Ronald True

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Ronald True, registered at birth as Angus Ronald True, (Manchester, England, 1891 – Broadmoor Hospital, 1951), was an English murderer. He was found guilty of the murder of a prostitute in 1922 but reprieved by the Home Secretary on the grounds of insanity and confined for life in Broadmoor Hospital. His case raised important issues relating to the legal defence of insanity.

True was born in Manchester, Lancashire in 1891 and educated at Bedford School. He failed to settle to a career and his family found a series of positions for him overseas. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 but his increasingly disordered behaviour combined with addiction to morphia led to his discharge in 1916. He visited the United States in 1912 and 1917, marrying on his second visit Frances Roberts, with whom he had a child. He returned to Britain where his family made him an allowance. His behaviour was now even more erratic: he was convinced that he had a doppelgänger (with the same name, but spelt Ronald Trew) who was his mortal enemy. He abandoned his wife and child and lived on his allowance and on various petty frauds and thefts.

In March 1922 he murdered Olive Young (also known as Gertrude Yates), a prostitute, in her flat at 13 Finborough Road, Earls Court, London, and stole some money. He failed to take elementary precautions against detection and was arrested a few days later. He was tried for murder at the Old Bailey in May 1922. The defence at his trial was that he was insane, which was undoubtedly true, but Sir Richard Muir for the prosecution argued that under the M'Naghten Rules he "knew what he was doing and knew that it was wrong" and that he was therefore legally responsible. The jury found him guilty.

He was reprieved by the Home Secretary, Edward Shortt, amidst political controversy, it being argued that True was being leniently treated on account of his influential family. Shortt defended his decision successfully in Parliament. The controversy was heightened due to the concurrent case of Henry Jacoby, an eighteen-year-old working class pantry boy who had murdered a 65-year-old titled lady, Lady White, and was hanged.

True was confined to Broadmoor Hospital. During his incarceration, he worked actively in the hospital's drama activities.

In popular culture[edit]

The murder of Olive Young and True's later incarceration, and relationship with fellow murderer Richard Prince, in Broadmoor Hospital was the subject of a play, Lullabies of Broadmoor, performed at the Finborough Theatre, close to the site of Olive Young's murder, in 2004.

True was referenced by Dorothy Sayers in her 1928 mystery novel The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Ch. 18). Speaking of a case of insanity, a character says "So they sent him to - what's that place? Dartmoor? No, Broadmoor, that's it, where Ronnie True went to with his little toys and all."

He was portrayed by Christopher Cazenove in the episode (4 in Series 2) A Smile is Sometimes Worth a Million Dollars of the Granada Television series Ladykillers (1981).[1]


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