On this day in history : 25th June 1953 – John Christie is sentenced to hang for the murder of his wife and then hiding her body under the floorboards of their Notting Hill home, 10 Rillington Place….
Before his own trial Christie had been a key witness for the Crown in another murder trial – that of Timothy Evans, another resident at the Notting Hill address…. Evans had stood trial, accused of the murder of his wife and child – and although the murder charge for his wife was not pursued he was convicted of killing his daughter and was sequently hanged….
Christie himself was no stranger to the criminal world…. Throughout his adult life he had committed a string of petty crimes and had spent time in prison…. He had served a three month sentence for stealing postal orders whilst working as a postman, nine months for theft, six months for assaulting the prostitute girlfriend he had briefly lived with and another three months for stealing a car from a priest he had befriended….
Christie had a troubled childhood and grew up with some abnormal ideas on how a healthy sexual relationship should be conducted…. He married Ethel in 1920 but because of his sexual hang-ups was impotent with her – he could only perform with prostitutes and so he continued to use their services…. After four years the marriage broke up – but in 1933, after his last prison sentence, they got back together….
In December 1938 the Christies moved into the ground floor flat of 10 Rillington Place in the Ladbroke Grove area of Notting Hill…. Ten years later, in the April of 1948, Timothy Evans and his pregnant wife, Beryl, moved into the top floor flat…. She gave birth to a little girl soon after, who they named Geraldine – and then in the November of 1949 Beryl discovered that she was pregnant again…. The couple were worried as they could not afford to have another baby – and so Christie said he could help them, by performing an abortion…. Only, what he actually did was strangle her and because his depraved sexual gratifications now included necrophilia – he then raped her….
When Evans arrived home Christie claimed she had died during the termination procedure…. As abortion was illegal he managed to convince Evans that they had to hide Beryl’s body and he also persuaded him to leave Geraldine with him and to go to relatives in Wales to lay low for a while…. When Evans returned to London and wanted to see his daughter Christie refused….
On the 30th of November 1949 Evans went to the police and explained he had accidentally killed Beryl by giving her a potion to end her pregnancy…. He said that he had hidden her body in a sewer – but after a search the police could not find a body…. Evans then told the truth – how Christie had offered to help them and how he, Evans, had found his wife dead on returning home from work…. He explained how Christie arranged for the disposal of her body and somebody to look after Geraldine while he disappeared to Wales….
But this late admission of the truth only added to the tangled web that had already been woven…. A search of 10 Rillington Place revealed the bodies of both his wife and child hidden in an outside wash house…. Evans was then tried for murder, the jury took just 40 minutes to find him guilty…. After a failed appeal Timothy Evans was hanged on the 9th of March 1950….
Ethel Christie was last seen on the 12th of December 1952…. Christie told people that he had been offered a good job out of the area and that his wife had gone on before him…. He eventually moved out of Rillington Place on the 20th of March 1953, booking seven days lodgings in King’s Cross…. However, he had only been there four nights when Beresford Brown, the new tenant at 10 Rillington Place, discovered the remains of three women in an alcove which had been wallpapered over…. When the news broke Christie left his lodgings and took to wandering London, sleeping rough…. The police eventually caught up with him on the 31st March 1953, on the Embankment near to Putney Bridge….
A total of eight female bodies in all were found at Rillington Place…. Those of his wife, Beryl and baby Geraldine Evans and five others:- Ruth Fuerst, a 21-year-old Austrian prostitute – Muriel Amelia Eady, a work colleague of Christie – Kathleen Maloney, prostitute – Rita Nelson, who was six months pregnant – and Hectorina MacLennan, who Christie had befriended, along with her boyfriend, Alex Baker….
At first Christie only confessed to the murders of the three bodies that had been found in the alcove and that of his wife…. He eventually admitted to Beryl’s murder – but not that of Geraldine…. He went on trial for the murder of his wife – in the same court that Evans had been convicted in – on the 22nd of June 1953…. He pleaded insanity but the jury rejected this plea – and after just 85 minutes of deliberation found him guilty…. There was no appeal….
Christie was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint, who had also executed Evans, on the 15th of July…. Two-hundred people people waited outside the prison to see the execution notice…. After being restrained for the procedure to take place Christie had complained that his nose was itching – only to be told by Pierrepoint that it wouldn’t bother him for much longer….
10 Rillington Place was demolished – in the 1970s the whole street was redeveloped…. Timothy Evans was granted a posthumous pardon in 1966….