- John Christie (murderer)
John Reginald Halliday Christie (born
April 8, 1898[ [http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=John_Christie_/_Timothy_Evans_Case John Christie / Timothy Evans Case - Your Archives ] ] , Halifax; died July 15, 1953) was an English serial killeractive in the 1940s and 1950s. He was arrested, tried, and hanged for murderin 1953.
Prior to his arrest, he was involved in another murder trial, as a principal witness for the Crown in the trial of his fellow tenant,
Timothy Evans. Evans was accused of the murders of his own wife and child, and subsequently convicted of, and executed for, the murder of the baby. Some critics have concluded that Christie committed the murders and framed Evans for them, while others have suggested that there could have been two separate murderers living in the same shared house at the same time. Mr Justice Brabin stated in 1966 that it was "more probable than not" that Evans killed his wife and that he did not kill his daughter Geraldine. [Keith Simpson, Forty years of murder, Grafton edition (1996), ISBN 0261669087, p. 248] However, Christie himself confessed to killing Beryl Evans and several other women (including his own wife), and it is now accepted by the High Courtthat Evans was entirely innocent of the crimes of which he was accused. The case sparked massive public outrage, and contributed to the suspension and eventual abolition of the death penaltyfor murder in Britain in 1965 (though it still had the death penalty for espionage, piracy, treasonuntil 1972, 1981 and 1998 respectively) .
Christie was raised in Halifax, then in the
West Riding of Yorkshire. He was abused by his father and dominated by his mother and sisters. In 1906, Christie was witness to the open coffin of his grandfather, a man who had previously frightened him.
Christie won a
scholarshipto Halifax Secondary School when he was 11. He excelled particularly at mathematicsand algebra. Good with his hands, he was skilled at detailed work. It was later found he had an IQof 128. He sang in the choir and became a scout, but he was unpopular with his fellow pupils. Upon leaving school at the age of 15, Christie became an assistant movie projectionist.
Christie had a lifelong problem with
impotence; His first attempts at sex were failures, branding him as "Reggie-No-Dick" and "Can't-Do-It-Christie" throughout adolescence. [ [http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleYear&id=1068 This Day in History 1953: A notorious English killer is executed ] ] He was also a hypochondriac and hysteric, and often exaggerated or feigned illness as a ploy to get attention. [ [http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/history/christie/index_1.html Number 10 Rillington Place ] ]
In September 1916, Christie enlisted as a signalman in
World War I. In June 1918, he was hospitalized after a mustard gasattack, claiming to have been blinded. No record of his supposed blindness exists, however; In "Ten Rillington Place", author Ludovic Kennedywrote that Christie exaggerated his blindness, as well as the three-year period afterward in which he was mute. [http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/history/christie/index_1.html]
Christie married Ethel Waddington from
Sheffield, on May 10, 1920in Halifax. It was a dysfunctionalunion, as Christie was impotent and frequented prostitutes. They separated after four years, when Christie moved to London and Ethel lived with relatives.
Early criminal career
Over the next decade, Christie was convicted for many petty criminal offences. These included: three months' imprisonment for stealing postal orders while working as a
postmanon April 12, 1921; He received nine months in Uxbridgejail in September 1924 for theft; six months' hard labourfor assaulting a prostitute (with whom he was living in Battersea) in May 1929; and three months' imprisonment in 1933 for stealing a car from a priestwho had befriended him. Christie and his wife reconciled after his release in November 1933. He did not reform, however; he continued to seek out prostitutes to relieve his increasingly violent sexual urges, which included necrophilia.
In December 1938, Christie and his wife moved into the ground floor apartment of
10 Rillington Placein the Ladbroke Groveneighbourhood of Notting Hill. On the outbreak of World War II, he applied to join the police force and was accepted despite his previous convictions. He was assigned to Harrow Road police station. Christie began an affair with a woman working at the police station whose husband was a serving soldier. The relationship lasted until December 1943, when he resigned. The husband caught them in bed and beat Christie up.
The first person Christie admitted to killing, or is known about was Ruth Fuerst, whom he impulsively strangled during sex in August 1943. In October 1944, he murdered a coworker, Muriel Amelia Eady, by promising to cure her
bronchitiswith a "special mixture" he had concocted, using domestic gas which contained carbon monoxidethat would render a person unconscious. Once Eady was knocked out, Christie choked her to death, and raped her post-mortem. Christie buried both Fuerst and Eady in the building's communal garden.
The murders of Beryl and Geraldine Evans
Timothy Evans and his
pregnantwife, Beryl, moved into the top-floor flat of 10 Rillington Place in April 1948. On October 10, Beryl gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Geraldine. Twelve months passed without any apparent incident, but in November 1949, Beryl Evans found out she was pregnant again, and feared they could not afford another child. Evans later told police that Christie promised the couple he could abort the baby.
Kennedy writes that, on November 8, Christie used his "special gas" to incapacitate Beryl, whom he strangled and raped post-mortem. [ [http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/history/christie/index_1.html Crime Library article on Christie] ] When Evans returned from work that night, Christie told him that Beryl had died during the procedure, and that they had to hide the body (abortion was illegal in England at the time). Christie then convinced Evans, who had an IQ of around 70 [ [http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/history/christie/evanses_2.html Number 10 Rillington Place ] ] , to stay with a relative in
Walesand leave Geraldine in his care. Evans later said he returned to the apartment several times to ask about Geraldine, but Christie had refused to let him see her.
November 30, 1949, Evans went to the police in Merthyr Tydfiland said he had accidentally killed Beryl by giving her something contained in a bottle that a man had given him to help abort her unborn baby, and then disposing of her body in a sewer drain. He told the police that, after arranging for Geraldine to be looked after, he had gone to Wales. When police examined the drain outside the front of the building, however, they found nothing and, furthermore, discovered that the manhole cover required the combined strength of all three officers in order to remove it. When re-questioned, Evans said that Christie had offered to provide an abortion for Beryl. Evans had returned home from work on November 8 to find Beryl dead. He said Christie then disposed of the body and made arrangements for some people to look after Geraldine while Evans lay low.
During a search of 10 Rillington Place on
December 2, 1949, the police found the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine Evans hidden in the wash house in the back garden. Both had been strangled. When Evans was shown the clothing taken from the bodies of his wife and child, he was also asked whether he was responsible for their deaths. This was, according to Evans' statement, the first occasion in which he was informed that his baby daughter had been killed. Evans, (according to Kennedy) said 'yes, yes'. He then confessed to having strangled Beryl during an argument over debts and strangling Geraldine two days later, after which he left for Wales.
This confession, along with other, contradictory statements Evans apparently made during the police interrogation, is often cited as proof of his guilt, although Kennedy says his interrogation was worded by investigating officers and carried out over the course of late evening and early morning hours to the physical and emotional detriment of the accused. His later "confessions" are examples of
false confessions made under police coercion.
Evans later recanted this testimony, and the case went to trial, which began on
January 11, 1950. Christie was a key witness for the prosecution, and was instrumental in Evans being found guilty two days later. The jury took only 40 minutes to come to this decision. After a failed appealon February 20, Evans was hanged on March 9, 1950.
Murders after the conviction of Timothy Evans
Christie was dismissed from his job as a ledger clerk from the
Post Office Savings Bank, which he had held for the previous four years, due to the disclosure of his previous criminal offences at Evans' trial. He sank into deep depression and lost 28 pounds. He remained unemployed until August 1950, when he found a position in the accountsdepartment with British Road Transport services. He stayed there until December 6, 1952, when he suddenly resigned. Christie claimed to his boss and to his neighbours that he had found a job with better prospects in Sheffieldand that he would be leaving London to move there with his wife early in the new year. When his wife disappeared, he claimed she had already moved and that he would be following on soon.
In fact, Christie murdered his wife in bed on the morning of
December 14, 1952. She was last seen alive two days earlier. The day after he murdered his wife, he altered the date of a letter she had written on the 10th to the 15th, explaining that Ethel had no envelopes so he sent the letter from work. On December 16, he took his wife's wedding ring to a jewellery shop and sold it. A week after that, he sold her watch and wedding band. He kept writing letters to her sister in Sheffield up to early January, claiming that rheumatismhad prevented her from writing.
In early January 1953, Christie sold most of his furniture. He kept three chairs, a kitchen table and a mattress to sleep on. A month later, on
February 2, 1953, he forged his wife's signature on her bank account and emptied it. From this point onwards, Christie no longer bothered to answer the letters from relatives inquiring after his wife.
Between January 19 and
March 6, 1953, Christie murdered three more women he invited back to 10 Rillington Place: Kathleen Maloney from Southampton, Rita Nelson, and Hectorina MacLennan. Christie claimed that MacLennan had wandered off and kept up the pretence for two weeks, asking her boyfriend, Alex Baker, how she was. Baker presumed she had gone back to her native Scotland.
Christie moved out of 10 Rillington Place on
March 20, 1953. He defrauded a couple who took up residence by taking £7 from them, although he was not authorised by the landlord of the property to do so. They were forced to move out within 24 hours. The day he left Rillington Place, Christie booked a room at the King's Cross Rowton Housesunder his real name and address. He asked for seven nights, but only stayed for four, leaving on March 24, 1953.
A few days later, the new tenant, Beresford Dubois Brown, discovered the bodies hidden in a wallpapered-over coal cellar in the kitchen.
Pathologicaltests later revealed carbon monoxide in their bodies. He called the police and a nationwide manhunt ensued on March 25. Three days later Christie telephoned the " News of the World" and arranged to meet a reporter, offering an exclusive interview; he said he would allow himself to be handed over to the police in exchange. The meeting never took place because Christie was frightened by the arrival of two policemen as he waited to meet the reporter.
After he left Rowton House, Christie wandered all over
London. Sometimes during the daytime he would visit the cinema or a cafe. He slept largely on park benches at night. The search for him ended on the morning of March 31 when he was arrested near the embankment at Putney Bridgeafter being challenged about his identity by a policeman. When asked what his name and address were, he said "John Waddington, 35 Westbourne Grove". He was then asked to remove his hat. The policeman recognized him and asked: "You are Christie, aren't you?" Christie confirmed that he was. When arrested, he had with him his identity card, a rationbook, his union card, an ambulance badge, and an old newspaper clipping about the remandof Timothy Evans. The following day he was charged with his wife's murder. On April 15, he was charged with murdering the three women.
Trial and execution
While in prison, Christie confessed to murdering all the women found in the cellar, as well as Beryl Evans. He never admitted to killing Geraldine Evans (Kennedy alleged that Christie's murder of Geraldine may have disturbed him to such an extent that he subsequently blocked it out of his mind). [Kennedy, L, "Ten Rillington Place" (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961), p 69] He was interviewed after the trial by John Scott Henderson QC, the Recorder of Portsmouth, who had been placed in charge of an inquiry into the case by
David Maxwell Fyfe, the serving Home Secretary.
Christie's trial began on
June 22, 1953, in the same court where Evans had been tried. He was on trial solely for the murder of his wife. Christie pleaded insanity and claimed to have a poor memory of the events. The jury rejected the plea and, after 22 minutes, found him guilty of murdering his wife.
On June 29, Christie said he would not
appealagainst the death sentencebut he would apply to the Home Secretary for mercy. This was of no avail as Fyfe said on July 13 that he would not grant a reprieveas there were no physical or psychological grounds for doing so. Some MPs tried to postpone the execution so that Christie could talk more about the earlier murders but Maxwell-Fyfe refused to grant this also. Christie himself refused to meet MPs in his cell during the final days of his life or talk about the murders. He was hanged at 9am on July 15 1953by Albert Pierrepointat Pentonville Prison, on the same gallows as Timothy Evans.
:"For more information on the controversy surrounding Timothy Evans's trial, see
10 Rillington Place"
Christie confessed to murdering Beryl Evans during police custody, and all the evidence supports the contention. She was killed by strangulation using a rope and there was evidence of necrophilia, as with most of the others of his victims. While he neither confessed to nor was convicted of killing Geraldine Evans, public opinion widely considered him guilty, casting serious doubt onto the fairness of Evans' trial and execution.
To date, there apparently exists no definitive evidence to prove or disprove Evans' innocence or Christie's guilt in Geraldine's murder, mainly because police failed to preserve crucial eviidence from the crime scene. Their searches of the house at Rillington Place were perfunctory and incompetent, especially as a thorough search would have revealed the bones of Christie's previous victims partly buried in the garden next to the wash-house. The Brabin inquiry conducted during 1965-1966 concluded that Evans had "probably" killed his wife, but not his daughter, which many found even more questionable. Brabin neglected much of the critical evidence on the "confessions" and believed the police evidence. Christie was known to be a serial killer, and both Beryl Evans and Geraldine Evans were strangled, parcelled up and hidden together in the wash house.
Timothy Evans was granted a posthumous
pardonin 1966. On November 16, 2004, his half-sister, Mary Westlake, started a case to overturn a decision by the Criminal Cases Review Commission not to refer Evans' case to the Court of Appeal to have his conviction quashed. She argued that although the previous inquiries concluded that Evans probably did not kill his daughter, they did not declare him innocent, since a pardon is a forgiveness of crimes committed. The request to refer the case was dismissed on November 19, with the judges saying that the cost and resources of quashing the conviction could not be justified, although they did accept that Evans did not murder his wife or child.
In popular culture
Christie and Timothy Evans's story was turned into a movie, "
10 Rillington Place", directed by Richard Fleischerand starring Richard Attenboroughas Christie. A reconstruction of Christie's execution at HMP Pentonvillecan be seen in the Chamber Of Horrors at Madame Tussaudsin London.
* [http://www.murderuk.com/serial_john_christie.html Brief summary of Christie's murders]
10 Rillington Place
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