Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast #50 - The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place - Part Three (Beryl Susanna Evans)
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Welcome to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within one square mile of the West End.
EPISODE FIFTY: On 8th November 1949, 20 year old Beryl Susanna Evans, a married mother-of-one who lived in the second floor flat at 10 Rillington Place, died following a suspected suicide attempt after a series of failed abortions, and yet, her husband Timothy Evans would be arrested for her murder. But was this a suicide, a murder, or was she the third victim of the infamous British serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie. This is part three of the full, true and untold story of The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place.
Ep50 – The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place – Part Three (Beryl Susanna Evans)
INTRO: One of the most powerful words in the world is home. It’s the place we all feel safe, secure, happy and comfortable, and no matter where we end up, it’s where we all return to. Home can be anywhere; a country, a county, a town, a street, a house, a room, a bed, or simply a state of mind, where we’re surrounded by the things we like and the people we love, often called a family.
A family can be anyone; parents, siblings, offspring, friends, colleagues or neighbours, a network, a group or a single person, as family is not about blood-ties or lineage, it’s about trust. And for all of us, no matter who we are or what our life becomes, we all seek a family and a home.
By 1949, the Second World War was over; and although, it is said, that the allies won, in truth, we had all lost; with millions dead, countries in ruins, homes destroyed and families shattered. The Blitz was now a distant memory, the blackout was off and with thousands of the city’s civilians missing, although many were still mourned, some were forgotten.
Two of those missing were an Austrian refugee called Ruth Fuerst and an East London orphan called Muriel Eady. And having been strangled and raped by an unassuming little man called John Reginald Halliday Christie, their bodies lay undisturbed in two shallow graves in a small back garden in Ladbroke Grove. Their deaths weren’t deemed suspicious, murder was never mentioned, and with no witnesses, no sightings and with no-one suspecting him, his killing spree had stopped.
Reg Christie hadn’t killed in five years. It was almost as if those old strange urges had gone. But all that changed in the spring of 1949, when the second floor flat became vacant, and (in need of a good home and a loving family) his next victim walked into 10 Rillington Place. Some of what follows is based on the killer’s own memories and perspective; so what part of this story is true… is up to you.
My name is Michael. I am your tour-guide. This is Murder Mile. And I present to you; part three of the full, true and untold story of The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place.
SCRIPT: Today, I’m standing on St Mark’s Road in Ladbroke Grove; a street vital to our story, but after decades of haphazard redevelopment, only a few fragments of these key locations still exist. One street east is what remains of David Griffin’s Refreshment Room and the Kensington Park Hotel, but on this street alone, 11 St Mark’s Road was demolished, 133 St Mark’s Road was rebuilt and the side-street formerly known as Rillington Place has been completely eviscerated.
It’s a classic example of post-war inner-city design, where a cash-strapped council with homes to build, but no plan, money or map, dumps a jumbled mishmash of architectural monstrosities onto a grid and says “yeah, that’s do”. So with no grassland, ponds or parks, having nowhere to play, from every bedroom echoes the incessant bleep of games consoles as rows of portly pasty prepubescents enter a fantasy world where they imagine what it’s like to stand-up, to move and even to talk. Wow!
Except, once a day, as each parent pushes their unsightly waddling sprog into the street to burn-off a delightful tea of Pot Noodle, chicken dippers and blue-fizzy drink. And as the fat pasty spawn wobbles into reality, winces at the sight of natural light and wheezes because they’re upright - having been told to “get away from your bloody computer” – they stare at their bike (wondering where they plug it in), their football (searching for how they turn it on) and their legs (querying who ordered them and how they can get a refund?) Only to huff, grunt, fart and start playing on their phones; heads down, eyes open, world gone. But - to be honest - that could be a description of literally anywhere.
And although some sites are still here, like the tube-line and the A40 flyover, with 10 Rillington Place now a memorial garden, and the skyline overshadowed by the blackened shell of the Grenfell Tower where seventy-two people lost their lives, this whole street is tinged with sadness and tragedy.
And yet, it was here, in the spring of 1949, that nineteen year old Beryl Thorley believed she had found herself a good home, a loving family… and a kindly neighbour. (Interstitial)
Beryl Susanna Thorley was born on 19th Sept 1929 in Lewisham Hospital (South London), to William, a petrol pump attendant for the London General Omnibus Company and Elizabeth, a housekeeper.
Raised during The Great Depression - as the stock markets crashed, currencies devalued and the world descended into economic chaos – being a middle-aged working-class couple living a hand-to-mouth existence in a tiny rented flat, this probably wasn’t the best time to start a family. And yet, even though the Thorley’s had three children in very quick succession, they lived an unremarkable life; with no highs nor lows, no joys nor tragedies, just the ordinary struggles of a very average family.
Barely keeping their heads above water, from year-to-year the Thorley’s plodded on, moving from job-to-job, flat-to-flat and bill-to-bill, with nowhere to really call home. And lacking any real warmth, love or affection, only the tired routine of meals, baths and bed-time, they didn’t feel like a family.
As the eldest of three, although Beryl was a pretty petite girl with bright twinkling eyes, soft fair hair, a button-nose and an angelic smile; being eager to regain her rightful place as the ‘baby of the family’ - having been usurped by her baby brother Basil and swiftly shoved-aside by her little sister Patricia – Beryl’s beauty belied a stroppy temper, an awkward stubbornness and a child-like immaturity.
Having uprooted several times in as many years, from Lewisham to Clapham to Hammersmith; as war was declared, the Thorley’s moved into the top floor flat at 112 Cambridge Gardens in Ladbroke Grove, just off St Mark’s Road, and situated on the other side of the tube-line, opposite Rillington Place.
So, except for their daily disputes, sibling rivalry and the dull thud as Nazi bombs pockmarked the city, life was pretty uneventful. That is, until the late winter of 1947, when Beryl’s mother passed away.
It was a tragedy which split the fractured family even further, and with her siblings packing-up and her father moving to Brighton (where he would remain like a distant relative for the rest of her life), with no home, no family and being in the grip of grief, Beryl’s life could have collapsed…
…but a few months prior, 17 year old Beryl Thorley had met and fallen in love with 22 year old Timothy Evans; a small handsome Welshman with a thick mop of dark hair, a childish sense of fun, a very vivid imagination, a steady job as a lorry-driver and a deep desire to become a good dad.
And in a whirlwind romance - having met on a blind date in January, become engaged by March and having tied the knot in September - shortly afterwards the newly married Beryl Evans moved in with her husband Tim into his mother’s three-storey townhouse at nearby 11 St Mark’s Road.
Surrounded by a loving family - with (Thomasina) his mother treating her like a daughter, (Penry) his step-father protecting her like she was his own, being blessed with two sisters-in-law (Eleanor and Mary) and a close extended family including Uncle Cornelius & Auntie Violet in the Welsh mining town of Merthyr Vale – within the year, Beryl had a family, a husband, a home and was blissfully happy.
(Wind) It had been a cold cruel winter, and with the snowdrops shrivelled and the daffodils struggling, Reg’s much-loved rose bush was little more than a tangle of dead vines and jagged thorns. His back garden didn’t provide much privacy or space being just twelve feet long by ten feet wide with a five foot brick wall on both sides and surrounded by two long lines of terraced houses, but as a little dot of bright colour on a drab grey landscape, this was his sanctuary.
With Judy doing some digging of her own, as Reg dug his spade into the hard soil, he winced. The 51 year old’s back was riddled by fibrisitis and with his stomach plagued by daily bouts of diarrhea, he’d given up driving for Ultra Electrics and was now a desk-bound clerk at the Post Office Savings Bank.
As he exhaled painfully, Reg pulled from the soil a milky white stick, all smooth like it had been stripped of bark, but it was oddly broken and brittle. As Ethel exited the washhouse, she mumbled “tea’s up Reg”, but he barely heard her, instead he just nodded, staring at the stick perplexed.
Something was missing from Reg’s life; he loved his garden, he liked his dog, his job was tolerable and his marriage was… fine, but nothing excited him anymore, it was as if something inside him had died.
(Echo - “I knew I wanted her, the Eady woman”). As Reg stroked the bone-white stick in his hand, a flash of recollection widened his eyes. (Echo – “she were different from the others, you know, quiet-like”). Being eager to please her master, as Judy burrowed deeper into the soil, she too unearthed something pale, brittle and broken. (Echo – “so it had to be a really clever murder, much cleverer than the first”). But times had changed, the war was over and Reg had killed in almost five years. (End wind)
The newly-wed Mrs Beryl Evans lived at Tim’s mother’s house at 11 St Mark’s Road for one and a half years, squeezed into the second-floor back-bedroom. With it being a busy family home with a mum, a dad, two sisters, Beryl and Tim, with two tenants on the top floor, although they lived comfortably, for a lusty young lad with a blushing new bride, it lacked privacy - but for now, it was enough.
Beryl & Tim were very much kindred spirits; being small, pretty and fun, they bonded quickly. But just like Beryl, Tim’s sweetness belied a stroppy temper, a stubbornness and a child-like immaturity. And with both love-birds being tetchy and fiery - with their fights formed of feet stamped, things thrown and a few choice words, they both “gave as good as they got” - the only real friction caused as Tim’s mum would always take Beryl’s side in any dispute, branding her own son “a terrible liar”.
So by all-accounts, Beryl & Tim Evans were just a very normal couple of young kids, who were recently married, testing the waters and finding their feet, in a family which was about to expand.
On 14th October 1948, in the Queen Charlotte Hospital, Beryl gave birth to a beautiful baby girl - a tiny tot with sparkling eyes, rosy cheeks and a hot-temper, and just like her parents she was a little handful. But to Beryl & Tim she was perfect, and with their family complete, they named her Geraldine.
Being showering with gifts, love and support from an extended family, Geraldine had everything, and with two proud and doting parents to cuddle her, life was good. But as the baby grew, the small beck bedroom seemed to shrink, so needing more space, Beryl & Tim began looking for a flat of their own.
(Wind) With the sky bruised, clouds looming and the distant rumble of thunder, Reg stood in his back garden, clutching the milky-white skull of Muriel Eady. Reg was in a real quandary; for safety’s sake he knew should either bury it, smash it or burn it, and although half a length of her thigh bone neatly propped up his broken fence, that could easily be mistaken for a stick, where-as a skull’s a skull? Reg knew he had to make the right choice, and besides, he didn’t need those… urges.
And as a tube train thundered-by, seated by the window, Joan Vincent spotted an advert in a second-floor window, it simply read “flat to let”. Fortuitously, it was cheap, local and would perfectly suit her old school friend and their new baby. The flat was at 10 Rillington Place. (Interstitial)
On 24th March 1949, with their bags packed, spirits high and a new furniture set paid for by Thomasina; Beryl, Tim and Geraldine moved into their first flat on the second floor of 10 Rillington Place.
It wasn’t a great flat; as the stairs were a nightmare to navigate with the pram, it was heated and lit by gas only, and having just a bedroom and a kitchen, the only bathroom was a communal washhouse and lavatory outback. But with a rent of just twelve shillings a week, being located one minute from Thomasina, and with the other tenants being an elderly widower on the first floor called Mr Kitchener and a lovely couple on the ground-floor called Mr & Mrs Christie - (Christie’s whisper) “I prefer it if you call me Reg” - keen for their own space, Beryl snapped it up and her family home was complete.
Beryl & Tim liked the Christie’s. They were very old-fashioned. Raised with Victorian standards, they were polite, moral and kind, and keeping the house orderly with strict rules and curfews, even though they dispensed advice to newly-weds, as a couple, they rarely spoke and never kissed or hugged.
As a portly lady in her early fifties, Ethel Christie was a neat quiet homebody who lived in her husband’s shadow, and although she was clearly loving, warm and deeply maternal, with no children of her own, Ethel’s eyes only lit-up was when Beryl let he hold the baby. And with Reg having a fatherly quality, who was kind, caring and patient; having been an ex-Special Constable, an injured war-hero and with a wide knowledge of medicine, she knew that Reg was experienced, trusted and knowledgeable. For Beryl, having the Christie’s nearby was like being blessed with a second set of parents.
For the first few months, as a new mum and dad, life was a struggle; but with Thomasina just one street away, the Christie’s only two floors down and although Tim was burdened by a low IQ, a bad lung, a disabled foot and being almost totally illiterate, with money coming in, for a while, they coped.
But being kindred spirits, what brought Beryl & Tim together, also drove them apart; as having stroppy tempers, an awkward stubbornness and a child-like immaturity, with Tim being a “terrible liar” and Beryl still acting like “the baby of the house” (even though she now had a baby of her own), neither of them were grown-ups, instead they were just children trapped in an adult’s world.
On 11th July 1949, Tim started work as a delivery driver for Continental Wine House in Edgware Road, on the modest wage of £7 per week, but having falsely claimed that Geraldine was gravely ill, he asked for £3 in advance, £7 to cover a doctor’s bill and a further loan of £10, all in just two weeks, and with his employer regarding his work as “unsatisfactory”, by the 25th Tim was sacked, and didn’t tell Beryl.
Being secretly unemployed for several weeks, Tim kept up the pretence, and as the bills piled up, never once did he miss a boozy session with the boys at the Kensington Park Hotel (known as KPH), and yet, he always lost his temper if Beryl had a night-out with the girls and left him at home with the baby.
Feeling shut-in, lonely and desperate, as Beryl struggled with the demands of motherhood; the dirty dishes piled up, the meals went uncooked and the flat became squalid. And although she wasn’t a bad mum, being so depressed, although Thomasina would always baby-sit on Saturdays, it wasn’t just to give Beryl a break, but as an excuse to give Geraldine a much-needed bath and to wash her clothes.
And still, as well as the young couple were being supported by friends and family, with their lies, debts and jealousy mounting, Beryl & Tim’s arguments became more frequent, fiery and violent. The worst having occurred at the end of August 1949, just three months before Beryl’s death.
With money tight, Beryl feeling low and Tim due to start a well-paying managerial job at de Havilland’s Air Lines in Hatfield, twenty miles north of London; on Friday 19th August, they took in a lodger - 17 year old Lucy Endicott - who provided a little extra income and kept Beryl company whilst Tim was away. So, with his best suit cleaned, a fresh shirt ironed, his shoes polished and his suitcase packed, being ready to leave on the early morning train, Tim slept by the kitchen fire whilst Beryl and Lucy slept in the bedroom with Geraldine in the cot. But the next night, Tim returned.
As always, Thomasina was right and Beryl’s instincts were spot-on, Tim was a “terrible liar”. And having telephoned de Havilland’s, they quickly confirmed that there was no job, no wage and no record of a Timothy Evans. Being heartbroken, furious and unable to look him in the eye, Beryl’s anger festered.
One week later, on the evening of Sunday 28th August, having been out to the cinema, as Beryl & Lucy hopped off the bus by David Griffin’s Refreshment Room, stood outside of the KPH public house, being a few pounds poorer and a few pints heavier, they saw Tim waiting.
Their bitter screams echoed all the way down Lancaster Road, St Mark’s Road and right into Rillington Place; with every house-light turning on as Tim snapped “I’ll give you a good hiding for going to the pictures and leaving the baby”, each curtain twitching as Beryl barked “I told you I was going out” and every wireless silenced as Tim spat “that doesn’t make any difference, your place is at home, just you wait till I get you inside”, as he slammed the front door shut of 10 Rillington Place, and once again, the neighbouring streets were treated to yet another furious fight between The Evans’.
In the proceeding trial, the following incident was reported to the police as witnessed by Mrs Hyde on Lancaster Road, Mrs Swan at 9 Rillington Place, and The Christie’s on the ground-floor.
Gone were their petty childish squabbles and their tit-for-tat tantrums, as with The Evans’ relationship irrevocably split, their silly spats had descended into physical assaults. And as Tim slapped Beryl’s face hollering “I’ll bloody do you in, I will”, Beryl grabbed a bread-knife. To protect himself, seeing how Beryl was precariously perched, Tim screamed “I’ll push you through the bloody window”, only for Lucy to trip-up hot-tempered Tim, as he threatened her, squealing “I’ll smash her up and run her over in my van”. Of course, whether the five-foot five-inch fiery liar actually would or could is debatable.
Thankfully, before anyone was badly hurt, the fight was broken-up by Thomasina; Lucy was asked to leave, Tim cooled off, Beryl calmed down, and a full statement was made to the Police.
(Christie’s whisper) “The next day Beryl told my wife she was going to get a separation. My wife and I agreed that - if she needed us to - we would adopt the baby. It were then, at a later date that Beryl told me she were going to make an end of it. In short, she were going to commit suicide”.
With their relationship straining at the seams; being riddled with debts, jealousy and lies; and devoid of love, trust or patience; the more Tim slugged back the drink, the further Beryl fell into depression. And yet, life was about to throw the struggling couple yet another curve-ball… Beryl was pregnant.
But Beryl didn’t want another baby; not now and not with Tim. Confiding in her friend (Joan Vincent) that she wanted to miscarry; with abortions being illegal, dangerous and expensive, as old-fashioned methods like punching herself in the stomach, necking neat gin and overdosing on laxatives, all failed, Beryl risked her own life even further by swallowing poisons like quinine and ergot, syringing herself with glycerine and iodine, and trying to hook the tiny foetus out using a bent coat-hanger.
And with each attempt having failed, as the unwanted baby slowly grew inside her, Beryl Evans became more sickly, pale and withdrawn, as life reached a new low.
And then, on Monday 7th November 1949…
(Christie’s whisper) “I went upstairs and found Mrs Evans in the kitchen, lying on a quilt in front of the fireplace. She had made an attempt to gas herself, from a gas-pipe on the side of the fireplace, and a piece of rubber tubing near her head. I shut it off and when I opened the window she started coming around. I do not know what she said, but a little while after she complained of a headache and I made her a cup of tea. My wife was downstairs but I did not call tell her. Mrs Evans asked me not to”. (End)
The next day, on Tuesday 8th November 1949…
(Christie’s whisper) “I went upstairs again, I think it was about lunch time. She still intended to do away with herself and begged of me to help her. She said she would do anything if I agreed. I think she was referring to letting me be intimate with her. She brought the quilt from the bedroom and put it down in front of the fireplace. I got on my knees but found I was not physically capable of having intercourse with her owing to my fibrisitus and my dicky tummy. I turned on the gas tap and as near as I can make out, I held it close to her face. When she became unconscious I turned the tap off. I was going to try and have intercourse with her but it was impossible, I couldn’t bend over”. (End)
Later that evening….
(Christie’s whisper) “Tim came home about six o’clock. It was dark. I spoke to him in the passage and told him that his wife had committed suicide, and that she had gassed herself. We went into his kitchen and he touched his wife’s hand, then picked her up and carried her into the bedroom. After Evans lay his wife on the bed, he fetched the quilt from the kitchen and put it over her. I told Evans that no doubt he would be suspected of having done it because of the rows and fights he had with his wife. He seemed to think the same. He said he would bring his van down and leave her somewhere”. (End)
Plagued with guilt; having quit his job, sold his furniture, gone into hiding and repeatedly lied to his family about his wife’s whereabouts, on 30th November 1949 Tim confessed to disposing of Beryl, and with her body being found three days later, on 13th January 1950, faced with overwhelming evidence against him, Timothy John Evans was found guilty… of murder.
Beryl was a pretty, petite but painfully immature young girl from a fractured upbringing who dreamed of nothing but a good home and a loving family. And having got everything she ever wanted, aged just 20 years old, Beryl Susanna Evans was buried in a simple coffin at Gunnersbury Cemetery.
Except, inside her coffin, Beryl wasn’t alone.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
If you enjoyed parts one, two and three, part four of The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place continues next Thursday. And if you’re a murky miler, stay tuned for some dribbly bum-plop after the break, but before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week; which are Murder Under the Midnight Sun and The Hidden Podcast. (PLAY PROMO)
A huge thank you goes out to my new and current Patreon supporters whose kind donations have kept Murder Mile afloat, as last week, my laptop actually went kasplewey (that’s a technical term, probably caused by all the cake crumbs inside) so thanks to them, I was able to fund some emergency repairs. So Murder Mile’s new IT repair team are Dawn Smith, Heather, Kristy McGlew and Jacqueline Wright. You are (as British TV quiz-host Jim Bowen used to say “super smashing great”).
Also a special thank you to Jonny & Sara, and Kristin, who came on a Murder Mile Walk recently and spoiled me with lots of cakey goodies, so if I sound fatter, blame them. Another thank you to everyone who’s purchased Murder Mile mugs from my website (I thank you) but the biggest thank you goes out to everyone who listens to the show. Thank you for listening, it really means a lot to me.
Murder Mile was researched, written and performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Credits: The Murder Mile true-crime podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed by various artists, as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0. A list of tracks used and the links are listed on the relevant transcript blog here.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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