Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Christie

An Ambiguous Murder

Version 1

Christie claimed that he had spotted Beryl Evans on Tuesday, November 8th, around noon. He saw her go out with her baby. He told police afterward that he never saw her again. (Another version says that she went out, but left her baby in the apartment and asked Mrs. Christie to listen in once in awhile. Evans came home and the Christies went out. Beryl must have come home later.)

Christie knew about Beryl's determination to abort her child and had warned Evans that the pills she had taken could do her some damage. He was also afraid that Evans had been too rough with her. The girl seemed afraid for her life.

At midnight that night, the Christies were disturbed from sleep by a very loud thump overhead. Then they heard a sound that indicated someone was moving something heavy around. Mr. Kitchener was in the hospital, so that eliminated him. It had to be the third floor, where the Evanses lived. There were no further noises, so the Christies went back to sleep.

The next day, Evans told them that Beryl had gone to Bristol. She had told no one of her plans and had failed to bid anyone good-bye, but Evans stood by his story. (He told his mother, however, that she had gone to Brighton to see her father — an odd thing to do since she was not close to the man.)

Another day passed and Evans came to see the Christies. He was upset with his boss and said that he had quit, but in fact, he had been fired. He claimed that he had decided to sell all the furniture and join his wife. He proceeded to do so, although he owed a debt on the furniture, and he gave the dealer who collected it a fake address in Bristol. He then gave bedding and Beryl's clothing, torn into pieces, to a ragman. (Oddly, he tore it up for rags rather than selling it to a second hand shop, for which he could have gotten more.) He left by train, not to Bristol, but to his aunt's home in Merthyr Vale.

Evans stayed there for six days. During that time, he began to wonder what had become of his daughter.

On November 23rd, he returned to Rillington Place to speak to Christie. He claimed that his wife had left him. He did not go see his mother and sisters, who were wondering what had become of him and Beryl. No one knew what to make of his odd behavior. He returned to Merthyr Vale.

Version 2

According to the alternative version, spelled out in Kennedy's book, Beryl had told Lucy Endecott that Christie had offered to abort her. She had no way of knowing that not only did he have no medical expertise but he had a more shady past than anyone yet realized — and she was about to be drawn into it. To her mind, this former police officer with medical background and a first-aid kit was just trying to help her out of a difficult situation.

Evans discovered this arrangement on the first day of November. He told Christie they were not interested. Christie said he knew something about medical procedures from his stint in the War Reserve Police and had performed several successful abortions. He showed Evans the photo of himself in uniform. Evans still refused.

He went upstairs to his wife, who told him that she trusted Christie and intended to allow him to do it.

Not long afterward, Evans discovered that money he had given his wife for the house had paid for other things. They got into a serious fight over it. He threatened to leave her and she invited him to go ahead. Instead, we went off by himself to the movies and returned later that night.

On November 7th, Evans went to work and Beryl made arrangements with Christie to perform the abortion the following day. She told her husband that night, but he did not believe her. They had another argument that evening that involved shoving and slapping.

The next morning, Beryl asked Evans to tell Christie that everything was okay. On his way to work, he did so. Around 8:00, the carpenters returned to continue their work on the washhouse and the roof.

The rest of the story depends on which of Christie's versions of the murder is to be believed. In his own later confession, he contradicted himself on several points.

Around noon, he says that he went up the steps to Beryl. She unfolded a quilt in front of the fire and laid down on it in preparation. He may have used rubber tubing to gas her, but that is not clear. Apparently, she panicked and he began to hit her. Then he got out a cord and strangled her. In one account, he says he tried to have intercourse with her and couldn't, but in another he says that he did.

He also said that he had found her on the quilt attempting to kill herself with gas. She had offered him sex if he would help her, so he did. However, he was unable to have sex with her.

One of Beryl's friends, Joan Vincent, came over just around that time and was surprised to find the apartment door closed. She knocked and was further surprised that Beryl seemed not to be at home. Both of these things were unusual. She tried the door, opening it a little but found it blocked. Although no one spoke, she felt certain there was someone on the other side. Finally, she went away.

Evans came home that evening and Christie met him at the bottom of the stairs. He told Evans to go up and he would follow. Upstairs, Christie told Evans, "It's bad news. It didn't work." Christie pointed to the bedroom, where Evans found his wife on the bed, covered up. He pulled the blanket away and saw that she was dead. She had been bleeding from the mouth, nose, and vagina.

Evans then went into the kitchen to feed his baby and Christie said he would speak with him later. When he did, he suggested that Beryl might have died from septic poisoning, since she'd tried so many miscarriage remedies. He himself had found her stomach to be "septic-poisoned."

Christie told Evans that going to the police would get them both into trouble, with a charge of manslaughter, and all Christie had tried to do was help. In addition, Evans was an accomplice of sorts, since he had prior knowledge and did not stop it. He also had a history of fights with his wife, which would make him suspect. Evans was easily persuaded to keep the matter quiet.

Christie then proposed that he would dispose of the body himself. However, he was unable to manage. Together they carried Beryl into Mr. Kitchener's flat and left her in the kitchen, hoping the man would not return soon from the hospital. Christie said he would put her down one of the drains later.

Evans wanted to take his daughter to his mother's house, but Christie dissuaded him. He believed this would cause suspicion. He would come up with a plan and take care of things. They then parted and went to bed.

The next day, Christie told Evans that he would look after the baby. He said he knew a young couple who would take her. Evans was to tell people that Beryl and the baby had gone off on a holiday. Christie took care of her that day, but the day after, Evans prepared the baby for transport. Christie said the young couple would come that day to get the child. That was the last day that anyone saw Geraldine alive.

Kennedy claims that Christie murdered her that day by strangulation, and then placed her with her mother in Kitchener's kitchen. He was so horrified by this killing that he made himself forget his involvement with it.

That day Joan Vincent returned. As she went up the steps, Christie came out to ask her what she wanted. He informed her that Beryl and the baby had gone away, but she spotted the baby's high chair and pram behind him in his sitting room. Christie told her it would be better if she did not return.

Believing he held power over Evans, Christie persuaded the man to sell his furniture and prepare to leave town. Evans complied.

The carpenters had now finished their work in the washhouse, so Christie moved the bodies, hiding them in the washhouse. Evidence for this was that Christie reported the next day to his doctor to treat a terrible pain in his lower back. Despite his incessant hypochondria, he'd never before complained of this, so it was apparently quite real. A likely cause was unaccustomed exertion, such as lifting a heavy weight.

When Evans returned on November 23rd from Merthyr Vale, he asked about his daughter and Christie told him that he must leave or they might both get into trouble. He could see his daughter in two or three weeks. Evens returned to stay with his aunt, whereupon he told several lies about Beryl's whereabouts.

Which of these versions is true depends on how one interprets the facts. There are problems with both and little direct evidence for either.

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