In the spring of 1948, ten years after the Christies had first begun to live there, Timothy Evans and his wife, Beryl, moved into the top flat. They had been married less than a year and were expecting their first baby.
Beryl was 19 and petite, her husband 24. He drove a van for a living and could barely read. Born in a mining town called Merthyr Vale in South Wales, he was abandoned by his father before he was even born. As a child, he had suffered from uncontrollable tantrums that made things rough at home. When he failed to get along with his mother, who had remarried a man named Probert, he moved in with his grandmother, who could not keep him in school. Evans was known as a habitual liar, prone to self-aggrandizing fantasies, with an IQ around 70 — borderline retarded. Having suffered an injury to his foot that put him into the hospital numerous times, he ended up getting little education.
As an adult, he drank a lot and had a violent temper. He grew to only five-foot, five-inches, weighing just under 140 pounds, which may have fuelled his volatile temper. He was described as a runt and for the rest of his life his intellect remained that of a boy of 11. His best talent appeared to be his ability to lie, and he did so quite imaginatively. He even told people that his father was an Italian count. As his mother put it, "He didn't have any real confidence in himself and had to lie to cover up."
He met Beryl Thorley through a mutual friend who arranged a blind date. Within weeks, they were engaged and just as quickly were married. They lived for awhile with Evans' mother, and Beryl developed a close relationship with his two sisters. They thought she was almost as immature as their brother, so they helped her however they could. She had no mother, herself, so she looked to them for security. Nevertheless, when Beryl got pregnant, the accommodations could not bear the extra person, so the young couple moved to Rillington Place.
Evans's sister, Eileen actually found the flat for them and helped them to furnish and decorate it. Her memory of their neighbor, Reg Christie, indicates that he might have had dangerous intentions toward her. He came into the flat one day without her hearing him and suddenly appeared at her side with a cup of tea. She declined it but he made no move to leave. Finally she told him her brother would soon be back and he left as suddenly as he had come in. She later learned what sharing tea with women meant to him.
Evans' mother, Mrs. Probert, wanted them to move into a different apartment on the ground floor, but Beryl resisted the idea. She wanted to stay right where they were.
When the baby arrived, the Evanses named her Geraldine (although some authors spell it Jeraldine). Her birth put a strain on the marriage, since Tim's meager wages could not quite cover the bills. In addition, Beryl turned out to be a poor housekeeper and cook. She even neglected the baby at times. They frequently fought, even striking one another.
In August of 1949, Beryl invited a friend of hers, Lucy Endecott, to stay with them. It was Beryl's impression that her husband was going to work for a company overseas, but that turned out not to be true. Lucy was 17. She shared a bed with Beryl while Tim was forced to sleep on the kitchen floor. However, the girl had other ideas and she soon came between them. While she ended up in the middle of their arguments, some of which were violent, she attracted Tim's eye. When his mother forced her out, Tim threatened to throw Beryl out a window. He then followed Lucy to another flat. Apparently the girl found him to be too violent, for he soon returned home to his wife. He went around to friends, however, threatening to do some harm to the girl.
In debt and unable to get along, Tim and Beryl moved into a rather sordid existence. She allegedly told Mrs. Christie that Tim had attempted to strangle her. To her horror, Beryl soon discovered she was pregnant again. She blamed her husband.
Beryl tried to take some pills and use douches to be rid of the baby, but Tim could not see what the fuss was all about. He did not understand that Beryl wanted to continue to work part-time so they could pay their mounting bills. She was determined to seek an abortion and she told everyone about it, including the Christies.
Around this time, Christie had complained about the condition of the building and several workmen came on October 31st to rip out some of the walls and floors. They also worked on the community washhouse in the rear of the building. In addition, the second floor tenant, Mr. Kitchener, had gone into the hospital, so his apartment was empty for about five weeks.
In early November, the disaster occurred.