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Ruth Ellis: The last woman to be hanged in Britain

Updated on June 17, 2015
Dance with a Stranger. The true story of Ruth Ellis
Dance with a Stranger. The true story of Ruth Ellis | Source

Dance with a Stranger: Movie

Ruth Ellis was only twenty-eight years old when she died. It wasn't a tragic accident. She didn't die of some awful disease.

She was hanged by the British judicial system and was the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

She shot her lover

Today, that would be seen as a domestic crime.

Today, it's suggested that she was the victim of domestic abuse by her lover, David Blakely and this, combined with various medical issues she had, means that the accusation of murder (as opposed to manslaughter) wouldn't even be considered today.

She was also a young mother. After an unhappy childhood, she'd had a baby by a Canadian soldier; it transpired that he was a married man with three children. Ruth later married another man and had a daughter but the marriage ended and the couple separated. You can read more about her life here.

Was Ruth Ellis guilty?

I can't read or watch enough about this fascinating story and the sequence of events. The hanging has passed into history now - there were no other women hanged in the UK and the death penalty was abolished altogether in the nineteen sixties.

Soon it will be sixty years since the events that sent Ruth Ellis to the hangman's noose. Will be ever know the truth?

More than meets the eye?

Ruth's sister, Muriel, claims that Ruth was innocent. She maintains that there was an involvement with espionage, due to Stephen Ward, a key figure in the Profumo affair.

Yes, I know that is exactly the sort of claim a sister would make but see the video below - the argument is quite compelling. Ruth was 5'2" - she weighed about 100 pounds.There are those who say that she wouldn't have had the physical strength to accurately fire the heavy gun.

Interesting videos

See the trailer from the film and also some other interesting video clips.

Today, it's widely thought that Ruth Ellis' appearance disadvantaged her in court. She was an attractive blonde and her lawyers advised her to tone down her appearance for the court case.

Ruth, being only a young woman, refused to comply. She had no shame in her appearance and - quite possibly - thought that how she had nothing to be ashamed of and preferred to be herself. Maybe she even had faith in the British judicial system, who knows?

And who were these posh upper class lawyers to tell her how to dress and how to apply her makeup? The jury, she thought, would be made up of normal people who didn't care what she looked like or the image she presented.

Surely the jury would be able to see how badly she had been abused in her relationship? Surely they would see that it was a spur of the moment thing and not a premeditated crime?

The country was shocked by the sentence Ruth Ellis received.Already, the public tide of opinion was turning when it came to the death penalty.

Learn more about the Ruth Ellis case and her life. Both are valuable companion pieces to accompany the film.

A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story
A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story

This shows another side of the picture. Although the book is well-researched it shows a different viewpoint to that of Ruth's sister (somewhat naturally).

It's a valuable addition to the collection of the Ellis historian or anyone who is interested in true crime stories.


Other cases that involved the death penalty

The British public were beginning to realise that the death penalty was actually a little too barbaric for a civilised society. There were several cases that caused public feeling to sway in that direction. Use these links to read about them:

Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig - how could Bentley be hanged for a crime that everyone knew he didn't commit?

John Christie and Timothy Evans - Evans, like Bentley, was educationally inferior. It turned out that he had not committed the crimes he was hanged for.

The last men to be hanged in Britain - these men were guilty of their crimes but should they have been hanged?

© 2013 Jackie Jackson


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    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Brite-Ideas: Thank you. I do hope that we get to know the truth one day. I'm currently researching her children (both dead) and will add the info above. One was suicide...

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      glad she was the last - but that's a terrible historical claim that she has to be tagged with isn't it - very interesting to read your review


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