Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast #56 - The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place - Part Nine (Hectorina MacLennan)
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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-Six: On Friday 6th March 1953, 27 year old mother-of-two Hectorina MacLennan went missing from Ladbroke Grove having spent the last three nights staying at a new friend’s house with her boyfriend, Alex. Little did anyone know, that she was the ninth and final victim of British serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie.
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Ep56 – The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place – Part Nine - Hectorina MacKay MacLennan
INTRO: Fate. A series of uncontrollable events which lead our lives in a very different direction to the one we had planned, and whether it is guided by God’s will, supernatural power or simply chance, fate drives us towards a new destiny, a future that feels unwritten, but it’s the way our life is meant to be.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, pitfalls and potholes, and no matter how hard we strive to succeed with even the simplest of tasks, nothing is ever easy, as fate throws us a dirty curve, forcing us into impossible situations, and testing our health, wealth, skills and sanity.
Fate may seem unfair; it makes the useless famous, the ignorant important and the rude respected; with no rhyme nor reason, and then – sometimes – it forces two strangers together, for the sole reason that one is destined to become a serial killer and the other to become their prey.
By the beginning of 1953, a decade after his killing spree began, Reg Christie had nothing; he was penniless, starving and ill, trapped in a lonely flat, surrounded by his souvenirs, memories and eight bodies; with two in his garden, two in the alcove, one under the floor, two in a cemetery, a decapitated head in a mortuary, and an innocent man executed by the state for the murders that Reg Christie had committed. And yet, with his sadistic urges growing, he prowled the cafes of West London looking for his final victim… but they would never have met had fate not forced them together.
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 nine of the full, true and untold story of The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place.
SCRIPT: Today, I’m standing outside of what is locally known as The Hammersmith Apollo at 45 Queen Caroline Street in Hammersmith, W6; a ten minute stroll from Peter’s Snack Bar at 240 Goldhawk Road and Reg’s former employer at British Road Services, and three tube stops south from Rillington Place.
Although its current incarnation is as the Eventim Apollo (a name which no-one calls it), having also been the Carling Apollo, the AEG Apollo and the Labatt’s Apollo, The Hammersmith Apollo was built in 1932 as Gaumont Palace; a three and a half thousand seat cinema and theatre, three stories high, two hundred feet wide, with curved art-deco columns and its original Compton pipe organ. Ooh.
As one of London’s premiere music venues which hosted a wealth of musical legends; outside, every night, you’ll spy long-lines of fans; whether a gloom of goths (all trying to look individual but identically dressed), a rabble of rockers (who assume “rock n roll” means to smell like cheap cider and cheesy wotsits), a sleaze of fat old men all squeezed into Ziggy Stardust Lycra onesies, a drone of ten year olds all wearing Ramones t-shirts (with no idea they’re a band, not a clothing brand) and a flush of middle-aged women all drooling over their boyband crushes who’ve recently reformed to cover the cost of their hip-replacements, false teeth, wigs, corsets, butt-tucks, moobs reductions and colostomy bags.
And yet, it was here, outside of the Gaumont Palace, that 27 year old Hectorina MacLennan would meet Reg Christie; two unlikely strangers who fate had forced together (interstitial).
Great plumes of steam formed as his warm breath hit the cold winter air, and as a constant stream of condensation ran down the dirty bedroom window and dripped onto the cold wooden floor, his one comfort was Judy (his mongrel dog) who shivered beside him; all cold, lean and hungry.
The room was empty, the walls were bare; the bed and mattress were gone. Having abruptly resigned from a well-paying job at British Road Services a few days before he murdered his wife and struggling to survive on benefits of £2 and 14 shillings a week, he had pawned Ethel’s possessions, sold most his furniture to Robert J Hookway for £12, and now, being a stone lighter and three shades paler, fifty-four year old Reg Christie slept on a thick pile of old clothes.
For the umpteenth time that night, Reg winced in pain, as the lumps and bumps of his makeshift bed played merry-hell with his fibrisitis and his tossing and turning contorted his dicky-tummy into knots. Huffing with discomfort, Reg slunk into his kitchen and warmed his frozen fingers by the tiny flickering fire having used the last few clumps of coal in his scuttle, as - with a series of aahs, ouches and oohs – Reg slowly lowered himself into the deck-chair; his striped pyjamas torn and his slippers tatty.
Being weak, hungry, ill and six months away from death, Reg should have been focussed on food, sleep and medicine, but as he sat beside the kitchen alcove, with his sinuses raddled by a winter cold, still his stuffy nostrils stung with acrid stench of strong disinfectant as the corpses of Rita Nelson and Kathleen Maloney rotted barely a few feet away, as his insatiable urges grew deeper and darker.
And although, in his trembling hands, he held a small metal tin of Lewis & Burrows ‘Gees Linctus’ Pastilles, having eaten every lozenge, slowly he felt better as he leered inside the box, and grinned.
By most accounts, Hectorina MacKay MacLennan was a good woman. Being born on 18th February 1926 just before The Great Depression, between the austerity of two World Wars and raised in Grovepark Street (a tough part of Glasgow), life was hard, but blessed with two supportive parents (William and Marion), three protective brothers (Robert, Donald and John) and two loving sisters (Benjamina and Annie), no matter what life threw at her, she would thrive and survive.
Known as ‘Ina’, Hectorina dreamed of marriage and babies, eager to mirror her own parents by being a good mum, with a proud dad, a stable home and a family who stuck together through thick and thin.
With a light Glaswegian lilt, a youthful face and being five foot four inches tall, although her cigarette-stained fingers often shook with bouts of anxiety and her slightly crossed-eyes gave the impression she was simple, Ina was a sharp cookie who - being sturdily built - was no push-over.
So, as a woman from a strong family living 340 miles away in Scotland, who was naturally cautious, morally decent and was never too proud to ask for help, although she had a limited education, no skills and would live a life reliant on a husband; with no criminal record, drug or drink issues and no history of sex-work, there was no reason (at all) why Ina and Reg should ever have met… but they did.
In 1941, aged 15, Ina was living with a handsome Burmese serviceman called Khin Muang Sou Hla (Kin Mahng So Hwa) who was posted at RAF Middle Wallop in Portsmouth, as part of No 10 RAF Group, defending the south coast of England from the onslaught of Nazi bombers during World War Two.
As a military wife, although life on the base was routine and drab, with an endless procession of meals to make, uniforms to starch, boots to polish and a baby daughter called Marion to raise, unlike in the big city, here she was protected, well-fed, debt-free and happy. Ina had everything she ever wanted; a home, a husband, a baby, a bed, food, money, warmth and love. Life was good.
In 1948, Ina’s parents (William and Marion) and her siblings (Robert, Donald, Benjamina and Annie, all except John who had joined the Navy) moved from Glasgow to 153 Warwick Road in Earls’ Court (West London). With Khin being posted to Cardiff in Wales, to give her eight year old daughter more stability, Ina moved in with her parents… two and a half miles south of Rillington Place.
To supplement her income, between 17th April to 3rd June 1950 Ina worked as an usherette at the Imperial Cinema at 191 Portabello Road… two streets east of Rillington Place… and as a part-time waitress in several unnamed cafes in Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush and Ladbroke Grove.
On 12th October 1950, being five months pregnant with her second child, Ina and Khin were married and on 24th January 1951 Julie Anna was born. It should have been the happiest year of Ina’s life, but with his career blooming, their relationship strained and their new baby being white and western, not being mixed-race like Marion, at the end of 1951, Khin had returned to Burma and Ina didn’t join him.
She could have… but she didn’t.
Ina was a single-mother with two young children and an estranged husband overseas who no longer supported them, so she lived on handouts from the National Assistance Board. And although she stayed under her parent’s roof, surrounded by siblings and worked for eighteen months as a nanny to Alex & Florence Baker’s four year old child, a wage of just £1 per day simply wasn’t enough to survive.
In October 1952, eager to make a better life for Julie Anna and Marion, her parents moved out of the smog, grim and decay of the big city and headed to Achnasheen in the Highlands of Scotland; a tranquil village amidst the rolling hills, bubbling streams and the crisp fresh air, but Ina didn’t join them.
She could have… but she didn’t.
And with her husband gone, her children gone and her family gone, lacking any purpose, she sunk into a deep depression and fate pushed her into the path of Reg Christie (interstitial).
(Christie’s whisper) “I met a couple coming out of a café in Hammersmith, if I remember rightly. They said they had been thrown out of their digs and stayed for a few days. A few days later, the girl came back alone. I advised her not to. She was very funny about it. I got hold of her arm to try and push her out. She started struggling and some of her clothing got torn. She sort of fell limp as I had hold of her. She sank to the ground and I think some of her clothes caught around her neck in the struggle. I tried to lift her up, but couldn’t. I then pulled her onto a deck-chair. I felt her pulse, but it wasn’t beating”.
The last nine weeks of Ina’s life are a bit of a mystery, but this is what we know.
Without warning, on 1st January 1953, Ina vanished from 153 Warwick Road. Reported missing at Kensington Police Station, she was tracked down and returned home. But by the 2nd February, she had disappeared. That was the last time her siblings saw her, and they stated she had no reason to leave.
Depressed, single and gripped by loneliness, Ina had eloped with 41 year old unemployed truck-driver, ex-convict (with two criminal convictions for car theft and loitering with intent) and married father-of-one called Alexander Pomeroy Baker, whose four year old child Ina used to babysit for £1 a day.
Although happily married to his wife of sixteen years with five kids and a house in nearby Pembroke Place, over Christmas, Dorothy uncovered the affair, she booted her husband out and Alex and Ina moved into a furnished flat at 4 Oldham Road, not far from Ladbroke Grove.
Ina was desperate for a return to the happy family life she had lost, but with spats frequent and money tight their love-nest was short-lived, and two weeks later, Alex moved back in with his wife and kids.
Over the next few weeks, being too broke for a Bed & Breakfast, Ina slept rough; whether crashing on friend’s floors, dossing in doorways or huddling in the passageway of her former boyfriend’s home.
At the end of January, Ina was spotted in Holland Park by 40 year old Frank Ernest Collyer, known as Ron; an old friend and a criminal with five convictions for burglary who (Ina had confessed to Reverend Arthur Shaw) that he was the real father of her daughter Julie Anne. Shocked at how awful Ina looked, with matted hair, broken nails and a dirty face, both being broke and with nowhere to stay, they slept rough, lived off the proceeds of his crimes… and (it is implied) that Ina turned to prostitution.
Valentine’s Day 1953. In the All-Night Milk Bar in Notting Hill Gate, Ron and Ina were supping cups of tea when Ina’s face flushed red, as across the counter, a small, bald and bespectacled man stared at her. Visibly shaken, Ina said “I think he knows were talking about him, he’s a chap I had some trouble with, he gave me an unpleasant time”. And yet, with Ron beside her, the man never spoke to her or approached her. One month later, Ron would identify the man in the All-Night Milk Bar as Reg Christie.
On 18th February 1953, Ina’s 27th birthday, having demanded cash in exchange for the safe of return of property he had burgled from a house in Acton, Ron was arrested in Hyde Park and Ina fled. Being sought by the Police and with Ron in Brixton Prison, feeling unsafe as a single woman, Ina went back to Pembroke Place and once again – Alex deserted his wife and five kids – and ran away with Ina.
From Sunday 22nd February, across the next ten days, Ina & Alex stayed at the home of Ivor Elliot, a friend of Alex’s at 35 Hetley Road, W12 (a road between Shepherd’s Bush and Goldhawk Road). Having out-stayed their welcome, on Monday 2nd March, Ina visited Reverend Arthur Shaw at the Hinde Street Methodist Church, W1 and asked for help, but he turned her away. And although she still had Alex to protect her, once again, Ina was homeless, penniless, depressed… and pregnant. (Interstitial)
(Christie) ”Not very long after that, I met a couple coming out of a café in Hammersmith, if I remember rightly. The man went across the road to talk to a friend and while he was away she said they had to give up their digs at the weekend. Then I told her that if they hadn’t found anywhere I could put them up. They both came and stayed for a few days. When they left the man asked that if they couldn’t find anywhere, could they come back for the night. I agreed to help them out. The girl came back alone”.
At least, that was Reg’s version.
On Friday 27th February 1953, outside of the Gaumont Palace, having spied the couple through the window of an unnamed café, eave-dropped on their chat and waited until the female was alone, Reg approached Ina and made her an offer. By the time Alex had returned, Reg was gone.
As agreed, on Tuesday 3rd March 1953 at 7:30pm, Reg waited for Ina outside of Ladbroke Grove tube station, his hopes were high having lured her here with the promise of a place to stay, but upon seeing that she was accompanied by Alex, his face turned to thunder, as Reg bemoaned “I told you not to tell anyone about the flat, not even your husband, I don’t want lots of people making enquiries”.
Alex had scuppered Reg’s plan to get Ina alone, and being taller, younger and fitter, he knew the burly man could easily overpower him, but being so close to his prize and feeling intellectually superior to the 40 year old truck-driver, Reg knew he needed to drive them apart, so he could have Ina to himself.
Having mellowed, Reg gave the homeless couple a brief tour of 10 Rillington Place. It wasn’t ideal; the flat smelt bad, the tenant was a stranger, almost all the doors were locked, it had only one bed made from an old pile women’s clothes and the 12 shillings and 9 pence a week rent was too pricey, but being a Good Samaritan, Reg offered them a place to stay for a few nights.
Alex was unsure; he didn’t like Reg, he didn’t trust Reg and the feeling was mutual, so having thanked him for the offer, Alex and Ina left Rillington Place and headed back to Ivor Elliot’s in Hetley Road.
With the rain heavy, the streets dark and the wind icy cold, they arrived back hoping to dry off by the fire, nab a bite to eat and nod-off together on the sofa, but with Ivor not wanting to be rudely awoken at the midnight hour again, with door was bolted shut, the couple were locked out.
They had two choices; sleep rough on the cold street or head back to the warmth of Rillington Place.
Arriving at roughly 2am, although he wasn’t expecting them, being dressed in his torn striped pyjamas and tatty slippers, a sleepy Reg welcomed them in and (by all accounts) was pleasant and hospitable. Having no spare beds or sofa; with Ina in the deck-chair, Alex on the stool and Reg perched on the coal scuttle, slowly drying by the warmth of the fire, as they sat, chatted and drank tea.
And there they stayed for three nights, guests of Reg Christie, and yet, only one of them was welcome.
On Friday 6th March 1953, at 9:30am, with his rations ran out, money short and needing to sign-on; Reg, Ina & Alex left Rillington Place and went to the National Assistance Board by Goldhawk Road. For whatever reason, Ina agreed to meet Reg back at his flat at 12pm, she didn’t say why. She agreed to meet Alex in an unnamed café on Uxbridge Road at 3pm, but she never showed-up. And having returned to Rillington Place, Reg re-assured him she wasn’t here, showed him the rooms, offered him a cup of tea as he sat in the deck-chair barely feet from the alcove, and feigning concern, Reg spent the next few hours with Alex conducting a fruitless search of Shepherd’s Bush to find Ina… who Reg knew was already dead.
(Christie) “…she sort of fell limp, as I had hold of her. She sank to the ground and I think some of her clothing must have got caught around her neck in the struggle. I must have strangled her and had sex with her, but I can’t recall, then I must have put her in the alcove”.
At least, that was Reg’s version.
After almost a decade of trial and error, Reg had perfected his murder technique to a fine art. With Ina reclined in his deck-chair, although the fire was off, the window was open and the kitchen was bitterly cold, she didn’t feel uneasy or unnerved as she sat and calmly chatted to Reg, as underneath her seat a long rubber hose lay, as in his hand Reg excitedly fingered a length of rope.
Alex was gone, Ina was alone and – soon – she would be his.
Being barely lunchtime, it didn’t matter that she refused his offer of an alcoholic drink to make her more malleable. Being relatively healthy, it didn’t matter that he had no reason to use the square glass jar of Friar’s Balsam, he would do without. And with the truth of her pregnancy being uncertain, there is no evidence whether an attempted abortion took place, but then again, there wasn’t with Beryl.
Eager to end her life and to rape her corpse; as he had done with several other women, Reg slowly reached behind the kitchen curtain to unhook the bulldog clip on the long rubber hose and unleash a lethal level of invisible/odourless gas… only this time, Ina saw, panicked and screamed.
Desperate to silence her, Reg dived on top of the flailing woman and pinned her down deep into the deck-chair as she punched, kicked and spat with every ounce of strength, and being a sturdily built woman who was no push-over, Ina was more than a match for this feeble fifty-four year old weakling who weighed barely ten stone, and held his breath for fear of being rendered unconscious by the gas. And the more he struggled, the more she fought back.
But unlike Ina, Reg had been here before, with Beryl, and having punched Ina hard in the face, as he grabbed his strangling rope and pulled both ends tight, after a minute of fitting and flailing, as her pale skin ruptured red, her nostrils frothed with bloody spit and her hazel eyes bulged out of their sockets, as her last ever breath slowly left her lungs, within a minute, Ina was dead.
He stripped her, raped her, tied her ankles and hands, and dragged her semi-clad corpse into the damp cramped alcove. Dressed in only a blue bra and pink suspenders - with Rita Nelson and Kathleen Maloney ahead of her and no space to lay her down - sitting her upright, on her knees and with her back to the door, he tied her bra around a ceiling hook, so strangely it looked like she was praying. And just like the two other bodies in front of her, her knickers were missing… as was her pubic hair.
To the best of our knowledge, John Reginald Halliday Christie had murdered eight different women over one decade, all at 10 Rillington Place; Ruth Fuerst, Murial Eady, Beryl Evans, Geraldine Evans, Ethel Christie, Rita Nelson, Kathleen Maloney and Hectorina MacLennan, with Timothy Evans executed for the crimes that he had committed. And yet, although suspected, he had never been caught.
By Thursday 19th March 1953 - with a trunk full of dead women’s clothes, two bodies buried in the back garden, one rotting under the floorboards, three festering in the alcove, an unholy smell emanating from the drains, a thigh bone holding up his garden fence, a decapitated skull in Kensington Mortuary and several personal items belonging to his victims having been casually tossed out with the rubbish, along with a small metal tin of Lewis & Burrows ‘Gees Linctus’ Pastilles – although Reg could have, he didn’t dispose of the bodies, or destroy any evidence.
Instead, having nailed the alcove door shut, crudely wallpapered over the cracks and sold anything of value at the pawn shops; being two months behind with his rent and practically penniless; dressed in a fawn raincoat, he rented out his flat, packed-up his brown suitcase and with Judy on her lead, Reg Christie disappeared into the night… never to return to 10 Rillington Place.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
If you enjoyed parts one to nine of this ten part series, the concluding part of The Other Side of 10 Rillington Place continues next Thursday, with an omnibus edition one week later, as well as a final farewell episode of Murder Mile to mark the end of the series and the podcast. But before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week; which are Wives Tales and 38 Times Podcast. (PLAY PROMO)
If my last few sentences have surprised you, and you don’t listen to Extra Mile, it’s worth listening to last week’s show, or checking out my social media pages, as it was on here that I announced the end of this podcast. It’s been a good run, but sadly all good things must come to an end. But don’t unsubscribe just yet, as I’m working on several new podcasts, and they will be announced here.
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 tor 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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