Human Monsters: John Christie, The Rillington Place Strangler

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The gas fills her lungs and suddenly the world grows hazy, her arms get weak and heavy. It starts to feel like stones are stacking up on her chest. A man’s face looms over her through the fog of the gas. It fills her vision.

John Christie pictured here with his wife, and future victim, Ethel Simpson

A Bald head, thin lips, with horn-rimmed glasses, glasses that cover eyes that stare at her with an awful hunger. As darkness steals everything else, it’s those hungry, hate-filled eyes that stay with her the longest. It will be the last thing she will ever see. She is a victim of John Christie, one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers.

John Christie would kill over eight women from the 1940s to 50s and is responsible for one of the worst miscarriage of justice in British history. What sparked his hatred of women, what set him down the path that would ruin so many lives?  It all started with a girl.

The Early Years

When John was younger he met an older girl who was much more experienced sexually than he was. The girl, whose name has never been determined, took a liking to the awkward young boy. However, Christie wasn’t able to perform despite her advances. The girl began to mock him and spread a cruel nickname around his neighborhood, calling him “Johnnie No Dick.” Christie would go on to say that this traumatic event was the root of his hatred of women and his fear of sexual failure. A combination that would grow into necrophilia and murder.

John Christie possessed an above average IQ but this didn’t help him keep a steady job. Christie as a young man developed a liking for small crime. Stealing cars for joy rides, and petty theft. Those that knew him hoped that a stint in the military might help straighten him out. Christie served as a signalman during World War 1 until he was wounded in a mustard gas attack. After which John gained a reputation as a hypochondriac, someone who exaggerates their injuries for attention and sympathy.

Upon his return home to England, he met and married  Ethel Simpson on May 10, 1920. Their marriage was rocky from the start, mostly because of Christie’s sexual dysfunction. His crimes would escalate until he was eventually convicted of assault on a prostitute who he attacked with a rock. The two were estranged before his prison sentence.

Once out of jail he convinced Ethel to take him back and the two moved into the now infamous groundfloor apartment at 10 Rillington Place, in Notting Hill. Through a combination of negligence and his previous military service, John Christie managed to get a job working for the police force after he had been released from jail. It was at this time, the murders began.

The First Killings

Christie’s first admitted victim was a prostitute named Ruth Fuerst. He paid her to come back to his home at 10 Rillington Place for some fun and nude pictures. Once there he strangled her to death in his bed. He confessed that he then became so excited by her corpse that he raped her body. He buried Ruth behind his house in a garden plot.

John Christie would hide some bodies under his floorboards, such as that of his wife Ethel Simpson.

Now that he had developed a taste for it, Christie began to hunt. His next victim was  Muriel Eady. He met her at a bar and after a few drinks, he’d managed to convince her that he had a cure for her bronchitis. At the time a popular medication for the disease was Friar’s Balsam, a solution of Benzoin Resin, which was administered via a glass and tube.

While Muriel was breathing in the fumes, John switched the glass for one that contained coal gas. Coal gas has a high concentration of carbon monoxide, which knocked her out. Christie then raped and strangled her, before burying her under the floorboards of his house.

Being a necrophile, Christie was sexually aroused by the smell of rotting bodies. Much like another necrophilic killer, Jeffery Dahmer, John Christie kept the bodies of the people he killed close to him. While he eventually removed Muriel Eady from the floorboards, to be buried next to Ruth out in the garden, he left her there for a long while.

The coal cellar, where Christie would store his victims.

Christie also created a false wall in his home to cover a small coal cellar. The cellar was always cold, enough so that he could partially freeze the corpses of his later victims. That kept them well preserved for him to use to relieve his urges.

Again showing similarities to Dahmer, John showed characteristics of a collector killer. Not only did he keep the bodies nearby but he also kept pieces of other possible victims. A box was found in the home that contained bundles of pubic hair, hair that wasn’t matched to his known victims. Now Christie was known to take nude photos with prostitutes, so the hair could always be from them, however, it does cast doubt on his true kill count.

The Evans Family Tragedy

From left to right. Timothy Evans, his wife Beryl and their 13-month-old daughter Geraldine. (Other woman is unknown)

Sometime in April 1948, Timothy and Beryl Evans moved into the upper apartment of 10 Rillington Place with their young baby Geraldine. The Evans family struggled at the best of times. Timothy found it hard to find work and with the baby, it was hard for them to make ends meet. When Beryl found out she was pregnant again, it was not joyous news.

Timothy had become friends with his downstairs neighbor John Christie during this time. He confided in John that another baby would be too much of a financial burden. After some talk, Christie convinced the distraught father that he could perform an abortion. Timothy and Beryl agreed.

Sometime later Timothy Evans confessed to the police, who came calling on him when no one had heard from his wife, that he killed her accidentally with a mixture of drinks to abort their child. He directed them to a sewer drain where he claimed he hid her body. No body was found. After further questioning, Timothy changed his story.

He admitted that he had asked John Christie to perform the abortion and that Christie had told him that something had gone wrong. John convinced him that since abortion was illegal at the time, he should get away for a while. John would dispose of the body of Beryl and find a home for Geraldine.

Police arrived and questioned Christie, who said he knew nothing of any killing or abortion. He consented to a search and that’s when they found the bodies of both mother and child in a shed behind the home. Timothy was devastated when he heard the news, he swore he thought Geraldine was alive and in the care of John Christie. However, the man’s misfortune was just beginning.

Timothy Evans being led to the court

Since Christie had served in both the military and as a policeman, his word was well respected. More so than that of Timothy Evans. He, along with testimony from Ethel, convinced investigators that he was innocent. John Christie actually served as a star witness against Timothy Evans after Evans was arrested for the murder of his family.

Can you imagine how horrible it must have been to have the man who killed your wife and child, help put you away for the crime?

Timothy was convicted of the murders and hanged on March 9, 1950, at Pentonville Prison. He pleaded his innocence until the very end. Records indicate that Timothy Evans had an IQ of somewhere in the 60s, which would have made him easily manipulated. In a state of emotional turmoil and under intense interrogation, someone like Evans could have easily given a false confession.

The Fall Of John Christie

After he had dodged being caught for the murder of Beryl and Geraldine, Christie grew bolder. For reasons unknown, perhaps because of a fight or just his growing bloodlust, John strangled and killed Ethel, his wife of more than 30 years. He hid her body under the floorboards, where she would later be discovered.

Drawing of Pentonville Prison

The Evans trial did have some repercussions for him. It caused his past criminal record to come to light and cost him his job at the postal service where he had begun work after leaving the police force. Without a means of income, he began to sell his wife’s jewelry.

Then he forged her name and cleaned out her bank accounts. This kept him afloat for a while and allowed him to entice more women back to his place, where he would gas and kill them. it was during this time he began to utilize the coal cellar.

After a while of not hearing from her, Ethel’s friends grew worried and voiced this concern to the police. An investigator came by 10 Rillington Place and spoke with John. While Christie was convincing him that his wife had just gone to visit with relatives, the policeman complained of a horrible smell. John shrugged it off and made up some story about immigrant neighbors always cooking strange food. The investigator would later find out he had been standing over the body of Ethel Simpson.

Soon the money ran out and Christie decided he would illegally rent out his apartment. He sold off most of the furniture and allowed another family to move in. Some reports also state that Christie was simply kicked out and the landlord rented it to someone else. Whatever the case may be, the new owners quickly found that their new home was full of dead bodies.

Police wasted no time in hunting down John Christie, who managed to evade them for a while by sleeping in parks and under bridges. Eventually he was captured and to everyone’s surprise, he confessed. Not just to killing his wife and the other women found in his home but also to the murder of Beryl Evans. When pressed he wouldn’t talk about baby Geraldine.

Example of a prison gallows

John Christie was sentenced to die on July 15, 1953, at the same gallows in Pentonville prison where Timothy Evans was executed. His confession sent shockwaves through the justice system. Not only had they allowed the real killer to go free for so long but they also convicted and executed an innocent man.

In 1966 Timothy Evans was given a royal pardon. His body was also reburied to be closer to his wife and child.

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(If you enjoyed reading about John Christie, feel free to check out other killers in my Human Monsters category.)


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