Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Christie

Christie's First Victim

While Christie was on the police reserve force, his wife made frequent trips to visit her relatives in Sheffield. In 1943, Christie took up with a woman whose husband was overseas. It ended when the man returned home unexpectedly and booted Christie from the premises.

Ruth Fuerst
Ruth Fuerst

Nevertheless, there were always women around who were amenable to his attentions. In a bar one day, he encountered an Austrian girl named Ruth Fuerst. She was 21, tall, and full of life. Her eyes and hair were both brown. Having taken a job in a munitions factory, she lived in a single room not far from Rillington Place. There is some evidence that she may also have earned money from time to time as a prostitute. She began to visit Christie at Rillington Place when his wife was away. One day when they were in bed, a telegram arrived to announce that Ethel was on her way home, accompanied by her brother. According to Christie, Ruth had simply undressed and asked him to have relations with her. Then she wanted him to run off with her, but he refused. Instead, he strangled the girl right there on the bed while they were having sex. He wrapped her in her leopard coat and put her under the floorboards in the front room, with the rest of her clothes. When Ethel and her brother arrived, everything seemed normal.  The brother left the next day, and Ethel went to her part-time job.

When he was able, Christie removed the body from the house and placed it in the washhouse out in back. He started to dig in the garden, on the right-hand side, but his wife came home and they had a cup of tea together. He waited until she went to bed that night and then returned to his gruesome task. He placed the dead woman with her clothes into the hole, covered it up with earth, and went to bed. "The next day," he confessed, "I straightened the garden and raked it over." He pulled up some of Ruth's clothing and burned it in the old dustbin. Months later, Christie accidentally unearthed her skull. He put it into the dustbin to be burned with other rubbish.

The girl's disappearance was reported to the police on September 1st, but her whereabouts remained a mystery.

Kennedy surmises that Christie acted out as a result of his humiliation at the hands of the cuckolded soldier. He could not abide knowing his own weakness, so he had found a way to assert power. That gave him an erotic release and afterward he was unable to achieve potency with women unless they were helpless. "I remember," Christie wrote later, "as I gazed down at the still form of my first victim, experiencing a strange, peaceful thrill." Afterward, he gave it no thought.

A year later, Ethel went visiting to Sheffield once again and Christie met someone else.

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