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Which of These Cold Cases Would You Solve?

Updated on January 24, 2017
Oliver Stone's 1991 Movie, JFK.
Oliver Stone's 1991 Movie, JFK.

The recent 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy brought a glut of TV documentaries and films that tried to give a definitive account of what really happened on that fateful day in Dallas. In preparation of this media event, I watched a DVD of Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie, JFK, which explores one of the many conspiracy theories that are attached to the assassination. I also watched the 2013 TV movie Killing Kennedy, which adhered to the official Warren Commission version, in which Lee Harvey Oswald fired all the shots.

Then there were documentaries that offered different versions of the killing. We had reconstructions, computer animations, bullet trajectories, the works. One of these documentaries went so far as to claim the fatal shot was fired accidentally by a secret service agent in the car following the president’s limousine. Who knows?

One of the problems with unsolved crimes, or those where the official version is viewed with some skepticism, is that every time a new theory comes along, it further muddies the waters in which the truth lurks.

Tied to the Kennedy assassination, we have the shots from the grassy knoll, the magic bullet, the man with the umbrella, ignored testimony, the seizure decoy, the Altgens photo, the cleaning of the president’s limousine (a crime scene), the Zapruder film, the transients, the refused autopsy and, to use an Americanism, a whole bunch of other stuff. Picking out facts from this mass of conflicting information is a challenging enough task as it is, but it becomes even more difficult every time a new theory is put forward.

Here are a couple more examples.

Magazine Featuring the Christie Case
Magazine Featuring the Christie Case

John Reginald Halliday Christie

In 1955, twenty-five year-old Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his baby daughter, Geraldine. He was also thought to have murdered his wife, Beryl. After giving initial contradictory versions of what happened, Evans finally told police that the murderer was actually a fellow tenant, Reginald Christie. He said that Christie had arranged to perform an abortion on his pregnant wife while he, Evans, was at work. He had come home to find her dead.

Christie was an intelligent and manipulative man. Evans was a drunkard and fantasist with the mental age of ten-year-old. Christie warned Evans that he was an accessory after the fact, and that he should disappear for a while. According to Evans, Christie said he had arranged for a couple from Acton to look after Geraldine. Evans went to Wales, where he later turned himself in to police. Soon after this, his wife and daughter were found strangled in an outbuilding in the garden of number ten.

A few years after Evans’s execution, Christie moved out of Rillington Place, and the new tenants were shocked to find three dead bodies in an alcove behind a papered-over door. Police searched the house, and a total of six bodies were found, including that of Christie’s wife, Ethel. Two of the bodies were skeletons found in the garden, while the others had been killed more recently. One thing was certain, however, Timothy Evans could not possibly have been involved in any of these deaths.

After the discovery of these bodies, thoughts immediately turned to Evans, and his insistence that Christie had killed Beryl and Geraldine. A private inquiry was launched, headed by senior barrister, Mr. John Scott Henderson, the conclusion of which declared that Evans was guilty, and no miscarriage of justice had occurred. However, some people considered this inquiry a whitewash, and rumblings of disquiet were heard. Evans is now enjoying the benefits of a posthumous pardon, while Christie followed him to the gallows.

Books have been written that claim to show that Evans was innocent (Ten Rillington Place by Ludovic Kennedy, and The Man on Your Conscience by Colin Eddowes for example) and others deem he was guilty (The Two Killers of Rillington Place by John Eddowes, son of the above, and Forty Years of Murder by Prof. Keith Simpson). Again, the turbid waters of conflicting information mean the truth will probably never be known.

10 Rillington Place

Not Quite the Final Solution
Not Quite the Final Solution

Jack the Ripper

Possibly the most enduring murder mystery of all time, the chances of this case being solved are slim to zero. The ripper inflicted a month long reign of terror over the Whitechapel district of London in the autumn of 1888, when he murdered five prostitutes with horrific, and increasing savagery. Hard evidence relating to the ripper’s work is in short supply, and the case holds more red herrings than a communist fishmonger,

The level of amateur investigation into this case is such that the word ‘ripperology’ was coined. Over the years, there have been many books, movies and documentaries that tried to have the last word on the identity of the butcher. In 1976, Stephen Knight produced the best-selling book, Jack the Ripper, the Final Solution, which offered a new and hitherto unexplored version of events. When fellow ripperologists analysed his theory, however, it was hacked to pieces in the manner of one of the victims of the eponymous ghoul.

Since then, more books have been published that try to show who the real culprit was. But with all of the papers connected to the case having been studied in minute detail, everything that is known about this mystery has been investigated without bearing fruit.

Poll

Which Case Would You Solve?

See results

So the question is, if you could travel back in time to capture irrefutable video evidence of what exactly happened in just one of these cases, which would it be?

Would you turn up on the sixth floor of the book depository with your camera, to prove or disprove that Oswald fired all the shots?

Would you silently appear in the dingy rooms on the top floor of 10 Rillington Place to see exactly what happened to Beryl Evans while her husband was at work, and what exactly was the fate of poor baby Geraldine?

Or

Would you lurk in the misty shadows of Bucks Row in Victorian London to capture “Saucy Jack” going about his grisly business?


My own verdict. . .

For what it’s worth, I would opt for Jack the Ripper, and here’s why.

Evans’s posthumous pardon, cleared him of the crime for which he was executed. The JFK case is not over by a long shot yet, with further papers to be released in 2039. When these come out, perhaps some new light will be shone on what really happened that day.

The Jack the Ripper case is old and cold and the chances of new evidence turning up are virtually zero.

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great article. I did not know about the Rillington Place case. But I would love to solve the Jack the Ripper case. To me, there's no debate on JFK. Voted up.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Isaw a movie about the Evans/Christie case...it was pretty freaky. Of these though I would choose the Jack the Ripper case. It has always intrigued me and there has been a lot of speculations. One of the most interesting theories was in a book written by Patricia Cornwell. Off-hand I can't remember the book's name or the name of the person she concluded as the most likely ripper, though I remember he was a famous artist and painted pictures of the murder scenes. The queen also has some of his paintings. I found this very interesting. Voted up and shared.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I would choose Jack the Ripper case. I believe the ripper was a notable man whose family paid highly for a coverup. From all I have read on Jack the Ripper, the investigations were poorly handled and flimsy excuses for lack of evidence did a lot to tell me it was a coverup involving a lot of people. I believe a lot of the information on "suspects" was fabricated. You did a great job on the research of these cold cases, Joey. I have never heard about the Christie case - that is really sad that Evans was executed for the crime. Up and H+

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      All three of these are fascinating cases, unfortunately. I would go with the JFK case. I have never believed , even as a child, that Oswald and Oswald only was responsible for JFK's assassination. There was too much going on at the time and I do think Oswald had help or was working with someone else. To have this ? since 1963 is a long time on our country's psyche.

    • Mark Lees profile image

      Mark Lees 2 years ago

      I think the Christie one is pretty much clear cut -I have never heard a single commentator who thinks Christie was not responsible for all of the killings.

      JFK is a mystery because of the smoke screens that have been put up, and it would be great to break the case open because I think it would show how duplicitous the secret services in all countries.

      But for me there is only one winner, and that is the Jack the Ripper case. For my money the culprit is John Maybrick - but the new DNA "evidence" seems to point to Kowlowski (spelling?)

      A great hub.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Check out this Joe. http://www.amazon.com/Portrait-Of-Killer-Ripper-Be...

      Patricia Cornwell makes a good case for Walter Sickert having been the ripper.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Patricia Cornwell is a very informed and excellent writer. She knows her stuff. I must get that book. Thanks, Jodah.

      Joe, you have really re-sparked my interest in the Jack the Ripper case.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes Phyllis she took time out especially from everything else to investigate the case in depth Phyllis. Some people have posted derogatory comments about the book because her suspect is so well respected and his estate are not happy, but I came away almost convinced Sickert was the Ripper.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I believe you - she is pretty smart in crime matters. I read what I could at the Amazon link and she sure seems spot on.

    • Mark Lees profile image

      Mark Lees 2 years ago

      I was not convinced by the Cornwell arguments for Sickert. It was largely circumstantial and hung on insubstantial evidence. Cornwell argues for it well, as she is a persuasive writer, but she failed to provide any new evidence to support the claims that Sickert was the killer.

    • JoeYoung22 profile image
      Author

      Joe Young 2 years ago from Blyth, Northumberland, England

      Thanks for commenting everyone.

      Jodah, I would guess that the film you saw was Ten Rillington Place, which starred the recently deceased Richard Attenborough as Christie, in what was surely his creepiest role ever. The film was partly shot in the actual house where Christie carried out his awful crimes. I think the film is as close to the truth as we’ll get.

      Thanks for the link. I haven’t read that book, but the book shown in my hub, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, puts forward a similar theory.

      Mark: there are those who believe that Evans killed his wife and baby. This premise is explored in the book, The Two Killers of Rillington Place, by John Eddowes. The author is the son of Michael Eddowes, who wrote The Man on Your Conscience, which scrutinised the entire Christie trial, and came to the conclusion that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. One reviewer on the book’s release commented that it was the greatest case of literary fratricide that you’d ever be likely to see.

      I know that remote coincidences do occur, but for there to be two murderers living under the same roof, both stranglers, both necrophiles, and each working independently of the other is a little too much to swallow. Still, when you are going to trial with your own defence team convinced of your guilt, it’s going to be a struggle.

      Phyllis: Yes I agree – the air of mystery that shrouds the Jack the Ripper case makes it a tantalizing choice for solving. The very setting; fog-shrouded gaslit streets of a sleazy part of London is the perfect backdrop to a tale of murder. If I were to choose to visit that crime scene, I’d take a tazer.

      Suzette; the whole JFK case fascinates me. There are so many questions that remain unanswered, but there are also many theories that have been debunked. I thought the photograph taken by James Altgens of the Associated Press cleared Oswald. It shows a man who looks uncannily like Oswald standing outside the book depository at the moment the first shot hit the president. If a positive identification could be made, then Oswald could not possibly be the assassin. The man in the photo turned out to be a Billy Lovelady – irrefutably, much to my disappointment.

      Oh to be present on that floor of the book depository on that fateful afternoon.

      So it looks like Jack the Ripper is the case most would like to solve. It also happens to be the case with the coldest trail, unfortunately. It’s all fascinating stuff though.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes Joe it was Ten Rillington Place and I remember it was Richard Attenborough. Thanks for refreshing my memory.

    • Prisana profile image

      Prisana Nuechterlein 12 months ago from Thailand and Colorado

      JFK sorry not feeling well. Will leave longer comment when not in so much pain.

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