RUTH ELLIS: THE LAST TO HANG
There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer for them, and turn them into literature.
Of all the characters that populate this story, Desmond Cussen is perhaps the most enigmatic.
He was referred to at the trial of Ruth Ellis as "her alternative lover," but he operated at a deeper level than just as a sexual or romantic foil for this woman who was using him as leverage in her passionate play for David Blakely.
Some people get lost in thought because it is unfamiliar territory; Ruth Ellis wandered through a hinterland of emotional confusion, torn between her desire for a young, vibrant Lothario, and the comfort and security of an older man who would ultimately fulfil the role of her paternal guardian.
Ruth claimed that she started an affair with Cussen on Thursday June 17th, 1954. It was to her, an act of spite against David, who had not returned to her from racing at Le Mans in France.
Desmond Edward Cussen was thirty-two when he first met up with Ruth. He was born in 1921 in Surrey and had been an RAF pilot, trained in South Africa, and flying Lancaster bombers during World War Two. After he came out of the service in 1946, he studied for and became an accountant.
In due course, he was appointed a director of the family business -- Cussens & Co., a wholesale and retail tobacconists with outlets in London and South Wales. He was based at the company's head office at 93 Peckham High Street in south London. He lived in a self-contained flat at 20 Goodward Court, Devonshire Street in the fashionable Marylebone district, north of Oxford Street.
A car enthusiast, although he never raced professionally, he drove around town as though he was qualifying for a grand-prix event. He was apparently a shy man, dominated by his mother, a trait he shared with Blakely, and outside of work, had found entertainment and companionship at the Steering Wheel Club. He was described as; "'a solitary man, always polite, who never used foul language and did not belong in the circles in which he moved." Cliff Davis had little time for him, saying, "The real villain of the piece was Desmond Cussen. He was a sneaky bastard."
Cussen had met Ruth at Carroll's before David Blakely came into her life and was connected to David through their shared fondness for motor racing and the Steering Wheel Club. There seems little doubt that he and David disliked each other, even before Ruth came between them.
Cussen, it appears, fell desperately in love with Ruth. He adored her energy, her style, her wit and her self-possession. The way she handled the guests at the club and traded profanities with them; her ability to keep up with their raunchy and profane bawdiness. As Cussen loved her and watched her, the more she became attracted to another man, one he disliked. The miasma of jealousy was fuelled by David's laid back, casual and supremely confident "in-your-face" approach.
Desmond Cussen must have realised how ill prepared he was to compete with a man who was not only almost ten years younger, slim, handsome, with a relaxed, buccaneer attitude to life, but was also so obviously the complete antithesis of what he himself was, a man once described by a former colleague as "a bit of a drip."
By the spring of 1954, events were starting to develop their own momentum. George, Ruth's husband, had reappeared on the scene and was stopping in at the Little Club from time to time. He and Ruth were trying to manoeuvre themselves around a number of their problems. He wanted their divorce to become final; she was fighting it off, in order to hang on to the maintenance he was paying. More pressing was the problem of their young daughter Georgina, who was now three. Ruth's life style and living quarters were not an ideal environment for a small child. It was finally agreed that George would take her back to Warrington and arrange for the child to be adopted. This happened in May 1954.
Earlier, in April, Ruth had met up with Carole Findlater for the first time. She and David had attended the thirty-third birthday party of Carole's husband, Anthony. Anthony "Ant" Findlater was the third and final man, who along with his wife, would help connect up the dots that would disclose the shape of the matrix spawning the events of the next twelve months.