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4th July 2015
The Mysterious Mrs Pamela Abbott of Penn
I have been uncovering information about Mrs Pamela Abbott who, in 1955, lived at the Old Vicarage in Penn in Buckinghamshire. According to Ruth Ellis, in a statement she gave to her defence counsel at the time of the investigation into the murder of David Blakely, Mrs Abbott and Blakely were having an affair. Over the next few days I will bring readers of my blog up to date with my recent findings about the mysterious Pamela Abbott. In Chapter 11, ‘The Ruth Ellis Network’, of our book RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE, we briefly sum up Ruth’s behaviour during the Easter weekend of 1955:
[The PRO is now called The National Archives…TNA]
To be continued
5th July 2015
REGINA V RUTH ELLIS
To put things in context I need to go back to 2002 when I began my research for our book. I’d read books previously written about Ruth Ellis: Robert Hancock’s published in 1963; Laurence Marks and Tony Van Den Bergh in 1977; and in 1995 by Georgina Ellis. All writers had something to say about Blakely’s woman in Penn with whom he was having an affair. None of the writers named her. Hancock in Ruth Ellis the last woman to be hanged began the tale with ‘the very good looking married woman, who, inevitably, was older than David…She [Ruth Ellis] also found out that the woman’s husband was often away from home’. Marks and Van Den Bergh wrote ‘Ruth Ellis knew about his married woman friend at Penn…Whenever he left her [Ruth Ellis] saying he was going down to Silicon Pistons to work, she claimed he was lying and would imagine him sleeping with his mistress’. Georgina Ellis, in her book, makes several references to Blakely’s affair, continuing the tale about David Blakely’s ‘extra-curricular activities with the married woman in Penn’. When I began my own research into the Ruth Ellis story at The National Archives 13 years ago I was determined to find information about this unnamed woman in Penn. Searching through hundreds of files and documents that had been closed for nearly 50 years, I eventually uncovered a large document entitled REGINA V RUTH ELLIS … BRIEF TO COUNSEL TO APPEAR ON BEHALF OF THE ACCUSED from which I will quote:
“Penn and Pam Abbott When Mr Bickford [Ruth’s solicitor] suggested to Mrs Ellis that perhaps she was mistaken in her belief concerning Mrs Abbott, she was highly indignant and went to the trouble of writing the further statement headed ‘Reasons for thinking David was having an affair with Pam Abbott…Mr Bickford saw Mrs Abbott and was certainly given the impression by her that she looked upon David Blakely more or less as a young boy and that she was just an intimate friend of the family. She is about 30 to 35 and probably the most attractive woman in Penn….Both Mrs Abbott and her husband …..whom Mr Bickford has met are very anxious that this episode should not come out…”
Carol Ann Lee, in her book A Fine Day for a Hanging – The Real Ruth Ellis Story, published seven years after ours in 2012, devotes one paragraph to Ruth’s story about David Blakey and Pam Abbott.
To be continued
6th July 2015
Because of time constraints in my research at the time of ghost writing RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE, I could get no closer to who this Pamela Abbott really was. All I’d found was her name and that she was an attractive older woman who lived in Penn. I could not even find her address in Penn, only references to ‘the married woman’s house’ in the various books about Ruth Ellis.
I could not find any evidence of her birth, marriage or death, any electoral register details, not even a telephone number for an Abbott family in Penn.
Then last week on an online genealogy resource I found a glimpse of this elusive lady. There was a reference to her address in 1950. On 16 January 1950, aged 24, Mrs Pamela Joyce Abbott whose last address in the UK was given as The Old Vicarage, Penn, in Buckinghamshire, sailed from Southampton to Egypt on the recently refitted troopship SS Empire Orwell. On the ship’s passenger list she was described as the wife of an army officer who would be taking up permanent residence in Egypt. She was travelling with other army officers’ wives joining their husbands in Egypt; a place, then, where the British presence was resented.
I could find no further evidence of Mrs Abbott’s life until she returned to Southampton on 19 December 1950, having sailed from Port Said on the Empire Fowey. Her last permanent residence was given as Egypt. Her intended future permanent residence in the UK was not given as The Old Vicarage in Penn though, it was given as a house called Troutwell in the village.
(The Old Vicarage and Troutwell were grand properties in Church Road in the village of Penn. Troutwell dates back to the 17th
century; it was subdivided into flats in the 1950s. The Old Vicarage was a fine white painted Georgian villa).
Purely out of interest and having a few spare minutes, I turned the online page of the Empire Fowey’s incoming passenger list. To my absolute surprise I discovered that, also arriving in Southampton on the same ship, on the same day as Mrs Abbott, was a Mrs Foxon. Aged 30, her last permanent residence was given as Egypt. Her address in the UK was given as Bembridge, Pilgrim’s Way, Dorking. I was not expecting to see Mrs Foxon’s name, even loosely connected, with that of Mrs Pamela Abbott!
Can I suggest that at this stage in the story, to remind yourself about Mrs Foxon, you read my Blog Page entitled: Dorothy Foxon…the mystery unfolds, and/ or Chapter 10 in RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE.
To be continued
7th July 2015
EGYPT AND BACK
So, it was quite by chance I found Mrs Pamela Abbot and Mrs Foxon, both in Cairo at the same time. And both on the same ship returning to the UK. Quite a breakthrough in my continuing research. Both ladies would become closely associated with Ruth Ellis. Was it a coincidence? Was Ruth part of a story that has been carefully concealed for 60 years?
Let’s go back to the end of 1950 and Penn in Buckinghamshire and a reminder of a few residents, all of whom lived within a mile of each other, in the village: David Blakely and his family including mother and stepfather lived at Granneys in Witheridge Lane; Mrs Pamela Abbott having returned from Egypt was living in Church Road, Penn. Lady Maclean, mother of British diplomat and traitor Donald Maclean, had owned Elm Cottage in Beacon Hill for nearly 30 years.
Here is a brief piece of history that I have been able to piece together about the British spy from Penn, Donald Maclean, who vanished from the UK in May 1951 reappearing later in Russia and whose remains are buried in Penn churchyard.
In August 1948 Maclean, who had been serving as a senior diplomat at the British Embassy in Washington, was recalled to London. He had served at the Embassy since 1944 and during his four years there had access to top secret work connected with the development of the atomic bomb known as the Manhattan Project.
Maclean and his wife Melinda left New York on the Queen Mary in August 1948 arriving in Southampton on 6 September. They then sailed to Egypt arriving in Cairo in October that year where Maclean took up the post as Head of Chancery on promotion to Counsellor at the British Embassy .
Nine months before the Macleans’ arrival in Cairo in 1948, I discovered that Mrs Foxon (mentioned in yesterday’s post) had already arrived. She’d left her home in Dorking, and sailed on the Empire Windrush from Tilbury to Egypt to join her army officer husband there.
The Macleans, the Abbotts and the Foxons were all in Cairo at the same time. It would be inconceivable to think they didn’t know each other. These people of a certain status wanted to be together. They homed in on each other like a club, working and socialising in the same tight knit diplomatic circle. They were all patriots and all out there together.
However by the spring of 1950 Donald Maclean was displaying drunken, abusive, and homosexual behaviour – and he would switch from being a drunken and aggressive brawler to suave diplomat. On Friday 11th May 1950 he was removed from his diplomatic post and flown out of the country back to England for immediate treatment. He was apparently suffering from a severe nervous breakdown. He didn’t return to his duties at the Foreign Office in London until November 1950 where he was promptly promoted. By one of those coincidences, Mrs Foxon and Mrs Abbott were both back in the UK by the end of 1950.
Large gaps still remain in the Maclean, Abbott and Foxon story. I am treading in unchartered territory. But the connection is too important to leave out in the Ruth Ellis story.
To be continued
The contents of my blog are strictly copyright
8th July 2015
CIRCLE OF ‘FRIENDS’
…a complicated blog post to write.
I need to return to that Easter weekend of 1955. But first I shall include here a brief extract from Dr Duncan Whittaker’s statement about Ruth Ellis whom he had examined for two hours on 4th June 1955, approximately two months after she allegedly shot David Blakely. Whittaker was Consultant in Psychological Medicine to the Woolwich and Bromley Group Management Committee; much of his report was given in evidence at Ruth Ellis’s trial the Old Bailey.
“She indignantly denies that her behaviour of the weekend was hysterical, and said that on the whole she is a calm person. Nevertheless her whole history is that of an emotionally immature person, and her present equanimity is ‘la belle indifference de l’hysterique’ whose intolerable problem has been solved at an immature level of behaviour and who is prepared to pay the price for this solution. Jealousy, of course, played a very large part, but it was her incapacity to get out of an intolerable situation which finally precipitated her action…An emotionally mature woman would have been prevented from this action by thoughts of her children. I asked her about this point and she told me that she never once thought of them”.
Ruth had a retentive memory, extraordinary recall and the ability to recite a sequence of facts, almost verbatim. In this instance, the climax of her story-telling about David Blakely’s alleged affair with Mrs Pamela Abbott and the sequence of events, was reached that Easter weekend.
Other writers of the Ruth Ellis story refer to, and repeat in detail, her peculiar conduct, her wild chases from London to Penn and back that Easter weekend, and subsequent offhand remarks Ruth made at her trial.
I did not take things at face value.
In my opinion, and based on everything I have already discovered about her, Ruth was not displaying the signs of hysteria or an ’emotionally immature person’. She was showing the signs of leading a double life and her strength as a spy at a dangerous time at the height of the Cold War.
She skilfully fooled everyone from psychiatrists and police officers, to her solicitor and defence counsel, and the prosecuting counsel, with her lies and elaborate cover story. In the process she successfully covered up something important, deflecting suspicion away from influential people, their secret lives in Penn (and elsewhere but I won’t go into that now) and the real story.
While protecting them she signed her own death warrant. As she said to her original solictors Mr Mishcon and Mr Simmons (whom she recalled on 12th July 1955 the day before she was hanged, and who visited her in the condemned cell at Holloway prison) it would have been ‘traitorous’ to say anything else. Ruth Ellis was loyal to the end of her life at the gallows.
I have broken new ground. I don’t have all the answers. I can’t give explanations for everything. I can provide only a glimpse of what was going on which was much more than anyone has ever realised.
In RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE I could only scratch the surface about Mrs Abbott and Mrs Foxon. Both ladies’ identities were protected. At Ruth Ellis’s trial Mrs Abbott retained her anonymity. Mrs Foxon’s name did not even come into the story until I discovered her existence while researching our book. And it was quite by chance that last week I stumbled across a connection between Mrs Abbott and Mrs Foxon.
I am not surprised Mrs Abbott didn’t want her name mentioned in court in connection with a so-called affair with David Blakely. The reason was more sinister than covering up alleged ‘extra curricular’ sexual activities with him. And let’s not forget one thing about Blakely, that was also not brought out in court, and about which Ruth Ellis was aware: he was a homosexual.
The full facts about the Ruth Ellis story will probably never be known. I hope I have provided another piece of the jigsaw in this sad but intriguing story.
The British public have been duped for 60 years.