Patreon Episode Link: BONUS CASE #5 – Timothy Evans | Sleuth Be Told on Patreon
For June’s episode, we are getting back into our auditory time machines, and going back to the year 1924. More specifically, November 20th 1924, in the principal area of Merthyr Tydfil, in the county of Glamorgan, in the country of Wales. Which I think we all know, is one of the countries that make up the United Kingdom. So now we know where we are, but why are we there, you may ask.
We are in Wales, on November 20th, 1924 and Timothy John Evans has just been born to Thomasina and Daniel Evans. Now, before Timothy even entered into the world, his father left him and his older sister, Eileen to be raised by their now single mother, Thomasina. Timothy had difficulty speaking, more specifically, learning how to speak. This made his school life harder, because I can’t imagine his classmates were easy on him about it. Then, at age 8, Timothy developed a condition known as tuberculosis verrucosa on his right foot. I googled some pictures and more information on this to find out a little more. And I will show you some of the pictures I found. They are not the prettiest thing to look at, as the tuberculosis verrucosa on his foot looked like a grouping of small papules, or raised bumps, that have the potential to develop into ulcers. These ulcers can heal, but may recur over time. This forced him to miss classes and become even further behind in his studies and speech. Reportedly, Timothy could’t read or write much more than his name. This will be important later on. So, as Breya used to say all the time, let’s “put a pin in it” until later. In order to compensate for his lack of intelligence, Timothy would regularly tell grandiose stories of heroism about himself. Timothy was described by his mother as being “…pretty rough at times. Sometimes he used to wander and he was a bit rough as everybody knows he was backward…if he didn’t get his own way when he was a child he used to kick and scream and if he didn’t want to go he would not go.”
In 1933, Timothy’s mother remarried to a man named Penry Probert. Now, although she married him in 1933, Thomasina and Penry had a child prior to their marriage, a daughter, named Maureen, in September of 1929. There is also mention of another child named, John, that was a step-brother to Timothy, but not much more info on him than that. The family moved back to London in the 1930’s, and while still in school, Timothy took a job as a painter. In 1937, now 13, Timothy went back to Merthyr Tydfil, and started working in the coal mines. But this did not last long, as the bacterial infection on his right foot flared up, so he had to resign and move back home with his family. The family once again moved, this time to St. Mark’s Rd in Notting Hill in 1946. But this Notting Hill is a far cry from the one depicted in the movie of its same name with Julia Roberts. This was post WWII Notting Hill, and many of the brink buildings that used to be very nice single family houses were now subdivided amongst its residents. And, it was not an affluent area at all. Timothy still continued to struggle into his adulthood with literacy & writing, still relying & trusting others to help him with anything that needed reading or writing. In 1946, Timothy was fined 60 shillings for allegedly stealing a car and driving without a license. To put that into perspective, a shilling is less than a penny of American currency, and the UK no longer uses the shilling any longer. So, 60 cents doesn’t sound like much, but to a person who doesn’t really have money, it would have been more cumbersome to have come up with. By this time, Timothy was working as a delivery driver for a produce company, which is quite amicable because he was able to do this job without being able to read street signs or delivery addresses on the orders.
A short time later, in January of 1947, Timothy was set-up on a blind date with a young woman by the name of Beryl Thorley, through a mutual friend. Thorley was 18 at the time, and Timothy 23. They courted one another for about 8 months, and married in September of 1947. Their marriage was anything but a fairy tale. Beryl was also described as not much smarter than Timothy was. She had a job at a local newsagents’ shop. That is until Timothy suspected her of cheating and confronted her and the man she was accused of being flirtatious with at the newsagency. After the scene that was made, she was fired, not surprisingly. And, shortly afterwards she and Timothy found out they were expecting their first baby. There was talk that Timothy may have believed the baby wasn’t his, but nothing more ever really came of that. And, this was something that actually came out of an inquiry that took place a couple years later for a totally different reason. Foreshadowing perhaps?
With the couple now expecting, they decided to move into their own “flat”, aka apartment on the 3rd floor of 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill. The apartment wasn’t much more than 2 rooms, with shared interior hallways & stairwells. There was no indoor plumbing. All of the tenants shared a washhouse in the small backyard, which contained a sink and copper for heating water, and an outdoor toilet beside it. The flats were illuminated by coal gas that was forced into the flats by jets in the wall. The first floor was occupied by a middle-aged married couple, and the 2nd floor was rented by an elderly man, who was currently hospitalized, so it was vacant. Timothy and Beryl welcomed a baby daughter, Geraldine, on October 10th 1948. Having their daughter should have been a joyous time for both parents, but instead it made things more strenuous.
Timothy and Beryl were constantly arguing about something. Many times, it was money, as they didn’t have any, were regularly behind on their rent, and the payments for their rented furniture. Beryl would yell at Timothy for spending the little money they did have on drinking and regularly being drunk. In return, Timothy would get angry with Beryl for not being the level of housekeeper he expected in a marriage. And, their fights were not just verbal. There was also physical domestic violence that occurred regularly, even going back to when they lived with his family. Timothy, on one occasion, while out walking with his wife and mother, got mad at Beryl and struck her. Now, in return his mother slapped him back for doing so. But, their marriage was very tumultuous. So when about a year after the birth of Geraldine, Beryl became pregnant again, they both agreed they could not afford this baby. Beryl wanted to get an abortion. But, abortions were illegal in the UK, so this wasn’t a legal option they could choose. So, what were the Evans’ going to do?
Well, Timothy had befriended his neighbor on the first floor, John Christie. Mr. Christie offered to help Timothy out with his baby problem, and by showing Timothy a medical book he owned, reassured him that he had the medical background necessary to do the abortion. Now, remember Timothy can’t read very well at all, so the sight of a medical textbook to him, probably held a lot more weight to Mr. Christie’s claims than it would to say, you or me. In October of 1949, desperate to have the abortion, Timothy and Beryl agreed to John Christie’s help. But, help was far from what they got.
On November 30th, 1949 Timothy Evans showed up to the Merthyr Tydfil police station and confessed to the murder of his wife, Beryl. (Reactions??)
Timothy told the officer that his wife had died in “unusual circumstances” and he was concerned about the safety of his 18mo old daughter, Geraldine. When pressed for more details, Timothy confessed to meeting a man in a cafe to get pills for his wife to take to abort the fetus. And, when he returned home the next day from work, he saw Beryl had taken the pills and died. Scared of what to do, he carried her body to a drain outside his front door, and dropped her in it. Then, he sold the furniture inside his house for 40 pounds, left his daughter with some “good samaritans”, and took off to Wales. The Merthyr Tydfil police contacted the London police to have them search the drain outside of Timothy’s place, but they found nothing, no body. Also, it should be noted that the manhole cover over the drain Timothy supposedly dropped Beryl’s body into, took 3 officers to open. Making it highly unlikely Timothy could have lifted it on his own.
With that confession having been debunked by the London police, the police at Merthyr Tydfil again questioned Timothy about his claims, accusing him of being a liar, and maybe even mental. He changed his story, and this time in his confession he said there were never any pills or a man in a cafe. But that he did accept the help of his downstairs neighbor, John Christie, who said that he was a doctor during the war, and showed him the medical textbook proving he was capable of doing the abortion. Timothy said at first he didn’t want to go through with it, but on Beryl’s persistence, he did. They “scheduled” the abortion for the next day, November 8th, and it would be done while Timothy was at work. But when he came home from work, he said John Christie was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, and told him something went awry during the abortion, and Beryl was dead. Christie told Timothy he would take care of disposing of her body the next day while he was at work. And, since he knew Timothy wouldn’t be able to care for Geraldine with Beryl gone, he would give Geraldine to a couple in East Acton, who could care for her. Timothy claimed it was John who told him to sell all his furniture to get as much money as he could and then flee from London. Timothy, not knowing what else to do, did as he was told.
The London police once again, on the statement made by Timothy Evans, went and checked the residence and its surroundings at 10 Rillington Place. But, once again, they came up empty handed. This time they did interview John Christie though about Timothy’s claims. He denied the allegations made by Timothy, and satisfied, the police left. Thinking once again that Timothy Evans was out of his mind. But he was still in the custody of the Merthyr Tydfil police in Wales. They decided to transport him to London, and let the London police take over the investigation. Personally, I imagine they felt they were being jerked around by someone who wasn’t mentally coherent, and were tired of playing the middleman in the investigation. So, they shipped Timothy off to London and wiped their hands of him.
On December 2nd, 1949, the London Police went back to the Evans’ residence at 10 Rillington Place, and this time did a more “thorough” search of the wash house area outside the residence. Under some wooden boards, they found the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine, wrapped in a green tablecloth, both having been strangled. There was no evidence of an abortion ever been attempted on Beryl. The London police confronted Timothy about the bodies, the strangulation, the tablecloth, their clothes, and the tie that had been used on his daughter’s throat. The police were relentless now. They had their killer, and they knew it. But, they wanted a confession. A real one this time. So for hours and hours they kept questioning Timothy about what happened. And, when they didn’t like his answers, they would threaten him with violence. Now, Timothy may have been able to put his hands on a woman, but he didn’t want anyone putting their hands on him. So, he gave the police what they wanted…a confession. Or was it?
Supposedly, Timothy told the London police detectives that he and Beryl had argued over money, and that in a fit of rage he strangled her, using a piece of rope. And, that he had hidden her body in the empty apartment downstairs until he could move it to the washhouse. Then, he admitted he strangled Geraldine the following night, and put both their bodies into the washroom. Now, this information, this confession was in written form. But, remember when I said earlier that Timothy couldn’t barely read or write. In fact, his IQ was tested and found to be between 65 and 70, meaning he would be considered mildly retarded. So, he couldn’t have physically written the confession out himself. He relied on the detectives writing it for him, reading it to him, and trusting what they wrote, he signed it.
On January 11th, 1950, Timothy Evans was brought to trial for the murder of his daughter, Geraldine. Due to a law in the UK, you can only be charged for 1 murder at a time. They decided they would try him for his daughter’s first. Probably thought with all of the evidence against him, and the fact it was a baby, would be an easy case to win. And, they weren’t wrong. Timothy’s counsel, Malcolm Morris, was ineffective, probably because he was court appointed, and believed him to be guilty. The basis for Timothy’s defense was that John Christie was the murderer, his confession was made under duress, and fear of violence against him if he didn’t confess. Ironically, it was John Christie and his wife, Ethel that were the star witnesses against Timothy. John adamantly denied that he had anything to do with the deaths of Beryl & Geraldine. In fact, you may be wondering why I mentioned that John said on the stand that he didn’t kill Beryl, when Timothy was not charged with her murder. Well, that’s because although he wasn’t formally changed with Beryl’s death, the prosecution and court allowed the jury to hear the details of her murder as well. Certainly, that wasn’t prejudicial at all was it? Ethel Christie backed up the claims of her husband, and added that she heard a thud coming from the Evans’ apartment on the night of November 8th, which was the last time Beryl or Geraldine were seen. Interesting that two floors above you could hear the thud, though it was shared hallways and stairways, so maybe they could have heard it…maybe. Both the Christie’s testified that they heard the Evans’ arguing regularly, and that the arguments could become pretty severe. It was not looking good for Timothy Evans.
And, to make matters worse, Timothy Evans was his one & only witness. He took the stand and adamantly denied once again killing his daughter or his wife. He instead reiterate the details from his 2nd confession, where he left his wife in John Christie’s hands, thinking she was having an abortion, and returned home to be told she was dead, and that John would handling everything else from there. Including taking care of his daughter. When he was asked why he had admitted to killing his family, he responded by saying, “when I found out about my daughter being dead I was upset and I did not care what happened to me then.” Unfortunately for Timothy Evans, the court and the jury cared very much what he did. After only 3 days of testimony, it took the jury less than 40 mins to find him guilty of the murder of his daughter, Geraldine. The mandatory sentence of death was imposed on Timothy. He was going to hang.
There was an appeal that was heard about a month after the trial, where 3 judges listened to the attorneys representing Timothy Evans describe how there was evidence to support his innocence. Supposedly, there was a co-worker of Timothy’s that said he worked with him on the 8th of November, and there was also a work schedule to prove it. The work schedule was taken into evidence by police, but later disappeared before trial. Also, there were 2 workmen that said they were doing work around 10 Rillington Place, stored their tools in the washhouse and didn’t finish the job until November 11th, 3 days after the murder of Beryl took place, and a day or so after Geraldine was murdered. The workers said it was then that they removed their tools from the washhouse, and there were no bodies in the shed at this time. The appeal to the court was denied and Timothy Evans was executed by hanging on March 9th, 1950. He maintained his innocence up until and including the day of his death.
If you listened to our weekly podcast, on Tuesday, then you know all the details of what happened next. If you haven’t, I suggest doing it, so you can fill in all the details about what actually happened to Beryl and Geraldine, and maybe a few others…?
Insofar as Timothy’s case, it is one that on many levels shows that injustice is real, and that even when there is strong evidence to the contrary, erroneous convictions can occur. Timothy’s 2 sisters, Maureen, who goes by Mary, and Eleanor, who goes by Eileen, fought to get his conviction overturned, even though they obviously couldn’t bring Timothy back. In 1965, Home Secretary Sir Frank Soskice ordered an investigation in an attempt to discover the truth behind Geraldine’s murder. The next year, in 1966, it was determined that Evans had not killed his daughter. Subsequently, Soskice’s successor Roy Jenkins recommended a royal pardon for Evans. But a pardon doesn’t mean innocence, just that the sentence that was given has been commuted, or in other words, he has been forgiven for having committed the crime. Timothy’s sisters wanted the conviction quashed, or overturned. To date, this has not occurred, and doesn’t seem as though it will any time soon. The family was given compensation as reparations for the erroneous conviction and execution of Timothy, though money can only buy you so much in terms of solace for the death that took place. The appeals courts view this as a sign of a formal vindication, while also acknowledging that Timothy Evans did not murder his wife or daughter. But due to the division of power between the executive and judiciary branches of government, this was the only solution that could be reached.
Citizens of the U.K. used Evans’ case as a foundation for their protests against capital punishment. Ultimately, the Evans case did end up playing a major role in the abolition of capital punishment in the UK. Ironically in April 1948, 2 years before the case against Timothy Evans, the House of Commons voted to suspend capital punishment for five years, but this decision was overturned by the House of Lords. If it hadn’t been overturned, Evans may have been released after the real murderer was discovered.
In 1965, the Murder Act abolished capital punishment for all offenses, except treason, piracy with violence and arson in Royal Dockyards. This was confirmed in 1969 after a law review was conducted after 4 years. The Human Rights Act of 1998 incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law, banning capital punishment for murder except “in times of war or imminent threat of war”. And, by 2002 capital punishment in the UK, was abolished altogether, including during times of war.
Patreon Episode Link: BONUS CASE #5 – Timothy Evans | Sleuth Be Told on Patreon
Accessed May, 2022. The execution of Timothy Evans https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/entries/cdc56160-91eb-366d-ae0e-5d9c5a676fe2
Accessed May, 2022. 1950: Timothy Evans, instead of John Christie https://www.executedtoday.com/2010/03/09/1950-timothy-evans-john-christie-10-rillington-place/#:~:text=1950%3A%20Timothy%20Evans%2C%20instead%20of%20John%20Christie%20March,tenant%20was%20revealed%20to%20be%20a%20serial%20killer
Accessed May, 2022. Timothy Evans: An Innocent Man Hanged for Murder he did not Commit https://medium.com/@andrewpaulshakespeare/timothy-evans-an-innocent-man-hanged-for-murder-he-did-not-commit-8418b336dba4
Accessed May, 2022. Timothy Evans: Wrongfully Executed https://owlcation.com/humanities/Timothy-Evans-Wrongfully-Executed
Accessed May, 2022. Timothy Evans Biography https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/timothy-evans-45501.php
Accessed May, 2022. Timothy Evans: A Murder Case Hangs the Wrong Man https://georgepallas.com/blog/2021/07/timothy-evans/
Accessed May, 2022. Timothy Evans family’s 60-year conviction wait http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/8556721.stm
Accessed May, 2022. The Murders, Myths and Reality of 10 Rillington Place https://www.10-rillington-place.co.uk/the-principal-characters/
Accessed May, 2022. Timothy Evans: An Innocent Man Wrongly Accused and Hanged for Murder of His Daughter That He Didn’t Commit https://www.buggedspace.com/timothy-evans/#:~:text=In%20January%202003%20the%20Home%20office%20awarded%20Timothy,the%201950s%20and%2060s%20to%20end%20capital%20punishments
Accessed May, 2022. Crime of the Century: The Case of Timothy Evans https://home.heinonline.org/blog/2021/09/crime-of-the-century-the-case-of-timothy-evans/