- Education and Science
Injustice - John Christie and Timothy Evans
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.
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.
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.