‘Rillington Place’ – episode 3, BBC 13 December 2016

The third and final episode opens with a brief recap on last week’s death of Beryl Evans and a short sequence in which the Notting Hill police are pressing Timothy Evans to confess (although the official records, still in existence and held at The National Archives, reveal that the confessions were volunteered and received in an atmosphere of calm and restraint. Evans himself made no allegations against the police of any duress, undue influence or aggression).

We then start to hear the rather incongruous-seeming strains of Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell The Trees) – a popular song first heard on the radio in 1940. As in previous episodes, the scene-setting and atmosphere are convincing and authentic-feeling. Christie is again depicted as being stooped and shuffling whereas he was known to be relatively tall and of a brisk and upright – somewhat military – bearing (and only wearing glasses in the latter years of his life).

The scene then moves to the Old Bailey and the Evans murder trial in March 1950 with Christie giving evidence; his testifying to the drunken rows between Beryl and Timothy Evans, police attendance at the house and the attempt by him to push her out of their upstairs (kitchen) window were all witnessed and documented as true, as was Christie’s complaint of physical incapacity from fibrositis. Indeed, he really was permitted by the judge to sit whilst giving evidence. But there is no record of Christie having consulted his GP, Dr Odess, during the trial in order to avoid giving evidence – he was thought to have rather enjoyed his role as reluctant ‘star witness’. This depressive episode actually came well after the end of the trial and was partly a consequence of trouble with neighbours in the house itself and for which he and Ethel had been prescribed the sedative phenobarbitone. The trial then proceeds along the general lines of the transcript. Later on, Christie is recalled to the witness box and reference is made to his last conviction being in 1938 whereas it was actually 1933 (for the theft of a motor car).

A subsequent scene, in which Ethel becomes agitated and angry with Christie, and makes a direct accusation of him having killed baby Geraldine, is an invention and not congruent what is known of Ethel’s demeanour and relationship with her husband or the chronology of events on 8 November 1949 and following days.

Christie’s final victim Hectorina Mackay Maclennan (known as ‘Ina’ rather than ‘Rina’ as depicted) is killed a few days prior to his final departure from the house at the end of March 1953. Finally, Christie’s dog is shown as being abandoned in a park whereas it was actually taken to a local man in Ladbroke Grove to be put down on the very last day of Christie’s time in the house.

In summary, as before, the entire production is of great quality with some sure-to-be-award-winning performances, especially by Tim Roth as Christie. The story rightly describes itself as ‘based upon real events’ and somewhat follows the ‘Standard Version’ which is generally accepted as being the truth of what really happened. For better or worse, this production will lend much further weight to the belief in what may well be a misrepresentation of what actually took place. However one might wish otherwise, the deeper, impartial analysis of all the available material inevitably leads one towards the sense that there really was no miscarriage of justice.


5 thoughts on “‘Rillington Place’ – episode 3, BBC 13 December 2016”

  1. A brief comment or two about the TV series, which only recently made its way to New Zealand.

    Firstly, viewers would not have liked to see a dog being taken to be put down, although such an act is totally consistent with what we know of Christie. It didn’t add or subtract anything from the story, either way, so why not have the poor mutt apparently being allowed to live?

    I don’t know enough to comment on the factual vs “fictional” aspects of the story as shown. That I leave to better-informed critics.

    One gripe I have with the series was the apparent size of the rooms. They seem to me to have been too large. Those houses were really tiny, as Kennedy comments. I know: I visited the street when half of it was still standing (although No 10 was already gone). I don’t have a copy of the 1971 film, so it’s hard for me to double-check, but I’m pretty sure the actual Rillington Place interiors used for it were, and looked, a lot smaller than in the TV version.

    And I can’t help thinking the set-designers rather overdid the dilapidation, grimy peeling wallpaper and all. If the Christies could afford train trips to Yorkshire, you’d think they’d be able to afford some minimal attention to the decor of their flat!

  2. Christie didn’t kill anyone … in 1949. Tim was hanged for one of the two murders he probably committed. John Eddowes’ book steers the ship of logical thought to no other feasible conclusion – and he doesn’t witter on endlessly about brainwashing, as did Kennedy, except to dismiss the possibility. He DOES cite a number of sources about psychopathy but doesn’t labour the point overmuch.

    • Hello Stephen,

      Many thanks for the comment. Not the ‘received wisdom’ of course but a conclusion which the evidence seems inevitably to point towards. As with most people, my starting point was Ludovic Kennedy’s book and it has been a long journey leading away from the so-called Standard Version of events that it propounds. The BBC series has of course served to awaken interest in the case but has probably done something of a disservice by placing the need for dramatic effect above fidelity to the true story.

      Best regards,


  3. Interesting Blog John, thank you for your insight.
    A chilling and very atmospheric drama, although for me the real horror and cold facts of the case are revealed rather more scientifically – and impartially – in Professor Camps’ 1953 book.

    • Hi Steve,

      Many thanks for the comment. I quite agree about Dr Camps’s 1953 book which is, as you say, a great resource of unbiased factual information, albeit some of it rather grisly and much of it highly technical. By chance, the copy I acquired some time ago is the one in which he inscribed a dedication to his wife ‘Bunny’ which adds a further small piece of human interest to the whole affair.

      Best regards,



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