Inside Holloway Prison – from Myra Hindleys escape plan to last woman hanged

Some of the most notorious women killers and criminals have found themselves locked behind the bars of Holloway Prison.

The notorious female-only jail stopped housing inmates in 2016 but its tales of infamy and at times shocking conditions have lived on.

Channel 5’s Inside Holloway: Women Behind Bars at 10.30pm on Thursday (November 3) will look at some of the most well-known criminals to have been locked up in the north London prison.

HMP Holloway opened in 1852, becoming an all-female institution at the start of the 20th century.

The eerie jail gained notoriety after hosting five female executions — including the last woman to be hanged in Britain in 1955.

It was Europe's largest female prison and could house 500 inmates before closing in 2016.

Serial killer Rose West — married to Fred West — Maxine Carr, girlfriend of double-child Soham killer Ian Huntley, and mother of abused infant Baby P, Tracey Connelly, all did time there.

Upon closing, it was sold to Peabody for £81 million and the housing association earlier this year had plans approved to build almost 1,000 homes on the historic site off Holloway Road.

Here, the Star takes a look at Myra Hindley and Ruth Ellis, two of the most high-profile residents who stayed at the 164-year-old nick.

Myra Hindley

Holloway’s most famous inmate is perhaps serial killer Myra Hindley who was once branded “Britain’s most hated woman”.

Hindley accompanied partner Ian Brady in the murders of five children in the 1960s.

At least four of the children were sexually assaulted and Hindley was caged for her part in the Moors Murders in 1966.

Hindley spent time in various prisons, including Holloway where she was granted special privileges for her “model behaviour”.

During her tenure there, the child killer was found to be having a same-sex affair with a prison warden, Patricia Cairns, who tried to help her escape.

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Aided in her plan by Cairns and some outside contacts of another prisoner, Hindley’s ploy to escape was thwarted when impressions of the prison keys she was planning to use were intercepted by an off-duty policeman.

Her partner Cairns was sentenced to six years in jail for her part in the plot.

Hindley died of a chest infection in 2002 aged 60 while Brady took his final breath 15 years later.

Ruth Ellis

Ruth Ellis became an indelible part of Holloway history after being the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

At the time she was 28 and she received a death sentence after murdering her boyfriend.

The nightclub hostess fatally shot lover David Blakely multiple times outside a Hampstead boozer in 1955.

At her Old Bailey trial, the only question put to the 28-year-old by prosecutor Christmas Humphreys was: "When you fired the revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?".

Ellis answered: "It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him."

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The reply helped to secure her guilty verdict and death sentence.

She was hanged at HMP Holloway on July 13, 1955, by famous hangman Albert Pierrepoint.

There was uproar over her execution, with a petition calling for clemency receiving 55,000 signatures.

The controversy around Ellis’ death and debate about the morality of state executions is believed to have played a part in the abolition of the death penalty in 1969.

The story of her life was told in the 1985 film Dance with a Stranger.


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