Ronald True

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Ronald True
Angus Ronald True

Broadmoor Hospital, Crowthorne, Berkshire, England
OccupationMilitary pilot, petty criminal
Conviction(s)Wilful murder
Criminal chargeMurder
PenaltyDeath (reprieved on grounds of insanity), indefinite removal to Broadmoor Hospital
VictimsGertrude Yates (aka Olive Young)

Ronald True, registered at birth as Angus Ronald True, was an English murderer. In 1922, he was convicted of the murder of a prostitute and sentenced to death, then reprieved on the grounds of insanity and confined for life in Broadmoor Hospital. True's case raised important issues relating to the legal defence of insanity.


True was born in Manchester, England in 1891 and educated at Bedford School.[2] In 1902, True's mother, Annabelle Angus, married Arthur Reginald French, who inherited the title Baron de Freyne in 1913.[1] The identity of True's biological father is not known.

True joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 but his increasingly disordered behaviour combined with addiction to morphine led to his discharge in 1916.[1] He visited the United States in 1912 and 1917, marrying on his second visit Frances Roberts, with whom he had a child. True was caught writing bad checks in his stepfather's name, and spent 18 months in a San Francisco prison.[1] He returned to England, 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.

Murder of Gertrude Yates[edit]

On 5 March 1922 True spent the night with 25-year-old Gertrude Yates, a prostitute who used the name Olive Young, in her flat at 13 Finborough Road, Earls Court, London.[3] The next morning,[4] True killed Yates with a rolling pin and dragged her body to the bathroom, stealing some jewelry before he left.[3] He encountered the cleaning lady on his way out, and she immediately discovered the body.[3] Having failed to take elementary precautions against detection, True was arrested a few days later.


True's murder trial at the Old Bailey began on 1 May 1922.[2] Henry Curtis-Bennett for the defence argued that True was insane, and brought several witnesses to testify to True's erratic and morbid behaviour since childhood.[5] Richard David Muir for the prosecution cited the M'Naghten Rules, arguing that if True knew what he was doing was wrong, he was criminally responsible.[5] Justice Henry McCardie instructed the jury that to find True insane, they would have to agree that he had no knowledge of what he was doing when he struck his victim not just once, but four times.[5]

On 5 May 1922, the jury found True guilty of "wilful murder" and Justice McCardie sentenced him to death.[2] The sentence was upheld on appeal.[4]


On 8 June 1922, True was reprieved by 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 65-year-old Lady Alice White, and was hanged.[1]

True was confined to Broadmoor Hospital. During his incarceration, he worked actively in the hospital's drama activities, and employed murderer Reginald Owens as a flunky.[1] True died there in January 1951.[1]

Media portrayals[edit]

True's crime, incarceration, and relationship with fellow murderer Richard Arthur 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.

Dorothy Sayers references True in chapter 18 of her 1928 mystery novel The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. 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."[6]

True was portrayed by Christopher Cazenove in "A Smile is Sometimes Worth a Million Dollars", a second series episode of the Granada Television series Lady Killers (1981).[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bondeson, Jan (15 January 2014). Murder Houses of London. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 9781445614915.
  2. ^ a b c Carswell, Donald (1950). Trial of Ronald True. W. Hodge.
  3. ^ a b c Nash, Jay Robert (10 July 1992). World Encyclopedia of 20th Century Murder. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781590775325.
  4. ^ a b Modi, Rai Bahadur Jaising P. (22 October 2013). A Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology. Elsevier. ISBN 9781483195728.
  5. ^ a b c Wild, Roland; Curtis-Bennett, Derek (December 2010). King's Counsel: The Life of Sir Henry Curtis-Bennett. Wildside Press LLC. ISBN 9781434406521.
  6. ^ "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club | Bill Peschel". Bill Peschel. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Ladykillers: A Smile is Sometimes Worth a Million Dollars". IMDb. Retrieved 22 October 2016.

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