I was pleasantly intrigued to see two experts I know in a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about Ruth Ellis, starting on Tuesday 13 March, 9pm.
Brian Hook and Andy Rose are highly experienced former detectives. They generously devoted their time to give me a modern perspective on the Nude Killer investigation. I used their input extensively in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.
In The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story, Brian and Andy help documentary maker Gillian Pachter to re-examine this notorious case.
Last woman to be hanged
Eillis shot her lover David Blakely outside a pub in Hampstead and in July 1955 became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.
It was, and still is, a shocking case is. Pachter, with insights from experts such as Michael Mansfield QC, along with Brian and Andy, reveals how Ellis was treated brutally by the legal system and prejudices of the time.
She was beaten often by Blakely. On one occasion she punched by Blakely and lost a baby she was pregnant with. Pachter also shows how Ellis may have been encouraged to kill Blakely by an admirer who was jealous of her boyfriend.
Desmond Cussen supplied Ellis with the gun she used, showed her how to shoot and drove her to the Hampstead pub. None of this came out at the trial.
Forensics and investigation of the Ellis case
Episode one delves into the police investigation, which is Andy and Brian’s area of expertise. Both have experience of murder scenes and evidence-gathering. Today they teach these subjects at West London University.
My one quibble with the series is the irritating style in which it is made. B-movie footage of cowboys and gangsters are ludicrously inserted into Pachter’s narration. This is distracting and irrelevant.
And insights from the likes of Mansfield are interrupted by endless shots of Pachter entering buildings or looking through files.
These points aside, this is still a fascinating close-up look at a tragic case.