Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Christie

Mrs. Christie Disappears

Mr. Kitchener in the flat above had moved out. The Evanses were gone. Mrs. Christie felt that it was time to move to a new place, especially when the Jamaicans moved in on the third floor. She thought they were low class and frightening. She detested sharing an outhouse with them.

In addition, Christie was growing worse with his complaining about his various physical problems. Shortly after the trial, he had gone into a deep depression, losing about 28 pounds. He also lost his job at the post office, due to certain disclosures during the trial about past crimes. Finally, he went in for a three-week observation period. A psychiatrist wanted to hospitalize him for analysis, but he refused to leave his wife alone. Nevertheless, he continued to visit his own doctor, going 33 times in eight months for stress-related symptoms.

Then he found another job as a clerk with the British Road Services and things improved. It was not long, however, before he gave notice. He claimed that he had found a better job, but in fact he had nothing at all. Once again he was underfoot at home.

Ethel was not too pleased, but she found ways to divert herself. Christie hoped she would visit relatives as she used to do, but she did not. That annoyed him. He had some things in mind that he wanted to do and he could not accomplish them with his wife around. She had also been taunting him about his impotence, which angered him.

On Thursday, December 11th, five days after Christie had quit his job, Ethel went to watch television with a friend, Rosie. The next day, she took wash to Maxwell Laundries and appeared, to those who saw her, well and cheerful. She said nothing to anyone about taking a trip. After that, no one saw her again.

On Monday, Christie sent a letter that Ethel had written to her sister in Sheffield. He had changed the date from the 10th, when she originally had written it, to the 15th, explaining that Ethel had no envelopes so he had mailed the letter from work.

Christie then began to tell neighbors that his wife had gone off to Sheffield. He himself had a new job there and would follow her shortly. Some of them were surprised that Ethel had not said good-bye, nor mentioned any such plans. Christie then told one person, Rosie, that Ethel had sent a telegram and had mentioned her with affection. He thought that was sufficient to keep her from prying any further.

To relatives, he said that Ethel was not feeling well enough to write to them or send Christmas greetings. He sent a few gifts "from Ethel and Reg."

Oddly, he began to sprinkle his house and garden with a strong disinfectant, and people noticed the odor.

In January, Christie sold all of his furniture to a dealer. He also sold his wife's wedding band and watch. Without a bed, he slept on an old mattress on the floor. All he had left were three chairs — one of which was quite significant to him — and a kitchen table.

To get money, he forged his wife's signature on an account she had and emptied it. With that, he stayed in his unfurnished flat into March, no longer even bothering to answer the letters from relatives inquiring after his wife.

One day he noticed a woman, Mrs. Reilly, looking for a place to rent and invited her to look at his. She brought her husband, which Christie had not anticipated. They decided to take the flat, paying three months rent in advance. Christie borrowed a suitcase from them and moved out on March 20th. He had his dog destroyed but left his cat with the renters. He took their money and left.

The Reillys were not in the flat even one day when they learned from the real landlord that Christie had no right to rent the flat. They were asked to leave. Both they and the landlord were out the rent money, but since the place smelled so bad, they were happy to vacate.

Christie himself was on the move. He did not wish to be around when certain discoveries were made.

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