Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

RUTH ELLIS: THE LAST TO HANG

Taken to the Edge

But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun?
So tell me now, and I wont ask again
Will you still love me in the morning?

Gerry Coffin and Carole King.

For almost nineteen months Ruth and David had been feeding off each other. Like sharks, they had to keep moving all the time, trying to satisfy a hunger and quench the thirsts for their sexual and emotional appetites. They were very definitely creatures of chronic dependence. Addicted to alcohol, addicted to nicotine, they were also sexual predators, feeding of each others shortcomings and weaknesses.

Although Ruth was a woman of questionable moral standards, using both David and Desmond as it suited her moods, there seems little doubt that she craved and longed for a "proper" relationship with Blakely, but found it impossible to reconcile her deep desire for a monogamous relationship with his intransigent sexual marauding. And so they scratched and fought like alley cats, until she reached the end of her tether.

It came quickly in that second week of April 1955.

Andy was sleeping on a camp bed in the same bedroom as Ruth who, ill with the delayed effects of her operation and hung over with a heavy cold, could not have been good company when David came visiting. He was late home on the Monday and Tuesday evening, telling Ruth he had been seeing people about the Emperor. On the Wednesday, he came home early, bringing to Ruth a photograph he had just had taken. It was a promotional photo for the Bristol Motor Companys works team. David had been selected to race in the Le Mans event again, this time on June 9th. He had endorsed the photograph: "To Ruth with all my love, David."

They had arranged to go to the theatre on Thursday night, but David was delayed and instead they visited a cinema. Ruth later claimed that all through the movie David was nuzzling her, telling her how much he loved her.

On Friday 8th April, the beginning of the Easter long weekend, David left early in the morning, about ten oclock, saying he had a meeting with Ant to discuss options that were open on the Emperor. He said he would be home early. He had promised Ruth that he would not visit Ant at his home, without telling her. Ruth distrusted both the Findlaters, but in particular Carole.  David and Ruth had planned a day out on Saturday with Andy. Everything in the world seemed fine. Twelve hours later it had all turned to dust.

By 9.30 pm that night David had not returned to Egerton Gardens. Ruth rang the Findlaters. The first time she spoke to their 19-year-old nanny (Carole had given birth to a daughter, Francesca, in May 1954). She said there was no one at home. Later Ruth rang again and this time spoke to Ant. He said David was not there. Later in evidence, Ruth stated, "I knew at once that David was there, and they were laughing behind my back."

Ruth had been riding a roller coaster for almost two years and now she knew it had stopped, perhaps forever. If only David had come to the telephone and spoken to her, it is likely she would have exhausted her pent up feelings, berated and abused him, and then gone back to loving him, as she had done so often in the past.

She wrote before her trial, "I just could not believe, after all I had been through, that David could be such an unmitigated cad as to treat me has he had. If only I had been able to speak to him and give vent to my feelings, I do not think any of this would have happened."

Now it all changed. Psychologists know that there is a close homogeneity between love and hate. Ruth had loved David passionately and now she switched to hating him with the same emotional excess.

Throughout the rest of that evening, Ruth kept calling the Findlaters flat. Eventually, they removed the phone from its cradle. By midnight, Ruth was in a frantic and hysterical state. She called Desmond and he agreed to drive her to Tanza Road. When they arrived, she repeatedly rang the doorbell and hammered on the front door of number 29, but no one would answer. Ruth then set about smashing in the windows of Davids dark green Vanguard, a van that had been converted into a saloon. By now, it was about two in the morning of Saturday. Someone in the house called the police and an incident car from Hampstead Station arrived.

It is interesting to try to picture the scene in the street that chill, April morning. There was Ruth, screaming and yelling, abusing David and the Findlaters; there was Ant, in pyjamas and dressing gown, his hair mussed up from his disturbed sleep, hopping about trying to calm things down; there was the police, adopting their usual conciliatory approach to domestic incidents, and hoping like hell they wouldnt catch the back-end of some sudden, violent eruption. And there was Desmond, sitting in his big, black Ford Zodiac saloon, the very image of a benign benefactor.

The police eventually left after having calmed things down, but Ruth persisted in her demands to see David who, true to form, would be cowering somewhere, anywhere away from a potential source of violence. The Findlaters recalled the police, but by the time they had arrived, Desmond had coaxed Ruth into his car and driven off.

David was indeed staying at 29 Tanza Road. He had met up with Ant and Carole at the Magdala for drinks that Friday lunchtime. He told them, "Im supposed to be calling for Ruth at eight to-night. I cant stand it any longer, I want to get away from her."

Carole had chided David, telling him, "that any man can leave any woman."

In an amazingly well timed and prophetic statement, David had replied, "You dont know her, you dont know what she can do." Within 60 hours, they would find out.

Ant and Carole persuaded David to stay with them over the Easter weekend. On Saturday morning, Ruth again telephoned the Findlaters address. The phone was lifted and then clicked down on her. Seething with anger and frustration, she went by taxi back into Hampstead and hid in the doorway of a house in Tanza Road, just down the street from number 29. She saw Ant and David come out of the house about ten oclock, inspect the damage she had done to the Vanguard and then drive off. She guessed, correctly, that they were heading into Mayfair to a garage owned by another of Davids motoring friends, Clive Gunnell. She waited a while and then, using a public telephone box, rang Findlaters' number, only to have Ant hang up on her again.

Ruth returned to her flat in Egerton Gardens, made lunch for Andy and then packed him off to spend the day on his own at London Zoo in Regents Park. At about two oclock in the afternoon, Desmond drove her back yet again into Hampstead and dropped her off in Tanza Road. She had now convinced herself that David was having an affair with the nanny. A stout, buxom young woman of only nineteen, she was definitely not the prototype Blakely femme fatale. But by now, Ruth was losing control and was prepared to believe anything.

About four-thirty in the afternoon she saw the Findlaters, David and the nanny carrying the baby, leave the flat and drive away. Desmond picked her up and they drove back to her place. She fed Andy who had returned from his lonely expedition to the zoo, packed him off to bed, and then she had Desmond come around to pick her up. Their destination was yet again the northern suburb of Hampstead.

This was the fourth time in twenty-four hours she had made this pilgrimage to the house in Tanza Road. Although she had sighted David, she had not spoken to him since he had left her on Friday morning.

The Findlaters were hosting a party and the window of their second floor flat was open, voices drifting down into the dark, shadowy street. Consumed with jealousy and hate, she paced up and down the street, chain smoking, and no doubt ruminating on what had brought her to this junction in her sad and troubled life.

Because of David, she had lost her job. Because of David, she had lost the comfort and security of Desmond Cussens comfortable and expensive home at Goodwood Court. Because of David, she was broke. When she was arrested, she had six copper pennies in her handbag and her bank account was cleared out. She was sick and tired of waking up every morning feeling sick and tired; she had not slept for forty-eight hours. She was taking drugs -- tranquillisers prescribed by Doctor Rees -- and drinking heavily.

Eventually, Desmond persuaded her to go home and in the early hours of Sunday morning they returned to her flat. She would spend another restless and troubled night, fuelled by drugs and alcohol. By the breaking of the dawn, she would have made up her mind and committed herself to the only course of action she felt left open.

 

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