Innocent victim of the hangman’s noose
from various sources – December 2016
submitted by – Kelly Averill
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
There have undoubtedly been many miscarriages of justice in our legal system over the years, But none of them is quite as tragic as the conviction of 26 year old Welshman, Timothy Evans. Timothy was hanged on 9 March 1950 for the killing of his daughter.
Timothy was born in Wales in November 1924. His family consisted of his mother, younger half-sister, an older sister and himself. he was a late achiever, hitting his developmental milestones much later than his peers.
In time the family moved from Wales to London. but Timothy moved back to Wales in 1937 to find work in the coal mines. He found this to be problematic due to tubercular sore on his foot that he had from early childhood, subsequently he moved back to London again in 1946.
On 20 September 1947, Timothy married Beryl Thorley and they began living together as husband and wife at 10 Rillington Place. Not long after they were married, Beryl fell pregnant, giving birth to a baby girl in October 1948. The relationship between Timothy and Beryl was fraught with quarrels and occasional violence. In 1949, Beryl found out she was pregnant again. Their financial situation meant raising another child would be near-impossible. The couple began to consider aborting their child which was illegal at that time.
On 30 November Timothy turned up at Merthyr Tydfil police station, in Wales, and proceeded to tell officers that he gave his wife a ‘mixture’ to abort their child but she had died after taking it.
He claimed that he had disposed of his wife’s body around his home, with some news stories claiming he placed her in a drain. The police now needed to check Timothy’s claims were true. On the initial checks of the property surrounding Timothy’s house, no body was found.
Following this outcome Timothy changed his confession and blamed of his wife’s death on their neighbour, John Christie. he told the police that John had agreed to perform the abortion for Beryl, but she died during the procedure. It was reported that the couple’s daughter had been given to someone to look after by John , but Timothy claimed that he would not let him see her.
A subsequent police search of 10 Rillington Place found Beryl’s body wrapped in a cloth in an outhouse alongside the body of her daughter Geraldine. Both had been strangled.
Now that the bodies had been found, Timothy’s confession was taken much more seriously. Despite Timothy changing his statement the police investigators were keen to pursue his initial claim. it was later revealed that much of his confession was actually dictated to him by police investigators.
Timothy was committed to trial for the murder of his daughter Geraldine (but not his wife Beryl). On 11 January 1950 his trial began. It lasted for three days with the Jury taking less than an hour to decide that he was guilty. Timothy remained in prison, until he was hanged on 9 March 1950.
In 1953 the Police found a number of bodies in the wash house and garden of 10 Rillington Place. One of the bodies included John’s wife, Ethel. Other bodies were found in the small outhouse where Beryl and Geraldine were found and under floor boards inside the property. All of this evidence was missed during the initial search. Had it been found earlier Timothy would not have been hanged.
John Christie eventually admitted to killing his wife, Geraldine, Beryl and all the other individuals found at the premises. Subsequently he was hanged on 15 July 1953.
With the conviction of John Christie there was an inquiry into a potential miscarriage of justice against Timothy. However, the jury stood by the guilty verdict. Timothy’s sister decided to fight for justice for Timothy, this eventually led to a new verdict, which found Timothy had not killed his daughter Geraldine.
Timothy was given a royal pardon In 1966. BBC Wales reported; ‘The case of Timothy Evans was one of several that eventually contributed to the abolition of capital punishment in Britain’.
Other commentators said that while the case did not directly contribute to the abolishment of the death penalty, Timothy’s wrongful killing did have an impact on public opinion around the time that abolishment was up for debate. His was one of three cases that caused public outcry during a similar period – the others being 19-year-old Derek Bentley who was hung in 1953 and Ruth Ellis who went to the noose for shooting her abusive on-off boyfriend in 1953.
Timothy’s half-sister Mary Westlake, finally agreed to speak to the media for the first time since her brother’s execution and said; “We never once doubted Tim’s innocence, the whole investigation was rotten through. They made Tim out to be a simpleton, a drunk and a wife-beater.
“Okay, he couldn’t read, because he missed a lot of schooling, but he was bright enough to drive a van all around London, and make deliveries to the right people, even though he couldn’t read the signs or a map. He and Beryl did have their problems, but what couple didn’t then? Living with no money after the war”.
The last judicial review in 2004 of Timothy’s case labelled it as an historic injustice. Timothy’s sister, Mary was now hoping that Timothy’s conviction would be formally quashed as this was something she had campaigned for many years to achieve. However, Timothy’s case has never been referred to the Court Of Appeal.
It appears unlikely that Timothy’s charged will be formally dropped in Mary’s lifetime.
In 2016 a BBC drama, Rillington Place, told a chilling tale of murder – the real-life story behind the case of Timothy Evans.
The execution of Timothy Evans
16 January 2012
Timothy Evans family’s 60-year conviction wait
9 March 2010
Albert Pierrepoint: The secret executioner
31 March 2006