Crimes of the century: 65 years ago John Christie, one of Britain's most notoriously evil serial killers, was hanged
John Christie is one of Britain's most notorious serial killers
The name John Christie is enough to send a chill down the spine of anyone who remembers his shocking case. The serial killer was hanged 65 years ago next month. But who was he? How many people did he kill, and where exactly is Rillington Place?
Christie murdered at least eight people by strangling them at this flat in 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. He also stored the bodies there. The infamous address no longer exists, having been demolished in the 1970s to make room for council housing.
Born in West Riding, Yorkshire, in 1899, Christie was the sixth in a family of seven children, including five girls. Serving in World War I, a mustard gas attack left him with a speech impediment and is believed to have caused neurological damage that contributed to his subsequent violent sexual urges.
After the war, Christie turned to crime, serving several prison sentences for assault, theft, and battering a prostitute with a cricket bat. He had a tempestuous marriage to Ethel Simpson, and in 1938 the couple moved into the fateful downstairs flat of 10 Rillington Place where his campaign of terror began.
Christie's first victim was Austrian munitions worker and part-time prostitute Ruth Fuerst, in 1943. Christie met the 21-year-old at a local cafe and strangling her during sex. He hid her body under the living room floorboards, later burying her in the garden. Soon after killing her, incredibly, he signed up as a volunteer policeman.
Christie's next victim was Muriel Eady, 32, a colleague at the factory he worked at. He carefully planned the murder by tricking Muriel into inhaling poisonous carbon monoxide. He lured her to Rillington Place promising a special inhaler to treat her bronchitis. After she passed out, he raped and strangled her, then buried her in the garden.
The Evans family moved into the upstairs flat at 10 Rillington Place in 1948, where baby Geraldine was born to Timothy and Beryl. The following year Timothy reported his wife and child dead -with a post-mortem revealing they had been strangled. Evans told the police Christie admitted to killing Beryl in a botched abortion.
The police extracted a false confession from Evans and cleared Christie of involvement, with the prosecution even using lying Christie as a witness! Evans was hanged in March 1950. (He received a posthumous pardon, and it was this case that played a major part in the UK's eventual abolition of capital punishment in 1965.)
Christie strangled his wife Ethel in bed in December 1952 and for weeks lied to worried relatives, saying she had travelled to her native Sheffield. He pawned her wedding ring days later and forged her signature to empty her bank account.
In the space of the following three months in 1953, Christie murdered three more women. Kathleen Maloney was a prostitute who worked in nearby Ladbroke Grove. She was poisoned by carbon monoxide, raped and then strangled.
Rita Nelson was a visitor from Belfast who was in London seeing her sister when she met Christie and he charmed her into coming home with him. Once she was in Rillington Place, Rita met the exactly the same fate the Kathleen Maloney had.
Hectorina McLennan was a woman who Christie let stay at Rillington place, she too ended up poisoned, raped, and strangled in 1953.
All of Christie's victims were found at Rillington Place, some of the bodies were buried in the garden, while bodies were also hidden inside a gap in the kitchen that Christie papered over.
Christie moved out of the flat just after his final murder. His landlord allowed the resident of the top floor, Beresford Brown, to use what was Christie's kitchen. Brown made the shocking discovery of some of Christie's victims when he started some DIY.
A city-wide hunt for Christie was launched, and he was caught at a cafe near Putney Bridge a week later. In his pocket was a newspaper clipping about Timothy Evans, the innocent man hanged three years earlier.
While in custody, Christie confessed to seven murders: the three women found in the kitchen alcove, his wife, and the two women buried in the back garden. He also admitted being responsible for the murder of Beryl Evans - which Timothy Evans hanged for in 1950. Although Christie denied killing the baby, he was widely seen as guilty.
Crowds gathered around the flat where Christie committed his evil acts as the police searched for forensic evidence. Back then, Notting Hill was an incredibly run-down part of the capital, a world away from the upmarket area made famous in the Hugh Grant movie.
Ultimately, Christie was tried only for the murder of his wife Ethel. His June 1953 trial took place in the same court where Timothy Evans had been tried in 1950. Christie pleaded insanity, but doctor evaluating Christie testified in court that Christie had a hysterical personality - but was not insane.
Christie was charged with murder in June 1953. The jury rejected Christie's plea, and after deliberating for 85 minutes found him guilty. Christie did not appeal against his conviction. The verdict made front page news.
John Christie travels to meet his executioner. On 15 July 1953 Christie was hanged at Pentonville Prison by the same executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, who had previously hanged Evans. For many years John Christie's waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's was a popular tourist attraction.