To listen to Ruth Ellis’s sister Muriel Jakubait and Monica Weller talking on Saga Radio in 2005, please click on:
Also see http://copperknobconnection.wordpress.com/
“True Detective was just five years old when Ruth Ellis was hanged for shooting her lover in front of the Magdala pub in north London, and Britain’s fascination with the case hasn’t abated since. That’s why, when writer Monica Weller, who co-wrote the bestseller RUTH ELLIS, MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE with Muriel Jakubait, phoned our editorial office to ask if we would be interested in her writing about the case for us, we jumped at the chance. Monica’s passionate conviction of the truth of Muriel’s story proved to be infectious and so we thought, why not share this startling new evidence with our readers….” From True Detective, April 2006
A SERIES OF 6 ARTICLES ABOUT RUTH ELLIS
PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN
TRUE DETECTIVE MAGAZINE
The name Ruth Ellis, to most of us, conjures up the image of the peroxide blonde, nightclub hostess and part time prostitute who shot dead her playboy, racing car driver lover David Blakely in a jealous rage. She became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.
The shooting outside the Magdala pub in Hampstead, London on the evening of 10th April 1955 was described as an open-and-shut case of cold-blooded murder. Ruth Ellis admitted pulling the trigger of the heavy .38 Smith and Wesson British service revolver.
The two-day trial at the Old Bailey was notable for its lack of forensic and ballistics evidence. Christmas Humphreys, counsel for the prosecution set out to prove that Ruth Ellis killed Blakely. Her defence team led by Melford Stevenson did nothing to help her. Jurors took just twenty-three minutes to find Ruth guilty of murder.
Yet the Public Record Office in Kew and the City of London Record Office still keep certain files closed on the matter until 2031. What else was there to hide?(Click on Blogroll: 30-Year rule’)
Near to nine o’clock on 13th July 1955 the two warders who guarded Ruth in the condemned cell at Holloway prison said goodbye to her. She removed her purple diamante spectacles, put them on the table and told a warder, “I won’t need those any more.”
Meanwhile at her flat in St Paul’s Cray, Ruth’s elder sister Muriel Jakubait walked into the sitting room, switched on the wireless and heard the nine o’clock pips of Big Ben with the announcement that Ruth Ellis, aged 28 had been hanged.
Some years later Albert Pierrepoint, Ruth’s hangman, told Muriel in a secret letter, “She died as brave as any man and she never spoke a single word.” Over a five-year period, Muriel received a total of nine letters from him, occasionally writing under the assumed name of A. Fletcher. Each time Ruth was mentioned in the press, Pierrepoint would be on to Muriel in a flash.
In 2003, the Court of Appeal upheld Ruth’s 1955-murder conviction and sentence. Muriel Jakubait was shattered. Key evidence was still not made public. The same persuasive Ruth Ellis story spun to the press and public in 1955 was being repeated.
Whilst writing our book ‘Ruth Ellis My Sister’s Secret Life,’ I went back over minute details of the case, scrutinising every lead. With access to records previously unavailable at the Public Record office in Kew, and new witness statements, I have presented a range of evidence that the court in 1955 never got to hear; evidence pointing to the fact that Ruth Ellis was innocent of the crime she was hanged for. She died for another person’s crime, having lied to protect him.
With what I have uncovered, I have sufficient evidence to believe the peroxide blonde killer tag was a carefully constructed cover story involving the British secret services at a time when the cold war was waging between Russia and the West. Ruth was a vulnerable young woman, used by the secret service, murdered by the establishment and whose true identity has been disguised beneath a web of deceit, lies and misinformation.
The trumped up murder charge and Ruth’s death by hanging deflected suspicion away from the real Ruth Ellis story.
In 2002 I set out to find and tell only the truth about the last woman to be hanged. I doubt that the public will ever learn the full story about Ruth, but ‘Ruth Ellis My Sister’s Secret Life’ has come very near to it. It is fortunate that Muriel has lived long enough to learn the truth.
Over the next five issues of True Detective you can discover the facts that have been buried for fifty years.
HOW I CAME TO WRITE THE BOOK
My involvement in the project came about by chance. In 2000, I wrote an article about Ron Fowler, a fishmonger in the village of Great Bookham in Surrey. Soon after it was published in the Surrey County magazine Ron asked if I wanted a good story. He told me about a woman that he used to serve fish to in West Byfleet. Her name Muriel Jakubait would probably be unknown to me but I might recognise that of her sister Ruth Ellis. Ron recalled how Muriel walked into the fish shop one day. “I asked if I could help her. She replied, More to the point can I help you? Apparently I’d been speaking to a butcher who knew Muriel. He’d told her about the fishmonger next door with a bee in his bonnet about her sister’s case.”
“I still remember that day,” Ron continued. “It was so uncanny. She was the dead spit of Ruth Ellis. She wore a pink scarf, knotted and hanging down one side of her. I stared and thought this is exactly what Ruth would look like now if she were alive. Her hair was done up like Ruth’s. It really shook me up.”
Like many people Ron had an obsession with the Ruth Ellis story. He wanted to know who was called at the trial, so tried to get a copy of the transcript. In 1989 he received a letter from the Lord Chancellor’s Department, saying that the file did not contain a transcript of the trial. They could not help him. “Another senior person phoned and wasn’t so nice: ‘As far as you’re concerned, Mr Fowler, that file lies at the bottom of the Thames.’
Ron lost touch with Muriel but I traced her to her council bungalow in Woking. At that time she was hoping that the Criminal Cases Review Commission would refer her sister’s conviction for murder in 1955 to the Court of Appeal in London. I listened with absolute fascination to her story. The Express published my subsequent article.
In 2002 Muriel and I discussed the possibility of writing her memoirs. Every week for two years we met at her home. We drank tea and talked. Surrounded by family photographs, including one of her sister Ruth, she told me about years of family secrecy; revealing intimate details about herself and Ruth and recalling harrowing memories of the day her sister was hanged. Each meeting was memorable, planned and focused. Not a stone was left unturned.
As a new author, writing this book has been the most fabulous opportunity I have ever had. It has also been the most humbling, constantly reminded that the person sitting close to me has endured terrible memories of an executed sister for half a century.
SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH
Simple fact finding turned out to be more complicated than I thought at first. It became an extraordinary detailed piece of detective work for first hand evidence in my search for the truth. I followed my instincts. I stopped looking for answers and took one step at a time in looking for facts.
Muriel told me about landmarks in her life and recollections of events. I followed up with my own solid research and investigation, comparing new findings with previously published conflicting information.
Just twenty-three days after beginning my research and detective work I was amazed when I stumbled across Dr Stephen Ward’s name linked to Ruth as far back as the late 1940’s, many years before the 1963 Profumo scandal. Ward was the society osteopath-cum-pimp who introduced Christine Keeler to John Profumo the Minister for War in the early 1960’s.
The public is now aware that Ward was involved in spying in 1963. But the Denning Report at the time merely described him as a pimp. Not a word about Ruth’s association with Ward at the beginning of the Cold War has ever leaked out.
From small beginnings a picture developed of Ruth’s life, stripped of fifty years of fictitious opinion. An unseen side of the last woman to be hanged emerged, as I dug deeper in my investigations; something not uncovered at the time of Ruth’s trial, or since.
For three years I trawled through record office files, birth and death certificates and company records dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. I tracked suspicious addresses, so-called businesses that did not actually exist and incorrect initials on official documents that enabled characters to change their identities and mislead anyone who dared to look for them.
New witnesses from all over Britain have helped with individual aspects of the story. They cast new light on Ruth’s short life, without enquiring about the true object of the story that had to be kept confidential until the whole had been written.
It has taken considerable effort to strip fact from fiction. Caught up in a tangle of new connections were clues. I kept an open mind and did not accept things at face value. The real story about Ruth Ellis began slotting into place.
Ruth had a secret double life. In 1955 it had to be covered at all costs.
This is a story of murder, intrigue, justice and most importantly, truth.
Ruth’s gruesome death by hanging protected people at the heart of the establishment. There was more to Ruth Ellis than has been admitted.
‘Lady Godiva Rides Again’
“As a barrister for fifty years I was just putting the facts of the actual murder. I knew nothing of the background and I didn’t care.”
This was the opinion that Christmas Humphreys, the prosecuting counsel at Ruth Ellis’s murder trial, was still vehemently defending twenty-seven years later when he spoke to Ruth’s son Andre McCallum. Andre secretly taped their three-hour conversation at the Buddhist Society in London.
Just weeks later Andre, aged 38 committed suicide.
Humphreys was blinkered; for it was exactly what was going on in the background, amongst the shady characters in Ruth’s circle, that led to the shooting of her ex public schoolboy lover David Blakely outside the Magdala pub in Hampstead in 1955 and to Ruth’s execution three months later.
Ruth’s friends, some were prosecution witnesses at her trial, were more complicated than you would imagine from simple statements they made at the Old Bailey.
As I read the transcript of the trial and police statements it was clear that nobody was interested in witnesses’ backgrounds. In what appeared to be an open-and-shut case of cold-blooded murder, where a prostitute murdered one of her lovers, it didn’t matter about anyone else.
But those characters should have been investigated.
David Blakely had a darker side. During one of many visits to the Public Record Office (PRO) I was surprised to find buried in a Home Office document, that Ruth’s lover was actually homosexual. It was well known apparently in Blakely’s social circle. What is more, Ruth knew. It didn’t come out in the trial. Mr Bickford, Ruth’s solicitor, had evidence but “felt it unwise to call it.”
And that is where the truth of what really happened remained – hidden in the background for nearly fifty years.
It will shock most people to learn that Ruth Ellis fell under the spell of Dr Stephen Ward in the 1940’s. He groomed her; a fact previously unknown to the public. This sensational finding was pivotal in uncovering the real Ruth Ellis story.
Most people associate Ward’s name with the 1960’s Profumo scandal. He was the pimp and smooth, society osteopath whose patients included Winston Churchill, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret.
He introduced Christine Keeler to John Profumo, the Conservative Secretary of State for War. The scandal that Keeler was having a simultaneous affair with a Soviet spy led to Profumo’s resignation.
Years later it was revealed Ward had been a double agent, working for MI5 and for the KGB.
Those who think his spying activities began and ended in 1963 should think again.
Stephen Ward’s involvement with pretty, young girls who became the eyes and ears for his spying activities did not just start suddenly in 1963. He was recruiting girls from the late 1940’s.
Ward and his post-war close friend, society and stars’ photographer Antony Beauchamp who was married to Winston Churchill’s daughter Sarah, were working together in their sordid profession, making something of young girls from the right background. [Beauchamp coincidentally photographed Marilyn Monroe at about the same time in the US before she became famous]
Ward’s skill was “finding uneducated girls from a poor background.” He groomed and transformed them into ‘somebodies’. In return they did the dirty work, becoming a listening service for intelligence organisations, gathering information from high-powered men, generally in their beds, during the Cold War.
Both Ward and Antony Beauchamp, about whom little was known, were members of the Little Club in Knightsbridge, also shrouded in mystery, the club where Ruth Ellis would become manageress in 1953. The Press tried to portray it as some sort of low-class dive for losers.
Its membership actually included King Hussein of Jordan, film stars Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Burt Lancaster, society photographer ‘Baron’ a close friend of Prince Philip, racing driver Stirling Moss and Anthony Armstrong-Jones who became Princess Margaret’s husband.
Ruth fitted the bill for Ward and Beauchamp’s game. She was a gift; she was trying to escape from poverty and abuse; she was uneducated; she had a child to support; she had parents who took every penny she earned; and she had a family secret. Her sister Muriel gave birth to a child through incest with her father, a bully who started sexually abusing Muriel when she was six. He turned his attentions to Ruth when she was 11. Ruth made Muriel promise never to tell anyone about his obscene behaviour.
Ward, the “vice peddler” created Ruth Ellis. She was undoubtedly indebted to him. After all, he transformed her, gave her nice clothes, made her feel special.
Vickie Martin, Ruth’s best friend, was another of Ward’s proteges. She became the lover of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar before being killed in a mysterious car crash in January 1955.
By chance I discovered Ward won Ruth a walk-on part in the 1951 film ‘Lady Godiva Rides Again’ a comedy about beauty contests. A publicity still showed a beauty queen line-up. There alongside her friend Diana Dors and young Joan Collins, was Ruth with short dark hair.
Four years later on 9th February 1955, when her services were no longer required, Ruth was thrown to the wolves by Desmond Cussen, her so-called alternative lover, to fend for herself during her last sixty days of freedom.
At 11.30 p.m. on 10th April, the night Blakely was murdered, on her arrest Ruth immediately admitted to murdering him. She said, after being cautioned, “I am guilty. I am rather confused.”
In effect she signed her own death warrant.
Muriel never could understand why her sister didn’t put up a fight, if only for the sake of her children.
But it’s the circumstances of Ruth’s police statement, in a previously unpublished Home Office file, which were odd.
It sounded as if she had previously rehearsed her statement. It was word perfect. At the beginning of her performance, which she began without being asked saying, “It all started about two years ago when I met David Blakely at the Little Club, Knightsbridge,” Superintendent Crawford had to stop her and ask “Would you like this to be written down?”
Ruth had clearly been brainwashed.
To the police it was an open and shut case of cold-blooded murder. But Ruth lied. The events of 10th April did not happen as she had described them in her police statement. She was protecting someone.
The two-day murder trial was a travesty. As I leafed through the trial transcript during a visit to the PRO at Kew, the inadequate questioning of witnesses is obvious now for all to see. Ruth’s defence counsel Melford Stevenson did nothing for her. Later when I found this statement that Stevenson made on the first morning of the trial, I asked myself what was going on. He’d already decided to “Subject the witnesses of the prosecution to a minimum of cross-examination.”
Someone was being protected.Andsomeone was determined to send Ruth to the gallows.
Official files relating to the trial, including the transcript, have been locked away for much longer than the statutory 30 years. The authorities still keep some files to do with Ruth’s trial closed until 2031. What else was there to hide?
In our book we set out evidence that the court in 1955 never got to hear. Evidence showing that Ruth was innocent of the crime she was hanged for.
We also identify the group of people in Ruth’s circle who conspired against her, planned the murder of Blakely with military precision and left Ruth holding a smoking gun.
The day before Ruth was hanged, having dismissed her solicitor Mr Bickford who represented her at her trial, she was visited in the condemned cell at Holloway prison by Mr Mishcon, now Lord Mishcon, and Mr Simmons, solicitors whom she consulted on domestic matters prior to the murder.
Simmons asked her what really happened on the day of the shooting. Ruth said she hadn’t told the truth because to do so “seemed traitorous – absolutely traitorous.” A loaded phrase, bearing in mind the details that have come to light about Ruth’s double life.
Like Christine Keeler in 1963, Ruth was in a position to bring down the government with what she knew. She was the innocent pawn in a game of espionage planned by intelligence officers whose job was to lie and who wanted to get rid of her. Ruth stood no chance against them.
The story about spying and the shadowy characters in Ruth’s circle continued to unravel by an extraordinary twist of fate. It followed my discovery of Desmond Cussen’s signature on a business document in 1964 while he was lying low at a London hotel. This was Cussen’s one and only trail left anywhere since 1955.
After Ruth’s death, Cussen and Ward moved from their Devonshire Street flats where they were close neighbours, to Bayswater addresses in London; Cussen to Lanterns Hotel in Craven Road, Ward to Orme Square. Cussen seemed to be following Ward around. When the names Ward, Keeler and Profumo cropped up later in the Atlantic hotel, I realised that Cussen who’d been staying there for two years was not there by accident. He was perfectly placed when the Profumo fiasco broke in 1963.
This discovery opened up a new line of investigation, which in turn led to the infamous spying activities of Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.
The convincing story, spun and repeated for fifty years, disguised the real Ruth Ellis. The message reaching the public in 1955 was of the common, peroxide blonde, nightclub manageress who was a part-time prostitute.
The message not reaching the public was about the poorly educated, gullible young woman, desperate for money and who probably unwittingly became involved with spying and died in a dramatic way for her country, in the process.
Five years before her death, Ruth, looking very different with natural auburn hair, frequented the White Hart Hotel in Brasted, Kent, which was more like a private club. She blended in with the special people who congregated there, including nuclear weapons bigwigs from nearby Fort Halstead, top ranking RAF and spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.
I have tracked down witnesses in London, Northumberland, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Australia who have memories of the characters involved in the story. All have spoken out for the first time.
One gentleman from Penn in Buckinghamshire casually mentioned to me that the family of Donald Maclean had lived in the village for thirty years. This led to a discovery of a secret service stronghold there in the early 1950’s.
Commentators of the Ruth Ellis story focused on Blakely’s mother Anne and stepfather Humphrey Cook when they lived at the Old Park in Penn in 1955. It would seem coincidental that in 1949 the Blakely family moved into a rented house in the village, immediately changing its name. The only documented evidence being two entries on the voters’ list for 1950 and 1951.
The defection of Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess was being planned at that time.
By 1949 Maclean was under suspicion for passing secrets to the Russians. In May 1950 he returned to England and was kept under surveillance by MI5. In 1949 David Blakely began his National Service but within weeks was released and on his way to Penn. There was no official explanation.
The Donald Maclean connection with Penn illustrates just one of the complicated trails typical of my findings. Coincidentally, Maclean’s body was brought back from Russia and buried in a secret midnight service in Penn graveyard
Of real significance is the link between Westerham, Brasted, Tatsfield, Tonbridge, Warlingham and Sanderstead on the Surrey-Kent border, more than 20 miles from London; and just three miles from Fort Halstead, with its secret complex of bunkers where Britain’s Nuclear Weapons programme began.
Ruth had connections with all these supposedly unconnected areas. Nobody has ever put two-and-two together before.
The trumped up murder charge that Ruth admitted to and for which she was hanged obscured the truth about Britain “in the grips of a spying scandal.”
‘Who Really Fired The Fatal Shot?’
At the Old Bailey on 20th June 1955, Christmas Humphreys assisted by Mervyn Griffith-Jones and Miss Jean Southworth, instructed by the Department of Public Prosecutions, appeared on behalf of the prosecution. Melford Stevenson QC, assisted by Mr Sebag Shaw and Mr Peter Rawlinson instructed by Messrs Cardew-Smith and Ross appeared on behalf of the prisoner Ruth Ellis.
Christmas Humphreys opened the case for the prosecution. He said Ruth took a gun which she knew was loaded, and shot David Blakely dead by “emptying that revolver at him, four bullets going into his body, one hitting a bystander in the hand, and the sixth going we know not where.”
Ruth’s defence counsel, Melford Stevenson, stated categorically that Ruth was guilty. “Let me make this abundantly plain: there is no question here but this woman shot this man….You will not hear one word from me – or from the lady herself – questioning that.”
Looking at the transcript of the trial released over forty years after Ruth’s death it’s clear how Ruth Ellis, who pleaded not guilty, was given scant help by our judicial system. Her trial for murder was pushed through in just over a day. The jury taking 23 minutes to find her guilty.
It appeared to be an open-and-shut case of cold- blooded murder. There was no need for forensics on Ruth or her possessions or for investigating the case properly. Apparently nobody else was involved.
Ruth had a gun hanging from her hand. She was pointing it towards Blakely’s dead body. In the press she had already been portrayed as a peroxide blonde tart. Therefore she was guilty.
There was no need to consider if 28 year-old Ruth, the 5’2,” 7-stone woman with tiny bird-like hands, one gnarled as a result of rheumatic fever, with poor eyesight and suffering the after effects of a recent miscarriage, was physically capable of shooting anyone. Let alone repeatedly pull the trigger on a heavy man-size .38 Smith and Wesson gun that required a 10lb pull for each shot fired; it would have been impossibly large in her hand, its recoil would have knocked her backwards. All these aspects were left unsaid at the trial.
In a Prison Service file, recently opened for public scrutiny, I read that Ruth told the medical officer at Holloway prison hospital that her left hand and ankle had been affected by rheumatic fever. Nothing was made of this at her trial.
Ruth lied in court. She calmly admitted murdering Blakely. She had been brainwashed and “shielded those people who’d picked her…..The ones who promised her she wouldn’t die.”
According to their police statements, Cussen dropped Ruth and her son Andre at her flat in Kensington at 7.30 pm on the evening of the shooting and didn’t see her again until she was in prison. We now know it was a pack of lies.
As soon as I read these two sentences in Ruth’s police statement I knew she was lying and protecting someone: “I took a taxi and as I arrived, David’s car drove away from Findlater’s [Blakely’s car mechanic friend] address. I dismissed the taxi and walked back down the road to the nearest pub where I saw David’s car outside.”
She could have followed Blakely in her taxi if murder, “was on her mind.” She hadn’t spoken to him for over two days, she would not have known where he was going and she couldn’t have seen where he was going. It’s a long walk from Tanza Road to the Magdala which is the nearest pub.
Stevenson had a golden opportunity to get to the truth. Yet he did not ask Ruth what made her take a twelve-minute walk in the dark when she could have taken the taxi that she was in.
Instead he summarised, “We have heard the evidence about your taking a revolver up to Hampstead and shooting him. Is that right?” Ruth replied, “Quite right.”
At about 9 pm on the night of the shooting Moreen Gleeson, a Hampstead resident saw Ruth and Cussen outside 29 Tanza Road in Hampstead, where Ruth believed Blakely was conducting an affair with another woman. In her letter to Muriel Jakubait she wrote, “When Cussen, as I believe he is named, appeared behind her I was frightened. He was definitely intending to take charge….”
Miss Gleeson went to the police twice, and a solicitor, but they disregarded her evidence. It would have been crucial in confirming that Cussen was near to the scene of the crime.
The authorities appear to have ignored any explanation of events other than the one that would lead to Ruth’s execution.
Moreen Gleeson’s encounter with Ruth and Cussen and Ruth’s subsequent hanging, troubled her. She suffered a nervous breakdown and moved to Australia where she later became a midwife. She read something about Cussen and the murder in a national paper but dismissed it as “ill-informed.” She said, “I had been there and knew this was all wrong.”Ruth didn’t murder anybody. Cussen, her “alternative” lover, wound her up like a spring, got her drunk, drove her to the scene of the crime and put a gun in her hand.
Although appearing to fire shots at Blakely she did not fire the gun which killed him.
Desmond Cussen was an expert liar, disguised as a boring businessman and usually portrayed as Blakely’s rival for Ruth’s attention. At the magistrate’s court, when asked how long he’d known Blakely, Cussen lied saying just over two years. Then he lied at the trial saying “approximately three years.”
I have evidence of their long-term friendship. They knew each other for nearly six years, regularly visiting a ‘risky’ club together in Surrey from the late 1940’s.
In the early 1970’s, Mr Bickford, Ruth’s solicitor, made a statement to Scotland Yard from his home in Malta. He was recalling what Cussen told him in 1955: how Ruth 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.
I dug deeper into Public Record Office (PRO) documents. As part of my research, I wanted to compare magistrate’s court statements with the trial transcript. However the magistrates court papers were listed as FRUSTRATED (not available) at the PRO in Kew; they could not say where they were.Eventually I was permitted to view the file that contained Christmas Humphreys’ set of magistrate’s court documents at the Royal Court of Justice in the Strand. They’d been housed there since 1996.I was so alarmed at my findings on 9th May 2002, I wrote in my diary, “Papers at the Royal Court of Justice have been adjusted; gun, police, timings.” It was an understatement.Sometime between the committal proceedings at the magistrate’s court in April and Ruth’s trial in June 50 years ago, words had been mysteriously crossed through in key witness statements; other words had been inserted, giving totally different meanings.I only have photocopies of six witness statements. Altogether there are 33 subtle changes.Where did the instructions come from, for Christmas Humphreys to make those changes?It’s obvious now; Ruth was being set up. Before she reached the Old Bailey her fate was determined. The case would be guaranteed open-and-shut.
A statement made by Police Constable Thompson caught my eye. He was an off-duty policeman who happened to be in the Magdala that fateful evening. He arrested Ruth after the shooting which happened outside the pub. His words “She was holding the revolver loosely” (crossed out) “pointing it downwards at a slant” (crossed out) became “she was holding the revolver in her right hand pointing it downwards.”PC Thompson was inside the Magdala when he heard “a succession of bangs” outside. Importantly, his statement at the magistrate’s court “No shot was fired after I came out of the public house” was omitted at the trial. This key witness did not see who shot Blakely, “but listening to him being questioned by Humphreys” you’d think he did.All Melford Stevenson had to say was “No questions.”
I noticed this statement made by Clive Gunnell who called himself a Mayfair car salesman. He was Blakely’s drinking companion at the Magdala on the night of the shooting. Originally he described Ruth pursuing Blakely and pointing the gun at his back. The statement was changed to read “The accused was firing the gun into his back,” not the same.Again Stevenson had “No questions.”Stevenson stuck to his word.
He gave the prosecution an easy time, subjecting prosecution witnesses to a minimum of cross-examination.I can only guess there was an unwritten law that exempted them from being properly cross-examined.
Mrs Gladys Yule was a prime witness for the prosecution. She and her husband Donald Maclean Yule (who was not called to give evidence) were walking to the Magdala for a Sunday evening drink. Statements Mrs Yule made between 11th April and 20th June were inconsistent. At her first court appearance she saw a youngish man run out of the saloon bar of the Magdala, “followed, almost on his heels, by a blonde woman.”At her second court appearance on 28th April she said that she saw a lady in front of the two men. “I could see her hair was very blonde and she wore a light coat.” Then she admitted she would not recognise “the blonde woman again who shot Blakely.”At the Old Bailey on 20th June Mrs Yule was not asked if she recognised the prisoner. But she was certain about what happened. She saw “A lady on the pavement in front of the public house…..and saw her chase a man.”Again Ruth’s barrister had no questions. He failed to raise any of these discrepancies.
The more I read the transcript, comparing it to witness statements prior to the trial, the more I saw the skulduggery that took place. Ruth stood no chance.At the end of the first day of the trial, Melford Stevenson, with no jury present, gained a new lease of life. He discussed at length “unlike his near silent performance in court” the question of provocation; a peculiar contrast to his court appearance.After picking his way through legal language with Stevenson and Humphreys, Justice Havers found an excuse not to allow a verdict of manslaughter and decided not to leave the issue to the jury.Justice Havers directed the jury; he was “judge, jury, defence and prosecution.The trumped up murder charge protected people at the heart of the establishment. Ruth wasn’t sentenced to death. The establishment murdered her.The Ruth Ellis story wasn’t about a crime of passion – it looked that way though.The shooting of Blakely obscured the truth about the country in the grips of a spying scandal. Ruth was hanged to protect the shadowy characters she mixed with and took her secrets to an unconsecrated grave at Holloway prison.I found a letter at the Public Record Office from a Mrs Robinson of Ealing to the Home Secretary. It summed up the case to a tee. She wrote, “The charge was murder and the case had yet to be heard. I should have demanded to hear the defence if I was the jury. The judge took away power of the jury.”
‘Desmond Cussen: The Alarming Inconsistences’
Over the years, Desmond Cussen, Ruth’s so-called alternative lover, has been described as a bit of a drip, an unassuming, docile, father figure. He looked like a spiv with dark, greased back hair; with a round boyish face and an unnatural looking thin moustache. He was usually portrayed as Blakely’s scathing rival for Ruth’s affections.
There are many unanswered questions about who Cussen really was; very little is known about him. The only information comes from scant details in books over the years about Ruth Ellis. Firstly he joined the RAF aged seventeen, trained mainly in South Africa, was a bomber pilot, throughout the war, flying Lancasters and was demobbed in 1946. Secondly he was wealthy, became a director of a family-owned retail and wholesale tobacconist business called Cussen and Co. And thirdly from the early 1950’s he lived in a prestigious apartment in Goodwood Court near Harley Street.
It seems odd therefore that twenty-three days after the start of my research I began uncovering alarming inconsistencies to the accepted story about him.
Was it just poor research by commentators over the last fifty years or had those writers been fed misinformation, part of the big lie being spread, to hoodwink the public about the real Ruth Ellis story? I wondered. Either way, the truth has been obscured.
In March 2002 I contacted Companies House in an attempt to find information about Cussen and Co.
Whilst examining hand-written documents on microfiche (luckily still available from Companies House archives)I discovered that Desmond Cussen lived in Garlands Road, Leatherhead with his parents, in a detached house called Dapdune. This was quite a find; the first in a series of lucky breaks, opening the door to some significant findings. It was my first lesson in detective work: examine every local connection. Garlands Road is less than two miles from my home.
Dapdune was coincidentally just 300 yards from Leatherhead hospital where Arthur Neilson, Muriel Jakubait’s father, was an in-patient for a year. He’d been sent there during the war from south-east London suffering from a cerebral thrombosis following an injury sustained in the London Blitz.
It seemed stranger than fiction that I should come across Ruth’s alternative lover, at exactly the same time as I was investigating the area around Leatherhead hospital.With further research I realised that in the late 1940’s Garlands Road was no ordinary road. Top people lived there in houses of substance. Some of the properties have been demolished but two of the original houses are still standing.
General Ironside, who was one of Churchill’s generals in the Second World War, lived secretly in one. In 1941 he was Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, in charge of the Home Guard.
One of the pleasures in my new detective role is scrutinising every new lead!So on 2nd May 2002 I wrote to the Leatherhead local paper asking for anyone to contact me if they had memories of wartime in Garlands Road. It was a long shot. 1940 is a long time ago.
I struck lucky. I received three replies. One led me to a new witness, John Steel, an elderly Leatherhead gent, with a phenomenally accurate memory for everything wartime. He was an ARP warden based in General Ironside’s house that had been commandeered by the government for the Home Guard when it was first formed.
Although he didn’t know it, Mr Steel’s recollections about the young chap who he paired up with in the Home Guard were to prove invaluable in my search for the truth.
Mr Steel told me how he teamed up with a young man, an only child, about eighteen years old, with straight fair hair, about 5’9″, of muscular build and handsome. He was from an exceptionally well to do family. He added, “He was a cut above the rest of us, well spoken and well educated, a gentleman” and lived next door at Dapdune. “His father looked like a city gent.”
The two young men worked together at night-time two to three times a week from summer 1940 until April 1941, guarding bombed places against looters and keeping watch for parachutists. He couldn’t remember his partner’s name, it was a long time ago, but said he was very good with a gun, a “crack shot.” They regularly practised shooting 303 rifles on a local rifle range. At other times they were taken in a lorry to Bisley to practise with Sten guns.
The day after our first interview I had a call from Mr Steel. He said, “I’ve remembered the young man’s name, it was Cussen.”
He had no idea, until our book was published three years later, that his Home Guard partner was the same man who would play an important role in Ruth Ellis’s life and death in 1955.
By 4th June 2002, three months after beginning my research, new light had been thrown on Cussen’s wartime activities. When he was seventeen he was not in the RAF, he was in the Home Guard working alongside John Steel. What is more, Cussen was not the docile character we’d been led to believe – even as a young man he was a crack shot.
After those discoveries I was determined to find everything I could about this very private man. In the Air Force List at the Public Record Office the entry for Desmond Cussen, 197248, was odd. It stated he achieved pilot officer status in the General Duties Branch on 10th April 1945 and left on 10th October 1945.
Nothing about Cussen was quite what it seemed.
During an interview in August 2005 on BBC Radio London, Vanessa Feltz was curious to know what Cussen was doing between 1941 and 1945. I could not give her an answer. It would appear that he was doing nothing.The only way to find out about RAF personnel is to call up their service record. As I’m not next of kin, I’d reached a dead end. Service records for RAF personnel after 1921 are MOD property.Since the winter of 2005 I have made discoveries about Cussen’s service record; that’s another story. However I strongly suspect he grew up in a family that was used to deception.The Cussen and Co microfiches led to another breakthrough in my investigation. It came as something of a surprise to find a hand written document signed by Cussen in London in May 1964. This was Cussen’s one and only trail left anywhere since 1955.He gave his address as the Atlantic Hotel, Queens Gardens in London where I discovered he’d lived for two years. It can be no accident that Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, John Profumo and osteopath Dr Stephen Ward were frequent visitors there at the same time as Cussen.The whole point is that, according to Public Record Office documents, the police in 1955 claimed they were searching for Cussen the evening before Ruth was hanged, to interrogate him about the gun used to kill Blakely; but couldn’t find him.The hanging could easily have been postponed until they’d found him. But it was not. It was all too quick.When Cussen signed the business document in London in 1964, he was still a free man.
Ruth had protected Cussen in her police statement, claiming a man gave her the gun in a club three years previously. She did not give anything away about Cussen until 12.30 p.m. on July 12th, the day before she was hanged. She broke her silence, confessing to her solicitors that Cussen supplied the gun. She had not admitted it before because of getting “someone into possible trouble.”
The day after the hanging, the front-page article of the Daily Sketch demanded, “What are the police doing about this man? Are they going to charge him? If not, why not?”
Cussen was not arrested. It all went according to plan. It’s clear to me he had some sort of immunity.He was no ordinary tobacconist businessman.Cussen and Co microfiches led to another vital discovery, more proof of Ruth’s connection with Dr Stephen Ward, who was a key player in the Profumo affair in the 1960’s, and circumstantial evidence of Cussen’s connection to the secret service. One month and thirty phone calls after beginning my detective work I traced Cussen’s accountant. He told me on the telephone that Cussen had told him in the early 1960’s [at the time of the Profumo scandal] of Ruth Ellis’s friendship with Dr Stephen Ward.By early June 2002 I had pieced together quite a dossier of first hand evidence about Cussen; a bigger picture was developing.The impression of the “ineffective drip” was quite misleading.
Quite by chance, in December 2003 I made another major discovery. I met Mr Wallis, a retired Leatherhead dentist with an interesting story to tell about the very private Paddock Club at the end of a long gravel drive in the Surrey village of Ashtead. He was a member from the late 1940’s until 1955. So too were Desmond Cussen and David Blakely.At the magistrate’s court in 1955 Cussen stated he’d known Blakely, “Just over two years, maybe three.” He lied again at Ruth’s trial when he said on oath that he’d known Blakely “Approximately three years.”I now have evidence of Cussen’s long term friendship with David Blakely. They’d actually enjoyed each other’s company for approximately six years; something that has never been made public. The pair frequently visited the Paddock Club, which was a mile or so from Cussen’s Leatherhead family home, since the late 1940’s. It was a place where the best people from London secretly congregated when there were parties on.It’s obvious now; Cussen lied about their friendship to cover the secret world they’d actually been part of for several years; a world that Ruth could have blown wide open if she had lived.From small beginnings about Cussen’s family home in Leatherhead, combined with solid research another side to Ruth’s alternative lover was emerging. Everything pointed to undercover operations and the British Secret Service.Somewhere hidden in books written about the Cold War, Cussen’s other identity is waiting to be uncovered.
‘Ruth Ellis Did Not Murder David Blakely…’
Ruth Ellis did not kill David Blakely. The so-called crime of passion, for which Ruth hanged, was cleverly crafted to appear that way though. It was organised like a military exercise by experts.
Take the murder weapon, a heavy .38 Smith and Wesson revolver.
When I was compiling evidence for our book, I spoke to John Ross, curator of the Crime Museum at New Scotland Yard. I told him that Muriel Jakubait wished to handle the gun (displayed in the Museum) that was retrieved at the scene of the shooting.At the end of January 2003 Muriel and I met Ross at the Museum to view the weapon used to kill Blakely.
Even I could see that the gun would have been far too large in Ruth’s tiny hands one of which was gnarled as a result of contracting rheumatic fever at age 15. This painful condition stayed with Ruth for the rest of her life.She was 5’ 2″, weighed only 7 stone and would have been physically incapable of firing one shot from a heavy, man-size gun, let alone repeatedly pull the trigger, firing six bullets in quick succession. With her tiny hand she couldn’t have even thumbed the trigger guard back.Furthermore the recoil after each shot would have knocked her backwards.
A professional would know that and hold it with two hands at arm’s length. A firearms expert advised me that accuracy with a .38 Smith and Wesson would have been hopeless except in trained hands.All these aspects were left unsaid at the trial.
It’s worth mentioning here that Peter Rawlinson (now Lord Rawlinson) Ruth’s junior defence counsel, met Ruth at the Old Bailey on 11th May one month after her arrest. That day Melford Stevenson applied for the case to be postponed until after 14thJune, “Owing to the large number of enquiries still to be made by the defence.” Ruth and Rawlinson shook hands in her cell after the three-minute hearing. In his autobiography he described her hands as “small and limp.”
On 27th May 1955, Mr W Mackenzie, medical registrar at St Giles hospital prepared a report for Ruth’s solicitor Mr Bickford. Referring to the rheumatic fever for which Ruth had been admitted to the hospital as a teenager, he said bones in her left-hand ring finger had been destroyed and were badly affected by septic arthritis. In a postscript he added, “I should be interested to know from a medical point of view, the present state of her joints.”Mackenzie wrote the report six weeks after Ruth allegedly shot her lover, aiming and firing six times with a heavy Smith and Wesson revolver.
It’s clear from a Holloway hospital case paper (opened since the publication of our book) that Ruth’s condition was known about. On 11th April the prison medical officer noted that as a teenager she had “rheumatic fever, which was followed with arthritis in the fingers of the left hand and of the ankles.” Her wedding ring was worn on an adjacent finger.Ruth’s defence counsel made nothing of this at her trial.
Forensic expert Lewis Charles Nickolls, Director of the Metropolitan Police Laboratory examined the revolver and bullets. In his police statement he explained, “In order to fire 6 cartridges, it is necessary to cock the trigger six times, as in the case of a revolver pulling the trigger only fires one shot. To pull a trigger of 10lbs requires definite and deliberate muscular effort.”
But two months later at the Old Bailey when questioned by the prosecuting counsel Christmas Humphreys, Nickolls was economical with his words. He merely said, “To fire each shot the trigger has to be pulled as a separate operation.”
It would appear he deliberately omitted the reference to the effort needed to fire the Smith and Wesson gun.Nickolls also testified at the trial that one bullet had been fired at close range, less than 3″ from the body, the other bullets, he said, were “fired from a distance.”
He explained to the judge Mr Justice Havers that the close range shot had left the usual circle of powder fouling around the bullet hole. He then repeated that the other shots had been fired at a distance.Nickolls did not say what distance. Ruth’s learned defence counsel Melford Stevenson did not ask.
Nickolls’ evidence went unchallenged.I was baffled. Why didn’t he ask Nickolls about the distance from which the other bullets were fired? It was important. One bullet was fired at close range, therefore the other three bullet wounds in Blakely’s body, had been fired accurately from a distance, out of arm’s reach. This could have been a turning point in the trial yet Ruth’s defence gave the prosecution an easy ride.
Extraordinarily Stevenson had, “No Questions.”The procedure for estimating the range of fire of a weapon had been used for some years. The gun is test fired in the lab at different distances using the same type of ammunition.
What is even more interesting is an important discovery I made in a Metropolitan Police document recently released at the Public Record Office and has never been made public: the gun broke during testing.Shut away in a previously closed file is a police statement made by Nickolls on 25th April 1955 along with a further one-page report written on the identical date but on Metropolitan Police Laboratory headed notepaper. Nickolls stated in both, “On receipt the Smith and Wesson revolver was in working order and during the course of firing in the laboratory, the cylinder catch broke as the result of a long standing crack in the shank.”
The cylinder catch revolves the barrel so that the next bullet is in place for the next shot.I find it questionable that Ruth managed to shoot six rounds of live ammunition, firing four bullets into David Blakley, then the gun breaks during testing thereby destroying evidence. If the gun had a long-standing defect, why did it not break on the first firing at the scene of the murder?Since our book was published in 2005 I found the statement Nickolls made at the magistrate’s court on 28th April. For the third time he emphasised that the gun broke during testing.However, later when I examined the transcript of the trial, which took place on 20th June, two months after the magistrate’s court hearing, I found that Nickolls failed to mention this crucial piece of evidence.When questioned at the Old Bailey he merely repeated that on receipt the gun was in working order, and “The barrel was foul and consistent with having been recently fired.”
Suspiciously he didn’t mention the gun breaking during testing. Was Nickolls deliberately silenced?Melford Stevenson QC, also overlooked this important detail. He must have known about the gun breaking.Any decent lawyer would play on the fact that no ballistics were done. One doesn’t assume anything when there is a death sentence looming.Did Stevenson choose not to explain this evidence to the Old Bailey jury? Might the results of the test firing of the gun have planted a seed of doubt in the minds of the jury about Ruth’s shooting capability?
I wonder.Stevenson could have established what really happened. But he made no attempt to show all the evidence to the jury and let them draw their own conclusions.It all looks extremely suspicious. I would say it was a set up from start to finish. I suspect that the gun conveniently broke during test firing as the results would have cleared Ruth of the murder.
At this point I should mention the afternoon of 10th April, the day Blakely was shot.Muriel told me about events at her flat in St Paul’s Cray on 11th April 1955. Her parents Berta and Arthur Neilson, Ruth’s son Andre and Desmond Cussen arrived on her doorstep unexpectedly. Berta told Muriel that Ruth had shot and killed Blakely. She threatened Muriel not to talk to a soul, to look after Andre, instructed her not to allow the boy to talk anyone and left.Andre didn’t say much to Muriel that day except that he’d seen Uncle Desmond cleaning and oiling two guns in his Goodwood Court flat the day before.Andre, who was nearly 11 years old, added quite innocently that Uncle Desmond that same day, “drove him and his mother (who was in a state) to a forest to teach his mummy how to shoot. Cussen had one gun and gave another to Ruth.
Andre thought she was funny because she couldn’t even shoot a tree and her hands kept shaking.”Andre held explosive information but was not interviewed by the police during the investigation into the crime.Was the gun produced at the trial and now housed at the Crime Museum, the crime weapon or was it the second gun that Andre saw Cussen cleaning on the day of the shooting?
Another mystery: the Metropolitan Police did forensics on the gun and on Blakely but not on Ruth. There’s no record in any file of fingerprints even being taken or evidence on her fingers or clothing of having fired a gun.It was accepted at the time that the residue from an exploding cartridge is driven backwards on to the hand that pulls the trigger.Why weren’t samples taken from the accused as well as the deceased?
What happened to Ruth’s blood spattered clothes? She allegedly shot Blakely at close range; which is a messy business. Did her light-coloured suit that she was apparently wearing show evidence of oil residue from the bullets? Forensic expert LC Nickolls said in his police statement, but did not repeat at the trial, that the Smith and Wesson he examined was oily.
There are no answers to any of these questions in any police file about the case.
* Eleanor Hogg was the policewoman who guarded Ruth all night in her cell at Hampstead police station, following her arrest. In January 2006 I managed to make contact with Mrs Hogg. She said Ruth was wearing spotlessly clean, pale coloured clothing that night. “She was clean, smart, and certainly did not have stains down her clothes. I would have remembered.”
It is standard procedure in all police stations for the arresting officer to make a list of possessions belonging to the prisoner on a charge sheet. David Blakely’s list of property in possession of the Hampstead police in 1955 was recently released for public scrutiny.But Ruth’s list of property and clothing is noticeable by its absence. The list certainly existed. According to another, recently opened, Metropolitan Police document dated 24th June 1955 (two days after Ruth was found guilty at the Old Bailey) Hampstead police handed her property to her solicitor Mr Bickford against “Receipt number 99.”
I suspect that forensics were not carried out on Ruth, and the gun conveniently broke during testing because the results would have saved her and proved she could not have killed Blakely.Too many crucial questions were left unasked.Ruth had to be found guilty. The establishment wanted her dead.Using new evidence that I’ve uncovered, I say we now need to go back to the scene of the murder, choose a dark evening at about 9.30 pm and reconstruct the crime.There are more than enough invisible clues to show Ruth was set up. She was holding a gun, pointing it at a dying man. To all intents and purposes she appeared to shoot Blakely. The so-called witnesses would have seen nothing else, only the eye-catching blonde causing a diversion. The real killer was probably standing there in full view, but totally invisible to them.
The real murderer was Desmond Cussen. He was the marksman that killed Blakely; and got away with it.
* I have used this name to protect Mrs Hogg’s identity.
On 7th July 2005, the day RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE was published, bombings in London shattered the heart of the capital.
From my point of view publication of the book was just the beginning. The next few months were busy.
I contacted anyone who might spread the word about new findings in our book, from editors of parish magazines and village newsletters to local newspapers in areas connected with the story.
Three years of detective work has taught me there will always be more to discover.The Sevenoaks Chronicle, Warrington-Worldwide, Cornish Guardian and Northumberland Gazette are just a few of the local papers that published reports about the book. Some appealed to readers with first hand evidence of Ruth Ellis in the early 1950’s, to come forward.
I have become even more fascinated by information that I’d not found before. More witnesses from 50 years ago had revealing things to say. New leads and new evidence has emerged, with precise details of Ruth’s movements in the late 1940s and early 1950s, all contradicting the ‘accepted’ Ruth Ellis story that’s been repeated for fifty years.
During the Christmas of 2005 I sorted through information that kept coming in.
Statements from new witnesses had one thing in common. All said Ruth had certain characteristics that had made a deep impression on them: she was a lovely, kind person with grace and style. She was not looked upon as the common peroxide blonde prostitute as she’s been portrayed over the years. That impression was untrue.
Evelyn Galilee was the warder who guarded Ruth in the condemned cell for three weeks before her execution. She remembers Ruth as a “first class woman” whom she liked and says she was not the “troublesome blonde” that warders at Holloway had strangely been told to expect.She told me about Ruth’s last few minutes before her execution.
“Prior to the drop Ruth wanted to go to the toilet. I took her in. These thick padded calico knickers were brought and I was told they had to be put on her. It was against a woman’s dignity. I said, “I’m sorry Ruth but I’ve got to do this.” They had tapes back and front to pull. I blinded my eyes from them as she put them on. “Is that all right?” she said to me. She was very calm. “Would you pull these tapes Evelyn, I’ll pull the others,” They had to be tight. It was in case anything came out. Ruth asked what they were for. I couldn’t tell her.”
Evelyn spoke to me following the publication of our book.A fact challenged by her eyewitness account is the authenticity of letters that Ruth apparently wrote and sent from the condemned cell.
Firstly, all her letters (photocopied from the originals at the Public Record Office) were written in pen. Evelyn told me categorically that “No prisoner in the condemned cell was allowed to use a pen, everything had to be written in pencil and was strictly supervised.”
Also, the “Letter officer” at Holloway prison would have blanked out names on letters that Ruth sent from prison, yet names are clearly mentioned in Ruth’s correspondence.
Finally, in Ruth’s letter dated 12th July 1955, to Mr Simmons, her original solicitor, she refers to remarks made by David Blakely’s brother in a newspaper article following her trial. Evelyn informed me that, “No prisoner in the condemned cell was allowed access to a newspaper or its contents.”
Just before I began this chapter, and thanks to a Westerham historian, I received interesting information from a woman who worked at the ‘House at Home’ public house in Westerham, in the early 1950’s.
In a conversation with Sylvia Smith, she told me that Ruth Ellis and David Blakely, who she described as a “good looking young man” frequented the pub between approximately 1951 and 1953. She recalled that on occasions “Ruth would come in on her own, invariably crying saying David had vanished.”
Seemingly this was Blakely’s habit. Sylvia remembers how the landlord, Ernie Dumbleton, would say, “Ruth’s here and boyfriend has hooked off again and she’s quite tearful. Go and have a chat with her.”
Sylvia thought the couple rented a cottage in Ide Hill or Brasted Chart, adjacent hamlets east of Westerham and a short distance from Fort Halstead. This was the high security research establishment where Britain’s nuclear weapons programme began and is mentioned in our book.
When arrested in 1955, Ruth Ellis maintained that she first met David Blakely two years before, “When I was manageress of the Little Club, Knightsbridge.”It seems they may have actually known each other a lot longer.
BBC Radio Kent broadcast a feature and News item after reading my appeal in the Sevenoaks Chronicle for readers’ recollections of the House at Home between 1951 and 1953.No one else came forward with further evidence of Ruth’s connection with the pub at this time.
So the question of their stay near Westerham remains a mystery.However as we know now that Ruth lied at her trial from start to finish, it would be fair to assume she lied when she claimed she’d only known Blakely for two years.
Recently released prison hospital records point to the fact that Ruth fabricated the main thread of her defence. Ruth is quoted as saying she shot David Blakely in a jealous rage, believing he was having an affair, the incident happening 10 days after he punched her in the stomach and caused her to miscarry their baby. But on arrival at Holloway prison, following her arrest, and before she had time to get her story straight, she told the prison doctor she had actually had an abortion.
Interestingly on 19th March 1952 a passport, number N9584, was issued to Ruth Ellis. At the time she was employed as a hostess at Carroll’s Club in Duke Street in Mayfair. She was hard up, with two children to support. Bear in mind foreign travel then was fairly limited apart from business matters. I have no information to indicate what Ruth was up to. Where she was travelling to is another mystery.I wrote to the Home Office for further details about the passport but after “thorough searches” nothing could be found. They said, “The Home Office does not hold the information that you have requested.”
A further new discovery is that Ruth occasionally visited Tatsfield, a village north-west of Westerham and home to Soviet Super Spy Donald Maclean.In Tales of Tatsfield, author Doris Geary wrote, “I had known Ruth Ellis as a kind, good looking woman; we had laughed and talked together and we had liked each other.” Like Mrs Smith, Doris Geary brought details to light about Ruth’s movements that previous commentators missed.Doris Geary’s brother, Frank Watson was the Tatsfield “cabbie” for 60 years, and chauffeur to Donald Maclean when he lived in the village from December 1950 to May 1951.On the evening of Friday 25th May 1951, Watson drove Maclean to Woldingham station. It was the night he and his colleague Guy Burgess defected to Russia.
In the spring of 1969 Ruth’s widowed 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.Ruth’s sister Muriel found her mother’s handbag, tucked away in a chest of drawers. In it was a small, tatty notebook-cum-address book (now kept safe in a bank vault). Muriel had wondered for years about the names in it.The notebook tells a revealing story of its own.Phone numbers and addresses of Berta and Arthur Neilson’s friends, also notable journalists of the time Peter Grisewood, Jimmy Reid and Duncan Webb and other contacts that she’d scribbled in fifty years ago, became important clues.One London address, in Kensington stood out. After months of research and trawling through electoral registers and directories I realised I hadn’t just found a safe house, I’d found a safe street! I’d uncovered a treasure-trove of spies’ addresses, all in the same Kensington street – some dating back to 1932. As far as I am aware, they have not previously been made public.All the big names in spying were there: Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Menzies, Cowgill, Sinclair, Footman, Burke Trend ……It strikes me as strange, that Ruth Ellis’s mother had this address in her notebook 50 years ago. Had she discovered the shady world in which Ruth was involved?Or was this interesting evidence just another coincidence?An early draft of RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE contained this information, but our publishers felt it was complicated and the whole section was dropped..
When I began ghost writing Muriel Jakubait’s autobiography I intended to find the truth about her sister Ruth. I hope in these articles and in our book I have at least begun to set the record straight.
There is a final post script to the Ruth Ellis story. On 21 May 2005 The Mirror newspaper published an exclusive story, NO PARDON FOR ELLIS. “Fifty years on, government turn down reprieve for hanged Ruth Ellis. Hanged killer Ruth Ellis has been secretly denied a pardon by the Government, documents reveal. The decision has been kept under wraps for fear of unleashing protests which could embarrass ministers.”I wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair for a reaction about the Home Secretary’s decision; and to HM the Queen. Sir Paul Beresford MP wrote to Home Secretary Charles Clarke on my behalf.My enquiries were met with assurances that nobody knew anything.Fiona Mactaggart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State replied to Sir Paul’s letter:“The case of Ruth Ellis has always attracted interest over the years and more particularly in this the fiftieth anniversary of her execution. However, I am unaware of the slowly building campaign to which you have referred. I can confirm that an application for a posthumous free pardon, limited to sentence, was considered and rejected earlier this year.”