Tonight the BBC’s new three-part drama series Rillington Place will focus on one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers of all time – John Reginald Halliday Christie (played by BAFTA award winning actor Tim Roth).
He murdered at least eight women, including his own wife, by strangulation. Three of the bodies were discovered hidden within the walls of his own home at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London.
Shockingly, it was Timothy Evans, a young neighbour who lived directly above Christie, who was punished for the crimes. He was found guilty of murder and hanged – a conviction that was later overturned 40 years later. The case contributed to the suspension of capital punishment for murder in the United Kingdom in 1965
Who Was John Christie?
Born in 1899, Yorkshireman John Christie was unable to ever speak loudly after he was injured as an infantryman during the First World War. Following his discharge, he turned to crime, soon racking up a criminal record for theft and assault.
His record went unchecked when he was accepted for service with the War Reserve Police during the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. He moved from petty crime to murder – between 1943 and 1953 he had murdered eight known victims.
Christie would force his victims to fall unconscious by either strangulation or with domestic gas, he sexually assaulted some as they helpless before him. He hid the bodies of three of his victims in an alcove of the kitchen at his home (pictured above) – 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. Then in 1953, he moved out, leaving his own wife, Ethel Christie (played by BIFA award winner Samantha Morton), buried under the floorboards.
The Trial of Timothy Evans
Tragically for Welshman Timothy Evans, he had already crossed paths with John Christie and this proved to be fatal for him. In 1947, he met his wife Beryl and the happy couple moved into the top floor of 10 Rillington Place. Sadly for them both, Timothy’s heavy drinking turned the marriage into a nightmare and just two years later Beryl seeked help from John Christie, as she wanted an abortion.
Beryl died. A postmortem showed she had been strangled to death and all fingers were pointing towards her own husband. In 1950, Timothy was put on trial for the murder – he was found guilty and hanged at Pentonville Prison.
Finally in 1953, John Christie’s crimes were revealed when new tenants uncovered the bodies at 10 Rillington Place. Christie was arrested and convicted of murder, for which he was hanged.
Finally There Was Justice…
37 years later, the Evans family set out to clear Timothy’s name. In 2003, it was officially declared “the conviction of Timothy Evans is now recognised to have been one of the most notorious, if not the most notorious, miscarriages of justice.”
“There is no evidence to implicate Timothy Evans in the murder of his wife. She was most probably murdered by Christie.”