July 13, 1955
Ruth Ellis, the last woman executed in the U.K., is hanged for the murder of her lover
Ellis and David Blakely (pictured) had had a turbulent relationship. This included Blakely moving into Ellis’ flat while he was engaged to another woman, as well as causing the miscarriage of their child when Blakely punched Ellis in the stomach during an argument.
After years of emotional and physical abuse, Ellis stalked Blakely, tracking him to a hotel she believed he was visiting. She called out to him, which he ignored, and she pulled her .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Victory revolver (inset) and shot at him. The first bullet missed, the second caused him to stumble, and three more were fired into him as he lay on the sidewalk. The last shot fired hit the sidewalk and ricocheted, injuring a woman at the base of her thumb. She was immediately arrested by an off-duty police officer and admitted her guilt freely.
Ellis’ trial was sensationalized, with spectators viewing her as a “blonde tart” for her signature bleach-blonde hair and her past involving prostitution. Her defense was more or less non-existent and she sought no reprieve from the death penalty (though her family attempted to petition her reprieve on her behalf but were denied).
In one of Ellis’ final correspondences, she wrote to Blakely’s parents “I have always loved your son, and I shall die still loving him.” Her execution was the last one in the UK of a female prisoner and eventually helped abolish the death penalty; the last execution in the UK was in 1964.