While it is not the greatest claim to fame, or certainly a challenging one to use for exclusive club entrance or luxurious freebies it is a piece of women's history worth remembering. Ellis was convicted for the murder of her boyfriend, the socialite racing driver David Blakely.
Ellis was born in Rhyl, Wales in 1926 to a Belgian refugee and a Mancunian cellist. Not long after Ellis and her family moved to Basingstoke where she attended school until the age of 14 and became a waitress. Then in 1941 Ellis' father moved the family to London as the Blitz was well under way. He had got a job as a chauffeur in Southwark. Ellis' father came to terms with his failed music career through drink. Ellis took a job in a munitions factory, then after a bout of Rheumatic Fever a photographer's assistant at the Lyceum Ballroom. A now bleach blonde Ellis took on a war time spirit, telling others: "Why not? A short life and a gay one."
It was here that Ellis met the divorced dentist George Ellis in 1950. The hostesses referred to George, who drank heavily as the Mad Dentist. The Mad Dentist pestered Ruth until she decided to agree to meet him at another club. She had no intention of meeting him and went out with her fellow hostesses. The next day it emerged the Mad Dentist had been attacked by an East end gang whilst waiting for Ellis. In a fit of guilt she agreed to go to dinner with him and after he agreed to be treated for alcoholism the Mad Dentist and Ruth were married.
The marriage was unsuccessful. George Ellis often drank himself into stupors and Ruth became consumed with jealousy, believing him to be womanising when he drank. She left him on numerous occasions but always returned. During their bitter arguments George would beat her and often the police had to be called. This was not the respectability Ruth Ellis had been hoping marriage would bring.
George Ellis was admitted to hospital for detoxification treatment. Ruth's jealous rages concerning George and the women staff at the hospital became so frenzied that the psychiatrist treating her husband, Dr Rees prescribed her pills. Interestingly Dr Rees was never called by Ellis' defence to give evidence concerning the sedatives he had prescribed her.
By now Ruth was pregnant with George's child. It is here she becomes associated with Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe; Diana Dors. At 4 months pregnant Ruth Ellis took an uncredited part as a beauty queen in Dors' film Lady Godiva Rides Again.
Not long after Ruth had given birth to their daughter, Georgina, a now detoxified George filed for divorce on grounds of cruelty. Ruth was alone with 2 children to support. She returned to Conley and his club where she quickly regained her popularity with regulars at the club.
In 1953 Conley, recognising Ruth's talent as a hostess, gave her the job of managing a small club in the West end. Around this time Ellis met David Blakely. Descriptions of Blakley are not very flattering. A ponce, a boozer, a sponger, a supercilious public school boy who knew he could knock Ruth around a bit according to racing car driver Cliff Davis, one of Blakely's contemporaries.
Blakely and Ellis began a relationship, even though she was then still married and he had recently announced his engagement to a Miss Dawson. As mentioned earlier Ruth had a tendency towards jealousy in relationships, in 1954 apparently in retaliation to Blakely's philandering ways she struck up a relationship with Cussen.
Desmond Edward Cussen was described during Ellis' court proceedings as her 'alternative lover', in a 1999 Guardian article as her “sugar daddy”. Though at 33 he was hardly the classic Older Man. He was a rather respectable director of the family tobacco business.
When Ellis left (it is not clear whether she quit or was sacked due to a fall in takings) her job as manager it was Cussen who took her and her son in. Both Blakely and Cussen were now given reason to be jealous, Ellis spent nights with Blakely, telling Cussen she was visiting her daughter in Warrington, or friends. Ellis even had Cussen drive her around London following Blakely who was seeing other women.
If it wasn't complicated before, it gets complicated now.
On the 10th of April 1955 Ruth Ellis took a taxi to the flat where she suspected Blakely was conducting an affair. When Blakely emerged with his friend Clive Gunnell from the flat she called out “Hello David, David!” Blakely ignored her and Ellis took out a .38 calibra Smith and Wesson Victory model revolver and fired 5 times at Blakely, causing him to collapse on the pavement. Ellis then fired 3 more shots at closer range. She then asked Gunnell to call the police.
After being examined for any trace of insanity Ellis was found guilty of the murder of Blakely. When Ellis took the witness box she had said “It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him”. Ellis was hanged on the 13th of July 1955.
In 1999 new evidence was brought to light by Ellis' sister, Muriel Jakubait, which suggested diminished responsibility – a defence not possibly until 2 years after the hanging of Ellis, though her case had prompted Parliament to change the law to allow for the defence.
In addition to the mixing of Dr Rees' sedatives with frequent alcohol use which would effect anybody's mind, Ellis had reportedly suffered a miscarriage caused by Blakely punching her in the stomach. Ellis' son, who was 10 at the time claimed he had seen Cussen give Ellis the gun she used to kill Blakely but this was not investigated at the time. Ellis gave a private confession to the solicitor Victor Mishcon about Cussen's involvement and said she had not implicated him in the crime before because: “I didn't say anything about it up to now because it seemed traitorous - absolutely traitorous”.
In 2003 during another attempt to reduce Ellis' conviction to manslaughter it was suggested Ruth Ellis has suffered from Battered Person Syndrome. Ruth Ellis' original conviction was upheld.