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Injustice - John Christie and Timothy Evans

Updated on October 21, 2015

The wrong man was hanged: A true story

I first read about this true-crime event when I was a teenager and it's continued to fascinate me ever since.

Timothy Evans, who is pictured here, had very little schooling. Born in Wales in the United Kingdom, he often missed school when he was a child due to ill health.

When his family moved to London, when he was just a boy, his fate was sealed.When he was in his early twenties, he married a girl called Beryl Thorley and like many couples in the postwar period, they lived with their parents.

In 1948, they discovered that Beryl was pregnant and searched for a home of their own. Although he had a very limited education, he usually managed to hold down a job. He'd been employed as a painter and decorator and, at the time of his marriage, was a van driver.

The couple considered themselves very lucky when they found themselves a tiny flat in the attic room of a crumbling house in the Notting Hill area of London.Because of this, two years later Tim, Beryl and their baby daughter Geraldine would be dead.


10 Rillington Place

By moving into 10 Rillington Place, the family signed their own death warrant.

A middle-aged married couple called Christie lived on the ground floor of the narrow building. John Christie had been a special constable during the war and had been a postal worker - both prestigious jobs in the eyes of the Evans couple.

His wife was a quiet and timid woman called Ethel and the couple had no children -and Ethel seemed to be totally dominated by her husband.This photograph shows the back yard of 10 Rillington Place.

The outbuilding you can see is the only toilet that was used by all occupants. This outbuilding was to prove important in the aftermath of this case. If it had been thoroughly investigated, the travesty of justice that was about to unfold may not have taken place.

In due course, the Evans' daughter Geraldine was born but it wasn't long afterwards that Beryl broke the news to Timothy - she was pregnant again. With his uneducated mind, Evans was originally pleased with the news but Beryl persuaded him that another child would be impossible in their present housing conditions - their tiny flat was already overcrowded with two adults and the baby living in such a small space.

As there was no alternative, she told her husband that she wanted an abortion. Although they rowed about it,he reluctantly agreed. Abortion was illegal at that time in the UK. This meant that there were plenty of 'backstreet abortionists'. Some were effective and provided what some would call a public service - such as those portrayed in the film Vera Drake.

Others were simply trying to capitalize on the situation and often results were ineffective, caused infections ... or worse.


John Christie

The house at 10 Rillington place was tiny.

John Christie had ample opportunity to overhear Timothy and Beryl's rows about her proposed abortion. He wasn't working at the time due, he claimed, to ill health.

One day when Tim returned from work, Christie invited him into his tiny ground floor flat. He told him that he was aware of Beryl's pregnancy and, because he had been 'medically trained' he could help.

To back up his medical ability he displayed a St John's Ambulance Brigade handbook. Timothy, who was illiterate, was impressed by the medical diagrams.Soon it was arranged that Christie would perform Beryl's abortion.

Backstreet abortions were rarely free of charge and it's unlikely that the couple would have been able to raise the money. They must have been relieved to be offered his services free.What Tim and Beryl didn't know was that Christie had already killed two young women and gained his sexual satisfaction from them immediately after their deaths.

On the appointed day, Christie stopped Evans when he came in from work and told him that something had gone wrong with the abortion and that Beryl was dead. In fact, he had never even attempted the abortion - he had gassed her,telling her that it was to anesthetize her - and then strangled her and used her body for his own perverted satisfaction.

Abortion was dangerous in those days and it wasn't unusual for fatalities to occur. Even someone with a greater intelligence that Tim would not have been completely shocked at the news. Christie told him that it was likely that, as the husband, the police would suspect Timothy and suggested that he flee. Educationally disadvantaged,

Evans took the advice of the man who had been a special constable and had served in WW1 and fled to relatives in Wales. Christie told him that he had arranged for Geraldine to be looked after.

Christie then strangled Geraldine.

A few weeks later, deeply worried about his daughter, and wracked with guilt about his wife's death, Tim went to the police in Wales.

To protect the man who he thought was a paragon of virtue who had tried his best to help him by performing an illegal abortion, he made several absurd statements about the death of his wife. Eventually, the police decided that Evans had killed his own wife.

After a court case, in which Christie testified against Tim, Evans was found guilty of the murder of his wife and daughter and sentenced to be hanged.

On March 9th, 1950 he drew his last breath aged twenty five as he was hanged in Pentonville Prison in London.

John Christie continued to murder women. He killed his wife and three other women, hiding their remains at 10 Rillington Place. It was only a matter of time before he was caught - ultimately he too was arrested for murder. In 1953 he suffered the same fate as Timothy Evans and was hanged at Pentonville. Authorities were forced to admit that the wrong man had been hanged.

Further information

I first read about the Evans and this true crime case in the 1970s and it still fascinates me. How did John Christie escape justice for so long? What was the vital evidence regarding the outhouses that was ignored? Who was Mr Kitchener and what part did his absence play? Why was Evans' ludicrous 'confession' believed? There are many more questions that are answered in these books.

10 Rillington Place on eBay

These events happened a long time ago and therefore it can be difficult to find further information. However, memorabilia (if that's the right word) is often available in online auctions.

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you for your interesting and sensitive account. You ask why Christie was able to get away with it and Evans was blamed.

      I would suggest that Christie had the persuasive and forceful persona of a predatory psychopath. He had been a special constable and was just middle class.

      I can tell you that Evans' mother was born in the workhouse in Merthyr. They were a working class family. As you say, Evans was just about illiterate.

      These are not logical reasons for him to have been the fall guy, but you have no idea how class ridden the UK was then. To some extent it still is.

      Furthermore for many years after the mistake was discovered, the judiciary refused to admit it. Even now there are sick individuals in the UK who drag Evans' name through the mud, insisting he was guilty and indulging in quasi pornographic fantasising about it.

      And it was the judges who started it! They came up with specious arguments, upsetting to the family, about why Evans must have been guilty after all.

      He was granted a posthumous free pardon by the queen in 1966 at the instigation of the home secretary Roy Jenkins. But it was not until 2003 that his sisters were given compensation.

      You will understand that there was a national myth that British justice was the best and fairest in the world and even that it was inerrant. It was like a superstition that was not amenable to reason.

      I was speaking to someone from the tragic village of Aberfan near Merthyr and he told me that Tim's uncle still lived there at that time, and he was not best pleased about how his nephew had been treated.

      I live quite near Merthyr today. I hope this doesn't sound paranoid but England is the dominant country in the UK. It wouldn't have done Tim any favours that he had a Welsh accent.

      While the UK has been reluctant to make posthumous amends to Tim, we have to admit that the case did shake the establishment up and wake it up from complacency. In one way he is almost like a sacrificial victim who died so others might live.

      This case was a major factor in the abolition of the death penalty here in the UK. It's just as well as there have been no shortage of miscarriages of justice.

      That's what I'd like to know about. I assume from your terminology that you're in the US. You've also had a good number of unsafe convictions. I'm thinking particularly of the heart breaking and also nauseating case of George Junius Stinney.

      So why do so many US states feel confident enough in the inerrancy of their courts that they retain the death penalty? Why haven't they had a crisis of conscience? Is it that it happens so often that they've become hardened?

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      What a wonderful idea - thanks @bravewarrior!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 years ago from Central Florida

      I'd love to see you do a follow-up on this, Jackie. One where you bring to light all the evidence. Interesting, but sad story.

    • Coffee-Break profile image

      Dorian Bodnariuc 

      4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

      Wow, what a great story. Poor man hanged for a crime he didn't commit.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      4 years ago from Fresno CA

      Amazing. I always love a good crime drama. I love to watch Bones and Elementary. This story is right out of a crime novel. Almost too absurd to be true. Wow.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @MaureenCee: Very true, Maureen. What I didn't write about - probably because it's so heart-breaking - is the effect on his family. I wonder about Chris Craig too because after he was released he led a completely law-abiding life. (In fact, I think he's still alive.) He had to live with the results of his actions. His statement (above) is very moving. He's always seen as the bad guy but he was only a kid. So sad.

    • MaureenCee profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi britflora, I'm am always drawn to these stories and wonder how much anguish the innocent people go through before they die and in the end death is probably a release as they know nobody believes them anyway and if they got out the torture inflicted would be worse than what they had already suffered, a real no win situation.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @mihgasper: Thank you for visiting and reading. It is very sad indeed.

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 

      5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Thanks for this sad but important story.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Thank you very much for your kind words. The lens was inspired by your own excellent writing about the death penalty.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Britflorida, you did an outstanding job with this lens. The Evans execution is one of the most important death penalty cases in history since it lead to the abolition of the death penalty in the U.K. I appreciate your interest in the death penalty and wrongful convictions and hope that you will write more about it.


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