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1955: Ruth Ellis hanged for killing lover

Convicted murderer Ruth Ellis has been hanged at Holloway Prison, London.

Ellis was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for shooting her lover, 25-year-old racing driver David Blakely, outside the Magdala public house in north London on Easter Sunday.

Home Secretary Major Lloyd George rejected the final appeals to reprieve the 28-year-old former model and nightclub hostess last night.

Public support

The Prison Governor at Holloway was forced to call for police reinforcements yesterday evening as a crowd of 500 massed outside the prison's gates singing and chanting for Ellis for several hours.

Some people broke through police cordons to bang on the jail's doors, calling for Ellis to pray with them, but by 2330 BST the crowd had dispersed.

Thousands of people have signed petitions asking for the death penalty to be lifted in this case, including 35 members of London County Council who delivered their plea to the House of Commons last night.

The executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, arrived at the prison yesterday after travelling to the capital from Preston, Lancashire.

A silent crowd - including women with prams - collected around Holloway this morning, waiting for the execution at 0900 BST.

Eighteen minutes later, notice of Ellis' death was posted outside and the crowd surged forwards, blocking the road and stopping traffic.

Legal questions

Yesterday, Ellis was visited by her mother, her solicitor J G Bickford and her friend, Jacqueline Dyer, within an hour of hearing there would be no reprieve.

Her trial opened on 20 June and the jury took just 14 minutes to find her guilty of murder.

She did not appeal against her conviction.

The case has increased debate about British criminal justice and the death penalty.

The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment has reported recently that the incidence of murder is not significantly greater in countries where the death penalty has been abolished.

In Context
The trial and punishment of Ruth Ellis became notorious as she was the last woman in England to be executed.

The death penalty in the UK was suspended in 1965 and permanently removed in 1970.

Ruth Ellis' family campaigned for her murder conviction to be reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. Through the Criminal Cases Review Commission they brought the case to the Court of Appeal in September 2003.

They argued Ellis was suffering "battered woman syndrome". She had suffered a miscarriage just 10 days before the killing after David Blakely had punched her in the stomach.

But the appeal judges ruled she had been properly convicted of murder according to the law as it stood at the time. The defence of diminished responsibility did not then exist.


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