Number 10 Rillington Place no longer exists on the map but it was once the most notorious address in London.
It was at this terraced house in Notting Hill that John Reginald Halliday Christie killed at least six women including his wife Ethel between 1943 and 1953.
He is also thought to have been responsible for the murders of his fellow tenant Beryl Evans and her baby daughter Geraldine – murders which were originally blamed on Beryl’s husband Timothy.
Christie gave evidence against Timothy Evans at the Old Bailey in 1950 and Evans was found guilty and hanged.
But after his capture and arrest Christie confessed to killing Beryl Evans and controversy still rages over whether Timothy Evans was the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.
In 2004 the Criminal Cases Review Commission decided against a referral to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of cost but admitted that it was unlikely Evans would be found guilty on the basis of Christie’s status as a serial killer.
Christie was born in 1899 and served in the First World War before being injured in a mustard gas attack.
He was known for speaking in a whisper and is said to have relied on the services of prostitutes after being branded ‘Reggie-No-Dick’ during his teens.
Christie married his wife Ethel in 1920 and had a series of jobs, including postman, before being taken on by the War Reserve Police in 1939 – despite having convictions for theft and assault.
By this time the couple had moved in to a ground-floor flat at 10 Rillington Place.
Four years later in August 1943 he committed his first murder, strangling Ruth Fuerst, an Austrian munitions factory worker, in his bed while his wife was away.
The body was at first hidden under the floorboards but was later buried in the back garden.
It was soon joined by a second victim, Muriel Amelia Eady, a 32 year-old colleague, on 7 October 1944.
After persuading her that her bronchitis could be cured by inhaling his ‘special mixture’, Christie subdued her with carbon monoxide before raping and strangling her.
Neither corpse was discovered when detectives searched the house looking for missing mother Beryl Evans and her daughter Geraldine in late November 1949.
They were found in a washhouse in the back garden. Beryl had been strangled and wrapped up in a green tablecloth while Geraldine had been strangled with a man’s tie and hidden under a piece of wood.
It is thought Beryl Evans was killed on November 8, 1949. According to the story Christie gave at trial, he and his wife heard a ‘bump’ during the night and the following morning Timothy Evans claimed Beryl had gone away to Bristol.
Timothy Evans, who had a low IQ, confessed on four separate occasions that he was responsible, claiming he had killed his wife in a fit of temper. But after being charged with murder he told officers: ‘Christie did it.’
Evans was tried at the Old Bailey on January 11, 1950, and was found guilty by the jury after only 40 minutes deliberation. He was hanged on March 9.
Christie carried on with his own life, getting a job as a clerk and taking on new tenants at 10 Rillington Place.
Two years later on 14 December 1952 he strangled his 54 year-old wife and hid her body, wrapped in a blanket, under the floorboards in the parlour.
Christie pretended she had gone away and sold all his furniture including the bed as well as his wife’s wedding ring and watch.
Perhaps aware that he would soon be found out, Christie killed three more women over the next three months.
Rita Nelson, 25, was last seen alive on January 13, 1953, and is thought to have been killed by January 19. Kathleen Maloney, a 26 year-old local prostitute, was last seen in early to mid January but was probably killed after Rita Nelson. Hectorina Maclennan, 26, was killed at some point before Christie moved out of the flat on March 20, 1953.
All were gassed, raped and strangled and hidden in the kitchen in an alcove covered over by wallpaper.
Four days after Christie moved out, a tenant broke through the hollow wall while trying to install a shelf for his wireless radio. The police search that followed also uncovered the body of Ethel Christie in the parlour and a tobacco tin containing clumps of pubic hair.
In the garden, officers saw a human thigh bone propping up the fence. Further bones were found strewn around the garden with a newspaper fragment dated 19 July 1943. These remains were to be identified as Ruth Fuerst and Muriel Eady.
By then Christie was on the run and his name and photograph were plastered on the front page of every newspaper.
He spent the next week sleeping rough on benches before being spotted by a police officer on Putney Embankment on March 31. He was carrying a newspaper clipping referring to the arrest of Timothy Evans.
Christie quickly confessed to the last four murders, claiming he strangled his wife to put her out of her misery after she woke him up, choking and blue in the face. He said he was forced to kill Nelson, Maloney and Maclennan when they became aggressive.
While in Brixton Prison, he boasted his goal had been to kill 12 women and compared himself to John George Haigh, the acid bath murderer.
He later confessed to the Fuerst and Eady murders, writing: “I remember as I gazed down at the still form of my first victim, experiencing a strange, peaceful thrill.”
Christie also admitted to strangling Beryl after offering to abort her unborn child but did not mention the daughter Geraldine.
His turn to stand trial in Court One at the Old Bailey came on June 22, 1953. Pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, he described all seven murders from the witness box.
After four days of evidence, the jury found him guilty. He was sentenced to death and was hanged at Pentonville Prison on July 15. He was 54 years old.
A year later Rillington Place had its name changed to Ruston Close but number ten continued to be rented out to tenants.
But in the early 1970s – after the film 10 Rillington Place was filmed – the whole street was demolished.
The exact site – not far from Bartle Road – has now been built over.
Notes and sources:
Many websites tell the story of John Reginald Christie and 10 Rillington Place in extensive detail. They include the Crime and Investigation Network and of course Wikipedia, as well as the website 10 Rillington Place set up by researcher John Curnow, who has published the ebook The Murders, Myths and Reality of 10 Rillington Place.
There are also two well-known books on the subject: The Two Killers of Rillington Place by John Eddowes and Ten Rillington Place by Ludovic Kennedy.
The relevant papers in the National Archives are listed (but not reproduced) here.
Finally there is the 1970 film 10 Rillington Place starring Richard Attenborough as Christie.