John Reginald Halliday Christie was born on 8 April 1899 and grew up near Halifax, West Yorkshire. He was often known as Reginald or Reg.
When Christie was 17, in September 1916, he enlisted in the army and was called to service on 12 April 1917 as an infantryman. The following April 1918, his regiment was sent to France and later in June that year he was injured during a mustard gas attack and was hospitalised in Calais for a month. He barely spoke above a whisper after this – Christie claimed that after the attack he was blind and mute for three and a half years although there isn’t really any proof of this. He left the Army in 1919 .
On 10 May 1920, he married Ethel Simpson in Halifax. Despite his marriage, he visited sex workers. He had an impotence problem and had been visiting them for many years.
The following year, he takes a job as a postman and this basically marks the beginning of his crimes. He was convicted for stealing postal orders in 1921 and served three months in prison. He was then convicted for obtaining money on false pretences and violent conduced in 1923. He wasn’t imprisoned for this, but instead placed on 12 months probation. He moves to London in 1923 but this doesn’t stop these petty crimes. We have two counts of larceny (which is kind of theft) and goes back to prison in September 1924 for nine months.
Ethel, at this point was like, ok bye. She goes back to Halifax.
After his release, he starts working as a lorry driver and in 1929, whilst living in Battersea, he assaults his girlfriend Maud Cole. He hit her over the head with a cricket bat and was sentenced to six months hard labour. He then steals a car and was imprisoned at HMP Wandsworth for three months in November 1933.
In 1934, nine years after Ethel leaves, she comes back and they reconcile. This put an end to his petty crime spree but he continued to visit sex workers. They move into the top floor flat of 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London in 1937. They then move into the downstairs flat in December 1938. Notting Hill in the late 1930s was nothing like it is today – it described as being “a massive slum, fill of multi-occupied houses, drawing with rats and rubbish”. The ground floor flat consisted of a bedroom, a living room and a kitchen/scullery room. The three flats that the building held shared one outside toilet.
World War II starts in September 1939 and Christie join the War Reserve Police. His previous criminal convictions were seemingly overlooked. He started having an affair with a woman called Gladys Jones until the middle of 1943. Gladys’s husband comes back from the war, and beats Christie up.
This is when the murders start.
In 1943, he murders Ruth Fuerst. She was Austrian, 21 years old and worked as a munitions worker. She supplemented her income with sex work and this how she met Christie. Whilst Ethel, his wife, was visiting family back in Halifax, he took Ruth home and strangled her to death with a piece of rope. He stowed her body under the floorboards of the living room and later buried her in the garden the next day.
Christie then resigns from the reserve police and starts work at a radio factory. This is where he meets Muriel Eady. Muriel was suffering from bronchitis and Christie said that he could help cure this with a “special mixture”. So in October 1944, he invites Muriel back to his house, loads up a jar with some tubes and his “special mixture” and gets her to start breathing in the vapours through one of the tubes. Little does Muriel know though, when her back is turned, he attaches a different tube to a gas tap and turns it on. She falls unconscious. Christie rapes her and strangles her and buries her in the garden, next to the body of Ruth Fuerst.
In 1946, he is digging in his garden and unearths a femur of one of his victims. Instead of reburying it deeper, he uses the long leg bone to shore up part of his garden fencing. That remained there for seven years. At a another point, his dog digs up a skull. He nonchalantly places it in a bombed out house. This is later discovered by children.
At this point, we are two murders deep and things get worse.
At Easter 1948, Timothy Evans and his pregnant wife Beryl move into the top floor flat of 10 Rillington Place. Beryl gives birth to a baby girl, Geraldine, later that year. Timothy and Beryl had a bit of tempestuous relationship – they were often heard arguing by neighbours and there were a couple of incidents of physical violence between them. These arguments were as a result of Beryl not being a great housekeeper or manager of the household funds, and Timothy often spent his wages on alcohol. When Beryl fell pregnant in 1949, Beryl decided to have an abortion which Timothy agrees to.
There is a bit of speculation here about what happened next but spoilers, Beryl dies.
Timothy Evans first informs police in Merthyr Tydfill (in Wales, where his family is from) that his wife had died in “unusual circumstances”. He tells them that he had given her something from a bottle that would cause her to abort the baby. She died and he placed her body in the drain in the front of the house at 10 Rillington Place. Police searched the property and the drain Timothy said he disposed of Beryl’s body in. It took three men to lift the drain cover and they deduced that Timothy couldn’t have lifted it on his own. That leg bone still props up the garden fence.
Timothy changes his story and says that Christie said he would undertake the abortion and that he had come home, from work on the 8 November 1949 to find Beryl dead. Timothy says that Christie told him that he would dispose of the body, arrange for Geraldine to go to live with a childless couple and tells Timothy that he should go back home to Wales. Abortions were obviously illegal at the time.
The Police conducted a more through search of Rillington Place and found the body of Beryl in the external wash house. She had been strangled to death, wrapped in a blanket and a table cloth. She had also been psychically assaulted before her death. That leg bone is still propping up the garden fence.
Sadly, Beryl’s body wasn’t the only thing the police found in the wash house. They found the body of baby Geraldine and a 16 week old foetus. Geraldine had been strangled too.
Timothy had not mentioned in either of his statements that Geraldine was dead, or that he had killed her. Timothy initially said that he didn’t know his daughter was dead but then he confessed to his daughter’s murder.
Timothy was charged with the murder of Beryl and the murder of Geraldine. His trial for Geraldine’s murder started in 11 January 1950. The prosecution was not pursuing the charge for murder of Beryl at this stage due to the conflicting confessions and statements made.
During his trial, he recanted his previous confessions and plead not guilty. His defence team argued that he had been forced into giving. Confession and was scared that he would have faced violence from the police if her had not done so. Christie was the star witness in this trial – he said that he had no part in either Beryl or Geraldine’s death. He claimed that Timothy was violent and he had overheard numerous arguments, and also that he was physically incapable of moving Beryls body around. The prosecution brought up details of Christie’s previous criminal convictions but these were paid little attention to – rather his “good standing” being in the first world war and the position he held with the War Reserve Police.
It took the jury three days to convict Timothy Evans. An appeal was made and ultimately failed in February 1950. He was sentenced to death. On the 9 March 1950, Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his daughter Geraldine at Pentonville Prison.
Christie remained living at 10 Rillington Place with Ethel. He lost his job after Timothy Evan’s trial after his employers found out about his previous criminal convictions. He gets a new job. Christie and his wife, Ethel get new neighbours into the top floor flat of Rillington Place and there were tensions between them. Basically, the Christie’s were racist and their new neighbours were black. Ethel accuses one of them of assaulting her.
On 14 December 1952, Christie strangles Ethel whilst she is lying in bed. He made numerous false statements to friends and neighbours about her whereabouts. He sold her engagement ring, watch and furniture. He claimed an unemployment cheque having quit his job earlier that month. He forges Ethel’s signature and clears out her bank account. He places her body under the floorboards of his living room.
He murders Kathleen Maloney, a sex worker. He murders Rita Nelson who was six months pregnant and visiting her sister in London . He then murders Hectorina Maclennan and then regularly meets with her husband to help him search for her.
Christie finds someone to sublet his flat and moves out in 20 March 1953. This subletting was fraudulent. And the landlord finds out the same day. He asks the people who had moved in to move out immediately. With the ground floor flat of Rillington Place currently empty, the landlord allows the top floor tenant, Beresford Brown, to use the kitchen as his flat didn’t have one. On the 24 March, whilst Beresford is fixing a wall bracket to allow him to hold a wireless, he finds a concealed kitchen alcove. It’s covered with wallpaper. He peels it back to find stowed in the alcove, the bodies of Christie’s last three victims. He immediately calls the police and a search for Christie begins.
On 31 March 1953, just 11 days after moving out and a week after the discovery of the bodies, a police officer challenges Christie on his identity as he stands on the embankment near Putney Bridge. He had a newspaper clipping of Timothy Evans’s remand in his pocket along with some coins. He is arrested.
An extensive search of the property was undertaken, and they found the bodies of Ruth Fuerst and Muriel Eady in the garden and Ethel Christie under the floorboards in the living room.
Christie undergoes a trial and is eventually convicted for the murder of his wife. He confesses to the other murders and for the murder of Beryl Evans. He does not confess to the murder of Geraldine Evans although it is widely assumed that he did murder her.
He was sentenced to death and hung at Pentonville Prison on 15 July 1953. The same place where Timothy Evans had been hung. With the same executioner. After he had been restrained to be hung, Christie complained that his nose itched. At that remark, the executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, told him that “it won’t bother you for long’.
Two things that crop up from this story:
First, Christie collected trophies from his victims. He collected clumps of pubic hair. He didn’t collect them from every victim but he had four clumps. He said these came from his wife, and the three victims in the kitchen alcove. But only one of the clumps was matched to Ethel Christie. No pubic hair was removed from Beryl Evans. If we assume that two of the remaining three clumps came from the victims in the garden, then we are left with a spare. Basically, there is speculation that Christie killed someone else. There have been no attempts to trace any further potential victims of Christie though.
Second, Christie’s confession that he murdered Beryl shone a huge spotlight on the trial of Timothy Evans. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, High Court Judge, Sir Daniel Brabin, concluded that the uncertainty in Timothy’s trial would have prevented the jury from concluding that he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Home Secretary at the time, Roy Jenkins, recommended a posthumous pardon for Timothy Evans and this was granted on the 18 October 1966. It allowed for Timothy’s family to have his remains returned so they could rebury him in a private grave, rather than a prison one.
The controversy surrounding Timothy’s case and other cases at the time, helped secure a suspension and further abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom for murder. In 2003, the Home Office awarded compensation for the miscarriage of justice in Timothy’s trial to his half-sister and sister. Lord Brennan, the independent assessor for the Home Office stated “the conviction and execution of Timothy Evans for the murder of his child are wrongful and a miscarriage of justice” and further stated “that there is no evidence to implicate Timothy Evans in the murder of his wife. She was probably murdered by Christie”.
So that is that, seven dead women, a dead baby, one innocent man hung to death and one absolute shitbag of a human being. John Reginald Halliday Christie.
The house at 10 Rillington Place was demolished in 1971.
All Thats Interesting – https://allthatsinteresting.com/timothy-evans-john-christie
IMDb – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5568438/
Independent – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/rillington-place-bbc-john-christie-serial-killer-visiting-the-home-where-he-killed-adaptation-a7035831.html
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Christie_(murderer)
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Evans