CHELTENHAM AND SENT FROM HER CONDEMNED CELL AT HMP HOLLOWAY 2 MONTHS PROIR TO HER EXECUTIONNOW HERE ON DISPLAY AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL , FOREST OF DEAN , GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK
THIS IMAGE (BELOW ) IS TAKEN FROM THE FILM – PIERREPOINT DEPICTING THE SCENE OF THE EXECUTION OF RUTH ELLIS. A FILM TRAILER FOR THE FILM- PIERREPOINT THAT TOUCHES UPON THE EXECUTIONER WHO HANGED RUTH ELLIS …… ALBERT PIERREPOINT
Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955) was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.
From a humble background, Ellis was soon drawn into the world of London nightclub hostessing, which led to a chaotic life of brief relationships, some of them with upper-class nightclubbers and celebrities. Two of these were David Blakely, a racing-driver already engaged to another woman, and Desmond Cussen, a retail company director, who gave her a gun, apparently to attack the violent Blakely.
On Easter Sunday 1955, Ellis shot Blakely dead outside a public house in Hampstead, and immediately gave herself up to the police. At her trial, she took full responsibility for the murder, shielding Cussen from blame, and her courtesy and composure, both in court and in the cells, was much noted in the press. She was hanged at Holloway Prison, London, by Albert Pierrepoint.
The case attracted great controversy, since the anti-hanging debate was already in full cry, and she might have won a reprieve had she taken her solicitors’ advice. The picture of the attractive blonde murderess remains one of the iconic images of 1950’s London.
Ellis was born in the Welsh seaside town of Rhyl, the third of six children. During her childhood her family moved to Basingstoke. Her mother, Elisaberta (Bertha) Cothals, was a Belgian refugee; her father, Arthur Hornby, was a cellist from Manchester who spent much of his time playing on Atlantic cruise liners. Arthur changed his surname to Neilson after the birth of Ruth’s elder sister Muriel.
Ellis attended Fairfields Senior Girls’ School in Basingstoke, leaving when she was 14 to work as a waitress. Shortly afterwards, in 1941 at the height of the Blitz, the Neilsons moved to London. In 1944, 17-year-old Ruth became pregnant by a married Canadian soldier and gave birth to a son,Clare Andrea Neilson, known as “Andy”. The father sent money for about a year, then stopped. The child eventually went to live with Ellis’s mother.
Ellis became a nightclub hostess through nude modelling work, which paid significantly more than the various factory and clerical jobs she had held since leaving school. Morris Conley, the manager of the Court Club in Duke Street, where she worked, blackmailed his hostess employees into sleeping with him. Early in 1950 she became pregnant by one of her regular customers, having taken up prostitution. She had this pregnancy terminated (illegally) in the third month and returned to work as soon as she could.
On 8 November 1950, she married 41-year-old George Ellis, a divorced dentist with two sons, at the register office in Tonbridge, Kent. He had been a customer at the Court Club. He was a violent alcoholic, jealous and possessive, and the marriage deteriorated rapidly because he was convinced she was having an affair. Ruth left him several times but always returned.
In 1951, while four months pregnant, Ruth appeared, uncredited, as a beauty queen in the Rank film Lady Godiva Rides Again. She subsequently gave birth to a daughter Georgina, but George refused to acknowledge paternity and they separated shortly afterwards. Ruth and her daughter moved in with her parents and she went back to hostessing to make ends meet.
Murder of David Blakely
In 1953, Ruth Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. At this time, she 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. Ellis 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.
She then began seeing Desmond Cussen. Born in 1921 in Surrey he had been an RAF pilot, flying Lancaster bombers during the Second World War, leaving the RAF in 1946, when he took up accountancy. He was appointed a director of the family business Cussen & 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, becoming 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.
The Magdala today
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 quarter mile to The Magdala, a four-storey public house in South Hill Park, Hampstead, where she found Blakely’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 modelrevolver 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 mesmerised 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.
No solicitor was present during Ellis’s interrogation or during the taking of her statement at Hampstead police station, although three police officers were present that night at 11:30 pm: Detective Inspector Gill, Detective Inspector Crawford and Detective Chief Inspector Davies. Ellis was still without legal representation when she made her first appearance at the magistrates’ court on 11 April 1955 and held on remand.
She was twice examined by principal Medical Officer, M. R. Penry Williams, who failed to find evidence of mental illness and she undertook an electroencephalography examination on 3 May that failed to find any abnormality. While on remand in Holloway, she was examined by psychiatrist Dr D. Whittaker for the defence, and by Dr A. Dalzell on behalf of the Home Office. Neither found evidence of insanity.
Trial and execution
On 20 June 1955, Ellis appeared in the Number One Court at the Old Bailey, London, before Mr Justice Havers. She was dressed in a black suit and white silk blouse with freshly bleached and coiffured blonde hair. Her lawyers had wanted her to play down her appearance, but she was determined to have her moment. To many in the courthouse, her fixation with being the brassy blonde was at least partially responsible for the poor impression she made when giving evidence.
It’s obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.
—Ruth Ellis, in the witness box at the Old Bailey, 20 June 1955.
This was her answer to the only question put to her by Christmas Humphreys, counsel for the Prosecution, who asked, “When you fired the revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?” The defending counsel, Aubrey Melford Stevenson supported by Sebag Shaw and Peter Rawlinson, would have advised Ellis of this possible question before the trial began, because it is standard legal practice to do so. Her reply to Humphreys’s question in open court guaranteed a guilty verdict and therefore the mandatory death sentence which followed. The jury took 14 minutes to convict her. She received the sentence, and was taken to the condemned cell at Holloway.
In a 2010 television interview Mr Justice Havers’s grandson, actor Nigel Havers, said his grandfather had written to the Home Secretary Gwilym Lloyd George recommending a reprieve as he regarded it as a crime passionnel, but received a curt refusal, which was still held by the family. It has been suggested that the final nail in her coffin was that an innocent passer-by had been injured.
Reluctantly, at midday on 12 July 1955, the day before her execution, Ellis, having dismissed Bickford, the solicitor chosen for her by her friend Desmond Cussen, made a statement to the solicitor Victor Mishcon (whose law firm had previously represented her in her divorce proceedings but not in the murder trial) and his clerk, Leon Simmons. She revealed more evidence about the shooting and said that the gun had been provided by Cussen, and that he had driven her to the murder scene. Following their 90-minute interview in the condemned cell, Mishcon and Simmons went to the Home Office, where they spoke to a senior civil servant about Ellis’s revelations. The authorities made no effort to follow this up and there was no reprieve.
In a final letter to David Blakely’s parents from her prison cell, she wrote “I have always loved your son, and I shall die still loving him.”
Ever since Edith Thompson‘s execution in 1923, condemned female prisoners had been required to wear thick padded calico knickers, so just prior to the allotted time, Warder Evelyn Galilee, who had guarded Ellis for the previous three weeks, took her to the lavatory. Warder Galilee said, “I’m sorry Ruth but I’ve got to do this.” They had tapes back and front to pull. Ellis said “Is that all right?” and “Would you pull these tapes, Evelyn? I’ll pull the others.” On re-entering the condemned cell, she took off her glasses, placed them on the table and said “I won’t be needing these anymore.”
Thirty seconds before 9 am on Wednesday 13 July, the official hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, and his assistant, Royston Rickard, entered the condemned cell and escorted Ruth the 15 feet (4.6 m) to the execution room next door. She had been weighed at 103 pounds (47 kg) the previous day and a drop of 8 ft 4in was set. Pierrepoint carried out the execution in just 12 seconds and her body was left hanging for an hour. Her autopsy report, by the pathologist Dr Keith Simpson, was made public.
The Bishop of Stepney, Joost de Blank, visited Ellis just before her death, and she told him, “It is quite clear to me that I was not the person who shot him. When I saw myself with the revolver I knew I was another person.” These comments were made in a London evening paper of the time, The Star.
The case caused widespread controversy at the time, evoking exceptionally intense press and public interest to the point that it was discussed by the Cabinet.
On the day of her execution the Daily Mirror columnist Cassandra wrote a column attacking the sentence, writing “The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts will have been denied her—pity and the hope of ultimate redemption.” A petition to the Home Office asking for clemency was signed by 50,000 people, but the Conservative Home Secretary Major Gwilym Lloyd George rejected it.
The hanging helped strengthen public support for the abolition of the death penalty, which was halted in practice for murder in Britain 10 years later (the last execution in the UK occurred in 1964). Reprieve was by then commonplace. According to one statistical account, between 1926 and 1954, 677 men and 60 women had been sentenced to death in England and Wales, but only 375 men and seven women had been executed.
In the early 1970s, John Bickford, Ellis’s solicitor, made a statement to Scotland Yard from his home in Malta. He was recalling what Desmond Cussen had told him in 1955: how Ellis lied at the trial and how he (Bickford) had hidden that information. After Bickford’s confession a police investigation followed but no further action regarding Cussen was taken.
Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister at the time, made no reference to the Ruth Ellis case in his memoirs, nor is there anything in his papers. He accepted that the decision was the responsibility of the Home Secretary, but there are indications that he was troubled by it.
Foreign newspapers observed that the concept of the crime passionnel seemed alien to the British.
In 1969 Ellis’s mother, Berta Neilson, was found unconscious in a gas-filled room in her flat in Hemel Hempstead. She never fully recovered and did not speak coherently again. Ellis’s husband, George Ellis, descended into alcoholism and hanged himself in 1958. Her son, Andy, who was 10 at the time of his mother’s hanging, suffered irreparable psychological damage and committed suicide in a bedsit in 1982. The trial judge, Sir Cecil Havers, had sent money every year for Andy’s upkeep, and Christmas Humphreys, the prosecution counsel at Ellis’s trial, paid for his funeral. Ellis’s daughter, Georgina, who was three when her mother was executed, was adopted when her father hanged himself three years later. She died of cancer aged 50.
The case continues to have a strong grip on the British imagination and in 2003 was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The Court firmly rejected the appeal, although it made clear that it could rule only on the conviction based on the law as it stood in 1955, and not on whether she should have been executed.
The court was critical of the fact that it had been obliged to consider the appeal:
We would wish to make one further observation. We have to question whether this exercise of considering an appeal so long after the event when Mrs Ellis herself had consciously and deliberately chosen not to appeal at the time is a sensible use of the limited resources of the Court of Appeal. On any view, Mrs Ellis had committed a serious criminal offence. This case is, therefore, quite different from a case like Hanratty  2 Cr App R 30 where the issue was whether a wholly innocent person had been convicted of murder. A wrong on that scale, if it had occurred, might even today be a matter for general public concern, but in this case there was no question that Mrs Ellis was other than the killer and the only issue was the precise crime of which she was guilty. If we had not been obliged to consider her case we would perhaps in the time available have dealt with 8 to 12 other cases, the majority of which would have involved people who were said to be wrongly in custody.
In July 2007 a petition was published on the 10 Downing Street website asking Prime MinisterGordon Brown to reconsider the Ruth Ellis case and grant her a pardon in the light of new evidence that the Old Bailey jury in 1955 was not asked to consider. It expired on 4 July 2008.
Ellis was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary for executed prisoners. In the early 1970s the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed for reburial elsewhere. Ellis’s body was reburied in the churchyard extension of St Mary’s Church in Amersham,Buckinghamshire. The headstone in the churchyard was inscribed “Ruth Hornby 1926–1955”. Her son, Andy, destroyed the headstone shortly before he committed suicide in 1982. The family later reportedly removed her remains and reburied them at a secret location because of the attention that the plot at St Mary’s was receiving.
Coincidentally, Styllou Christofi, who was executed in December 1954, lived at 11 South Hill Park in Hampstead, with her son and daughter-in-law, a few yards from The Magdala public house at number 2a, where David Blakely was shot four months later.
Film, TV and theatrical adaptations
In 1980, the third episode of the first series of the ITV drama series Lady Killers recreated the court case, with Ellis played by Georgina Hale.