Timothy Evans was wrongly accused of murdering his wife and infant daughter, at their residence in London. Evans was later tried and convicted for the murder of his infant daughter, and he was executed by hanging in March the same year.
During the trial, Evans accused his downstairs neighbor, John Christie, who was also the chief protection witness of committing the murder, and unsurprisingly three years after the wrong execution of Timothy Evans, John Christie was found to be a serial killer who had murdered several other women in the same house, not even sparing his own wife, Ethel.
The case played a major role in the abolition of Capital punishment in the United Kingdom for murder in 1965.
Who was Timothy Evans?
Timothy Evans had a rough childhood, his father Daniel abandoned his family before his birth in November 1924. He missed a great deal of schooling and could barely write or read. But despite everything, he managed to find a job as a painter and then a van driver when his family moved to London in 1935.
A few years later he met Beryl Thomas, and the couple married in 1947, Evans and Beryl initially lived with Evans’ mother, but when Beryl got pregnant the couple moved out to a flat. In 1949 Beryl was pregnant again, but since the couple was already struggling financially, Beryl decided to terminate the pregnancy, which was illegal at the time.
Since it was illegal, they couldn’t go to a doctor, so they turned to their downstairs neighbor, Christie, who persuaded the couple that he had some medical knowledge and was able to perform the abortion. At that point of time, Christie had already murdered several women.
Timothy Evans was by any means no perfect man, he misspent his wages on alcohol , and his heavy drinking at the time exacerbated his already short temper. This was also the reason why the arguments between him and his wife were loud enough to be heard by the neighbors, and sometimes it escalated to physical violence, which was witnessed by some on several occasions.
Beryl’s unusual death
On November 30th, 1949, Timothy Evans entered the police station in Merthyr Trydfil and informed police that his wife died in ‘unusual circumstances’. Evans also told them that he was worried about the safety of his eighteen-month-old daughter, Geraldine.
Evans first confessed that he killed his wife accidentally by giving her a liquid in a bottle to abort the fetus, he then disposed of her body in a sewer drain outside 10 Rolling ton place. He told them that he had gone to Wales after arranging for his daughter to be looked after. But when the police examined the drain outside the front of the building, they found nothing, and discovered that the manhole cover required the combined strength
Evans withdrew his confession
Upon re-questioning, Evans changed his story, and said that Christie had offered to perform an abortion on his wife. He stated that he had left Christie out of his first statement in order to protect him. He also mentioned that when he had returned from work, he was informed by Christie that the abortion has not worked and his wife couldn’t make it. Christie said to him that he will dispose the body and would make arrangement for a couple to look after her daughter.
Christie told Evans to leave London for the meantime, and when Evans returned and ask Christie to see his daughter, Christie refused.
As a result of his second statement, the police performed as search of 10 Rolling ton Place and could not find anything that would help. But on 2 December, the police found the body of Beryl Evans, wrapped in a tablecloth in the wash-house in the back garden.
Access to the wash house was only possible by using a knife, which Christie had been seen using. Significantly, they also found Geraldine’s body alone with Beryl’s body. An important point to note that during his both confession, Evan never mentioned his daughter being dead! He only told about his wife, he had no idea that his daughter was dead before her corpse was found.
All the interviews and confessions, but police didn’t believe a word that Evans said, they manipulated and suppressed evidence not because they feared Evans might be innocent, but because they had no doubt of his guilt.
Evans third confession
When the cops showed Evans the clothes taken from the bodies of his child and wife, he was also informed that they both had been strangled. This was the first time, in his confession, he was informed that his baby daughter had been killed. He was asked whether he was responsible for their deaths, to this Evans responded “Yes.” he then eventually confessed to strangling Beryl during an argument over debts and strangling Geraldine two days later, and then he left for Wales.
Evans’ last confession and several contradictory statements made during the police interrogation were cited as proof of his guilt. Several authors who have written about the case have argued that the police provided Evans with all the necessary details for him to make a plausible confession, which they may have in turn edited further while transcribing it.
Furthermore, another point to be noticed her is that he was interrogated over the course of later evenings and early morning hours, to his physical and emotional detriment. Additionally, Evans stated in court that he thought he would be tortured if he did not confess, and his fear of being tortured and discovery of his daughter’s death had induced him to make a false confession.
Trial of Timothy Evans
Timothy Evans was put on trial for the murder of his daughter on 11 January 1950, Christie denied any role in the abortion of Beryl’s unborn child, and told the court about the quarrels between Evans and his wife. Christie and his wife Ethel were the key witness for the prosecution.
The case eventually came down to Christie’s word against Evans’s word, and the course of trial turned against Evans. After a three-day trial and deliberations of less than 40 minutes by the Jury, Timothy Evans was convicted of murdering his daughter.
An important fact was missed in Evan’s trials was that two workmen were willing to testify that there were no bodies in the wash-house, why they worked there several days after Evans supposedly hid them. They stored their tools in the wash house and cleaned out completely when they finished their work on 11 November.
The following month, an appeal against the conviction was heard by three judges, with lawyers for Evans arguing that important evidence was never put before the jury. But the appeal was rejected, and in March the 25-year-old Timothy Evans was hanged at Bentonville prison and buried in its cemetery.
The conviction and execution of Timothy Evans received a little attention, but three years later the terrible truth of what actually happened at Rollinton place was revealed.
John Christie the serial killer
Three years after the execution of Timothy Evans, Christie vacated his premises and the new tenant Beresord Brown found the bodies of three women, Kathleen Maloney, Rita Nelson and Hectorina Maclennan, hidden in a papered over kitchen pantry, next tothe wash house where Beryl’s and geraldine’s body had been found.
A thorough search of the place turned up three more bodies, Christie’s own wife, Ethel, under the floorboards of the front room, Ruth Fuerest, a nurse, and Mueirl Eady, a former colleague of Christie, who were both buried in the small back garden of the building.
Christie had even used one of the women’s thigh-bones to prop up a fence in the garden – something which the police had apparently missed when searching the property following Evans’ earlier confession.
John Christie was arrested on 31st March 1953 and during the course of questioning he confessed to killing Beryl Evans, though he never admitted to killing Geraldine Evans.
Christie was found guilty of murdering his wife with his defense of insanity being rejected he was hanged on 15 July 1953 by Albert Pierrepoint, the same hangman who had executed Evans three years prior.
Now, the killer of Beryl Evans was finally punished, but what about Timothy? Since Evans had only been convicted of the murder of his daughter, in 1965 his remains were exhumed from Pentoville prison and reburied in St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Greater London.
After Christie was arrested, a campaign led by a number of prominent journalists and newspapers sought to highlight what they said was a miscarriage of Justice, but two officials inquiries ordered by the home office found nothing wrong. But the campaign continued and in the 1968 and new reform mind secretary Roy Jenkins recommended a royal pardon, which was accepted.
In January 2003 the Home office awarded Timothy Evans’ half sister, Mary Westlake and his sister, Eileen Ashby,ex gratia payments as compensation for the miscarriage of justice in Evans’ trial.
The hanging of Timothy Evans featured prominently in the campaign throughout the 1950s and 60s to end the capital punishments. The campaign was eventually successful, and capital punishment was eventually abolished in England and Wales in 1969.