Thanks due to Monica Weller for her voluminous and exhaustive research into the Ruth Ellis and Stephen Ward connections
Influential men, of course, need to know that details of their late night assignations are going to remain secret which is why it would have been most convenient for them when Ruth became the last female in the UK to feel the warmth of the hangman’s noose as it tightened sharply around her slender neck. She had been convicted of murder.
Now Ruth had been caught bang to rights with the smoking pistol still in her hands, when she shot, and killed, her boyfriend David Blakely outside a pub in Hampstead but, when visited by a solicitor on the eve of her execution and asked what had really happened on the fateful night she stated that she hadn’t told the truth because to do so “seemed traitorous – absolutely traitorous.”
Which is an interesting turn of phrase, don’t you think? Who was she protecting and just what secrets did she take with her to her grave? I did hear a rumour that she had slept with the Duke of Edinburgh, but that could just be bullshit.
What is true though is that Stephen Ward had used his showbiz contacts to secure Ruth an appearance in the 1951 film Lady Godiva Rides Again which starred Kay Kendall, Joan Collins, Diana Dors, Jane Hart, Pat Marlowe and Gina Egan.
Following filming, in her 1981 autobiography Dors by Diana, the delightful Miss Double D recalled: “I commenced filming on location at Folkestone where I met a beautiful young girl named Jane Hart who was playing a small role…when the boyfriend arrived at our hotel I did not take to him at all: he looked devious and was something of a show-off…he found fame as a slick society doctor among the jet set…My earlier opinion of him was confirmed in 1963, however, when Dr Stephen Ward died from an overdose of drugs after it had been revealed that he was behind the Christine Keeler affair…”
Which all sounds rather a little too disingenuous to me? She may not have liked Ward but she certainly moved in the same circles, attended the same parties, utilised the same surreptitious and devious two-way mirror recording techniques and covered her tracks by employing the very same lawyer: the lady doth protest too much, methinks!
Kay Kendall was a close friend of Ward. Indeed, at the time that John Profumo first met his future wife – another actress – Valerie Hobson in 1947 she was, rather inconveniently, already married. No problem, however, as Kay Kendall was busily employed to keep Hobson’s husband off the scent by fucking him senseless. Could this deception have been arranged by Ward? Almost certainly.
Pat Marlowe was yet another friend of Ward’s. She, allegedly, had an affair with Lord Astor, before, certainly, giving birth to the illegitimate child of the famous entertainer Max Bygraves. He would then pay her £10,000 in ‘shut your mouth’ money in order that she kept schtum* about the child’s paternity.
*Schtum = say nothing - especially in circumstances where saying the wrong thing may get you into trouble.
In August 1962 Pat was discovered dead in bed from, yes you guessed it, yet another drug overdose. Barbiturates prescribed for ‘depression’ in this case.
Gina Egan meanwhile, who worked with Ruth Ellis at the Little Club in Knightsbridge, was also friends with one Vicki Martin whose flat-mate in London was Ruth Ellis. Circles within circles. Again. Gina Egan would go on to marry the Maharajah of Cooch Behar; about whom I shall reveal more imminently.
However, it is worth considering just how influential Ward must have been within showbiz circles in order that he could arrange for his girls to appear in these movies. One wonders if Ward was trying to establish himself as a show-business impresario, or, perhaps, he had employed the services of one.
Vicki Martin had been born Valerie Mewes in 1931. She first met Stephen Ward in a doorway on London’s Oxford Street when they were both sheltering from a thunderstorm, or so he claimed. He took her in and began his Henry Higgins act (ironically, the fictitious Pygmalion character Higgins operated from Wimpole Street, as did Stephen Ward, whilst its star, Rex Harrison, would marry Ward’s friend Kay Kendall), transforming her from small-town provincial girl into the hottest glamour model in London. He got her a job at Murray’s Cabaret Club and she started to pick up bits and pieces of acting work including, in 1952, an appearance in the film, It Started in Paradise with Kay Kendall, who had been in Lady Godiva Rides Again with Ruth Ellis etc.
Pretty soon she had picked up something far more valuable than a bit-part; the Maharajah of Cooch Behar.
The exotically monikered Maharajah was something of a 1950s playboy whose horse-racing colours had graced many a racing-meet up and down the country. On the day he first met Vicki he is said to have walked into the Dorchester Hotel and ordered that the entire contents of its flower shop be delivered to her.
His largesse did not stop there, however, as he also commissioned the renowned artist Vasco Lazzolo to paint her portrait. In this endeavour he was not alone as she had also been previously sketched by Stephen Ward, and indeed, Ward and Lazzolo were pals.
Both were members of the infamous Thursday Club – along with the Duke of Edinburgh and where the Kray Twins or the spy Kim Philby were prone to drop by to chew the fat with the great and the good – and Lazzolo gave evidence in Ward’s defence at his trial. In this respect Lazzolo was taking a big risk as he had been warned by Detective Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert – who also investigated the Stripper murders - that by doing so he risked being discredited, perhaps by the ‘discovery’ of some pornographic material in his studio which could lead to a subsequent prosecution.
But back to the Maharajah, who had, by now, become extremely eager to add a veneer of respectability to Lazzolo’s portrait by placing a ring on the finger of the exalted Miss Martin. Unfortunately for him his family did not share his joy at the prospect of the ensuing nuptials and they threatened to divorce him from his wealth should he insist upon - euphemism alert! - taking her up the aisle. They needn’t have worried though, for not long afterwards Vicki found she wouldn’t be going anywhere anymore.
Vicki was, it seems, as fond of a fast car as she was a fast buck. She was also rather prone to crashing fast cars too. Some estimates put her motoring misdemeanours at a staggering twelve accidents, before, on January 9th 1955, the unlucky thirteenth claimed her life when she smashed head first into a newly-wed couple in Maidenhead in Berkshire; however, if the brides maidenhead was still intact at this point is unclear!
Vicki, despite never really working, left some £2,000 in her will, which at today’s values would be worth around £45,000. Certainly a far better return than poor old punch-drunk Freddie Mills ever managed to accrue!
With Vicki that fateful night was a Canadian author, who claimed an obscure connection to the Jack the Ripper case, by the name of Terence Robertson. Robertson alleged in 1950 that he had discovered an additional victim of the Whitechapel fiend with his discovery of the case of the delightfully named prostitute Fairy Fay who had met her demise on the night of Boxing Day 1887. Fast forward five years from his ‘discovery’, to 1955, and Robertson would find himself standing before a judge claiming that he had absolutely no memory of the car accident that killed Vicki, possibly because, at an earlier inquest hearing numerous friends of Vicki’s had told the judge that she could not drive!
So just who was driving that dramatic evening remains a mystery, as do Vicki’s earlier movements on the night in question. Some claim she had been at a nightclub, some a restaurant, some even claim she had been at Lord Astor’s residence, Cliveden House, but I guess we will never know for sure. Robertson’s wonky memory would come back to haunt him with tragic implications when he landed up as another of those poor unfortunates who ‘forgets’ just how many sleeping pills they’ve already taken. It is truly amazing just how many people with secrets have difficulty sleeping!
Coincidentally, or not, Vicki’s sister Vivienne Warren would later become the second wife of pornographer-in-chief George Harrison Marks. Also coincidentally, Vivienne went to the same school as Christine Keeler. More circles within circles.
By 1955 both Ruth Ellis and Vicki Martin were dead and buried but the Dr Stephen Ward modus operandi was in full working operation. Namely, discover attractive but vulnerable women that can be seduced in order that they will do your bidding. But to what end?
One can only speculate and so that is precisely what I shall do. It is perhaps no surprise that young Vicki Martin was so drawn to fast cars as perhaps it was those that drove them that were the real attraction?
She would certainly have met a few racing-drivers via her social orbit. Her friend and flat-mate Ruth Ellis was dating – and murdering – David Blakely, who was a racing-driver. He had been introduced to Ellis by Mike Hawthorn who was also a racing-driver. Racing-drivers, at that time, frequented an appropriately named drinking-hole called the Steering Wheel Club in Mayfair where the high-flyers of the era like Stirling Moss and Graham Hill could be found. As could one Stephen Ward.
Stephen Ward was, in 1955, living in a, Lord Astor financed, flat in Devonshire Street near Regent’s Park and he would maintain his osteopathic practice at this address for many years to come. Indeed, somewhere on the world-wide-web is an old Pathe film of him in his practice treating a patient. That patient is me.
Good old Chrissie Keeler would go on to live on Devonshire Street as well. Here she is leaving her flat to give evidence against Ward in 1963.
Keeler and Paul Mann
It is interesting that the credit on the image above says that Paul Mann, the gentleman in the photograph, is also a racing-driver! According to Johnny Edgecombe* Mann was an MI5 operative. We shall return to Mann in due course.
*Edgecombe was an integral player in the Profumo scandal. He was, at the time, Chrissie’s on/off boyfriend and it was his actions that brought events into the public eye. Edgecombe had rescued Chrissie from the unwanted attentions of ‘Lucky’ Gordon; another of Chrissie’s occasional black boyfriends, who had previously held Chrissie hostage in her own flat, and who was stabbed in a club in Soho. Long story short; Chrissie went AWOL from Edgecombe who subsequently tracked her down to Ward’s Wimpole Mews abode. When Mandy erroneously informed Edgecombe that Chrissie wasn’t there he decided to convert Ward’s front door into Swiss cheese by firing numerous bullets into it. Chrissie, being unappreciative of Edgecombe’s minimalist redesign of the door, and genuinely in fear for her life, phoned Ward at Devonshire Street who, in turn, called the Old Bill. Strangely though, rather than a gaggle of Scotland Yard’s finest it would be a throng of Fleet Street paparazzo’s who descended first on the scene and suddenly the entire nation would find the names Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies and Stephen Ward indelibly stained upon their consciousness. Edgecombe, for his troubles, would serve seven years inside for – euphemism alert! - emptying his barrel into Ward’s vestibule.
Also residing in the same block of flats in Devonshire Street was a man by the name of Desmond Cussen. Now Desmond shared with Blakely and Ward a love of motor-racing, however, he also shared the affections of Ruth Ellis. He was the older, sugar-daddy, type character that Ellis had turned to when Blakely started getting a bit handy with his fists. Indeed, Blakely is alleged to have hit Ellis so hard in the stomach that she would, tragically, miscarry their unborn baby. Cussen was another former RAF man, though claims that he spent the war as a bomber pilot are wide of the mark. He joined the service in April 1945 and left that same October; a six-month stint seems very suspicious to me particularly given the time and expense involved in training him as a pilot; I suspect a cover story.
Therefore, I am inclined to believe claims that suggest that Desmond Cussen was an MI5 asset. Certainly, in 1945, MI5 did send a Major Edward James Patrick Cussen to interrogate the author P. G. Wodehouse after he was accused of being a Nazi sympathiser. So, are the two related? Could the secret services have engaged in a bit of espionage nepotism; kissing Cussen’s perhaps. I know not.
However, Cussen has been described by an ex-Home Guard member with whom he served as being “a crack shot”, so, if we throw into the mix the oft cited claim that Stephen Ward was also engaged as an MI5 operative and compare that with the ‘coincidence’ that David Blakely just happens to be buried in the same graveyard at which the Russian spy Donald Maclean ashes were scattered then we can concoct, at the very least, a possible synopsis for the actions of Ellis and her curious claim about not having told the truth about her motives for murdering her lover because it “seemed traitorous – absolutely traitorous.”
What if Blakely – a loud-mouthed drunk – had knowledge of, or worse still, evidence of Maclean’s treachery and had threatened to go public? Alternatively, What if Blakely was also a Russian spy or sympathiser? Maybe Ellis had knowledge of this also? Perhaps then Ellis was only acting out orders when she fired the fatal shots? Ellis may have been a Manchurian Candidate; programmed to kill and programmed to take any secrets with her down through the gallows trap-doors. Maybe crack shot Cussen, lurking in the shadows somewhere, had actually fired the lethal shots and left Ellis to take the rap believing she was genuinely responsible? She killed, or believed she had killed, to protect the integrity of the nation she loved before MI5 disposed of the bodies at a ‘friendly facility’ for redundant spooks.
Indeed one might well question why the British nation would go to the time, trouble and expense of repatriating the remains of Donald Maclean from Russia if he really was the drunken, traitorous spy that history has branded him.
So, is it even possible to programme someone to carry an act as draconian as assassinating a fellow human being? Probably not, but one significant fact in the Ellis case is that one of the shots that hit Blakely did so from a point-blank range. Meaning Ellis must have fired at least one of the kill shots. At the very least it must be difficult to rely on someone actually performing an assassination to perfection, so maybe Cussen was on hand to ensure that Blakely would die whilst Ellis had been conditioned to accept being the patsy, and then duly took the blame.
We shall return to this aspect of a potential Tavistock end-game later in our merry pilgrimage; beforehand we must prepare the groundwork.
To this end we should explore the considerable links that seem to exist between the RAF – and in particular Battle of Britain – pilots and motor-racing drivers. Perhaps these links exist simply because both professions attract adrenaline junkies with a need for speed; but maybe there is another reason? Let us investigate:
Firstly we have Squadron Leader Brian “Sandy” Lane who married the famous female racing driver Eileen Ellison in Cambridge.
Which leads nicely to Roberta Cowell who was both a racing-driver and World War II fighter pilot. Roberta was also the first known British transsexual woman to undergo sex reassignment surgery. In 1941, and still pre-op, Roberta married Diana Margaret Zelma Carpenter with whom she shared an interest in motor-racing.
Then we have Squadron Leader Tony Gaze who was one of Battle of Britain legend, Douglas Bader’s most trusted flying colleagues, offering him protection on many dangerous sorties. After the war, Gaze became the first Australian to compete in a Grand Prix and came up with the idea of turning RAF Westhampnett into what is now Goodwood racing track.
Lastly, we have Whitney Straight, an American, who was both a Grand Prix motor-racing driver and a Battle of Britain pilot. Straight, another ex-Cambridge man had had an affair with noted aviator Diana Barnato Walker, MBE, the first British woman to break the sound barrier and who was the daughter of another famous racing-driver, Woolf Barnato and the widow of Wing Commander Derek Ronald Walker who was killed in 1945.
Perhaps though, for reasons that will become apparent in due course, of even greater significance was the identity of Whitney’s brother; Michael Whitney Straight about whom I shall quote directly from his Wikipedia page:
While a student at the University of Cambridge in the mid-1930s, Straight became a Communist Party member and a part of an intellectual secret society known as the Cambridge Apostles. Straight worked for the Soviet Union as part of a spy ring whose members included Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and KGB recruiter Anthony Blunt, who had briefly been Straight’s lover. A document from Soviet archives of a report that Blunt made in 1943 to the KGB states, “As you already know the actual recruits whom I took were Michael Straight”.
Whilst we should not forget the actress Deborah Kerr’s husband, Squadron Leader Anthony Bartley. Bartley was not a motor-racing-driver, however, he did, post WWII, move into show business, and Hollywood, becoming quite the major player in lovey land in the process. Bartley, it seems, was yet another member of Stephen Ward’s showbiz network given that Ward, and Ruth Ellis, would make up a regular awesome foursome with Bartley and Kerr at the White Hart Hotel in Brasted in Kent in the late forties.
The landlord of the White Hart was a guy called Teddy Preston who was a former naval intelligence man and it seems the pub was something of a regular haunt for many of the Battle of Britain pilots, known as the Few. The alleged Russian spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean would also frequent this watering hole. Another regular at the White Hart was Ruth’s husband George Ellis. George was, officially, a dentist, and an alcoholic who would regularly make a 30 mile round trip from Croydon to Brasted, by bicycle, for a tipple at the bar. A newspaper article detailing George and Ruth’s visits to the pub can be found here.
Now why would George make such a monumental and regular round trip? I suspect that George, who was considerably older than Ruth, was either acting as her handler or, alternatively, the marriage was connived specifically to provide George with a veneer of respectability. George died in 1958 – suicide, naturally enough – with what would amount to around £150,000 in modern money just sitting in his bank account doing nothing. From where did he acquire such an astonishing sum and why hadn’t he pissed it up the nearest wall? One would assume it was either payment for services received or was shut your mouth money. We will probably never know.
George met Ruth when she was working as a nightclub hostess; the Court Club in this instance of which Diana Dors and Denis Hamilton were regular patrons, naturally, and where she also met David Blakely, officially, at least, for the first time. Now whilst it is perfectly feasible to see the attraction of these drinking holes as extensions of the old-boy-networks and as an environment in which the entitled minorities could let their hair down in private, it is not quite so clear, at first view at any rate, why the manageress would need to be so thoroughly chaperoned. The only plausible explanation is that Ruth, in this role, would be overhearing hugely sensitive information and ‘they’ wanted to ensure it was not disclosed to a wider audience.
Maybe this is why George Ellis would visit the White Hart, home of the Few and managed as it was by the ex-intelligence man, to report back on his wife and her activities. There is also quite an established link between dentists and hypnotism. Was George hypnotically controlling his wife as Stephen Ward had also done?
Author MonicaWeller* who has written extensively about Ruth Ellis claims that Ruth addressed her final handwritten letter from prison “To the Few I know”; a cryptic, but perhaps telling glimpse at the reality of her situation.
*Monica Weller would like me to supply further acknowledgement to her work. You can visit her blog here, or alternatively, please buy her book here
*Monica Weller would like me to supply further acknowledgement to her work. You can visit her blog here, or alternatively, please buy her book here
A quick return visit to the Wikipedia account of Leonard Cheshire may prove telling:
Cheshire had strong feelings on any crew refusing to fly (commonly called Lack of Moral Fibre in the RAF) when subject to the combat stress of Bomber Command’s sorties (many of which had loss rates of 50% or more). Even as a brilliant and sympathetic leader, he wrote “I was ruthless with LMF, I had to be. We were airmen not psychiatrists. Of course we had concern for any individual whose internal tensions meant that he could no longer go on but there was a worry that one really frightened man could affect others around him. There was no time to be as compassionate as I would like to have been.” Thus Cheshire transferred LMF cases out of his squadron almost instantaneously.
Now whilst I can understand why Cheshire acted as he did, it does reveal a clear psychological aspect of Battle of Britain pilots – and presumably motor-racing-drivers - that would remain useful outside the theatre of war. Namely that ability to think clearly, and coldly, under extreme duress even when facing potential death. Add to that an inherent ability to blindly follow orders and what you have is an extremely efficient and intelligent unit; ideal, perhaps, for monitoring, and running, a team of pre-programmed Manchurian candidates.
Consider also Cheshire’s post war care home set-up which provided Tavistock with an on-going supply of brainwashing subjects, and Stephen Ward’s relationship with Cheshire and a glimpse of the truth emerges from the years of subterfuge.
Stephen Ward was certainly capable of brainwashing people into doing whatever he wanted. True. I’ve got an uncle in Norway who could do that to his wife, usually during a party and to her great embarrassment! But not everybody is susceptible, and certainly not everybody can do it. But it does work, I’ve seen it done. Not only seen, Ward used me for that too, but I’m not going to tell you about that! (Other than that I had fun... I think).
But it is not fun for everybody, for some it has far more serious connotations.