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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 12:35 GMT
Judges uphold Ellis conviction
Ruth Ellis
Ruth Ellis was a nightclub hostess
Appeal court judges have upheld the murder conviction of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

Her lawyers had wanted a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation, claiming she suffered "battered woman syndrome".

But the three judges said that they had heard no new evidence and that the appeal was "without merit".

Nightclub hostess Ellis, 28, was hanged in 1955 for shooting her lover David Blakely at the Magdala pub in Hampstead, north London.

The judges criticised the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the legal watchdog that reports on possible miscarriages of justice, for referring the case to them.

Muriel Jakubait
My sister was provoked and if she did it, she was put up to it. I still don't believe she did it
Ellis' sister Muriel Jakubait
Lord Justice Kay, giving the ruling, said: "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."

The judges were told at a September hearing that 10 days before the killing Ellis had suffered a miscarriage after Mr Blakely, the baby's father, punched her in the stomach.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing Ellis' family, said that the judge in the original case barred the jury from considering whether Ellis had acted under provocation, and might therefore be guilty of manslaughter, rather than the capital offence of murder.

He said Ellis was suffering from "battered woman syndrome" when she shot her lover dead, and that the judge's direction was an incorrect interpretation of the law as it then stood.

But the appeal judges ruled that "she had been properly convicted of murder as the law stood at the time".

David Blakely
David Blakely is accused of causing Ellis' miscarriage

They added that the defence of diminished responsibility was not available at that time and for provocation to succeed it had to be proved that Ellis was subjected to an immediate affront and all her normal self-control had been lost.

They said that if her crime had been committed today, then the issue of diminished responsibly would be put before a jury.

They also said it was not part of their function to comment on whether Ellis should have been hanged.

Two years after Ellis' execution - and largely prompted by her case - Parliament changed the law to allow a defence of diminished responsibility.

Shocked and disappointed

After the judgment, Ellis' sister Muriel Jakubait, 81, who had brought the appeal, told BBC News: "It is quite a shock and very disappointing, but I knew that somehow or the other they [the judges] were going to do that.

"My sister was provoked and if she did it, she was put up to it. I still don't believe she did it.

"Ruth always said she hoped the truth would come out one day and now, more than 50 years later, I hope to do something about all the lies that have been written about her."

She said she is writing a book about the case.

The case was made into a film, Dance With A Stranger, in 1985 starring Miranda Richardson.




SEE ALSO:
Was Ellis provoked to kill?
17 Sep 03  |  London
Judgement reserved in Ellis case
17 Sep 03  |  London
Ellis judge made fatal 'error'
16 Sep 03  |  London
Ruth Ellis: Villain or victim?
30 Nov 99  |  UK News
Hope of 'justice' for Ruth Ellis
29 Nov 99  |  UK News


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