For several years I have been attempting to write a semi-fictional novel based on the crimes committed by John Reginald Halliday Christie at 10 Rillington Place. I haven't got very far with it as yet, but I might possibly finish it at some point!
Here are a few points which have occurred to me about these murders, which other contributors might possibly be able to shed some light on:-
1) Christie apparently persuaded at least his last three victims, Rita Nelson, Kathleen Maloney and Hectorina MacLennan, to sit in his so-called "strangling chair" prior to their murders. This was an old deckchair with strands of rope instead of canvas.
I wonder what exactly the significance of this chair was in Christie's murder ritual; was it some kind of bizarre prop constructed by himself, or were deckchairs of this type actually used at one time? Has anyone ever seen a similar deckchair anywhere else?
I do not think that the significance of this chair has ever really been explored in any book on the case I have read, including [i]10 Rillington Place[i] by Ludovic Kennedy and Trials of Christie and Evans by F. Tennyson Jesse.
I wonder if there could have been some bizarre connection between this rope chair and his use of a rope to strangle his victims.
2) It is recorded in most accounts of the case that Christie had an affair with a civilian employee at Harrow Road police station while he was based there as a Special Constable in about 1943. It is said that the lady's husband found them together and gave Christie a severe beating, which might possibly have acted as the catalyst for him to commit his first known murder of Ruth Fuerst. Moreover, it is also said that the husband actually cited Christie as co-respondant several years later in order to obtain a divorce from his wife. I do not think the name of the lady concerned has ever been recorded.
If this was the case, Christie's own wife Ethel must surely have known about the affair, and might well have had some knowledge of her husband's other sexual idiosyncracies. One wonders, therefore, if she ever suspected that Christie had actually committed murders? As the bodies of Ruth Fuerst and Muriel Eady were already buried in the garden by 1945, it does seem rather odd that she never found any evidence of this; presumably she did go into the garden on occasions! This is even stranger when one considers that Christie actually used one of his victim's thighbones to prop up his fence, which the police failed to discover when investigating the Evans murders.
It has also never been determined exactly what she did or did not know about her husband's activities at the time of the murders of Geraldine and Beryl Evans. One wonders, therefore, if she had a fairly good idea about her husband's crimes, but was afraid to confide in anyone, perhaps out of fear for her own life. Apparently she was in regular correspondance with her relations in Sheffield, as several letters written by her were found in her sister's former house there several years ago. As far as I know these made little reference to her husband.
3) I do not think that it has ever been determined conclusively that Ruth Fuerst was Christie's first victm, or if he committed any murders other than those to which he confessed. Professor Keith Simpson recorded in Forty Years of Murder that Christie was asked if he might have been responsible for the murder of a little girl in Windsor in the early 1950s, but that he considered that he had not.
Any comments other contributors might have on these and other points relating to the case would be most welcome.
I daresay that many contributors to this forum will have seen the film based on Ludovic Kennedy's 10 Rillington Place starring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. Here are a few inaccuracies I have noticed in this film:-
1) In the film Christie is depicted as being a Special Constable when he murders Muriel Eady in 1944. Actually, by this time he was in civilian employment at the Ultra Radio factory at East Acton. Only his first known murder, that of Ruth Fuerst in 1943, took place when he was a policeman.
2) The friend of Beryl Evans named Alice (played by Isobel Black) is probably fictional, as I have never read that she knew anyone of that name. She did have a friend called Lucy Endecott, who spent several days with her at 10 Rillington Place, forcing Timothy Evans to sleep on the kitchen floor. This led to serious rows and Evans brought his mother round to try to eject the girl from the flat. Apparently, Evans and Lucy Endecott then left and spent a couple of nights together before she rejected him and he was forced to return to Beryl.
In the film, Alice is staying with Beryl in order to assist her after taking some pills in order to bring about a miscarriage, and it is not suggested that Evans was attracted to her, although a fight does subsequently break out between Evans and Beryl over the sleeping arrangements, which causes Christie to intervene.
Later, Alice cannot gain entrance to the Evans' flat, as Christie is holding the door shut after having murdered Beryl. In fact, the person who could not open the door was another friend of Beryl's named Joan Vincent, although it has never been proved conclusively whether it was actually Christie behind the door or Beryl herself.
3) When Evans returns home after Christie has murdered Beryl, Christie persuades him to leave for Wales that same night. In actual fact, he did not leave until several nights later.
4) Evans' mother Mrs Probert and his two sisters, who played important parts in the case, are not mentioned in the film, although his aunt and uncle in Wales with whom he stayed prior to his confession are depicted.
5) Towards the end of the film Christie is shown speaking with a woman in a cafe whom he offers to treat for migraine; it is implied that he subsequently murders her, as he is next seen papering over the kitchen coal cupboard where three bodies were later found. The lady he offered to treat for migraine was actually named Margaret Forrest, who very nearly became a victim, as he made arrangements for her to visit him at 10 Rillington Place on two occasions, but each time circumstances prevented her from keeping the appointment.
Throughout the film Christie's sexual motive for his crimes is only implied and not explicitly stated, and we are not told why he actually became a murderer.
I am not certain of this, but I think that the courtroom set used for Evans' trial in 10 Rillington Place may also have been used in another crime thriller made in the early 1960s entitled The Boys, in which Roy Kinnear and Wilfrid Brambell featured, amongst others. This concerned the trial of a group of young men for capital murder as a result of a murder committed in the furtherance of theft; I believe the aim of the film was to demonstrate the ambiguities of the Homicide Act of 1957, which restricted the death penalty to certain categories of murder.
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Thanks for the information. I never took the film as being 100% accurate because there are some things shown that can't be proven with certainty, like Christie coming at Geraldine after Evans has left. That said, I think Christie did kill her and perhaps others. There was that tin of pubic hairs that didn't appear to be from any of the victims which the movie never mentioned. Apparently this was a fetish of Christie's but the hairs could have come from prostitutes or "friends with benefits" that he did not kill. Maybe a consensual trim was a ticket to survival. The movie, 10 Rillington Place, is in my top five for true-crime films and I have it in my library.
This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.
I mentioned in an earlier posting that I have been attempting to write a novel based on Christie's crimes. I have experimented with writing it in the first person from the viewpoint of the killer himself. Here is a short excerp, where Christie describes how the viewing of his grandfather's corpse as a small boy helped to shape his later life:-
In 1905 I was six years old, and in that year something happened which I believe helped to shape my destiny. I had feared my maternal grandfather almost as much as my father, and in the spring he died suddenly of a heart attack. As was the custom in those days, and I think still is in some places, he was laid out in his oak coffin in the front parlour, and my father ordered all of us to pay our last resepcts before the funeral. I was terrified at the prospect, as I had never seen a dead person before, but my father threatened me with another beating if I failed to do my duty.
I therefore entered the parlour trembling with fear. Summoning every scrap of courage I had, I forced myself to look inside the coffin. I saw my grandfather lying cold and still, dressed in his best suit. He lay helpless in death, like a wax dummy, and was no longer the ferocious old man who used to scold me and cuff the back of my head when I disturbed his afternoon nap on his visits to our house.
All at once, a huge wave of peace enveloped me, and I was no longer afraid. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I felt almost light headed. Someone I had feared and hated would never terrorise me again.
I would have liked to have stayed longer beside the coffin, but my father prodded me between the shoulders with his bony finger and led me away. As I left the room I reflected on how wonderful it would be if the same thing could happen to my father, brother and older sisters. How I longed to see them lying cold and still and incapable of hurting me or humiliating me!
From about that time I would often wander around All Souls' cemetery which lay just across the street from our new home in Chester Road in the Boothtown district of Halifax, as we had moved there from Black Boy House before I was old enough to go to school. In the cemetery I used to read the inscriptions on the gravestones and think deep and dark thoughts. I wondered if the corpses in the graves looked as pale and still as that of my grandfather; I did not then realise that most of them would have been merely skeletons. The cemetery became the only place in which I could find peace and refuge from the torment I suffered at home.
Part of this excerp is based on the factual information which has been published in various books concerning Christie's childhood, and part is purely fictional.
Christie did in fact write about his early life shortly before his execution in 1953; I believe his own account was published in a now-defunct newspaper called The Sunday Pictorial, and he was helped to write it by a journalist called Harry Proctor. Some excerps from it appeared in The Two Stranglers of Rillington Place by Rupert Furneaux, which was published in 1961.
Good luck with the book, sounding good, thus far, I don't know if you know of it, but there's an excellent book of the case by Edward Marston, published by the National Archives, you can get it off Play.com for about a fiver. It tracks the Christie case from childhood right through to the Brabin report, which you probably know recommended Timothy Evan's postumous pardon.
As you say Christie himself admitted the fascination and pleasure he felt when viewing his grandfather's corpse in its coffin. (he had always been frightened by the old man in life) also when a young man, he went for a walk down the Monkey Run, the local "Lover's Lane" with a girl, who later derided him for his sexual incompetence, word soon got round and earned him the less than flattering sobriquets of "Reggie-No-Dick" and "Can't Do It Christie" this humiliation is said to have crystalised his hatred fear and resentment of females.
On another point, you mentioned the film "The Boys" I think the screenplay for that was influenced by the case of Francis Forsyth and Norman Harris, two young men who had been hanged the previous year (1960).
I do indeed have the book on the Christie case written by Edward Marston, which is a good introduction for anyone interested in the case.
I also have the following books on the case available for reference:-
10 Rillington Place by Ludovic Kennedy The Two Stranglers of Rillington Place by Rupert Furneaux Medical and Scientific Investigations in the Christie Case by Francis Camps Trials of Evans and Christie by F. Tennyson Jesse The Two Killers of Rillington Place by John Eddowes The Crimes at Rillington Place - A Novelist's Reconstruction by John Newton Chance Rillington Place published by The Stationary Office, which is the text of the findings of the Brabin report on Timothy Evans The Man On Your Conscience by Michael Eddowes, which is chiefly concerned with the Evans murders
In addition, I also have copies of Murder With a Difference by Molly Lefebure, and Murderer's Moon by Conrad Phillips, both of which have substantial material on the Christie case.
A book I have not yet seen is The Christie Case by Ronald Maxwell, a reporter who was present at the trial. There are a couple of copies listed for sale on the Abebooks website, but they are both selling at nearly £100!!!
As well as the film starring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt, the case also inspired a play by Howard Brenton entitled Christie In Love!!! Also, the Australian artist Brett Whiteley produced a series of avant-garde paintings based on the crimes - I believe he lived in the Notting Hill area near Rillington Place in the early 1960s.
The recent novel by Ruth Rendell entitled 13 Steps Down concerns a man named Mix Cellini who lives in Notting Hill and is obsessed with Christie and his crimes. He also collects books on the case, but most of the titles mentioned in the novel are purely fictional.
Just a quick thought, Sherlock, about the 'strangling chair'. Deckchairs are rather awkward to get out of. Once in it, they wouldn't have found it very easy to get out of it.
It may just be that Christie picked a deckchair for a purely practical reason rather than attaching any specific significance to it.
Also it would be portable. Perhaps he used it because it could be placed exactly where it was needed, and the victim would accept the practicality of using a deckchair instead of - say - a dining or kitchen chair.
Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action.