EXCLUSIVE: Beryl was killed along with her daughter Geraldine in 1949, with Beryl's husband Timothy Evans convicted and hanged for the two killings, before being pardoned posthumously in 1966 after John Christie's confession
19:09, 4 AUG 2020UPDATED19:42, 4 AUG 2020
Serial killer John Christie murdered eight people (Image: Getty Images)
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When he was a teenager, Peter Thorley regularly visited his older sister.
If she wasn’t in, he would wait in the kitchen of the man in the downstairs flat, where they would play cards and drink tea.
That man was John Christie, who was later unmasked as a serial killer.
He has gone down in history as murdering eight people, including Peter’s sister Beryl, 20, and her 14-month-old daughter Geraldine in 1949.
Beryl’s husband Timothy Evans was convicted and hanged for the two killings, but was pardoned posthumously in 1966 after Christie’s confession.
But now Peter reveals he believes his sister and niece WERE killed by Evans.
Peter, with the help of wife Lea, has scoured hundreds of documents over the past 35 years and has told his sister’s tragic story in a new book Inside 10 Rillington Place: John Christie and Me, the Untold Truth.
Speaking from his home in West Sussex, 85-year-old Peter says: “Christie did not kill Beryl and he did not kill Geraldine. He wouldn’t have done that.”
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He adds that delivery driver Evans, was a “violent, uneducated drunk” who spent his wages on gambling and booze, beating his wife every night.
Peter claims neighbours witnessed Evans making death threats to Beryl on numerous occasions. And he even witnessed the violence himself.
“Evans was a nasty character,” he says. “He’d smack her round the face.
"I’d be in their front room with Geraldine and had to put my hands over her ears and pull faces to make her laugh, so she couldn’t hear what her father was doing.”
Peter also claims Christie and his wife Ethel, later one of the victims, cared about Beryl.
“Mr Christie used to say, ‘Come in the kitchen and sit with me’. I called him Uncle Reg and his wife Aunty Ethel. I knew the two of them so very well.
“He seemed a real nice man, I had no fear of him. He used to say, ‘You have to watch that Evans. He’s a nasty character, always shouting at Beryl’. They were protective towards her. Christie used to tell Tim to leave her alone.”
The chair Peter, then aged 14, would be fed sticky buns in, was the very seat Christie used to gas victims to unconsciousness before strangling them.
“Unfortunately, I’d also sit in the rope chair he killed those other girls in. I didn’t know that at the time,” says Peter. Years before the Evanses moved to Rillington Place in the Ladbroke Grove area of London, Christie, originally from Halifax, had murdered his first two victims; Austrian munitions worker Ruth Fuerst in 1943 and Muriel Amelia Eady, a colleague at the radio factory where he was a clerk, a year later.
He buried their bodies in the back garden. Peter says: “I still think about running around in the garden, totally oblivious to the fact that bodies were lying underneath my feet.”
On November 5 1949, Peter saw his sister for the last time. She gave him her wedding ring, so Evans couldn’t sell it for gambling money.
Peter feared for Beryl; he was getting sent by his dad to work in New Zealand for two years against his wishes and felt he was the only family member who looked out for her. She was pregnant and argued with Evans about an abortion, which was illegal at the time.
“We cuddled each other tightly in the doorway, and tears flooded down our cheeks. I didn’t want to let go of her. I knew Beryl and Geraldine were in real danger in that poisonous atmosphere.”
Two days later, Beryl was murdered, followed by Geraldine.
The accepted account is Christie persuaded Beryl he could perform an abortion, murdering her and the child while Evans was at work. Peter says: “That night it was very violent. Evans came back from the pub and hit her in the face and made her unconscious.
“When she got up in a confused state, he brought in a bit of rope from his van – he admitted this in his statements – and strangled her from behind. That’s shown in the forensic reports.”
Peter says Christie would not have offered an abortion, and there was no evidence of Beryl being gassed, like most of Christie’s other victims.
But Peter believes Christie was aware of the murder well before the police.
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He says: “Evans, I have no doubt, told Christie how he had strangled his wife with a rope.”
Peter thinks Christie couldn’t go to the police because of the two bodies buried in the back garden. He adds: “Two nights later, the sound of Geraldine’s screaming, combined with drink, heightened Evans’s vile temper. He killed the baby by strangling her with a tie.”
Fleeing to his hometown of Merthyr Tydfil, Evans was questioned by his family about the whereabouts of his wife and child.
Peter says: “Evans stormed out. He ended up in a cafe near the police station. He sat there for a while, then he headed into the station.” Evans confessed to the killings, but there were claims his statements read like police manipulated him into a confession.
But Peter says: “Evans knew too much for an innocent man. He was volunteering information about where the bodies were and how his wife and daughter had been strangled.”
Evans withdrew his confession, claiming he had been protecting Christie. But he went on trial in 1950, and Christie was the prosecution’s star witness.
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Evans was found guilty. He appealed but to avail. Three years later, Christie moved out of his flat and after a new tenant complained about the smell, there were more grim discoveries.
The bodies of Kathleen Maloney, Rita Nelson and Hectorina Maclennan were in a papered-over alcove in the kitchen.
Christie’s wife, Ethel, was buried under the floorboards, and the two women were discovered in the back garden.
“When they said Christie murdered these women, I couldn’t believe it,” Peter says. “He was like a real uncle to me.”
Christie’s lawyers decided the best chance of avoiding the death penalty was to prove insanity and that the best strategy was to claim he killed as many as possible, including Beryl. But he never confessed to murdering the baby.
This defence failed and Christie was hanged in 1953. The outcry over Evans’ execution helped suspend then abolish the death penalty.
After a long campaign, the Home Office awarded the Evans family compensation in 2003 and ruled Beryl “was most probably murdered by Christie”.
The story has been dramatised several times but Peter says none have come close to portraying what went on.
Peter hopes his extraordinary book will “open people’s eyes”.
“My life and my family was destroyed, my sister and niece’s lives cut short by Timothy Evans,” he says.
“Geraldine would’ve been 71, Beryl would be 90, I loved them to pieces.
"The dates of their deaths are days when I pause, reflect and remember two very special people.”
Get 10% off Inside 10 Rillington Place by Peter Thorley (RRP £8.99, published by Mirror Books this week) with offer code R10. Call 01256 302699 or order at mirrorbooks.co.uk. Free P&P on orders over £15.
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