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4.0 out of 5 stars Autopsy on 10 Rillington Place, 29 May 2013
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This review is from: John Christie of Rillington Place: Biography of a Serial Killer (Hardcover)
Christie was the last British serial killer to face the gallows, but was he also responsible for the deaths of lodger Beryl Evans and baby Geraldine? Most people's perceptions of the goings-on at Rillington Place come from the famous movie starring Richard Attenborough, based on the book by anti-hanging campaigner Ludovic Kennedy. There, the naive simpleton Evans is manipulated by the arch-villain Christie from beginning to end.
Mr Oates has written an overdue revisionist account based on a fresh appraisal of primary and secondary sources, some of which are tapped here for the first time. Thus there is a fascinating review of the family history of both families which the author, an archivist by profession, has culled perceptively from local records.
The author's overall conclusion is that whilst Christie certainly murdered several prostitutes and his own wife (who knew too much), Evans was the likely killer of his own wife and child. Evans was indeed a violent and moody man who, after all, admitted both murders in three out of four confessions he made to the police. He also knew details that only the killer could know, for example that Geraldine had been strangled with a tie, before that information had been publicly disclosed.
The evidence against Christie for those particular murders was weak, according to Mr Oates. His chosen method of murder was the use of a homemade gassing contraption prior to some sort of sexual activity and strangulation by ligature. But two autopsies on Beryl failed to show the presence of gas or any sexual penetration. The book is particularly convincing on the post-exhumation autopsy.
To be fair, the author has not definitely proved his case and he knows that. There is too much contradictory detail in the entire saga. It's certainly possible that the police, anxious to secure a conviction, gave the semi-literate Evans a lot of "help" in his initial interviews although Mr Oates plays down this possibility. To those who say that it's an odd coincidence that there were two stranglers living at 10 Rillington Place, the author stresses that the whole case is full of such remote possibilities. The devil is in the detail.
Incidentally the book sheds a lot of new light on Christie "the man". He disliked eating sandwiches and fish but followed cricket test matches and was attached to domestic animals. He did not murder every prostitute he met and enjoyed posing in the nude with them at a make-shift studio he rented. Mercifully, none of those particular photographs appear to have survived in the public domain.
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