Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Christie

Questions Arise

After Christie's trial was over, two inquires were held and two Parliamentary debates undertaken to attempt to resolve whether Timothy Evans had been sent to the gallows an innocent man. It seemed incomprehensible that two men living in the same house had both been stranglers. Evans had accused Christie of his wife's murder, after all, and Christie had even confessed, although he had not confessed to killing the Evans baby. For all anyone knew, Evans could still have been guilty of this, and that was the crime for which he was tried.

John Scott Henderson, the Recorder of Portsmouth, was assigned to look into the case to decide whether justice had been done. He was given only 11 days to review all the documents in both cases.

After intensive investigation, Henderson determined that Evans had indeed strangled his own wife and baby. His report was published on the same day that Christie was hanged, and a debate followed. Many people doubted what he had to say and more than a few wrote books and articles to that effect.

Among those were the editors of the National English Review, F. Tennyson Jesse who wrote Trials of Evans and Christie, and the psychiatrist hired in Christie's defense.

Two years later, a delegation of four men, all press editors, approached the Home Secretary to request another inquiry. They believed that Evans was innocent and had his rights. Those rights, they claimed, had been violated.

F. Tennyson Jesse wrote up the case for publication in 1957, believing that Evans was innocent, although he tried to be as fair as possible to those who had handled the case. Ludovic Kennedy concurred on Evans in Ten Rillington Place, published in 1961. Kennedy goes to great lengths to show how poorly the Henderson investigation was carried out. Christie was questioned, but apparently coached to avoid the subject of Geraldine's death. The suggestion is that the police officers involved in the Evans arrest and confession wanted Christie to cover for them. Kennedy's implication is that Henderson was no independent investigator but simply a mouthpiece for the official version — that justice had not miscarried. Bernard Gillis, who represented the interests of Evans' mother, was barred from participation until the last minute and then not allowed to ask his most probing questions. This report is printed in full in Kennedy and Jesse's books, and Kennedy makes telling comments throughout.

To him, the primary question was whether or not there was sexual penetration of Mrs. Evans after death. Evans himself would not have done so but Christie would surely have been so perverse. Kennedy thought this was suggested in a brief to Evans' counsel from Freeborough, Slack & Company. Kennedy also believes the police interrogation went on much longer than admitted by the police, which indicates the possibility of forced false confession from a mentally-impaired man. He also claims that from the evidence that Christie apparently offered medical services to other women for the purpose of luring them into his control indicates a pattern into which Beryl Evans' death fits. He offers a list of points in common among the murders.

These two books helped to form what has been called the Standard Version of the case, in which police bungled their jobs and an innocent man was hanged. Evans, they felt, was under Christie's dominance. Christie said he would abort Beryl as a cover for what he really wanted to do, which was to strangle and rape her. She agreed to allow him to "help" her and he went to her flat, gassed her, and then had his way. When Tim found his wife dead that night, Christie persuaded him against going to the police. Two days later, Christie strangled the baby. He urged Evans to sell his furniture and leave the place. Evans did, but then went to the police. They brainwashed him and beat him until he made a false confession. That made him so confused that he made a poor showing at his trial. It made little sense that by sheer coincidence he would accuse the one man who in fact was killing women in this way. Had the two skeletons in the garden been unearthed before Evans' trial, things would have turned out quite differently. It was also a fact that Christie had told numerous lies throughout his trial, such as, the date of his back pain and claiming that he did not know the furniture dealer.

Everyone criticized the fact that the Henderson inquiry had been closed and rushed. That alone made it suspect, especially in view of the fact that certain documents were refused to the counsel hired by Mrs. Probert. It was also clear that he had failed to really address Christie's new admission or those facts that were in Evans' favor. Nevertheless, a second inquiry was refused. Henderson issued a supplementary report defending why he did and did not do certain things about which he was criticized. Jesse includes this in full in his book. A second debate took place in the House of Commons in 1953, which pointed out that Henderson still had given no weight to the facts that support Evans' innocence. Still, another inquiry was denied.

John Eddowes refuted the Standard Version of the crimes in The Two Killers of Rillington Place. His own father had written a book, The Man on Your Conscience, supporting Evans' innocence, but Eddowes believed his father was suffering from a mental illness and was incapable of contributing anything meaningful to the case. Eddowes believed that, in fact, two murderers lived at Ten Rillington Place at the same time. Evans, he believed, killed both his wife and child. He points out that the chief pathologists of the time, as well as the medical examiner, who interviewed both men, concluded that the evidence supports Evans as a double-murderer.

In an inquiry conducted in 1965, the conclusion from the pathologist was that Evans had strangled his wife but not his daughter. It was Christie who did that and then convinced Evans not to go to the police. High Court Judge, Sir Daniel Brabin, then granted a posthumous pardon to Evans in 1966, which did not declare him innocent, but only innocent of the charge on which he was tried — killing his daughter.

It is unlikely that the case will ever be fully resolved.

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