Styllou Christofi’s case was hardly covered by the media, yet Ruth Ellis was portrayed by some papers as the dashing blonde dumped by her lover. Yet both ladies were executed at Holloway Prison within 7 months of each other.
|THE CASE OF SACH and WALTERS
|THE CASE OF EDITH THOMPSON
|THE CASE OF LOUISA MERRIFIELD
|THE CASE OF RUTH ELLIS
In his autobiography, “Executioner: Pierrepoint”, Albert Pierrepoint also compare the vastly different media coverage between this case and that of Ellis and Merrifield. All three were women, yet he stated that the execution of the dashing blonde (Ellis) seemed to trouble the media more that the execution of the less glamorous Christofi and Merrifield.
Mrs Styllou Christofi was a 53 year old illiterate Greek Cypriot who killed her daughter-in-law out of jealousy. Earlier in Famagusta, Cyprus in 1925, Christofi and two others were acquitted of the murder of her mother-in-law.
He son, Stavros Christofi who was employed as a night-club wine waiter, was happily married to his 36 year old German wife Hella Dorothea, who worked in a fashion shop. They had three children, and resided in Hampstead.
In 1953, Styllou Christofi arrived from Cyprus and moved in with her son and daughter-in-law. She spoke virtually no English, and she had no understanding of the modern family run by her son and daughter-in-law.
On the evening of 29 July 1954, after her son Stavros had left his Hampstead home, Mrs Christofi stunned Hella by hitting her on the head with the kitchen stove’s ash plate. She then strangled Hella. Later that night, a neighbour was taking his dog into his garden, when he saw flames in the Christofi’s garden. This turned out to be the petrol-soaked body of Hella Christofi.
Mrs. Christofi raised the alarm by stopping a passing car and shouting
CHARGED WITH MURDER
On 31 July 1954, The Daily Mirror newspaper reported that Styllou Christofi, after 16 hours interrogation (with a Greek Interpreter present) at Hampsted Police Station was charged with the murder of Ella Christofis, aged 36.
The report contained the following description of Styllou Christofi.
A little dark haired woman, with stooping shoulders was helped into the court by a woman detective in plain clothes.Daily Mirror newspaper, 31 July 1954.
Styllou Christofi was remanded in custody.
On 5 August 1954, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported that Styllou Christofi’s defence lawyer made the following remarks at her latest remand hearing.
A poor unfortunate, illiterate women who is a stranger in our midst.Daily Mirror newspaper, 31 July 1954.
On Friday 13 August 1954, at her latest remand hearing, her lawyer Mr. H. J. Rustomji told the remand hearing that he was glad that the trial was not taking place today; Friday 13th. He continued to say “The superstitious would have us believe that the combination of the 13th with Friday brings bad luck.” Smiling, he continued to say “It has been whispered that Superintendent Crawford doesn’t wish the evidence to be taken today, as he is anxious to run away to The Oval.”
The Court Clerk remarked that it was not a laughing matter!
Styllou Christofi was remanded in custody.
HAMPSTEAD MAGISTRATES COURT
On 24 August 1954, the hearing of Styllou Christofi for the murder of Ella Dorothea Christofis began at Hampstead Magistrates Court.
During the prosecution case, a neighbour testified that he looked into a neighbour’s garden where a fire was burning. He saw what he thought was a mannequin half-out of the fire. The prosecution case claimed that this mannequin was really Ella Christofis, and Styllou Christofi was making a vain attempt to dispose of the evidence.
The prosecution case then went on to state:
Ella Christofis had first been hit on the head and had then been strangled. A blood stained ash-plate from a boiler in the house may have caused the head injuries, and it was believed that a scarf belonging to one of Ella Christofis’ children had been used to strangle her.Daily Mirror newspaper, 25 August 1954.
Stavros Christofis, husband of Ella Christofis and son of Styllou Christofi, testified that he returned from work to the house in Hampstead, arriving just after his wife’s body had been found.
The Daily Mirror went on to report that
As he gave evidence, he did not once look towards his mother, who sat in the dock, with a black silk scarf draped over her black hair.
He said that he and his German-born wife had shared their home with his mother, who had been in England about a year.
His mother could not speak English and she did not get on with her son’s wife.Daily Mirror newspaper, 25 August 1954.
Stavros was then asked to identify his wife’s wedding ring, which the police had found behind an ornament in his mother’s bedroom. He confirmed that it was his wife’s wedding ring and that it had a very tight fit and so would not have accidently come off his wife’s finger.
On 27 August 1954, the Daily Mirror newspaper had the following report on the trial.
A 53 year old Cypriot woman is accused of killing her daughter-in-law, stated yesterday by her counsel to be “absolutely bewildered by these proceedings” The defending counsel asked the Greek interpreter to tell her that he was there “to watch her interests”Daily Mirror newspaper, 27 August 1954.
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT
On 25 October 1954, the trial of Styllou Christofi began at the Central Criminal Court, before Mr. Justice Devlin.
Styllou Christofi pleaded not guilty. A Greek interpreter was present during the trial.
The prosecution barrister, Mr. Christmas Humphreys, described the case as
a stupid murder done by a stupid woman of the illiterate peasant type. She really believed that after washing the floor, she could eliminate bloodstains and that with a small tin of paraffin, she could so burn a body it could not be recognised.Daily Mirror newspaper, 26 October 1954.
Mr. Christmas Humphreys then went on to state that since Styllou Christofi had come to England in July 1953, there had been friction between her and her daughter-in-law. In July 1954, it had been decided that Ella Christofis would take her three children on a holiday to Germany. Upon their return to Hampstead, Styllou Christofi would return to Cyprus.
Mr. Christmas Humphreys went on to state that Styllou Christofi knew she was being sent home and he concluded by saying that the jury might find a motive.
Styllou Christofi gave evidence in her behalf. On questioning by her defending barrister Mr. David Weitzman, QC, she stated that she did not kill, did not strangle and did not burn her daughter-in-law’s body.
Styllou Christofi went on to testify that
after she went to bed she smelt something burning. She came downstairs. She saw the front-door open. As I was coming down the stairs, I saw a man with a suitcase. I was practically down the last step, when I saw another man. I then found Ella’s body on fire in an area at the back of the house.Daily Mirror newspaper, 26 October 1954.
In his closing speech, Mr. Christmas Humphrey’s stated that the murderer had striped Ella’s body of all its clothes except her briefs, and had washed carefully everything she had been wearing.
On 28 October 1954, a jury of ten men and two women took two hours to find Styllou Christofi guilty of the murder of her daughter-in-law.
The judge, Mr. Justice Devlin, asked Styllou Christofi if she had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed. She replied “I would like to say something to the court and go into the witness box”. She was not asked to say anything more and she was then sentenced to death.
AFTER THE TRIAL
On 1 November 1954, it was announced that Styllou Christofi would appeal her conviction.
On 30 November 1954, the Daily Mirror reported that
In proceedings that lasted only four minutes, the Criminal Appeal Court dismissed Styllou Christofi’s appeal against her conviction at the Central Criminal Court for the murder of her daughter-in-law Mrs. Ella Christofis.
Mrs. Styllou Christofi did not appear at the hearing. Her counsel Mr. D. Weitzman said that after carefully studying the case he had been unable to find any point to make to the court. He also added that the summing up, by the trial judge, had been faultless and put the case favourably from Styllou Christofi’s view.Daily Mirror, 30 November 1954.
On 15 December 1954, it was reported in the Daily Mirror newspaper, that on the previous day (14th), Styllou Christofi was taken to the Governor’s Office in Holloway Prison, to be informed that there would be no reprieve from her sentence of death. A Greek interpreter and a priest were present.
On 16 December 1954, it was reported in the Daily Mirror that
For the first time in British criminal history a woman jail governor saw the hanging of a woman yesterday.
Dr. Charity Taylor, Governor of Holloway women’s prison, London, saw Styllou Christofi, 57, walk calm and unassisted to the scaffold.
Dr. Taylor, 39, who is the mother of three children became governor of Holloway ten years ago. She is the wife of a doctor.Daily Mirror newspaper, 16 December 1954.
In 1971, while Holloway Prison was being remodelled, all five executed women were exhumed. Amelia Sach, Annie Walters, Edith Thompson, and Styllou Christofi were all buried in Brookwood Cemetery in a single grave.
In July 2018, an exhumation order was granted to René Weis, Edith Thompson’s executor and heir. On 20 November 2018, Edith Thompson’s remains were exhumed, and two days later buried alongside her parents in the City of London Cemetery.
Ruth Ellis was buried in St. Mary the Virgin churchyard, Amersham, Buckinghamshire.