Courts set to quash Ruth Ellis murder conviction

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The Independent Online

Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, is set to have her murder conviction reduced to manslaughter 46 years after her execution, The Independent has learned.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the case to the Court of Appeal after lawyers for Ms Ellis's family successfully argued that the 28-year-old was provoked into shooting dead her lover, David Blakely. It believes there is evidence that the murder conviction was "unsafe" and that the original trial was mismanaged.

If the Court of Appeal quashed the murder conviction, relatives of Ellis could receive substantial compensation. Ellis could also receive a pardon.

Muriel Jakubait, 81, fought to clear her sister's name for nearly half a century. She said last night that she was "over the moon". "We kept being told she would never be cleared but I never gave up hope. She should never have been hanged."

When Ellis, a nightclub hostess, shot her racing-driver lover outside a pub in Hampstead, north-west London, on Easter Sunday 1955, the story gripped the nation. It took a jury at the Old Bailey just 23 minutes to convict her of murder and she was hanged at Holloway prison a month later.

Lawyers have evidence that Ellis was suffering from clinical depression at the time of the trial and had been provoked and encouraged by a lover to shoot. There is also material that suggests her solicitors were negligent in handling the case.

The most important evidence is a new psychiatric report. It concludes that Ellis was suffering from "post-natal or post-miscarriage depression". Ellis miscarried 10 days before the killing after Blakely, who was the baby's father, punched her in the stomach.

Lawyers also argued that the young woman was further provoked by another lover, Desmond Cussen, who was jealous of Blakely. He gave her the gun and drove her to the pub where the shooting took place. Ellis was also sexually and physically abused by her father and was beaten by a former husband. None of these facts was given to the jury during the trial.

Bernard De Maid, the Ellis solicitor, said: "She should never have been executed. The case was clearly mismanaged."