The Story of Ruth Ellis, the Last Woman to Be Hanged in the United Kingdom on July 13, 1955

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Ruth Ellis (October 9, 1926 – July 13, 1955) was a British escort and nightclub hostess. She was the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.

Ruth Ellis was born Ruth Neilson in the coastal town of Rhyl, Wales, the fifth of six children. The original family name was Hornby but her father, a cellist from Manchester, used the stage name Arthur Neilson. Her mother, Elisaberta, was half French, half Belgian and had fled to the UK during the World War I German invasion of Belgium. As a young girl, Ellis loved clothes and aspired to make something out of her life.

Ellis attended Fairfields Senior Girls’ School in Basingstoke, leaving when she was 14 to work as a waitress. Shortly afterwards, in 1941, the Neilsons moved to London. In 1944, 17-year-old Ruth became pregnant by a married Canadian soldier named Clare and gave birth to a son, whom she named Clare Andria Neilson, known as “Andy”. The father sent money for about a year, then stopped. The child eventually went to live with her mother.

Ellis became a nightclub hostess through nude modeling work, which paid significantly more than the various factory and clerical jobs she had held since leaving school. Morris Conley, the manager of the Court Club in Duke Street, where she worked, blackmailed his hostess employees into sleeping with him. By early 1950 she was making money as a prostitute and became pregnant by one of her regular clients. She had this pregnancy terminated (illegally) in the third month and returned to work as soon as she could.

On November 8, 1950, she married 41-year-old George Johnston Ellis, a divorced dentist with two sons, at the register office in Tonbridge, Kent. He had been a customer at the Court Club. He was a violent alcoholic, jealous and possessive, and the marriage deteriorated rapidly because he was convinced she was having an affair. Ruth left him several times but always returned.

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