Wednesday, June 30, 2010
When a serial killer begins his or her crime spree, they are eventually forced to find a place to hide the bodies of their victims. Some leave them in dark and foreboding alleyways, while some dismember the body parts and scatter them in wooded areas. Some even leave the bodies discarded on local highways. H.H. Holmes of Chicago cremated his victims or placed them in vats of acid to strip them of any identity, leaving only a skeleton which he would then use to sell to medical schools. Ed Gein of Wisconsin used the flesh of his victims to furnish his cluttered and maniacally decorated home. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley of England buried slain children in the Saddleworth Moors. Carl Panzram fed his unlucky victims to alligators. John Christie chose a particular way to dispose of the women he killed. Instead of distancing himself from the crimes, he hid the decomposing bodies in the walls of his apartment or placed them under the floorboards. He also put them in the outdoor washroom shared by other tenants, and buried them in the garden just outside his window.
John Christie felt an odd bond to his victims, especially after they were deceased. He preferred to keep them as close as he possibly could, often leaving the bodies sitting in chairs, or in his bed days after they had died. Though he adamantly denied sexual contact with his victims, Christie might have been described by any doctor as a necropheliac. Furthermore, a disorder known as romantic necrophilia might have been a better term for him, for he did engage in sexual contact with his victims after death. He kept them with him until the odor of decaying flesh became too much to handle. A romantic necropheliac cannot let their victims go, even when the perpetrator has no desire to continue the relationship. Instead, the bodies are kept nearby, so the killer might visit them again in an attempt to refresh their memory of the crime. Or, in extreme cases, the killer might decide to unearth the body to commit sex acts over and over.
The passivity of his victims thrilled John Christie immensely, giving him unauthorized permission to do as he wished with the bodies of the women he felt were usually unattainable to him. The bodies of these women could not comment on his impotency, or laugh at him in any way. He believed that these women should belong to him without question, and he took full advantage of the limp bodies that littered his tiny home in Notting Hill. To successfully understand the mind and inner workings of John Christie, one must first dissect Christie as a human being.
John Reginald Halliday Christie was born on April 8, 1898 to a carpet designer and amateur actress. John Christie was one of seven children, living in Halifax, Yorkshire. The Christie father was said to be a very violent and abusive man, often beating his children for no reason. Though John was a good student in school, he had no lasting friendships and did not develop any social awareness. In an effort to become a normal and likeable fellow, John became a choirboy at the local church. At the age of 8, John witnessed the body of his dead grandfather in his casket. John became increasingly captivated with death, and found himself irrefutably fascinated with the deceased. He spent his after school hours in graveyards, wandering through the grass and smelling the roses on each grave. His favorite spot in the cemetery was the crypt which held young children. He often tried to open the caskets, enjoying the fear and apprehension that came with the taboo of viewing a dead child’s body. At home, John was his mother’s favorite child and she dominated him with femininity, his four sisters reinforcing this. With reddish ginger hair and pale blue eyes, he was considered by his sisters as “pretty” and began using him as their personal doll to dress up in girl’s clothing and play house with. John’s memory was deeply affected by the girl’s clothes he was forced to wear, and this was the beginning of his hatred for all women.
When John reached his teenage years, he was still being treated by his sisters as a girl they could play with. To assert his masculinity, he began dating women and eventually found himself in a sexual encounter with a girlfriend. Unable to perform sexually, his self esteem dropped and he quickly gave up on women, believing them to be frustrating and mean. He was later nicknamed “Can’t-Do-It-Christie” by his peers who heard of his impotency. When in the company of his sisters, John became sexually attracted to them, but also resented them for emasculating him. This in turn made John even more sexually repressed, which enraged him endlessly.
John, at 19, decided to seek out local prostitutes, possibly to rid him of the taunting nickname and rumors of his ineffective sexual organ. But John’s affliction of impotence continued and the prostitutes readily pointed this out to him. John never forgot the sound of laughter from these prostitutes and later would punish them for their audacity. To add to his problems, John appeared to have symptoms of hypochondria, believing himself ailing from diseases and illnesses he did not actually suffer from. John also developed an abnormal fear of dirt.
After completing school, John Christie enlisted in the British Army, an effort to prove that he was now a man and not his sister’s plaything anymore. His time in the Army was short lived, for he was present during a mustard gas explosion which temporarily blinded him and damaged his larynx. In 1919, at age 21, Christie was given a small disability pension. Though his condition was said to be mild and uncomplicated, Christie was mute for three years. When he was able to speak, it was in a whispered tone. Doctors believed Christie’s state was due to a hysterical reaction to trauma rather than a real physical ailment.
In 1920, Christie married a local girl, Ethel Waddington, a plump and very passive young woman. They settled in Halifax and Christie began work at a postal office. To calm and relax him from his tense and stressful life, Christie started gardening in front of his home. Although Christie was admittedly afraid of dirt, gardening was something he was dedicated to and enthusiastic with. Christie and his wife Ethel were regarded by neighbors and friends as very quiet and private. Others saw the couple as odd and unpleasant. Ethel was reported to have been terrified of her husband, often visiting her family and friends whenever Christie showed signs of abnormalities or “craziness.”
Christie apparently loved his wife Ethel, but continued to visit prostitutes throughout the marriage. Broadening his horizons, he also became a thief, which landed him in jail numerous times. Ethel, concerned and at her wits end, decided not to tolerate Christie’s lies and deceit any longer. Ethel and Christie separated after four years of marriage, and Christie moved to London by himself. Not long after arriving in London, Christie began dating scores of women, most of them prostitutes, attempting to prove that he could attain an erection and achieve orgasms. In due course, Christie and a local prostitute moved into a small flat together. Christie’s temper was brutal at that time, for during an argument, he hit his new girlfriend over the head with a cricket bat. She was not seriously injured, but charged him with assault. Christie spent six months in prison, where he discovered his undying and precious love for Ethel. He sent her a letter, begging for her to join him in London when he was released from prison.
After a ten year separation, Ethel and Christie reconciled in 1933. They moved to the west area of London in Notting Hill, North Kensington, considered to be a sleazy and seedy place at the time. 10 Rillington Place was the home they ultimately chose to inhabit. The home was a three floor apartment building, and the Christie’s resided on the bottom floor. They shared an outdoor washroom with the other tenants, but Christie and Ethel seemed happy, regardless. Finally reunited, they cared little about the shabby house they lived in.
When World War Two broke in 1939, Christie was accepted as a constable in the War Reserve Police. Apparently, no one had researched Christie’s past, showing he was a multiple felon and had spent much of his early adult life in jail. Nevertheless, Christie proved himself to be a tireless and what some would say “fanatical” officer intent on upholding the law. He also used this unique opportunity to seek out available women he could have sex with, mainly prostitutes. He may have been happily married to Ethel, but he could not stop himself from serial affairs with dangerous women. Christie served four years in the War Reserve Police before being fired for unknown reasons.
The hypochondria Christie suffered from was quickly magnified when he was hit by a car in the early 1940’s. It was reported that he visited his doctor 173 times in the span of fifteen years. Christie claimed to have suffered from anything such as backaches to flu-like symptoms. His never ending conquest to have a medical condition took up a large portion of his time, but never got in the way of his hunt for prostitutes. With Ethel off visiting relatives in Sheffield, Christie was able to bring his “women of the night” home with him any time he pleased.
John Christie found a beautiful young woman in a bar in 1943. With short brown hair and alluring brown eyes, Ruth Fuerst immediately caught his eye. The 21-year-old Australian was tall and wildly in love with life, shown in her character and behavior. To earn a bit of extra cash, Ruth might have been a possible prostitute, something Christie was passionately attracted to. While his wife was away visiting Sheffield, Christie brought Ruth willingly to 10 Rillington Place. After polite pleasantries, Christie and Ruth retired to the bed to begin sexual relations. While they were having sex, Christie strangled Ruth with a rope. Intending to keep his sweet love close, he hid Ruth under the floorboards until Ethel came home. When Ethel left for work the next morning, Christie removed Ruth’s body from the floorboards and placed her naked in the garden in the backyard. Years later, Christie admitted to police, “I gazed down at her body and felt a quiet peaceful thrill. I had no regrets.” Ruth would remain there for a decade; with only Christie aware of her whereabouts.
One year later, in 1944, Christie met Muriel Eady, a woman he worked with at a radio firm. At 32, Muriel was short and heavy, and already had a boyfriend. Christie and his wife often entertained Muriel and her friends with tea and movies, finding themselves happy to spend time with not only a co-worker, but an agreeable and nice woman. One night, while his wife was away, Christie lured her to his home for tea and a bit of company. Muriel suffered from catarrh, essentially a very bad chest cold associated with chronic coughing up of mucus and phylum. Christie claimed to have a positive remedy for her catarrh, involving breathing in fumes that would now be similar to an inhaler or nebulizer. Instead of a real dose of medicinal therapy, Muriel was tricked into inhaling carbon monoxide, making her dizzy and unable to move. Christie then raped her while strangling her with a stocking. Muriel, fully dressed, was buried next to Ruth in the garden.
Four years passed before John Christie committed what would be his next accused crime. Christie’s taste in prostitutes and other women were undeniably prominent, and it seems impossible that he ended his rape and murder spree for four years. Christie had a habit of hiding his bodies either in his home or nearby his home, so the murder of a woman buried in another area seems unlikely.
After living in their home for 10 years, the Christie’s had new neighbors who moved into the top floor of the Rillington apartments in 1948. Timothy, Beryl, and her 14-month-old daughter Geraldine Evans moved in and became quick friends of the Christie’s. Timothy, 24, drove a van for a living and was illiterate. With a low IQ rendering him borderline retarded and harboring the intellect of a ten-year-old, Timothy was in much need of help when it came to very simple things. A terribly confusing and difficult situation arose in the Evans family soon after they moved in. Beryl Evans had become pregnant for the second time, and the child was very much unwanted by Beryl. John Christie, as usual, intervened and claimed that he had a concoction that would rid Beryl of her pregnancy. She had been taking a massive amount of pills in an attempt to abort her child, but Christie was able to convince her that his mixture would be much safer and better on her body. Early in November 1948, Beryl was dead.
Timothy Evans, not John Christie, initially confessed to disposing of her body. Timothy went to the police telling them that his wife had been taking pills to abort her baby, and that she had died in the process. He said that he had stuffed Beryl’s body down the drains outside the front door, but told the police he was not the killer. Intending to find Beryl’s body, the police quickly found that Timothy could not have disposed of his wife’s body as he had claimed. It took three men to remove the manhole where Beryl was said to be, proving Timothy could not have been the only person involved. When police exposed the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine Evans in a hidden alcove of the shared washroom, Timothy hurriedly changed his story.
It had been Christie that killed his wife, according to Timothy. Beryl had been given some kind of pill by Christie that would allow her to comfortably and painlessly lose her baby. Something had gone wrong though, and Timothy found Beryl bleeding from every orifice, her body already cold when he found her. The death of Geraldine Evans had never been planned, and Timothy would not admit involvement in her death. His daughter had been the love of his life, and killing her had never been part of the agreement he and Christie devised. Timothy claimed he had simply followed the instructions of Christie, who had promised Timothy that Beryl would be fine after she passed the unborn child.
On January 11, 1950, Evans stood trial at the Old Bailey Court in London for the death of his wife and baby. Using John Christie as his prime witness, the prosecutor put Christie up on the stand. Although he appeared strange and perhaps unhinged, Christie surprised the court with his admission. He claimed that Beryl was trying to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. When she did not succeed, she offered Christie sex in exchange for helping her end her life. Christie told the court he did not have sex with her, but did provide her with pills to carry out the abortion. Christie further explained that he was just a bystander.
Evans was unable to convince a jury that he was innocent, but with his low intelligence, it seems he might have been confused or unable to recall the true events leading to his wife and daughter’s death. For one thing, Evans had given the police the wrong location of Beryl’s body, and he had also known nothing of Geraldine’s death. Most damning was the fact that Beryl had been strangled, Christie’s favorite method of killing. All of the evidence that could have cleared Evans, such as testimony from the carpenters working on the Rillington apartments and neighbor’s factual account of the days leading up to Beryl’s death. Ethel Christie’s statement was also buried in the prosecutor’s paperwork. Evans was found guilty and went to the gallows on March 9, 1950.
In mid December of 1952, Ethel Christie disappeared from her home on Rillington Place. Christie claimed that Ethel had been visiting her relatives as usual, but this time she didn’t come back. Christie confessed that he believed Ethel had taken his sleeping pills and had attempted suicide. Christie said that Ethel had some sort of suffocation episode, in which Christie decided to put her out of her misery by strangling her in bed. He kept Ethel in the bed for three days before disposing of her body “to keep him close to her. “ Her body, unlike the others was not sexually violated. Christie put a pillowcase over her face and bundled her body in a blanket along with several of her dresses. Christie pried up the floorboards in the tiny living room and placed her body in the hole.
Now, with his wife gone, Christie had ample time to seek out more prostitutes and bring them home. On January 2, 1953, less than a month after his wife’s death, Christie ran into a heavily drunk 25-year-old prostitute, Rita Nelson. To soothe herself from the fact that she was 6 months pregnant, Rita was just drunk enough to believe the story that Christie was able to help her abort it. After some kind of heated argument and a frying pan bashed over Christie’s head, Rita was strangled and left in his living room chair. Christie maintained that he had blacked out and had suddenly awaked to find the corpse of Rita sitting motionless in his chair. Christie claimed Rita was the aggressor and had died while he was trying to defend himself. Rita was put in the wall after one day of decomposing in Christie’s chair.
Early in February, 1953, Christie picked up another prostitute who was inebriated beyond her logical thinking. Kathleen Maloney, aged 26, met Christie in a local café. He enticed her back to his bottom floor apartment for sexual relations. Christie gassed Kathleen first to make her faint and unaware of her surroundings. Christie and Kathleen must have some kind of fight and it was claimed that Christie used self defense to hinder Kathleen from fighting with him. It is unknown specifically if Kathleen might have had intercourse either before or after she was killed, though it seems likely that Christie strangled her during sex, as he usually did. He again claimed that he was blacked out while the murder took place. The next morning, Christie had a cup of tea with Kathleen’s corpse opposite him at the table. Then, he diapered her and placed her body in the wall with the others.
Depending on the story Christie put together, his next victim had a similar story to those who had been killed before. Hectorina MacLennan, a 26-year-old prostitute, met her death on March 6, 1953. According to Christie’s story, the two had had a fight which ended with Hectorina strangled by the collar of her own shirt. Christie, to make sure she was really dead, gassed her and strangled her before making love to her. He told authorities he had blacked out during the murder. As with all the other victims, Christie claimed self defense yet again. He clipped her brassiere to the blanket around her legs to keep her sitting up in the chair. He later put her body in the wall after sharing a cup of tea and a meal with her dead body.
When the other tenants began to notice the stench of something horrible, Christie decided to move, spraying disinfectant on the wall and on the floor. Christie fraudulently sublet his apartment to a young and pleasant couple. The new tenants moved in, expecting to live a quiet and agreeable life on Rillington Place. But, the landlord soon found the new tenants living in what was supposed to be Christie’s home. The couple left the home and the landlord granted the upper floor residents to use Christie’s kitchen. Beresford Brown and his wife, looking for a place to put up shelves, knocked on the cheap partition walls to find a decent place to add slight renovations. Finding a hollow spot, they removed the alcove and discovered a dead body hidden in the wall. The police were immediately notified and they searched the entire apartment for other bodies. Three bodies were in the wall, one in the floorboards, and two in the garden.
In the wall, Rita Nelson and Kathleen Maloney were assumed to be dead for 8-12 weeks, each of them strangled by a rope or stocking and sexually assaulted. Hectorina had been dead for 4 weeks, strangled and also sexually assaulted. Ethel was buried under the floorboards, brought to the mortuary the next day. Compared to the young prostitutes, Ethel’s body was that of a much older and larger woman, missing several teeth. Ethel had been a victim of strangling with a rope and it was estimated she was in her fifties. Under the floorboards, she had been dead 12-15 weeks. Searching in the garden, police found two more bodies; each had been dead for at least a decade. While attempting to find more bodies, the police uncovered a tobacco can which held four different sets of pubic hair.
In the streets, Christie had run out of money and was homeless and jobless for at least ten days. His picture and information of his crimes were on the cover of every newspaper, so Christie tried to retain in low profile. But Christie was soon found after a police officer found him under Putney Bridge in London on March 30, 1953.
Christie, under interrogation, apparently had a complete physical and mental breakdown. He had no guilt for his crimes but claimed he did suffer from headaches and amnesia. He claimed that all the killings had been accidental and denied any sexual activities took place with the bodies despite the overwhelming evidence that he had engaged in sex acts with the corpses. He spoke of his crimes in the third person, suggesting that he was suffering some kind of personality disorder. He also claimed that his ultimate goal had been to murder 12 victims. Christie went into trial for only the death of his wife, Ethel Christie. At the Old Bailey in London on June 22, 1953, the same court Timothy Evans had been under trial, Christie pled not guilty by reason of insanity.
Derek Curtis-Bennett defended Christie, believing he could prove that Christie was insane. A psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Jack Abbott Hobson, added his medical opinion to the trial. Stating that Christie was well aware of each crime he committed, he was also an extreme hysteric who had trouble deciphering what he had done was wrong. Dr. Jack Abbott Hobson further added that Christie bared a deficiency that lacked reason and accountability, thus allowing him to participate in the immorality of murder and other criminal acts. Christie was found by psychiatrists in the prosecution as a liar and a murderer, finding that Christie was not a hysteric or defected in any way.
Christie confessed to the prosecutor Sir Lionel Heald and the rest of the court that he committed all of the murders, including that of Beryl Evans. Though Timothy Evans had been hanged for Beryl and Geraldine’s murder, Christie made a frantic attempt at seeming insane. He admitted that he was the one who had in fact murdered Beryl by carbon monoxide inhalation and strangulation. Three days into the case on June 25, 1953, he was found guilty of murder, by Judge Justice Finnemore. Christie was sentenced to death and he was hanged at Pentonville Prison by executioner Albert Pierrepoint, the same man to have executed Timothy Evans.
The tobacco can holding four sets of pubic hair was analyzed, and none of the hair matched the seven victims. In the case of Timothy Evans, several inquiries were made on his behalf. It was later found that Evan’s death was a miscarriage of justice, proving that John Christie had killed Beryl Evans. The murder of Geraldine was never confirmed, and to this day, no one knows why she was murdered. Christie has always been a suspect, but police were never able to charge him with the crime. Though his hanging was irreversible, Timothy Evans was cleared of the murders.