Beryl and Geraldine Evans – potential reinterment?

There are some interesting pieces currently in the press regarding the story of how one of Beryl Evans’s siblings, Mr Peter Mylton-Thorley, now aged 82, has expressed the wish to have the mortal remains of his sister, Beryl (née Thorley), and her daughter Geraldine, disinterred from their current whereabouts in Gunnersbury Cemetery and reinterred with him in a Jewish cemetery as an act of reunion, once the time comes.

As usual, factual accuracy seems somewhat scarce in that Gunnersbury Cemetery is neither solely Roman Catholic nor in Chelsea (although it serves that area). Timothy Evans confessed to the killings of both wife and daughter, was charged with both, but was tried solely for the infant Geraldine’s murder and hanged in 1950. In 1965/6, a public Inquiry led to the Brabin Report which reached the rather odd conclusion that Evans had probably killed his wife but probably not his daughter – the only murder conviction – and so a royal pardon was granted by HM The Queen in 1966 at the recommendation of then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins. The conviction was never quashed and therefore still stands to this day. And, despite much opinion to the contrary, the records of Parliamentary debates from the time show that the Evans case played no significant part in the abolition of capital punishment in the UK.

John Christie was hanged in 1953 for the murder of his wife Ethel and, during the course of investigations, admitted to killing the five other victims whose remains were discovered by the police in the house and garden. Christie never confessed to having killed Geraldine and, in fact, strenuously denied having done so – his several conflicting confessions to having killed Beryl, however, were considered physically impossible by the eminent pathologist concerned with the case – Professor Francis Camps – and were more likely a futile attempt to escape the death penalty by being found insane. She had not been gassed or sexually assaulted and no evidence of attempted abortion was found at autopsy – she had been strangled with a rope as Evans had confessed.

8 thoughts on “Beryl and Geraldine Evans – potential reinterment?”

  1. I’m curious about the man who shares the grave with Beryl and Geraldine. His name is on the tombstone as George Henry Potter and he also died in November 1949.

    Presumably, he is related to Beryl but I’ve had a cursory look on Ancestry and haven’t been able to pin him down.

    I’ll keep looking but wondered if anyone here knows anything.

    Elizabeth K

    • Hello Elizabeth,
      Thank you for the postings to the blog.
      On the specific point regarding Henry Potter, the office at Gunnersbury indicated to me (when I enquired whilst researching the book) that in the case of what was then referred to as a pauper’s funeral, it was usual for several contemporary deaths to be buried in a single plot simply for cost and logistical reasons, there being no actual connection among the parties before that time. A rather sad addition to an already sad and depressing tale. Of course, even nowadays there are instances where for whatever reason a private funeral is not arranged and the relevant local authority is left to make the arrangements, albeit one hopes and assumes that multiple burials in a single plot are now a thing of the past.

  2. I have not seen any evidence of whether the knots tied round the bodies were compared . Christie tied knots ( Bodies in the alcove) and the knots used on his deck chair. Evans could have been asked to tie up a parcel of clothes or his shoes could have been checked. There was, as far as I know, no evidence presented to the courts to link either suspect with methods of tying, or if the cords used were the same. I know geraldine was strangled with a tie. I assume the post mortem photos still exist, and the knots should have been left on. It would be interesting to know what the forensic evidence was, and if there is still evidence locked away.

  3. I read in one of Colin Wilson’s books that Donald Hume alleged that Evans confessed to him in prison that he killed his wife but that Christie killed Geraldine. Can anyone confirm this?

  4. Thank you for your interesting response.

    Keith Simpson, who also wrote Teare’s sympathetic obituary, was supportive in the Evans case, but I have also heard that the Teare may have suffered criticism for his part in the “hanging of an ‘innocent’ man”. Perhaps after Hume admitted his guilt, Teare may have again been subject to criticism.

    Thus, being criticised despite lacking fault, perhaps Teare went over to the dark side. But just as controversial cases are apt to attract attention, cases that have attracted attention — due to their involving the death penalty or celebrities — may also be apt to become controversial.

  5. I hear that the Pathologist Teare suggested that there had been evidence of an auto abortion, rather than sexual abuse. I guess that Teare may well have been criticised after Christie claimed he had committed the murder of Beryl. He went on to make a mis-call in the Donald Hume case, and to be involved in the post mortem at two controversial celebrity deaths, that of Jimi Hendriz and Bruce Lee. What do you make of the good doctor?

    • Hello Tim,

      Thank you for the posting.

      With regard to the autopsy in Beryl Evans’s case, there was evidence of an attempt at self-induced abortion noted by Teare but ‘historic’ rather than at or near the time of death. Beryl was known to have been endeavouring to terminate this second pregnancy herself. There was no indication of any sexual interference or gas poisoning. There were signs of very recent bruising about the face and strangulation marks around the neck. The only criticism received by Teare seems to have been from Ludovic Kennedy whose stated agenda was to demonstrate Christie’s guilt and, as a consequence, Evans’s innocence. This led him to make the now-famous statement that Teare would, had he taken vaginal swabs, ‘almost certainly have found traces of Christie’s spermatazoa’ – which prompted pathologist Keith Simpson to make the equally well known comment: ‘I doubt if a more reckless overstatement can be found in all the millions of words written about the Evans-Christie case’. Pathologist Francis Camps stated that, in his opinion, Christie’s various and contradictory confessions to having killed Beryl were incapable of being true; it is more likely that they were a tactic by Christie to be adjudicated insane and thus escape the death penalty for murder.

      Teare acted for the defence in the Hume case. Dr Camps carried out the autopsy on Stanley Setty and gave evidence for the prosecution in court. Teare took the view that Setty could have been killed by more than one person due to the lack of defence injuries to his hands whereas Camps argued that a series of rapid blows by one individual could have rendered Setty incapable of defending himself. Camps had the advantage of being aware that Setty had consumed alcohol at the time of his death (although was not drunk) whereas Teare might not have had this information.

      As to the Hendrix and Lee cases, I regret I have no knowledge beyond an awareness that there exists some controversy surrounding the true circumstances of what killed them but, so far as I am aware, nothing beyond what is ‘usual’ in the event of sudden celebrity deaths.

      In summary, no pathologist has a perfect and error-free record, including those considered the most eminent such as Keith Simpson and Bernard Spilsbury; the controversial cases are apt to attract disproportionately more public attention than the far more numerous undisputed ones.

  6. Whoever killed her (Evans or Christie) there was no abortion! So there will be no evidence of it taking place. Abortion was the reason given by Evans for her death at the hands of Christie. In reality either Evans killed her in temper or Christie killed her for sexual pleasure. See. No abortion.


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