It started at the fishmongers..

gunMonica Weller at her home in Bookham has spent the last three years writing a factual book on the life and death of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. It all started after talking to Ron Fowler in the local fish shop who suggested a good story for her to use. Ron told her of a lady to whom he served fish years before when in Byfleet called Muriel Jakubait who was the sister of Ruth Ellis. At that time Muriel was waiting to hear from the Criminal Cases Review Commission to have her sister’s sentence commuted, a review that did not succeed. Just imagine your feelings to have a sister who had been hanged.

ruth2and-nameMonica got in touch with Muriel and soon realised she had a real story to be told. The accepted story is that Ruth aged just 28 was hanged on July 13th 1955 for shooting her lover David Blakely in a jealous rage, and admitting pulling the trigger. But Muriel had much more to tell.

bookTogether, over the last three years, Monica with Muriel’s help has trawled public libraries, company records and death certificates to piece together the real and secret life of Ruth and the truth behind her death.

The story emerges with several connections to Leatherhead, but this is incidental to the amazing tale. Monica travelled to Muriel’s home in Woking two or three times a week to listen and talk to her (while drinking numerous cups of tea and eating bacon sandwiches).It was soon realised that the thought of her sister’s hanging fifty years ago was on her mind throughout every day.

The picture of Muriel’s life emerged and the terrible abuse both her and her sister suffered at the hands of their father, and the effect it had on their lives. But there was much more than all this. The world of Ruth Ellis was far from the public image that has so far been published – she had appeared in a film, she knew Diana Dors and Deborah Kerr and mixed in circles of well known people and spy rings. The book sets out to prove that a third man committed the crime.

It leaves a trail across Mole Valley, Ruth’s father was taken to the new Leatherhead Hospital, in Poplar Road during the second world war, another key character in Ruth’s life, Desmond Cussen, also had deep-running connections with Leatherhead. His tobacco company, Cussen and Co, was based in the town. He lived in a house called Dapdune in Garlands Road, Leatherhead.

The book also tells how Ruth became involved with society doctor Stephen Ward, who was a key player in the Profumo affair later in the 1960s. It describes how he began running Ruth and her life. She was poverty stricken, money was hard to find and along comes Prince Charming Stephen Ward. He transformed her into someone who could move in elite circles. She was unwittingly involved in spying. The book reveals details about the encounters Ruth had with several well-known spies, including the British spies Burgess and Maclean who defected to Russia. Both Monica and Muriel believe that Cussen was a spy and it was he who pulled the trigger and killed David Blakely, not Ruth. Following the Ruth Ellis trial, Cussen moved to Australia, where he later died.

The book makes enthralling reading and also reflects a picture of life from the 1940’s and 50’s. The book is entitled ‘Ruth Ellis, My Sister’s Secret Life’ with Monica ‘ghost-writing’ for Muriel Jakubait and is published by Constable and Robinson. Monica and Muriel appeared on the ‘Richard and Judy’ TV programme a short time ago.

Martin Warwick

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