Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

RUTH ELLIS: THE LAST TO HANG

The Monster from Mayfair

As if there were some monster in his thought. Othello.    William Shakespeare.

Morris Conley, known as Maury and sometimes as Morrie was a crook, plain and simple. When Ruth crossed his path for the first time, he was 44 years old and had already established himself a reputation as a fraud, a con man and a ponce. In 1936, he declared a business interest he owned, bankrupt, and as a result, made himself a profit of ten thousand pounds out of its failure, a considerable fortune in those days, when a new family home could be bought for five hundred pounds. Tried at the Old Bailey, in connection with this, he was found guilty of fraud and went off to prison for two years. He was also later arrested in connection with rigged slot machines he sold and operated. Inspector Bye of the Metropolitan Police said these slot machines were so crooked, the jackpot could never be won if played for a hundred years. 

Through astute property deals, Conley came to own many houses and apartments, which were rented out to prostitutes. He also owned a number of nightclubs and drinking clubs in Londons West End. In 1956, Duncan Webb, a crusading crime reporter, named Conley as: Britains Biggest Vice Boss.

Conley was short, fat and ugly with tyre lips and heavy jowls. Some one once described him as being ugly as a toad. He was however, affable, shrewd and very rich. While he came across as a smooth, jolly, middle-aged nightclub king, and something of a social butterfly, Webb has also described him as, a monster with the Mayfair touch.

Ruth Ellis
Ruth Ellis

Sometime in 1944, Ruth and Conley came together. She met him at one of his enterprises, the Court Club at 58 Duke Street, just off Grosvenor Square. They sat drinking through the early evening and talking quietly across a table at the back of the club. Ruth remembered that she was flattered and impressed by this wealthy and successful club owner. He, in turn, recognized in Ruth, the perfect formula for a good club hostess -- attractive with a vibrant personality and a core of disenchantment that would allow her to operate above her emotions.

Ruth joined the other six hostesses who supplied the feminine charms at the club in return for a weekly wage far in excess of the average at that time, plus perks such as a clothing allowance, free drinks and, above all for Ruth, the chance to mix with a good class of people.

She and Conley formed an alliance that would last for nine years. She would become one of his best managers, operating a number of his clubs across the West End. In return, he would use her for sexual favors and, in addition, abuse her when he was drunk. It was a scenario that would be replicated with boring repetition through her life, as over and over again, she chose the wrong man for the wrong reason.

Along with Conley, Ruth would also make herself available to some of the clubs clients, and was soon establishing a reputation with men of substance and high social standing, the two attributes that Ruth had yearned for all her short life. The money she earned seemed to evaporate on living the good life, but she also helped support her parents and made sure her son was well cared for. More and more, her sister Muriel was mothering Andy, with Ruth struggling to find time on Sundays to share with the child.

Early in 1950, Ruth became pregnant by one of her regular customers. She had an abortion by the third month and returned to work almost immediately. Under the stress of maintaining a bright and bubbly image for her clients, she was drinking heavily and punishing herself physically to remain the ever-gay companion her customers expected. It was during this time, the summer of 1950, she met up with the next man who was to have a major influence on her life. In keeping with the pattern she was establishing, he would turn out to be less than perfect.

 

 

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