A Monster Matures
Part 2 of 4
I didn’t do it, Mam, Christie done it.
- Timothy Evans (to his mother shortly after his arrest), 1949
John Reginald Halliday Christie was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1899. Early adolescent sexual experiences, abysmal failures in both his mind and in the minds of his peers, left him with morbid feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. As he matured, he failed to make much of a mark in his world despite having a slightly above-average IQ of 128. His adolescent sexual failures (earning him the humiliating nicknames “Reggie No-Dick” and “Can’t-Do-It Christie”) left him mostly impotent, except with prostitutes.
He served in World War I. He was gassed but completely recovered, though as a hypochondriac he would resurrect imagined war wounds and false lingering symptoms of his “gas attack” as he saw fit. [A particular peccadillo was his frequently speaking in a raspy whisper, claiming his war injury had left him unable to speak in a loud voice.]
By the time he married, he had a petty criminal record for various theft charges. After his marriage to a dumpy Sheffield girl in 1920, and unable to manage the rigors of marital sex, he continued to visit prostitutes. Through them he found some gratification—they made no demands and generally cared little to comment on his occasional impotent fumbling when he was unable to perform.
During a lengthy separation from his wife (from 1924 to 1934) Christie’s petty criminality continued. However, he was violent with a woman on at least one known occasion: in 1929, he battered a prostitute with whom he was living in the head with a cricket bat. His criminal career culminated in 1933 with a conviction for car theft. This was to be his last stretch in prison; in 1934, he and his wife Ethel reconciled. Living in London in relative peace they moved into the ground floor of a shabby former bathhouse located in Ladbroke Grove (in London’s Notting Hill). The address of this rundown pile, 10 Rillington Place, would become notorious as a charnel house.
Christie, fundamentally lazy, worked infrequently, but found his calling when Britain entered World War II. Britain’s need for extra home-front security and civil-defense help led to Christie’s hiring—without ever having a criminal background check done on him—as a War Reserve Police officer. His position as a Special Constable gave him full legal authority to write citations, effect arrests, and to generally make a nuisance of himself with his neighbors (denizens of the area nicknamed him “The Himmler of Rillington Place” for his abuse of authority).
While his wife was out of town in August 1943, Christie opportunistically strangled a munitions worker and part-time prostitute (while having sex with her in his home). He buried her in his back yard. He quit his police job a few months after this murder. Obsessed with recreating the thrill of that murder, he found a lackey’s job at a radio factory and devised a glass jar through which his apartment’s gas supply could be funneled.
Having met a co-worker who was sick with bronchial problems, Christie enticed the woman back to his flat. He rigged up his glass jar containing what he claimed was a “special mixture”, a curative for her respiratory problems. In the jar was nothing more than a common,
With two murders under his belt, Christie’s life was quiet for several years until the arrival of a newlywed couple. Timothy Evans and his wife Beryl Evans made the supreme mistake of moving into the top floor of serial killer Christie’s murder house at 10 Rillington Place. In short order, Beryl and the Evans’ infant daughter, Geraldine, were dead, murdered at the hands of Christie. However, it was Tim Evans—in a classic case of justice gone wrong—and not the real killer who would be executed for their deaths.
Timothy John Evans was born on November 20, 1924, the same year his future neighbor, “Reggie No-Dick” Christie separated from his wife, Ethel. Evans’ birthplace was Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan County, Wales (140 miles, or about 225 km, west of London).
Tim was mentally challenged, evidenced early on when he had difficulty learning to speak. Testing later found he had an IQ of 70, making him borderline retarded. To complicate matters, he injured his right foot in an accident when he was eight years old. The wound never healed properly and left a tubercular, warty growth that frequently re-opened. This caused him to miss school often, needing treatments and visits to doctors. Thus, his formal education amounted to little. He came away learning only to read and write his own name, comprehending little else.
Low self-esteem led to self-aggrandizing. He became a braggart (like Christie) to overcompensate for his mental shortcomings. In 2010, his only surviving family member, half-sister Mary (age 80), said:
“When Tim was a little boy of about eight he cut himself playing in the Taff, and he got a tuberculosis in his foot. He was in and out of hospital for the next 10 years. To cope with the boredom and pain he began to make up little stories to keep him amused, a bit like an imaginary friend, I suppose – ‘storyfying’ he called it. But it was all in good fun, we knew when Tim was spinning a yarn, and he knew we knew.”
In 1935, the Probert/Evans clan moved to London. Tim, aged 11, worked outside the home as a painter and decorator while still intermittently attending school. Tim and his step-father were not getting along, and it also seemed the household was too large with its current income – Tim, as well as Mary, returned to their Welsh village in 1937 (in the care of a grandmother).
Back in Merthyr Tydfil the 13-year-old found work in the area coal mines. His foot continued to give him problems, though, and he had to quit his job. According to Mary, he was concerned about it enough to admonish her not to speak of it to others:
“Once when his foot was playing him up, and I noticed pus and blood on his sheets, he made me swear not to tell Mam, because he didn’t want her to worry.”
Tim and his half-sister went back to London to live with their mother in 1939. Of those times,
“I remember when we were living back in London, when him and Penry (his step-brother) were getting ready for a dance. The pair of them had us in stitches, clowning around the living room with a chair each, trying to teach themselves to dance. I pity the poor girls they ended up with that night.”
The family moved, in 1946, to St Marks Road in Notting Hill (just a short distance from 10 Rillington Place where Christie had already murdered and buried two women in his back yard). Tim found work driving a delivery truck; his ability to negotiate the crazed and confusing streets of London was admirable considering his mental limitations. His sibling, Mary, was suitably impressed:
“Okay, he couldn’t read because he missed a lot of schooling, but he was bright enough to drive a van all around London and make deliveries to the right people, even though he couldn’t read the signs or a map.”
Tim Evans’ mental age was that of an 11-year-old boy. His inadequacies did not only stem from his limited mental capacity, though. His full adult height was a runty 5-foot, 5-inches (1.6 m). And he weighed slightly less than 140 pounds (63 kg).
He drank a lot, and with his frustrations he developed a violent temper. His greatest gift, however, remained his ability to lie, frequently and grandiosely, as the mood struck him. He had gone so far as to tell people his real father (the man who had abandoned the family before Tim was born) was an Italian count. His mother, in an interview around the time of Tim’s later nightmare thanks to the machinations of Reg Christie, drily stated, “He didn’t have any real confidence in himself and had to lie to cover up.”
And then in 1947 Tim Evans met a girl who would change his life.
Beryl Susanna Thorley had been born in 1929. Precious little is known about her. Photographic evidence (of formal, school-aged portraiture) tends to suggest she completed
Tim moved his very petite new bride into the Probert/Evans home on St. Marks Road. Beryl, whose mother was dead, developed an attachment to Tim’s sisters, Eileen and Mary. They, in turn, thought she was just as emotionally immature as their brother, but they helped the teenager by being her friend. [Her
In early 1948, Beryl discovered she was pregnant. Knowing the household could not handle the extra space and finances necessary for a newborn, Tim and Beryl decided to move out on their own.
Eileen Evans, Tim’s older sister, helpfully found a small, affordable place for them. It was in a rundown building in a neighborhood that had been hit hard by the German Blitz of London during World War II. Many of the surrounding structures were shelled out hulks. The new place Eileen had found was just a couple minutes’ walk from the St. Marks’ home Tim was leaving.
It was a two-room flat on the top floor of 10 Rillington Place.
Simple Simon Meets the Pie Man
During Easter week 1948, Eileen helped Beryl and Tim move into, furnish, and decorate their third-floor apartment. The second floor apartment at 10 Rillington Place was then occupied by a man named Kitchener. They had met the ground-floor neighbors, the Christies.
Neighborhood opinions were that the Christies thought they were better than everyone else in Rillington Place, with Reg and Ethel Christie displaying a typically lower-class, shabby snobbishness, especially when interacting with people of other races (the neighborhood was experiencing its first influx of black residents from the West Indies). Others merely perceived them as a middle-aged couple who kept to themselves, living quietly with their dog and cat. Obnoxiously, Reggie Christie, claimed exclusive use of the back “garden” (even though obviously Tim, Beryl, and Mr. Kitchener would have to use the nearer communal outhouse to relieve themselves as none of the apartments had bathrooms indoors).
After they settled in, Tim’s mother bridled at the idea of the pregnant Beryl trudging up and down multiple flights of stairs and tried to talk the pair into a ground-floor place somewhere else. Beryl was adamant that they would stay right where they were. On October 10, 1948, she and Tim welcomed their firstborn, Geraldine, into the world.
Ethel Christie, on the ground-floor, occasionally baby sat or visited with Beryl. Big sis Eileen, too, often came around to check on the newborn and the baby’s immature teenaged mother. Half-sister, Mary Probert (later Westlake) was photographed with the couple, with her standing between brother Tim and sister-in-law Beryl while Mary held baby Geraldine.
Eileen, however, suspected that the ground-floor neighbor man might have been “interested” in Beryl. She was alerted to Reggie No-Dick’s intentions early when the couple first took up r
Over a short time, Tim Evans grew close to the man downstairs. He felt that Christie was his better, and to Christie’s delight, Tim offered deference to Christie’s worldliness (in Tim’s limited life experience). He learned Christie had been in World War I (and Tim got the full “gas attack” story, complete with Christie’s affected whispering over time). He also found out Christie had been a Special Constable a few years before. This, to Tim, was a man of respect and standing.
Though Christie’s formal years of education ended when he was 15, he was far more intelligent and capable of learning from reading than Tim Evans (who considered Christie an erudite man). Tim was in awe of Christie’s education – he had seen some of Christie’s second-hand medical reference books which Tim, of course, could not read but found impressive by their weight and detailed anatomical illustrations.
Trouble at 10 Rillington Place
Geraldine’s birth put a major strain on the already tense situation in the Evans’ home. To begin with, Tim was not mentally equipped for either marriage or parenting. Neither was the
They fought violently over picayune issues. Beryl’s spending and mismanagement of what little household money they had was a favored topic guaranteed to start a major row. Their arguing was loud enough for neighbors to hear.
Tim was no saint in money matters, either. He blew his wages on booze. In turn, his heavy drinking added to his existing anger management problems, and he often lashed out at Beryl physically. She, in turn, gave tit-for-tat, clunking him over the head once with a frying pan in the heat of a quarrel. Beryl also allegedly told Ethel Christie that Tim had once tried to strangle her.
Tim’s sister Mary (in her 2010 interview) excused the behavior: “He and Beryl did have their problems, but what couple didn’t then? Living with no money after the war.” In effect, she placed the blame on their economic problems and not where it should be placed: in the hands of two irresponsible and immature young adults ill-equipped for life.
To add to their growing miseries, Beryl found herself pregnant again (with baby Geraldine not yet a year old). Having grown close to the matronly Mrs. Christie, Beryl told her about her dilemma and her desire to get rid of her unborn baby. Ethel, of course, passed this bit of news on to her husband. Christie offered his help in aborting her fetus, citing his fictitious experience in such operations from his police work of years earlier.
Beryl had a female friend, an immature teen (like she had been), named Lucy Endecott. This 17-year-old girl was married, but to Beryl’s understanding her home life was in turmoil. In August 1949, Lucy had said her husband had gone off to work for an overseas firm (which turned out not to be true). Beryl invited the girl to come stay at hers and Tim’s cramped apartment at 10 Rillington Place. Lucy slept in the couple’s bed with Beryl—Tim had to make do with sleeping on the floor of the room they used as a kitchen/sitting area.
Beryl confided to Lucy that she was pregnant, and she told Lucy she blamed Tim for her being pregnant so soon. [It is clear Beryl understood where babies came from. And at only 20 years old, it is sure she saw her best years being ruined by having not one, but two, children back-to-back. Her “blaming” Tim probably had something to do with his failure to use any birth control, such as a condom.] She also told Lucy that the man downstairs had offered to help her with an abortion. She had yet to tell Tim of her pregnancy, though.
Lucy’s presence in the Evans’ flat was disruptive to the already-fragile marriage. Arguments between Beryl and Tim over Lucy’s being there ended in screaming matches and physical altercations. Lucy, however, soon became involved with Tim. Perhaps at Beryl’s invitation, Tim’s mother appeared on the scene later and made Lucy leave. When Tim learned Lucy had been put out, he threatened Beryl, saying he would toss her out their third-floor window.
Instead of keeping the peace at home, Tim set out to find Lucy. She was staying in someone else’s apartment, and Tim settled in with her temporarily. She put him out soon enough, however, because of his excessive drinking and resultant violent behavior. Tim went back to Beryl and 10 Rillington Place. He later discussed Lucy with other friends of his, claiming he wanted to hurt her for what she had done to him.
Beryl finally broke the bad news of her pregnancy to Tim in late 1949. He was devastated, and the couple argued over what to do about the developing fetus. Beryl, who worked part-time, wanted to get an abortion and keep her job (abortions in Britain would not become legal until the Abortion Act was passed in 1967). Tim, however, was equally adamant that she not abort. In addition to the illegality of the act at that time, Tim naively believed they could manage financially even with the extra mouth to feed.
About the time of Beryl’s agonizing over her second pregnancy Reg Christie contacted the building’s landlord about repairs needing done on the place. The exterior washhouse and privy both needed roofing work, and the flooring was bad. Several workmen were sent out to 10 Rillington Place on October 31, 1949. They set to work tearing up some interior flooring and walls. They also inspected and began spotty repairs on the washhouse in the back yard.
Mr. Kitchener, who rented the second floor flat above the Christies, had to go into the hospital at about the same time. His apartment was vacant for the next five weeks while he was treated.
On November 1, 1949, Beryl continued to press her pro-abortion case with Tim, and she said Christie had offered to do the job. Their bills were mounting, and they could barely afford to feed themselves and baby Geraldine as it was. Tim finally saw the wisdom of Beryl’s arguments and reluctantly agreed that ending the pregnancy would probably be best, but he had not endorsed Christie’s involvement yet. She tried some home remedies first (special douches and quack abortifacient pills) which did nothing to relieve her of her burden.
Doctor in the House?
Considering the myriad versions of what happened next (both from Tim Evans and Reg Christie), no one will ever know every detail of the events leading up to and during Beryl Evans’ murder. The only certainty in the matter is that John Reginald Halliday Christie killed her, and Tim Evans was accused and hanged.
Culling grains of truth from the litany of lies told in the wake of her slaying, the best evidence leads to Tim Evans having conferred with Christie about his domestic woes. Christie had been wildly attracted to Beryl from the minute he laid eyes upon her—Beryl was a ravishing beauty compared to his dumpy wife and the worn-out prostitutes he’d known.
His tea-offering ploy shortly after they’d moved in, hoping to find Beryl home alone, had failed as it was Tim’s sister, Eileen, in the upstairs flat and not Beryl on that day. [It is unknown if the tea contained any kind of drug to knock Beryl out. Finding her not home, Christie may have considered taking the opportunity of strangling and raping Eileen, hence his lingering in the flat after Eileen’s refusal of the tea. Had she not mentioned Tim’s coming home soon, Christie might have impulsively done her in that day.]
Christie had needed another excuse to get at Beryl, and now her husband had provided one. However, though Tim had reconciled himself to Beryl’s ending the pregnancy (and she still took quack pills trying to induce a miscarriage) he wasn’t sure he wanted the neighbor man involved. Part of that reluctance had to do with Tim’s puritanical sense of his wife as his property—he didn’t relish the idea of Christie having access, visually or otherwise, to her more intimate parts.
Christie was practically slavering as he tried to convince Tim Evans to allow him to abort Beryl’s baby. He indicated his medical books. He told Tim he knew many things about medical procedures from his time as a Special Constable. He said he’d performed several abortions with success. Presuming that a picture was worth a thousand words, Christie even pulled out a photograph of himself in his police uniform. [This could only serve to impress upon the simple Tim that Christie had once been a man of authority. It proved nothing about his abilities as an abortionist.] Tim still declined to allow Christie’s hands on his wife.
Tim left Christie’s flat and went upstairs. In a discussion about his meeting with Christie, Tim waffled; while apparently okay with Beryl’s taking matters into her own hands he did not want Christie touching her. Beryl said she trusted Christie in the matter and fully intended to let him go ahead and abort her fetus. The couple argued about this at length before retiring.
Some days after this spat, Tim found Beryl had squandered household money earmarked for bills. This led to another row during which Tim threatened to leave her. Beryl, furious, told him that was just fine with her and he should just go ahead and leave. Perhaps in a rare moment of controlling his temper, Tim instead went off and saw a movie. He came home later that night and things were more peaceful.
Tim Evans went to work on November 7, 1949, for his regularly-scheduled shift as a driver. Once he was gone, Beryl went downstairs and made arrangements with Christie to come up and perform an abortion on her the next day. Christie’s delight at her request can only be imagined—finally, he would see the lovely Beryl Evans nude and under his control to do with as he pleased. In anticipation he assembled his glass jar with the Friar’s Balsam to mask the smell of gas that would flow through it, got his rubber tubing ready, and waited.
That night when Tim came home from work Beryl told him she had set everything up with Christie to give her an abortion the next day. Tim disbelieved her, thinking she was only baiting him. Her insistence upon going through with the procedure, with Christie as the “doctor”, spurred another violent argument. This time, the couple became physical, shoving and slapping each other.
The next morning, November 8, 1949, Tim got up and dressed for work. Beryl casually told him, on his way out, to stop off at Christie’s door and tell him everything was set for him to perform her abortion. Tim was beaten—he could not stay home from work and babysit Beryl all day. He finally just decided to let the inevitable happen. He stopped and talked to Reg Christie and then went to work.
At about 8 o’clock that morning the workmen came back to 10 Rillington Place and started again on the roofing and the washhouse repairs. Around noon, John Halliday Reginald Christie, with his police issue first-aid kit and glass killing-jar in hand, mounted the steps leading to the Evans’ third-floor flat.
Negative Patient-Care Outcome
[As a pathological and inveterate liar, Christie’s account of what happened once he entered the top-floor apartment varied wildly from telling to telling. The physical evidence and other circumstantial details, combined with what later became known about Christie and his habits, allows for a reasoned scenario to be developed, though. It is in the details leading to her death that Christie either selectively “forgot” or fabricated. However, a sensible case can be made for what follows.]
When Christie first came into the apartment, Beryl had already set up a quilt on the floor near the fire to serve as a staging area for her abortion. This is likely true—it is certain Beryl wanted to shed herself of her pregnancy, and she had made that fact abundantly clear to close friends and to Tim. Her simple preparations were in keeping with that goal.
Common back-room abortion procedures entail introducing a foreign object, usually a rubber tube or rod, or (in the classic case) a straightened wire coat-hanger, into the uterus via the cervix. Disruption of the uterine lining (thickened to nourish the implanted embryo) from the foreign object causes the body to abort.
Christie may have tried to first use his glass-jar gas-dispenser as a means of calming a very nervous Beryl. However, there is no clear evidence to show this worked—Christie’s rubber tubing may have been too short to reach the gas line of the upstairs flat or he simply decided to forego its use. According to him, she began to panic. [It seems he had likely introduced a foreign object, most likely a length of the rubber tubing he’d brought along, into her vagina and poking her cervix as a first step to snaking her uterus.] In her panic, she began to fidget and wail (probably from pain, since, if true, Christie had failed to gas her). With no anesthetic, in pain and probably ashamed as well, Beryl likely had second thoughts and decided to stop the operation.
Christie, however, could not stop—he was worked up into a murderous, frothing frenzy over having Beryl in his control. And with workmen outside the building in the yard, he could not afford to have her shrieking and drawing attention. He struck her repeatedly to subdue her. He found a cord (or he used a piece of his tubing) to strangle her. He then attempted to penetrate her sexually, wanting to rape her as he had done the dying Ruth Fuerst and Muriel Eady. However, his “Can’t-Do-It Christie” impotence reappeared and he was unable to complete the act no matter how badly he wanted.
[A physical examination of Beryl’s body later confirmed that while her vagina showed signs of invasion by a foreign object and that there may have been a post-mortem attempt at sexual penetration there was no evidence (foreign pubic hair, obvious fluids, or expected abrading) that forced, completed intercourse took place. Christie first admitted he had tried to have sex with Beryl but couldn’t. In a later contradictory statement, though, he said he had successfully had intercourse with her. This latter change-of-story, based on Christie’s known sexual problems, was likely nothing more than boasting on his part—he was a “manly man”, one who could “get it up”. It is also interesting to note that his need for others (and posterity) to think he possessed great sexual prowess was more important than the fact that he had cowardly killed an unconscious and vulnerable pregnant woman half his size, particularly one who had placed her trust in him.]
An unforeseen problem surfaced just as he was finishing his failed attempts to rape the dead Beryl—someone was outside the door of the Evans’ apartment!
Mr. Kitchener’s Kitchen
Christie stealthily made his way to the door and gently put his weight against it. The person on the other side had knocked but almost immediately tried the knob and pressed inward rather than wait for a call-in. The door budged a fraction of an inch but did not yield further. Christie held his breath and waited. After a couple of tense moments the person trying to get in gave up and left. [This was later learned to be a friend of Beryl’s named Joan Vincent. She had dropped by and was surprised to find the apartment door closed. She knocked, but believed Beryl was not at home, although she should have been. Joan tested the door—though it was unlocked, she was only able to open it a tiny bit. It was blocked from the other side. Joan said that although no one spoke to her from inside the apartment she was left with the impression someone was on the other side of the door.]
Christie was in real trouble for the first time with Beryl’s murder. No one had really missed his first two victims, Ruth Fuerst (an Austrian immigrant and part-time prostitute) or Muriel Eady (a factory worker who lived with her aunt). Beryl, however, had many people who would miss her, not the least of whom was her husband, due back from work in a few hours.
The killer could not stash Beryl in the washhouse—workers were out there remodeling it. He couldn’t run the risk of lugging her body down to his own flat for temporary storage under his living room floor, either; with the workers on-site running back and forth through the common passageway it was certain one of them would see him manhandling a corpse down the stairs. Thinking quickly, he lifted tiny Beryl Evans from the floor and carried her to the couple’s bed. He laid her out and covered her with a blanket.
Christie had yet another problem: 13-month-old baby Geraldine, was still alive in the Evans’ flat, and now could not be left unattended. A crying child would most certainly attract attention. He decided to stay in the Evans’ apartment until Tim came home. [Where Ethel was during this time is not known, but she was likely at work.] Knowing that Tim Evans would be home from his job in a few hours Christie came up with a plausible scenario to feed the man later.
When Tim came home that evening Christie ambushed him at the foot of the stairs. He told Tim to go on up to his apartment; Christie trailed him. Once inside, Christie flatly told Tim, “It’s bad news. It didn’t work.” He pointed toward the couple’s sleeping area; Tim went in and found Beryl prone and under a blanket. Drawing the cover off of her he saw she had bled from her mouth and nose (caused by petechial bleeding from strangulation combined with battering from Christie). Pulling the cover off further he saw she had hemorrhaged from her vagina as well.
Tim Evans, probably because of his limited mental capacity, did not respond with anything other than slack-jawed resignation. Not knowing what had happened and unsure what his next move should be he went to the room they used as a sitting/kitchen area and fed baby Geraldine her supper.
Tim’s inability to process or understand jargon allowed Christie to easily bamboozle him with a barrage of possibilities and solutions. He certainly could not tell the man the truth: that he had strangled and tried to rape his wife’s corpse as a visitor came calling. Instead, he started by telling Tim that he thought Beryl’s death (despite the bruising on her face and her bleeding vagina) was from “septic poisoning” because she had ingested so many pills to induce a miscarriage. Such a term had been gleaned from his reading medical books, and he elaborated that he had found proof that her stomach had been “septic poisoned” (how he allegedly found such “proof” he never explained to the child-like Tim Evans). [Sepsis is a generic term for toxicity generally from bacterial infection and is not considered a gastro-intestinal issue specifically. As in all things, Christie knew just enough to be dangerous to the uninformed and the ignorant.] Christie’s tossing out a medical term—and the certainty with which he advised Tim of his conclusions—led the uneducated man to accept what he was being told.
Britain’s anti-abortion laws were strict. Anyone performing abortions, those dispensing information about how to get them, referrals to doctors—almost anyone involved in a “conspiracy” to effect an abortion could be imprisoned. That included neighbors who tried to help and husbands who agreed to let their wives terminate pregnancies. Tim Evans needed to believe Beryl died from something other than an abortion attempt. Christie had given him a “natural” explanation: “septic poisoning”. Thus, Tim’s first inclination was to call the police to have them process Beryl’s body and absolve him and Christie of any responsibility.
Christie quickly dissuaded Tim from calling in the cops by using more jargon, this time legalese. He pointed out that he was just being a good neighbor who had tried to help them out of a difficulty. He told Tim that they would both get in trouble if police were called in; they could both be charged with manslaughter, Christie said. [This was a lie. Christie was the only one in danger of such a charge. Tim Evans had not been present when Beryl was killed.] Furthermore, as Christie told him, Tim could also be charged as an accomplice before the fact, since he knew of his wife’s intentions to abort and had not tried to stop her from going through with it. [This was probably true considering the draconian anti-abortion laws of the time.] With a degree of menace, Christie pointed out that Tim and Beryl had a known history of violent quarrelling, and Tim would immediately become a suspect in her death if police became involved. [And this is definitely a true statement—under such conditions Tim Evans would categorically have been the first person of interest for police to consider.]
Having heard all of this (with very little clearly understood) Tim Evans was easily cowed into accepting Christie’s plan for resolving “their” problem. It did not involve calling police. Christie first told Tim he would get rid of Beryl’s body by himself. However, after the fatigues of the day (both physical and mental) he was unable to manage her body alone and enlisted Tim’s aid.
Mr. Kitchener, the second-floor tenant, was still away in the hospital. Christie and Tim carted Beryl’s body down one flight of stairs and carried her into Kitchener’s apartment. [How Christie gained entry to this man’s apartment isn’t clear. Kitchener might had given him—a “trusted” ex-police officer—a key to, say, water the plants in his absence. Or, he had simply left the door unlocked. Or, Christie may have jimmied the lock. Regardless, they illegally entered the man’s flat.]
They placed Beryl’s body in Kitchener’s kitchen, with Christie silently hoping Kitchener wouldn’t suddenly come home anytime soon. Christie then told Tim he would put Beryl’s body in one of the storm drains in the street out front of 10 Rillington Place later.
Tim’s next concern was for his daughter’s care. He wanted to take her straightaway to his mother’s place on St. Marks Road; Christie nixed the idea immediately, saying it would create suspicion as to Beryl’s true whereabouts. Christie assured Tim he would come up with a plan soon, and he told Tim to go to bed. The men separated for the night.
Adventures in Babysitting
The next morning, November 9, Christie waylaid Tim before he went off to work. He said he would watch baby Geraldine that day. In furtherance of their conspiracy to cover up Beryl’s disappearance, Christie said Tim would have to give up the child to a foster care situation, maybe only for a little while. To that end Christie said he had already found a loving, young couple (adding the detail they were from East Acton) willing to take her in. Tim Evans did not question how Christie had worked such a miracle overnight, but he accepted that the “young couple” was real and eagerly awaiting his child.
Christie fed Tim a cover story he was to tell anyone who asked after Beryl and the baby. Tim was to say that Beryl and Geraldine were off on a vacation at Beryl’s father’s place in Brighton. This would temporarily allay suspicions (although Tim’s immediate family knew Beryl was not on good terms with her father). Christie babysat that day; Tim took Geraldine upstairs after work.
The next morning Tim prepared baby Geraldine for transport to her new home, packing up some things he thought the new “young couple” might need (clothes, bottles, etc.). Christie had Tim bring down all of the baby’s things, including her carriage and high chair. He again took the child into his care for the day. After Tim was gone, Christie took Geraldine upstairs to Kitchener’s still-vacant apartment and strangled her with one of Kitchener’s ties he found in the man’s bedroom. He put the baby’s body in Kitchener’s kitchen alongside her mother’s two-day-old corpse.
Joan Vincent, Beryl’s friend who had tried to open the Evans’ apartment door while Beryl lay dead on her flat’s floor, returned to 10 Rillington Place just after Christie had finished his “work” in Kitchener’s apartment. As she mounted the steps, Christie heard her from his front room. He stepped out into the common hallway and asked her what she wanted in the building (he knew Tim wasn’t home and Kitchener was away—any strangers poking around, particularly in Kitchener’s flat, would be a major problem).
Joan said she wanted to visit Beryl. Christie advised her that Beryl and the baby had gone away; Joan found it suspicious, however, that Beryl (if she and the baby had gone away, presumably for good, that she had not taken the child’s high chair and baby carriage, items she could see in Christie’s front room when she looked past him. [He’d had Tim bring them down but failed to remove them after murdering her.] Christie then became openly hostile toward Joan, telling her it would be best if she never came back to 10 Rillington Place.
Man on the Run
Christie had Tim Evans, from fear and in shock over the loss of Beryl, completely under his influence in the wake of the murder. By enlisting Tim’s aid in moving Beryl’s body he had created a conspiracy to hide a capital crime even though Tim was not part of the killing. Thus, he could be charged with any number of crimes ranging from obstruction of justice to tampering with evidence.
Within two days of the murder (on the day Christie killed Geraldine) Tim had gotten into an argument at his job with his boss. He was fired. When he came home, though, he told Christie he had quit (a small balm to his wounded ego over being fired and typical of Tim’s lying). Christie thought this was for the best: now Tim had no ties to keep him in London. Tim believed he wife was dead from “septic poisoning”, his daughter was safely in the care of a foster couple, and he had no job. Why stay in London, indeed?
However, he had to be convinced by Christie to leave town. Preying upon Tim’s fear of discovery (and with his own assurances that he would handle final disposal of Beryl and any police inquiries that might arise) he suggested that Tim raise some ready cash by selling off his furniture and get off the premises of 10 Rillington Place.
Tim Evans took Christie’s advice. He sold out his meager household furnishings (though he still owed money on some of it). The dealer who picked up the pieces was given a false forwarding address in Bristol by Tim. Beryl’s clothing and their bed linens he tore into pieces and sold them to a ragman. [Such materials found recycled uses in the manufacture of paper, for electrical wiring insulation, etc., though Tim would have gotten more for the items had he sold them, intact, to a second-hand clothing shop common throughout London. It is probable Christie set him to the idea of disposing of Beryl’s’ clothes via the local ragman—had they gone intact into a shop, there was the remote possibility someone might recognize a favored garment of Beryl’s starting a chain-reaction that could lead back to 10 Rillington Place and Reg Christie.]
On November 14, 1949, he got on a train. He left London, headed west. He did not go to Bristol (also in that direction on England’s west coast). He continued on to the only place he could think to go: home, to Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. He settled in with an aunt (his mother’s sister). His aunt was given the story of Beryl and Geraldine off on vacation; Tim said he was waiting for her and the baby to meet up with him in Merthyr Tydfil.
Back at Tim’s former address in London, the workers and carpenters had finished the job on the washhouse they’d started weeks before. Christie took this opportunity to move Beryl and
Tim stayed in Merthyr Tydfil for about week. Wondering about how baby Geraldine was doing in her new home and wanting to check on how Beryl’s “disappearance” was being handled by Christie, Tim made a return trip to Rillington Place, arriving on November 23 (coincidentally, three days after his 25th birthday). Christie confirmed he’d put Beryl’s body down the drain. He also said it was unwise for Tim to see Geraldine—according to Christie, she was well-tended by her new foster parents. A disappointed Tim left London and headed back to Merthyr Tydfil; he had not bothered to contact his mother or any of his siblings while in town.
No one in his immediate family had seen or heard from Tim or Beryl in weeks. His mother, Mrs. Probert, decided to check herself. Although Tim had claimed otherwise, she found out Beryl had not gone to see her father. She called at 10 Rillington Place—finding the third-floor apartment stripped of furnishings with Tim, Beryl, and the baby nowhere in sight, she talked to Christie downstairs. He gave her only vagaries about the little family’s whereabouts and told her she needn’t worry about them, they were probably all okay.
Mrs. Probert’s sister, with whom Tim was staying in Wales, contacted her. It was only then she found out Tim was in Wales and not in London. After conferring, they determined that Tim’s tale of Beryl’s imminent arrival was a lie. Tim’s aunt confronted him. Tim was not quick-witted enough to successfully evade her concerns about Beryl. Also, having been caught in a lie unnerved him. Instead of divulging the whole truth to her he was talked into turning himself in at Merthyr Tydfil’s police station.
The mentally challenged Tim Evans blurted out, “I have disposed of my wife. I put her down the drain.”
Hide ’n’ Seek
The provincial police in Tim’s hometown did not know what to make of what he was saying. He wasn’t confessing to a murder, merely having “disposed” or her. On November 30, 1949, Tim elaborated under interrogation by the police there.
He said Beryl was dead but he hadn’t killed her. Not wanting to incriminate Christie (whom he knew was a former police officer and therefore, in Tim’s mind, beyond reproach) he said he had been given a concoction by a stranger to cause her to miscarry. Tim then claimed he had handed this potion to Beryl with explicit instructions to not use it. After leaving her home alone for the day he came back to find that—against his expressed warning—she had taken the potent abortifacient and was dead. He then took care of the baby, and fearful of police thinking he might have killed her, the next day he said he put her headfirst into a storm drain in the street in front of 10 Rillington Place.
He claimed he followed up his subterfuge by staying home from work, then going in to give notice he was quitting. He said finally that he had made arrangements to have Geraldine placed with someone to look after her until he figured out what to do next. He closed his statement by begging the local police to find Beryl’s body, examine it, and prove that he had not killed her.
Tim Evans was a known liar, braggart, and mental defective to the police who heard his tale. Nonetheless, they couldn’t comprehend what might motivate such a confession and they felt duty bound to at least try to see how much, if any, of his story was true.
The small department in Wales contacted the Notting Hill police station in Tim’s old neighborhood. Officers were sent out to look into the alleged disposal site as described by Tim Evans. Not only was there no corpse in the drain outside 10 Rillington Place’s front door it had taken three police officers working together to wrest the heavy manhole cover off the access port in the street. Thus, they concluded there was no way the twitchy, 10-stone runt Tim Evans had single-handedly stuffed a corpse, or anything else, down that particular drain.
When Tim was told of the situation he expressed surprise. [One can only imagine what thoughts ran through his head as he tried to figure out what had been done with Beryl.] Instead of allowing the investigation to fall flat, Tim volunteered to “tell the truth” since the facts did not fit his earlier lies.
He recanted and said it was no stranger who had given him something for Beryl to use to end her pregnancy. It was his good friend and downstairs neighbor, John Reginald Halliday Christie. Christie volunteered to abort Beryl’s baby. But, according to Tim, he was warned that Christie’s “special mixture” that he needed to use might be dangerous and could possibly kill Beryl. Despite that disclaimer from Christie, Tim said Beryl elected to go ahead with the procedure anyway. Tim said he went off to work on November 8, knowing Beryl would make the attempt with Christie that day. When he came home, he said he found his wife dead with blood issuing from her nose and mouth.
According to Tim’s revised version, clean-up consisted of him attending to baby Geraldine while Christie moved Beryl’s body. Christie came up later, telling Tim he had put Beryl in Mr. Kitchener’s temporarily vacant apartment. Christie said he knew some people who could take Geraldine in, and he asked for all of the baby’s personal items and furnishings to give over to these people when they came for her. Tim said when he came home from work soon after Beryl’s death Geraldine was gone, with Christie telling him he had taken care “of everything”. Christie told Tim to sell his furniture and leave town. He also said it was Christie who had put Beryl down the drain (an immediate red flag to interrogators taking the statement—there was no body in the drain, a fact the mildly retarded Tim Evans seemed to have forgotten when relating his new “story”). Tim Evans claimed the reason he’d given police his “untruthful” earlier story was because he was afraid of Christie, dreading some nebulous retaliation.
Tim’s half-sister Mary (in her 2010 interview) still felt a need to defend her brother against accusations of guilt in the murder of his young wife. She said, “I can only imagine that to cope with the shock and pain of Beryl’s death he went back to his childhood, and made up a story to explain something which made no sense to him.”
Tim later refined even this “truthful” version of his story. He admitted that Christie had needed help in moving Beryl to Kitchener’s apartment and he had assisted. He mentioned that he had also returned to Rillington Place recently asking about Geraldine’s living arrangements. Christie had allegedly told him it was too soon to seek out the foster couple. Tim then asked police to please contact his mother and to ask her to find out the address where Geraldine was being kept. He wanted to know that his daughter was alright.
Notting Hill police did a cursory search of Tim’s old home. In Tim’s largely-emptied apartment they found a pile of papers near a window. Mixed in with this were news clippings about a torso murder involving a killer named Stanley Setty. The clipping looked incriminating, appearing as if Tim had pondered doing his wife in with the Setty case as a blueprint. Stupidly, police did not reach the proper conclusions: a) the Setty case carried no details similar to Beryl’s death, and b) Tim Evans couldn’t read, making the clipping a pointless red herring. [Christie obviously planted the news article, probably unaware of how severely mentally limited Tim Evans was.] Also in the third-floor flat police discovered a brief case that had been reported stolen.
Police moved on to the back yard and the “garden” area. Surprisingly, they did not notice the human femur Christie had used to prop up the falling wooden fence roughly mid-way through the yard. They also did not notice a human skull lying above ground. None of the searchers looked in either the recently-repaired washhouse or the privy.
Satisfied solely with Tim’s “confessions” in Wales, and with the news clipping and the stolen briefcase (though a flimsy excuse it was enough to officially arrest Tim Evans and extradite him to London) police felt they had the beginnings of a murder case.
After the police left the grounds, a relieved Christie went out to the yard to do a walk-through. He couldn’t believe his luck that none of the police had bothered inspecting the washhouse at the time. He also observed that none had bothered to bring a shovel and probe around the garden area. He discovered his dog had dug up one of the skulls of his victims (later found to be that of Muriel Eady) buried in the back. The bombing of London had left many shelled, gutted structures nearby. Christie, in his previous capacity as a civil defense coordinator, knew of these dangerous buildings. He took it and dumped it into one such wreck. [When it was found by some children later in the rubble police initially surmised it was from an occupant who’d been killed during a Nazi air-raid.]
Reg Christie was called in for a police interview after the initial search. This session lasted around six hours wherein Christie, a practiced liar, acquitted himself admirably. It also didn’t hurt his standing with police that he had been a “boy in blue” at one time. Christie described in detail the disharmony in the Evans’ home, giving police to believe the marriage had been marked by arguments and domestic violence (which it clearly was). He chuffed over Tim’s allegations against him—he said Tim was a known liar. Ethel Christie was concurrently interviewed by police, but her responses and statements were so close to those of her husband it seemed obvious to anyone who cared that she had been well-rehearsed by Reg.
Up to that time, Tim Evans thought his daughter was in the loving care of an unknown couple in East Acton. And Beryl’s body was not where Christie said he would dump it. So, where had Christie hidden Beryl?
In Notting Hill police custody Tim was shown the clothing taken from his wife’s and daughter’s bodies. He also learned both had been strangled (this flew in the face of what Christie had told
Tim Evans then gave an erudite, formal confession (something of which he was completely incapable considering his limited vocabulary) that, although he was interrogated for many hours, police later claimed took him only about 75 minutes to compile. In his statement he claimed the necktie around the baby’s neck was his (which it was not), and he supplied details about the murder of Beryl that did not fit with the evidence at hand.
Recalling his habitual lying and knowing the mentally-challenged Tim Evans’ compulsion to please his “superiors”, his relatives tried to explain to police that he was incapable of making the coherent “confession” finally used in court. His half-sister Mary recalled:
“We went to Notting Hill Gate police station and explained all this to [Inspector] Jennings [who had led the interrogation], but the police chose to take him at his word. They made the evidence fit the stories, even though they were so outlandish they couldn’t possibly have been true.”
Outlandish or not, Tim Evans’ habit of “storyfying” brought him a charge of murdering his infant daughter, Geraldine.
It is clear that Tim’s and Beryl’s relationship was combative. While obviously relatives can be expected to say anything in defense of their kin (and their statements are always suspect), there is no independent evidence that Tim was anything but the doting father to his baby girl, unlikely to kill her. During his several bouts of questioning before the discovery of the bodies in Rillington Place’s washhouse he asked after her well-being many times and had begged police to find her and at least let him know she was fine. Mary remembered:
“He loved Geraldine so much, always playing with her, and bringing her back little presents off his rounds on the van . . . a little teddy bear and a yellow play suit come to mind especially.”
After gleaning what little could be found as evidence from the corpses of Tim’s family, Beryl Susanna Thorley Evans (age 20), her unborn fetus, and Geraldine Evans (13-months old) were buried together. Tim, starting on January 11, 1950, faced the mighty weight of the British Crown in court for the murder of his daughter.
Tim had not once mentioned having killed his daughter—or having killed Beryl, for that matter—in any conversations prior to the bodies’ discovery. Of the two, the stronger legal case was for Tim having killed Beryl in a domestic dispute. He had handled her body and he knew some post-mortem details about her (such as having seen sanguinities of her vagina, nose, and mouth). A “crime of passion” motive could have easily been ascribed to him as Beryl’s killer.
The opportunistic charge involving the stolen briefcase (the charge that allowed his extradition from Wales to London) was conveniently set aside. It is unclear if Tim actually stole this briefcase or that Christie had swiped it and planted it in Tim’s flat.]
Tim, though under no legal compulsion to do so, took the stand in his own defense. He was a remarkably terrible witness. He said he had not known that baby Geraldine was dead until police had shown him her clothing when he was in the Notting Hill police station. He claimed then that all hope had been stripped away and he readily agreed to anything police said afterward. He testified being afraid police would beat him up if he didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.
He was asked how he knew certain details of the crimes that only the killer could have known. Tim said he had been supplied those details by police, and he had been shown the green tablecloth in which Beryl’s body had been wrapped. [Police witnesses, in their turn, of course denied this.]
Still asserting his innocence, he blamed Christie for the deaths of his wife and daughter. When asked why in the world his neighbor would want to kill Tim’s wife and child, the confused Tim Evans only said, “Well, he was home all day.”
Tim also confused the exhibits he was shown in court, and he further moiled his testimony by giving different answers to things he’d already formalized in his several confessions. Considering he was on trial for his life, most of those present in court felt he was merely prevaricating to save himself, throwing the blame for the crimes in Christie’s direction as a diversion.
Tim Evans was a known habitual liar—the jury would find it impossible to believe anything that came out of his mouth. His reasons for confessing to police, if he had not committed any crimes, seemed absurd to even the most casually interested party. He was not credible on the stand.
The star witness for the prosecution was John Reginald Halliday Christie. This marks perhaps the first and only time in history where a serial killer testified in open court as an eyewitness against another person accused of murder.
He recounted the Evans’ violent rows for the jury, embellishing where he felt necessary. He prevaricated as he was best able, weaving a convoluted tale. He said he had seen Beryl go out with the baby around noon on November 8. He presumed she was off shopping, but though he never saw her return he knew she had because he heard her upstairs later. Tim came home from work and went upstairs. Christie then said he and Ethel, as they lay in bed, heard a mighty thump near midnight of November 8 in the Evans’ flat. Then all was quiet. He then elaborated on Tim’s telling him the next day that Beryl and the baby had gone off for a visit to her father’s.
Christie used his star turn to make himself look both heroic and sympathetic at the same time. His war “injury” was brought up, and Christie dutifully (and annoyingly) lapsed into his whispering speech pattern (the result, he said, of being gassed in the trenches of World War I). He had to be commanded to speak up more than once.
Of the day Beryl was determined to have been murdered, Tim had adamantly insisted Christie had killed her as Christie “was home all day”. Christie admitted he was, indeed, home: he was sick all day with a stomach problem so severe that he could only keep bland foods down (such as the bread sopped in milk he said was the only thing he could eat). No doctor was seen during this mysterious illness, completely out of character for the attention-loving and hypochondriac Christie (but the court, of course, could not know his history of malingering).
The defense, however, did not let Christie off the hook so easily. Needing desperately to discredit this preening prat on the stand they embarrassed him thoroughly by highlighting his past criminality. Christie uncomfortably answered their questions in his whispering rasp, something he tended to do when addressing issues he did not wish to discuss. Mentioned were his multiple theft convictions. As a possible pathway to Christie being the murderer Tim Evans said he was, the defense raised in open court his malicious wounding case from 1929 when he had battered a prostitute in the head with a cricket bat. Clearly, the prosecution’s star witness had a history of violence toward women. Christie squirmed but managed to worm his way through.
Ethel Christie, when initially interviewed by police, claimed she was “in and out” of the washhouse frequently, getting water from it daily. She claimed she had never noticed anything unusual during the relevant times. This means that she was in the washhouse at least once a day every day from the time of Beryl’s disappearance on November 8 up to the time the bodies were found on December 2—at least two dozen opportunities to notice something was amiss. The police had figured the bodies had been in the washhouse for some days—how could she not have noticed the stench of a three-week-old, rotting corpse? Or her dog, for that matter, which followed her around? While noting the absurdity of her statement, police made no effort to press her on its obvious falsity.
In court, Ethel, when called to the stand, only parroted what her husband had told her. She also claimed she never used the washhouse (but neither the defense nor prosecution noted this discrepancy between what she told police initially and what she was saying now).
The workmen who had fixed up the washhouse were never brought into court by either the prosecution or the defense. [Recall that Christie’s landlord had workers on-site not only in the days before but after the murders as well.] Statements had been taken from all of them, however, by police shortly after Beryl and Geraldine were found in the washhouse. The men kept their tools in the dilapidated structure while they worked on it and other parts of 10 Rillington Place. None of them reported seeing anything unusual in the washhouse up to the time they completed their work and quit the site late in the day on November 14, 1949 (when Tim Evans was already on a train bound for Merthyr Tydfil). One of the men clearly recalled Christie coming out (around 10 AM on November 14) and asking if he could have some of the old flooring planks they had torn up and left leaning by the sink.
The prosecution had to show the bodies were only placed in the washhouse at a time when Tim Evans was known to be in London to do it. The workers who had been contacted all asserted the washhouse was clear when they left it on November 14. This conflicted with the prosecution’s theory that Tim had stashed the bodies in the washhouse within a couple of days of the killings and had used the “drain” story to lead police on a wild-goose chase. To get statements they could use in court, police re-interviewed them, forcing a change in their timeline, putting the work as completed a few days before it really was. This “evidence” (introduced at trial) was what the prosecution used to support their theory that Tim was the sole murderer.
Tim Evans’ trial only lasted three days and was based purely on circumstance. There was little if any physical evidence tying him to the crime. Other relevant material was either overlooked or disallowed or twisted to fit the prosecution’s needs. His own words—his myriad “confessions”—as well as Christie’s more refined testimony (as well as Christie’s past as a Special Constable) carried much credence with the jury. After deliberating only 40 minutes the jury found him guilty of murdering his daughter, Geraldine. The sentence was death by hanging.
An appealwas filed immediately. But, as expected, it was rejected on February 20, 1950. Timothy John Evans was hanged for the murder of his daughter on March 9, 1950.
To date, Christie had murdered a part-time prostitute, a co-worker, a housewife and her daughter, and he had been directly responsible for the wrongful execution on an innocent man. The latter three victims comprised an entire family, dead because of John Reginald Halliday Christie.
Part 1 of 4: John Reginald Halliday Christie & the Serial Murders of 10 Rillington Place
Part 3 of 4: Final Serial Murders of 10 Rillington Place
Part 4 of 4: Fallout from the Serial Murders of 10 Rillington Place