He said he never tried to procure an abortion. Do you not remember the rather suddenly emphatic voice in which he said that? Then the day before 8 November, he went upstairs and found that she had tried to gas herself. Finnemore effectively buried Evans's story that Christie offered Beryl an abortion, and sanctioned that Christie was thereby not guilty of Beryl's murder. Found guilty of his wife's murder, Christie was sentenced to death on 25 June , with his execution planned for 15 July.
Before his execution, however, a parliamentary inquiry led by senior barrister Mr John Scott Henderson, was set up to investigate the safety of Timothy Evans's conviction and to determine if Christie had lied about his role and knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Beryl and Geraldine in Published the day before Christie's execution, the Scott Henderson report confirmed Evans's guilt in the murder of his child and by association his wife , stating there were no grounds to suspect that there had been any miscarriage of justice.
In the report, Scott Henderson refutes Christie's status as an abortionist:. There are undoubtedly talks about abortion. Many persons knew that Mrs.
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Evans was trying to get rid of her pregnancy. There were vague references to someone helping her, but I can find no evidence that Christie's name was ever mentioned in this connection. He may have talked to various people about abortions. I am satisfied that the police made the most careful investigation in December , as to his activities in this connection.
They could find no evidence that he was an abortionist and were satisfied that he was not. The most material fact in this connection is that no interference with Mrs. Evans' pregnancy was attempted. Neither the Scott-Henderson inquiry nor Christie's execution brought closure to the public controversy surrounding Ten Rillington Place. Over the course of the following decade, Christie's status as an abortionist was to assume new importance, in the context of public anxiety about the safety of Evans's conviction and changing attitudes towards abortion and the cultural related meanings to it.
In the wake of Labour's election victory in October , there was a renewed call for the incoming home secretary, Frank Soskice, to sanction a new inquiry. In June , a committee was established to lead a public review with the High Court judge, Sir Daniel Brabin, appointed as chair. Held over thirty days, with the cross-examination of original witnesses, the Brabin inquiry considered all the evidential dimensions to the case, but a central role was accorded to whether or not Beryl had willingly invited Christie to the top floor flat to perform an abortion on her.
Unlike previous trials and inquiries into the murderous history of Ten Rillington Place, the Brabin Inquiry would focus on the issue of abortion from day one. Indeed, its members returned to , and to Timothy Evans's claims that his wife had died as the result of an abortion. In so doing, this new investigation positioned the house and its residents within a dark narrative about the sinister world of the backstreet abortion, a world increasingly regarded as an urgent social problem and political issue.
In the years leading up to the Brabin Inquiry it had been the journalist and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy who had made a series of concrete connections between abortion and Ten Rillington Place. Kennedy made his name campaigning against a number of injustices and against capital punishment, establishing a literary genre through which these cases became known.
Kennedy's book, 10 Rillington Place , published in January , was the result of a year's painstaking review of the Evans and Christie cases. In doing this, Kennedy sought to present Rillington Place as a site of botched police investigations, establishment arrogance, and as the home to a necrophiliac psychopath. Most alarmingly, the execution of Timothy Evans represented an unequivocal case of judicial murder. By introducing abortion into the story, Kennedy revised the facts and circumstances surrounding the deaths of Christie's victims, presenting some of them as typical working-class abortion seekers, while at the same time articulating the image of Christie as a fraudulent, dangerous abortionist.
For Kennedy, the recasting of Christie as a dubious backstreet abortionist and Beryl Evans as an abortion seeker remained central to the argument that Timothy Evans had been wrongly executed. Kennedy's weaving of abortion into the narrative of the Ten Rillington Place murders coincided with how parliamentary and public opinion was moving in favour of abortion law reform, a result of the broad relaxation of sexual and social mores, and the growing realization of the heavy toll which illegal abortion exacted on maternal health and mortality.
That year also witnessed the screening of Ken Loach's BBC television adaptation of Nell Dunn's Up the junction , as part of the Wednesday Play , in which one of the working-class characters undergoes an illegal abortion. Combining drama and documentary, the show revealed how such backstreet operations were both dangerous and commonplace. In his portrayal of how the murky and fraudulent world of backstreet abortion trade interwove with the Ten Rillington Place murders, Kennedy similarly blended various journalistic styles with melodrama, to circulate a powerful populist narrative of murder, darkness, urban decay, and injustice.
It is therefore not just possible but extremely likely, that Christie, meeting her in one of those squalid cafes where he used to go and look for sad women, learnt about her troubles and said to her, as he said to Mrs Evans, that he knew all about abortions and could help her out of her difficulties. Part of the appeal of Kennedy's account — most notably, his commentary on the network of an unsafe abortion trade in a socially dilapidated West London — was how it came to echo the concerns of and rhetorical strategies deployed by abortion law reformers. Beginning in the s, the political lobby for abortion law reform had focused on demanding access to safe, surgical abortions, and their arguments were laced with the language of class.
It inadvertently revealed another, less vocalized side to the threat posed by the current ambiguous state of the law; the potential for deception, exploitation, and sexual danger embodied in the figure of the male backstreet abortionist. That Christie had posed as a backstreet abortionist with medical qualifications was, for Kennedy's revisionist argument, crucial. In his analysis, Christie had persuaded Beryl that he was capable of carrying out an abortion. Indeed, Kennedy now offered a new, compelling narrative of the events on the top floor of the flat, in which Beryl was under the impression that she was going to have an abortion performed by her middle-aged neighbour from the ground floor flat.
It was probably towards the end of the morning — Christie himself said about lunch time — that he mounted the stairs to the little kitchen where Beryl was waiting. She was dressed in a spotted cotton blouse, a light blue woollen jacket and a black skirt. She had probably removed her knickers in preparation before his arrival. I am not sure whether there was a fire in the grate. She lay on the quilt. She was fully dressed. In his text, Kennedy went on to present Christie as a man locally known as an abortionist.
By calling upon gothic and melodramatic conventions, even invoking the Jekyll—Hyde dualism, Kennedy depicted Christie as a dangerous man with two personalities. In one guise, he was a polite, respectable and reserved man who had been a policeman during the war. In the other, Christie haunted the streets, seedy bars, and cafes in the nocturnal hours, disguising himself as a backstreet abortionist so he could entrap his victims. Hyde [Christie] invariably answered the door at 10 Rillington Place, whether the caller was for him or not; when he let someone else answer the door, he watched the caller arriving through a little peep-hole he had bored in the wall above the kitchen door.
Hyde was at home quite a lot; for he had wrangled certificate out of certificate out of Dr Odess to say he was unfit to work. Among his complaints were headaches, flatulence, diarrhoea and piles; the illnesses were as attractive as the man, often though Hyde was out especially in the evenings he wore plimsoll shoes so he could slink about unseen, his own shadow in a world of shadows, down among the con men and tarts and petty thieves.
They too were impressed by his intelligence and his education, his gift of the gab. To them also he spoke of his medical knowledge but in rather different terms. He knew, he said, how to help young girls in trouble, indeed he had helped them in the past. The boast was never put to the test, but it helped to increase his standing. Ah, they said, he's a dark one, knows how to do abortions and all that.
In Kennedy's depiction of Christie's murderous and monstrous self, he deploys the image of the backstreet abortion to illuminate a hidden world of danger, death, and decay in and around Notting Hill. According to these accounts, which complemented and extended Kennedy's earlier portrait of a serial killing abortionist operating in Notting Hill, Christie cut a convincing figure as a doctor, who, having fallen foul of the law, had resorted to helping women in difficulty. The same man boasted about his medical credentials, claiming that his father had been an eminent physician in Edinburgh.
A man fitting a similar description reportedly approached another witness in the street. These accounts indelibly associated the working-class neighbourhoods of Notting Hill in the public imagination as places where illegal abortionists touted for trade, and, relatedly, where sexual deviance and violence thrived. This evidence, much of it collected but overlooked between and , assumed a new status in light of growing public and political concern with the nature of the illegal abortion trade.
Since the nineteenth century, successive tightening of the law on abortion had delineated the field of competence for health practitioners, and abortion trials became the testing ground for the legal re-enforcement of professional competence in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology. The medical profession was particularly concerned with eradicating competing medical services and ensuring professional autonomy over procedures such as abortion.
In , the landmark trial of gynaecological surgeon Aleck Bourne, who successfully defended his decision to perform an abortion on a fourteen-year-old girl who had been raped, established a precedent in case law by which medical practitioners, acting in good faith, could legitimately perform abortions. The legal ruling in this case contributed, as Barbara Brookes and Paul Roth argue, to the medicalization of abortion in that it handed doctors a legal monopoly on abortion decisions, a monopoly that would finally receive statutory sanction in Critically, the Bourne trial also perhaps fostered the masculinization of abortion, cementing the image of the safe, professional abortionist as almost exclusively male.
While doctors, the majority of whom were men, continued to be implicated in abortion offences following the Bourne ruling, it was ordinary lay women practitioners who were overwhelmingly tried and convicted as abortionists and were the target of the fiercest criticism and public vilification. By representing himself as medically trained, Christie, so it came to be implicitly feared, had been able to elicit the trust of vulnerable working-class women, for whom a surgical and supposedly safer procedure was beyond their means.
These encounters between Christie, the male imposter-abortionist, and his potential victims exposed other features of the covert world of illegal abortion. The image of Christie touting for business by word of mouth among the cafes and backstreets of Notting Hill revealed an alarming framework within which to evaluate the oral networks and social environments in which abortion transactions were conducted. Yet, in making unsolicited approaches to these women, Christie's behaviour was as much unusual as it was disturbing, in that it did not follow the usual pattern of abortion transactions and it transgressed the public boundaries of intimacy between the sexes.
Moreover, the proposition that Christie posed as an abortionist in order to lure his victims spoke to broader concerns about the sexual harassment that thrived in the backstreet abortion trade. It was not unheard of for abortionists to take advantage of the clandestine situation to exploit their vulnerable clients sexually, with some male practitioners offering an abortion in exchange for sexual intercourse. The Brabin Inquiry also focused on the social networks in and around Ten Rillington Place, in which abortion played a significant role, as contributing to an expanded assessment of the horror of Christie's transgressive behaviour.
Beryl's pregnancy and her attempts to terminate it were known and discussed by her husband, her immediate family, including her brother and mother-in-law, her friends, and her neighbours, in particular, the Christies. By making an open secret of Beryl's abortion, the Brabin Inquiry gave credence to the idea that abortion had been one of the major determining factors in the circumstances leading to Beryl's death, casting doubt on Timothy Evans's guilt.
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Brabin's reinvestigation of the forensic evidence, however, continued to rule out abortion as a plausible scenario not only in the circumstances leading to Beryl's death but also in the case of Christie's other victims. Donald Teare, the pathologist in the Timothy Evans trial, defended his original autopsy of Beryl Evans's body. While he reiterated that the bruise on the back of Beryl's vaginal wall was suggestive of an earlier attempt to self-abort, Teare resisted the theory that abortion involving a third party had directly resulted in her death.
His continued scepticism which echoed and rearticulated Teare's and his own earlier reluctance to accept the concept of a male backstreet abortionist, led him to entertain the possibility that some of Christie's victims were not only sexually deviant but also willing participants in their own deaths. According to Camps, Christie's victims with the exception of Beryl willingly inhaled carbon monoxide as part of a consensual and sexually stimulating encounter with him. Camps interpreted Christie's killing equipment, notably the rubber tubing, not as the surgical kit of an abortionist imposter, but rather something far more sinister relating to the sexual perversion shared by both Christie and his unfortunate female victims.
Just as the moral character of Christie's other victims came under critical scrutiny in the Brabin Inquiry, Beryl Evans's character, that of her husband Timothy Evans and of their marriage were negatively evaluated, in a manner that recalled the highly moralized discussions of abortion seekers in trials of illegal abortionists.
Thus, despite the greater readiness to contemplate and discuss the abortion issue in the permissive era, portrayals of abortion seekers and the domestic and familial circumstances that shaped their decision to terminate a pregnancy remained profoundly distorted by a reluctance to acknowledge how socio-economic circumstances and poverty shaped working-class decisions about reproduction control. While the Brabin Inquiry increasingly identified Christie as a potential abortionist and Rillington Place as his place of practice, Beryl was confirmed as typical of the countless women in search of an abortion in post-war Britain.
This retrospective exploration of life in the Evans household, an existence of poverty, hardship and lowering standards in post-war Britain, lent the abortion hypothesis an air of credibility, in part because it exposed the turbulence and insecurity of working-class domesticity, which rendered abortion necessary. However, the Inquiry's lines of investigation mirrored many a typical trial for sexually related crimes, including abortion, in that although it appeared to address the extenuating conditions, it also implicitly focused on the morality of both the defendant and victim.
Aside from his violent behaviour, Timothy, it was proposed, had also been a womanizer, accused of having had at least two affairs with other women, which further allowed the Brabin inquiry an interpretative context for understanding why Beryl might have been seeking an abortion. Mrs Probert, Timothy's mother, described the effect of one such attachment on the couple's marriage:. When the woman refused to leave, Beryl reportedly contacted the police, who advised her to go to the West London Magistrates' Court to seek advice and assistance, which she duly did.
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Not only was Timothy in possession of a short temper and a wandering eye, but he was also a poor financial provider for his family. He also used to say he was going to work and on some occasions we found out he didn't. He would also make up excuses about not having received his money from Mr. Adler [his employer]. Timothy was thus cast in the stereotype of those feckless husbands who drive their wives to abortion.
In sum, Timothy's behaviour fell short of the standards of respectable working-class masculinity for this period, a failure that was often used in criminal abortion trials to contextualize why abortion came to be an option for some families but not others. His impaired intelligence and inability to obtain well-paid, stable employment, threatened his home and family with financial insecurity, undermining the ideal of the working-class male breadwinner.
Meanwhile, his brutish temper and drunken, adulterous behaviour failed to comply with the emergent post-war ideal of companionable marriage. Violent, drunken, and promiscuous, Timothy was the embodiment of unreformed working-class masculinity, which by the time of the Brabin Inquiry in would appear even more outmoded. Despite Timothy's failings as a husband and the violent nature of her own death, Beryl did not receive an altogether sympathetic portrayal in Brabin's reinvestigation of the evidence, which ran parallel to the general denigration of women involved in crimes of a sexual or violent nature, including abortion.
Descriptions of her behaviour and conduct prior to her death could not easily be squared with social expectations of passive femininity and female victimhood. The seeds of Beryl's supposed feminine failings were sown in Timothy Evans's statements, revisited on day one of the Inquiry. When requestioned as to her daughter-in-law's habits, Mrs Probert, disproving of Beryl's wishes to have an abortion, was especially unrelenting in her criticism.
During one particular altercation between the couple, it was alleged that Beryl had thrown a jar at her husband, injuring his head. Ultimately, Timothy's reputation was not satisfactorily restored, nor was Beryl's character left untainted, exemplifying both the ambiguity and tensions at the heart of the Brabin Inquiry; and in the legal interrogations of the circumstances in which a working-class woman would seek an abortion. The Inquiry certainly furnished enough circumstantial evidence to establish a link between abortion, Beryl Evans, and John Christie; but in exposing the intolerable state of the Evans's marriage, it inadvertently continued to lend authority to the original judicial decision, that Beryl had died at the hands of her violent husband.
Though the link between abortion and Beryl's death was widely reported in newspaper coverage of the Inquiry and its conclusions, there was nothing by way of editorial commentary on the practice of illegal abortion more generally. Nor does the case appear to have provoked comment from among abortion reformers, despite it having vividly highlighted the potential dangers of deception and sexual exploitation involved in the black market abortion trade. Furthermore, as the state-sanctioned Inquiry had failed to exonerate Timothy Evans of his wife's death and in consequence failed to confirm the abortion story, the case was also rendered politically sensitive at a time when the lobby for abortion law reform was reaching its peak.
In adding their voice to the chorus of scepticism that greeted the Inquiry's conclusions, abortion reformers would have aligned themselves with popular understandings of the case, which might have risked alienating important conservative political allies. Brabin judged it more likely than not that Evans did not murder his baby, for which he was hanged, but that he did kill his wife, for which he was not tried. However, Rillington Place continued to be the focus of public attention, despite its being renamed Ruston Place in The film 10 Rillington Place , based on Kennedy's book, was shot in a house just two doors down from number 10, as the house itself was not practical for filming.
This film helped to secure in the popular imagination that it was not Timothy Evans, but rather John Christie who was responsible for the death of Beryl Evans. By way of a conclusion, we now want to return to how the film, in many respects, serves as yet another site in which Ten Rillington Place and the world of backstreet abortions were rewoven to form a new narrative following the liberalization of abortion law.
Richard Fleischer's biopic confidently focused on the days leading up to Beryl Evans's death, providing a cinematic lens through which to view the daily dysfunction and impoverished life of post-war Britain, constituting an attempt to readdress events surrounding her end.
Divested of the potent legal and political concerns which formed the backdrop to the case in the s and s, the film provided a sympathetic portrayal of Beryl and Timothy. The Brabin Inquiry had figuratively put the couple on trial for their role in bringing about the horrors of Ten Rillington Place, and had ultimately not revised Timothy Evans's connection to the death of his wife. The film, by contrast, enabled a complete, meticulous retelling of events at Rillington Place. It restores in many ways the moral character of Timothy and Beryl, presenting them both along with their daughter Geraldine as the unfortunate victims of a darker, more twisted figure — John Christie.
Christie, gaining coherence in the new era, is firmly recast as a powerful monstrosity for a shifting zeitgeist without the fierce legal and political contestations that had surrounded the case in the previous decades. In the wake of both Brabin and the Abortion Act, the film retrospectively inspects John Christie's relationship with the Evanses, which meant exploring the abortion encounter between Christie and Beryl in meticulous and vivid detail.
He makes Beryl a cup of tea to settle her nerves, calling into play awareness of the close intimacy and domesticity involved in an illegal abortion. Critically, for our purposes, even before this scene takes place, the film ensures a frank, candid discussion of reasons for an abortion, positioning the modern viewer in sympathy with why a woman might terminate a pregnancy, and the injustice of repressive legislation.
With abortion now legal, and given the subsequent shift in the language of abortion in terms of rights and freedom in the context of the then burgeoning women's liberation movement, this cinematic retelling of events served to condemn those socially conservative attitudes that had held back abortion law reform. The cocktail of conservative morality and repressive legislation created opportunities for illegal abortionists, placing married and unmarried women in situations that carried countless risks to their lives, as well as being sexually exploitable scenarios, as powerfully demonstrated by events inside Rillington Place.
In this way, the film recast Christie and his killing of Beryl Evans as an emblematic, cautionary tale of what could become the fate of pregnant women who, out of desperation, are driven into the hands of an unorthodox practitioner who may have no intention of performing an abortion.
More broadly, as we have argued throughout, engaging with the changing profile of backstreet abortion practices and their historically specific inscriptions, meanings, and appropriations, enables us to develop a historical understanding of the case of Ten Rillington Place.
It opens up a fresh direction for pursuing integration of the broader historical pattern of gender relations, socio-cultural, medico-legal, and political dynamics of modern Britain. Exploring both the presence and absence of abortion discourse in this specific location and murder case provides us with a historical framework within which to reassess abortion in terms of the practice and the often fragile and ambiguous meanings it held, not only for the narrower concerns of reproductive control, but also in its association with the broader issues of family life, sexuality, and gender relations, and with the wider political climate of post-war Britain.
The plethora of readings of Ten Rillington Place, with their diverse and shifting attitudes towards abortion and the rich potential of the male abortionist for signification, provide insights into how there had existed a powerful and persistent societal blind spot on abortion at the time of both the Evans and Christie trials. This blind spot was crucially so strong as to have effectively distorted the criminal investigations and the trials themselves, reflecting a general reluctance to come to terms with the concept of the male backstreet abortionist.
Only when public acceptance of the case for legalizing abortion — and entrusting it to the monopoly expertise of a largely male medical profession — grew in the more liberal sexual climate of the s and beyond did the revisionist argument of Ludovic Kennedy, highlighting the significance of abortion in the episode, gain a sustained hearing. The greater readiness to contemplate and discuss the abortion issue in the permissive era made it possible posthumously to pardon Evans, despite the ambiguous outcome of the Brabin inquiry.
Yet even in the permissive era, portrayals of abortion seekers remained deeply ambiguous, revealing an unwillingness to acknowledge how socio-economic circumstances and poverty shaped working-class decisions about reproduction control. Our modern-day understanding of the innocence of Timothy Evans in the murder of his wife, then, became entrenched in the s, as one that recognized a significant shift in public and political sensibilities towards abortion following its legalization.
We are also indebted to the referees who read this article for their extremely helpful comments. Since my blog rebrand I have grown into the design. I felt like it was too flashy and self-important. It took some getting used to it. I also had to retrain myself to write about my five chosen topics. This was a huge restriction compared to my previous anything goes approach.
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New opportunities for a profitable, creative life await you…if you dare to reach out again. Before Ben-Hur was released I saw a minute preview at a conference.
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It was still in post production and there were some glitches but it was an impressive preview. They showed the chariot race scene. Feeling confident with the remake, I set my expectations to moderate. Watching the remake of a classic movie is tricky. But on the other hand, what if the new movie is awful? Will it be a devastating experience? Because the fear. What if the chariot race was the only good part?
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What if the glitches stayed? And, worst of all, what if it ruined the story for me? Well, of course I watched it. And I thought it was well done. The CGI and filming were remarkable. The acting was emotional and compelling. And I thought the film stayed true to the original story.
All good things. This remake brought out the themes of right versus wrong, love versus revenge, forgiveness and understanding. This remake brings the classic story into the 21st century and nothing more. From executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett comes an epic and awe-inspiring story of faith and forgiveness.
Separated from his family and the woman he loves, Ben-Hur is rescued from near death by the mysterious Ilderim. He returns to his homeland seeking revenge against his brother and an empire, but instead he finds a chance for redemption. Jaden encourages us to change our mindset from coming up with ideas to finding them. Transforming into an Idea Seeker.