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5.0 out of 5 stars John Christie Of Rillington Place, 21 Dec. 2013
This review is from: John Christie of Rillington Place: Biography of a Serial Killer (Paperback)
As Thomas Huxley observed, the great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. There is nothing beautiful about the case of serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie, and by the same token there was nothing innocent about Timothy Evans, the man who today is widely believed to have been hanged for the crimes of the former.

This erroneous belief is due largely to the one-sided propaganda campaign waged by Ludovic Kennedy, the author of the book "10 Rillington Place" on which a film dramatisation was based, and through which the world knows of the horror that went on there.

What are the chances of two murderers living under the same roof, killing independently, each being unaware of the other, and one blaming the other for his crimes? Incredible though it may seem, that is what the facts of this case support, and in this first ever dedicated biography of John Reginald Halliday Christie, Jonathan Oates brings the discipline of a trained historian to focus on those facts and much more.

There have been many other works about Evans & Christie, two men whose names are locked together for infinity, but no one has covered the case of the latter in such depth. Research at the Public Record Office - or The National Archives as we are now to call it - and in other archives has yielded fantastic detail and insight into a man who has been portrayed as the embodiment of evil. Yet although he murdered at least six women including his own wife, Christie couldn't bring himself to kill his agéd dog, and took the animal to the vet to have it put down.

Fascinating though Christie's life story may be, most attention will continue to be focused on the events of November 1949. The inconvenient facts are that Evans was the first person to raise the alarm about his wife being dead, feeding the police a cock and bull story before implicating Christie, and then when confronted with the evidence, confessing to both murders. In spite of attempts by Kennedy, Michael Eddowes before him, and others to blame the police, it is clear even from his own mouth that at no point did they mistreat Evans, nor did they twist the evidence to support his entirely voluntary confession. It was only when Evans realised the enormity of his crimes and of his own position that he did a total about-face.

There are one or two minor criticisms that can be made of this book, principally the mass of split infinitives and some casual errors, for example on one page Stanley Setty is referred to as Samuel Setty. It is incidentally the Setty case the authorities believed at the time to have inspired Evans, and incredibly Evans met Setty's murderer - the enigmatic Donald Hume - while on remand in Brixton.

Minor flaws or not, this is the definitive work on Evans & Christie, and even more so on Christie the man as well as the sexually depraved serial killer. Whether or not a second edition is published, this is the one book on the case everyone should read, now and for the next hundred years.
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