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Timothy John Evans
Man being escorted by two taller men on either side of him
Timothy Evans (centre), being escorted by police from Paddington Station to Notting Hill police station, December 1949
Born 20 November 1924(1924-11-20)
Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
Died 9 March 1950 (aged 25)
HMP Pentonville, London, England
Nationality Welsh
Occupation Lorry driver
Known for Wrongful execution for murder of daughter

Timothy John Evans (20 November 1924 – 9 March 1950) was a Welshman hanged in England in 1950 for the murder of his infant daughter at 10 Rillington Place, London. An official inquiry conducted 16 years after Evans's hanging determined that his daughter had been killed by his co-tenant, serial killer John Christie, and Evans was subsequently granted a posthumous pardon.

The case played a large part in the abolition of capital punishment in Britain, and is considered a major miscarriage of justice.

Contents

Early life

Evans was a native of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. His biological father abandoned the family in 1924 shortly before Evans's birth.[1] Evans had an older sister Eileen and a younger half-sister Maureen, born when Evans's mother re-married in 1929. As a child, Evans had difficulty learning to speak and struggled at school. Following an accident when he was 8, Evans developed a tubercular verucca on his right foot which never completely healed and which caused him to miss considerable amounts of time from school for treatments; this further set back his education. Consequently, he was unable to read or write anything beyond his name as an adult.[2] As a child, Evans was considered to have a bad temper and was prone to tantrums. He also told elaborate lies about himself, a trait which persisted as an adult.

In 1935 his mother and her second husband moved to London and Evans worked as a painter and decorator while attending school. He returned to Merthyr Tydfil in 1937 and briefly worked in the mines but had to resign because of continuing problems with his foot. In 1939 he returned to London to live again with his mother. In 1946 they moved to St Mark's Road, Notting Hill, just over two minutes' walk from 10 Rillington Place, his future residence after he married.

Married life

On 20 September 1947, Evans married Beryl Susanna Thorley, whom he had met through a friend. They initially lived with Evans's family at St Mark's Road but in early 1948 Beryl discovered she was pregnant and they decided they would find their own place to live with their child. In Easter 1948, the couple moved into the top-floor flat at 10 Rillington Place, Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, London. Their neighbours in the ground-floor flat were John Christie and his wife. Unknown to Evans, Christie was a serial killer who had already killed two women at the property prior to the Evanses' arrival; he would go on to murder at least another three women as well as his wife while living at the premises. Timothy and Beryl's daughter Geraldine was born on 10 October 1948.

Their marriage was characterised by angry quarrels, exacerbated by Beryl's poor housekeeping and inability to manage the family's finances.[3] However, Timothy also misspent his wages on alcohol and his heavy drinking at the time exacerbated his already short temper.[4] The arguments between Timothy and Beryl were loud enough to be heard by the neighbours and on several occasions Timothy physically assaulted Beryl.[5] In late 1949, Beryl revealed to Timothy that she was pregnant with their second child. Since the family was already struggling financially, Beryl decided the only course to take would be to have an abortion; after some reluctance, Evans agreed to this course of action.

Events leading to Evans's arrest

rear view of three storey brick terrace house and small backyard garden
Rear view of 10 Rillington Place, showing the backyard where Christie buried the bodies of Ruth Fuerst and Muriel Eady. The wash-house where the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine Evans were found is the building with the light-coloured tin roof situated farthest from the main house.

Several weeks later, on 30 November 1949, Evans informed police at Merthyr Tydfil, Wales that he had killed his wife. His initial confession was that he had accidentally killed her by giving her something in a bottle that a man had given him to abort the foetus; he had then disposed of her body in a sewer drain outside 10 Rillington Place. He told the police that, after arranging for Geraldine to be looked after, he had gone to Wales. When police examined the drain outside the front of the building, however, they found nothing and, furthermore, discovered that the manhole cover required the combined strength of all three officers to remove it.

When re-questioned, Evans changed his story and said that Christie had offered to perform an abortion on Beryl. After some deliberation between Evans and his wife, they had both agreed to take up Christie's offer. On 8 November, Evans had returned home from work to be informed by Christie that the abortion had not worked and that Beryl was dead. Christie had said that he would dispose of the body (abortion being illegal in the U.K. at the time) and would make arrangements for a couple from East Acton to look after Geraldine. He said that Evans should leave London for the meantime. On 14 November, Evans left for Wales to stay with relatives. Evans said he later returned to 10 Rillington Place to ask about Geraldine, but Christie had refused to let him see her.

In response to Evans's second statement, the police performed a preliminary search of 10 Rillington Place but did not uncover anything incriminating, despite the presence of a thigh bone propping up a fence post in the tiny garden. On a more thorough search on 2 December, the police found the body of Beryl Evans, wrapped in a tablecloth in the wash-house in the back garden. Significantly, however, the body of Geraldine was also found, alongside Beryl's body—Evans had not mentioned he had killed his daughter in either of his statements. Beryl and Geraldine had both been strangled. When Evans was shown the clothing taken from the bodies of his wife and child, he was also asked whether he was responsible for their deaths. This was, according to Evans's statement, the first occasion in which he was informed that his baby daughter had been killed. To this, Evans apparently responded, "yes, yes".[6] He then confessed to having strangled Beryl during an argument over debts and strangling Geraldine two days later, after which he left for Wales.

This confession, along with other, contradictory, statements Evans made during the police interrogation, is often cited as proof of his guilt. Ludovic Kennedy, however, argued that his interrogation was worded by the investigating officers and carried out over the course of late evening and early morning hours to the physical and emotional detriment of the accused, a man in a highly emotional state at the time.[7][8] The police investigation was marked by a lack of forensic expertise, with key evidence missed or ignored, such as the bones of Christie's earlier victims in the back garden of 10 Rillington Place.

Trial and conviction

Evans was put on trial for the murder of his daughter on 11 January 1950 (in accordance with legal practice of the time, the prosecution proceeded only with the charge of murdering Geraldine; Beryl's murder, with which Evans was still formally charged, was "left on file", though evidence from this murder was allowed to be used to prove the murder of Geraldine). He was represented by Malcolm Morris. Evans recanted his confession during consultations with his solicitor and alleged that Christie had been responsible for the murders all along. This was to be the basis of the defence at his trial, which Evans maintained as the truth until his execution.

Christie and his wife, Ethel, were key witnesses for the prosecution, with Christie denying that he had offered to perform an abortion of Beryl’s unborn child. The case ultimately came down to Christie’s word against Evans'. The defence brought Christie’s criminal record into the trial, but his apparent reformation, and his service with the police, impressed the jury. The prosecution then used Evans' confessions, and his reputation as a compulsive liar, against him. The course of the trial rapidly turned against Evans, who was found guilty two days later—the jury taking just 40 minutes to come to its decision. After a failed appeal on 20 February, Evans was hanged on 9 March 1950 by Albert Pierrepoint.

This outcome was severely criticised when Christie's murders were discovered three years later. During interviews with police and psychiatrists prior to his execution, Christie admitted several times that he had been responsible for the murder of Beryl Evans. It is speculated that if these confessions were true, Evans' second statement detailing Christie's offer to abort Beryl's baby is the true version of events that took place at Rillington Place on 8 November 1949. Kennedy provided one possible reconstruction of how the murder took place, where an unsuspecting Beryl lets Christie into her apartment, expecting the abortion to be carried out, and is instead attacked and then strangled.[9] Christie claimed to have possibly engaged in sexual intercourse with Beryl's body after her death (he could not remember the precise details) but her autopsy had failed to uncover evidence of sexual intercourse.[10] In his confessions to Beryl's death, Christie did not corroborate the version of events given by Evans in his second police statement; that is, he did not say he had agreed to carry out an abortion on Beryl. He instead claimed to have strangled her while being intimate with her or that she had wanted to commit suicide and he helped her do so.[11]

One important fact was not brought up in Evans's trial: two workmen were willing to testify that there were no bodies in the wash-house when they worked there several days after Evans supposedly hid them. This would have raised doubts about the truthfulness of Evans' confession and the workmen were not called to give evidence. The murderer would have had to have hidden the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine in the temporarily vacant second-floor apartment, and then moved them to the wash-house four days later when the workmen had finished.

Christie

Three years later, a new tenant in Christie's flat, Beresford Brown, found the bodies of three women (Kathleen Maloney, Rita Nelson and Hectorina Maclennan) hidden in the papered-over kitchen pantry, a recess immediately next to the wash house where Beryl and Geraldine Evans had been found. A further search of the building and grounds turned up three more bodies: Christie’s wife, Ethel, under the floorboards of the front room; Ruth Fuerst, an Austrian nurse and munitions worker; and Muriel Eady on the right hand side of the back garden area to the building. Indeed, Christie had used one of their thigh bones to prop up a trellis in the garden, which the police had missed in their earlier examination of the garden. Christie was arrested on 31 March 1953, on the Embankment near Putney Bridge and during the course of interrogation confessed four separate times to killing Beryl Evans. He never admitted to killing Geraldine Evans, however. Christie was found guilty of murdering his wife and was hanged on 15 July 1953.

Because Christie's crimes raised doubts about Evans's guilt in the murders of his wife and daughter, the serving Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, commissioned an inquiry to investigate the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. It was chaired by the Recorder of Portsmouth, John Scott Henderson, QC, who upheld Evans's guilt in both murders, arguing that Christie's confessions of murdering Beryl were unreliable and made in the context of furthering his own defence that he was insane.

The murder of Beryl Evans was never a primary charge in either of the trials of Evans or Christie. The former had been charged with the murder of his daughter and the latter with the murder of Mrs Christie. Hence questions that went to the murder of Mrs Evans were not those with which the trials were especially concerned. When Christie was later the subject of the Scott Henderson Inquiry, questions drafted by a solicitor representing Evans's mother were deemed not relevant and Scott Henderson retained the right of deciding if they could be asked.

Campaign to overturn Evans' conviction

In 1955, David Astor, editor of The Observer, Ian Gilmour, editor of The Spectator, John Grigg, editor of The National and English Review and Sir Lynton Andrews, editor of The Yorkshire Post formed a delegation to petition the Home Secretary for a new inquiry because of their dissatisfaction with the conclusions of the Scott Henderson Inquiry.[12] In the same year, attorney Michael Eddowes examined the case and wrote the book The Man on Your Conscience, which argued that Evans could not have been the killer. The television journalist Ludovic Kennedy's book Ten Rillington Place went on to criticise the police investigation and evidence submitted at the 1950 trial in which Evans was found guilty. This produced another Parliamentary debate in 1961 but still no second inquiry.[13]

In 1965, Liberal Party politician Herbert Wolfe of Darlington, County Durham contacted Harold Evans (no relation), the editor of The Northern Echo. He and Kennedy formed the Timothy Evans Committee. The result of a prolonged campaign was that the Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, ordered a new inquiry chaired by High Court judge Sir Daniel Brabin in 1965–66. Brabin found it was "more probable than not" that Evans murdered his wife and that he did not murder his daughter. This was contrary to the position taken by both the police and solicitors in Evans's trial, who believed that whoever had killed Geraldine had also killed Beryl. The bodies were found together in the wash-house and had both been strangled.

Roy Jenkins, Soskice's successor as Home Secretary, recommended a royal pardon for Evans, which was granted. In 1965 Evans' remains were exhumed from Pentonville Prison and reburied in St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone, Greater London.[14] The outcry over the Evans case contributed to the suspension and then abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom.

Innocence

The grave of Timothy Evans

On 16 November 2004, Evans' half-sister, Mary Westlake, began a case to overturn a decision by the Criminal Cases Review Commission not to refer Evans' case to the Court of Appeal to have his conviction quashed. She argued that although the previous inquiries concluded that Evans probably did not kill his daughter, they did not declare him innocent, since a pardon is a forgiveness of crimes committed. The request to refer the case was dismissed on 19 November 2004, with the judges saying that the cost and resources of quashing the conviction could not be justified, although they did accept that Evans did not murder his wife or child.

Timothy Evans in popular culture

See also

References

  1. ^ Kennedy, Ludovic (1961). Ten Rillington Place. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. p. 51. 
  2. ^ Kennedy, Ten Rillington Place, p. 53
  3. ^ Kennedy, Ten Rillington Place, pp. 57-58
  4. ^ Eddowes, John (1995). The Two Killers of Rillington Place. London: Warner Books. p. 13. ISBN 0751512850. 
  5. ^ Kennedy, Ten Rillington Place, pp. 57-58
  6. ^ Kennedy, Ten Rillington Place, p. 103
  7. ^ Evans's IQ was variously estimated between 65 and 75, which would have made him borderline retarded. See Brabin, p. 101 and p. 176.
  8. ^ See Kennedy, chapter VI for his account of police impropriety in securing Evans's confession. John Eddowes, pp. 141-157 criticises Kennedy's accusations and defends the official account that Evans's confession was voluntary.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Ten Rillington Place, p. 65
  10. ^ Brabin, Rillington Place, pp. 62-63. Kennedy (p. 137) argues that there was evidence that sexual intercourse had been performed on Beryl Evans after death, pointing to a brief from Evans's legal team saying so. As Eddowes, J. (pp. 117-124) highlights, the pathologist, Dr Teare, on whose work the brief was based, denied this is what he meant and that the evidence referred to pointed rather to a self-inflicted injury carried out by Beryl to abort herself.
  11. ^ Marston, John Christie, pp. 85-86
  12. ^ Eddowes, John (1995). The Two Killers of Rillington Place. London: Warner Books. pp. xvi-xv. ISBN 0751512850. 
  13. ^ Eddowes, J., The Two Killers of Rillington Place, p. xvi
  14. ^ http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1965/nov/25/timothy-evans-reinterment

Further reading

  • Daniel Brabin (1999). Rillington Place. London: The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-702417-1. 
  • John Eddowes (1995). The Two Killers of Rillington Place. London: Warner Books. ISBN 0-7515-1285-0. 
  • Michael Eddowes (1955). The Man On Your Conscience: An Investigation of the Evans Murder Trial. Cassell and Co. 
  • Ludovic Kennedy (1961). Ten Rillington Place. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. 
  • Edward Marston (2007). John Christie. Surrey: The National Archives. ISBN 978-1-905615-16-2. 

External links








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