Timothy Evans PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 November 2008 11:49

Timothy John Evans

Born: November 20, 1924, Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales

Died: March 9, 1950, Pentonville Prison, North London.

Age:  25

Cause of death: Hanged by the neck until dead by Albert Pierrepoint.

Notable because: Executed for the murder of his wife and child after which it turned out he was completely innocent. His case contributed to the abolition of capitol punishment in the UK.


Timothy Evans was a Welshman who was hanged in the United Kingdom in 1950 for the murder of his infant daughter at 10 Rillington Place in London. Following serial killer John Christie's execution for the murder of Evans' wife, Evans was posthumously pardoned.

The case played a large part in the abolition of capital punishment in Britain.

Evans was a native of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. His biological father abandoned the family shortly after Evans' birth. In 1935 his mother and her second husband moved to London, and Evans found work as a painter and decorator. At the time of his arrest, he was working as a lorry driver.

On September 20, 1947, Evans married Beryl Susanna Thorley. In Easter 1948, the couple moved into the top-floor flat at 10 Rillington Place, Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, London. Their daughter Geraldine was born on October 10, 1948.

By most accounts, Evans was prone to telling elaborate lies about himself. He and Beryl were also given to having loud arguments which could be heard by the neighbours. The relationship started to suffer due to Beryl's inability to manage the family's finances, a fact exacerbated when she revealed to Evans, in late 1949, that she was pregnant with their second child.

Christie, the building's ground floor tenant, told the Evanses that he possessed medical experience sufficient to carry out an abortion. Evans initially refused, but relented in the face of his wife's insistence that she wanted to abort and 'trusted Mr Christie'. Beryl Evans was last seen alive on November 8, 1949.

On November 30, 1949, Evans went to the police in Merthyr Tydfil and confessed to killing Beryl and disposing of her body down the drain outside the apartment building. He said that he had given his wife something contained in a bottle and that she died after ingesting it. He told the police that he had made arrangements to have his daughter Geraldine looked after, and had returned to Wales. His wife had in fact been strangled.

When police examined the drain outside the front of the building, they found nothing, and also found that the weight of the drain cover required the combined strength of three police officers to lift it. When re-questioned, Evans claimed that Christie had offered to provide an abortion for Beryl. When Evans had returned home from work on November 7, Christie told him that the operation had failed, and that Beryl was dead. He said Christie told him that he would dispose of the body "down one of the drains" and told him that he knew of a young couple in East Acton who would look after Geraldine. He then told Evans to sell his furniture and "get out of London somewhere".

During a search of 10 Rillington Place, on December 2, 1949, the police found the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine in the small wash house (54" x 52"; 1.37 m x 1.32 m) in the back area of the building. Both had been strangled; the baby's body placed behind the door and Beryl's behind timber that had been propped against a sink in the right hand corner facing the door.

When Evans was shown the clothing taken from the bodies of his wife and child he was immediately asked whether he was responsible for their deaths. He apparently replied with a simple “Yes”. Evans now confessed to having strangled Beryl during an argument over debts on November 8, 1949, and to having strangled Geraldine two days later, after which he left for Wales.

Evans went on trial at the Old Bailey in January 1950. He was defended by Malcolm Morris. The court heard evidence related to both killings, although Evans was officially charged only with killing his daughter. During the trial, he reverted to his story that Christie was the actual killer. Christie gave evidence in the witness box which countered everything Evans alleged. His testimony was later found to be an elaborate deception designed to cover his own culpability. Christie had previous convictions, including violence against women, while Evans had a completely clean record.

Two important facts were withheld from the jury. There was evidence that Beryl had been sexually assaulted after death, which was inconsistent with Evans' statement; and two workmen, who were willing to testify that there were no bodies in the wash-house when they worked there several days after Evans supposedly hid them, were not called to give evidence. (Christie had moved the bodies to the wash-house two weeks later, after the workmen had finished.)

The jury found Evans guilty of his daughter’s murder and he was hanged at Pentonville Prison by Albert Pierrepoint and Syd Dernley on 9 March 1950.

His last words were "Give my kind regards to Mr Black" - his arresting officer, Chief Superintendent James Neil Black QPM. He maintained his innocence to the end.

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 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 March 31, 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 July 15, 1953.

The murder of Beryl Evans was never a primary charge in either of the two arrests 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 and when Christie was later the subject of an inquiry, while questions drafted by a solicitor representing Evans were deemed unnecessary by Parliamentary Counsel and never asked.

Christie’s conviction in 1953, and his confession of the murder of Beryl Evans, raised doubts about Evans' guilt. A Parliamentary inquiry initiated by the publication of Ludovic Kennedy's book Ten Rillington Place in 1961, however, produced an equivocal response from the Home Secretary R.A. Butler, who stated that whereas no jury would have found Evans guilty in the light of what later became known, there was no certainty of Evans' innocence.

Attorney Michael Eddowes examined the case in his book The Man on Your Conscience, which argued that Evans could not have been the killer. The television journalist Ludovic Kennedy's book 10 Rillington Place, meanwhile, criticized the police investigation and evidence submitted at the 1950 trial in which Evans was found guilty. In 1965, Liberal Party politician Herbert Wolfe of Darlington, County Durham got in touch with 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, known as the Brabin enquiry after the High Court judge who wrote the subsequent report. Brabin found that Evans likely did not kill his baby but probably murdered his wife, even though the lawyers at Evans' trial thought that whoever killed Beryl Evans also killed the child.

Roy Jenkins, Soskice's successor as Home Secretary, recommended a royal pardon for Evans, which was granted, and Evans was disinterred from Pentonville Prison and reburied outside. The outcry over the Evans case contributed to the abolition of the death penalty in the UK.

On 16 November 2004, Timothy Evans' half-sister, Mary Westlake, started 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.

A book was published in 2007 by The National Archives and authored by Edward Marston. It reviews the records (many held at the archives) and concludes that Evans was completely innocent of the murder of his wife and child.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:40

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