July 2016


The Dry 2AUSTRALIAN CRIME FICTION doesn’t come my way anywhere near as much as I would like. I’m a massive fan of Peter Temple, but new books from him are as rare as hens’ teeth. For snappy, PI-style reads, there’s always Peter Corris and his Cliff Hardy novels. So, it was with great pleasure that I opened the packet from Little, Brown publishers, to find that I was holding a brand spanking new Australian crime story.

The Dry 3

THE DRY is the work of Melbourne journalist Jane Harper, and it tells the tale of an apparent murder-suicide involving the Hadler family in the small town of Kiewarra. Luke Hadler has committed suicide after apparently killing his wife and young son, and when city cop Aaron Falk returns to his childhood home town for the funeral, he senses that things are not as they seem. His resulting investigation turns over stones, and finds all manner of unpleasant creatures scuttling about underneath. The Dry has already been a runaway success in Australia, and is now available as a paperback and on Kindle here in the UK. It will be out in hardback in January 2017. Meanwhile, you can find out more about the book and the author from her website.

The Dry 1

THE DEAD HOUSE – Between the covers

The Dead HouseNewly promoted Detective Sergeant Fiona Griffiths, of South Wales Police, might be said to have a disability. She suffers from…, wait, we mustn’t use the word ‘suffers’, in case of causing offence. ‘Has’, maybe? OK, DS Griffiths has Cotard’s Syndrome. This strange condition can manifest itself in many ways, the most extreme of which convinces the person concerned that they are actually dead. Less extreme symptoms include partial disconnection between brain and body, and some of the traits of Asperger’s Syndrome, such as an inability to read or understand social gestures or convention.

So Fiona has been employed as part of some diversity box-ticking exercise, yes? Nay, and thrice nay. After the horrors of her teenage years, when she was institutionalised and in a pharmaceutical haze, she went to university, excelled, and then joined the police. This might be considered an odd career choice, given that Fiona has an the kind of electric intelligence which might not sit well within staid police procedures, but even more strange because her father was – and let’s not mince words – a notorious Cardiff gangster. Father? Well, no. Another intriguing ambiguity is that Mr Griffiths and his homely wife are not Fiona’s blood parents. Fiona came into their lives when they emerged from a social function to find an infant girl sitting in their Jaguar coupe. No message. No name. No reason.

At this point, it is best to make clear that Fiona’s search for her real ancestry and her ambivalence about her adoptive dad’s occupation are a recurrent theme in the career of Fiona Griffiths. Author Harry Bingham introduced us to this remarkable young woman in Talking To The Dead (2013). This debut was followed by Love Story With Murders (2014), The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths (2015) and This Thing Of Darkness (2016).

In this welcome return, Fiona is called to the strangest of crime scenes. Is it a crime scene? Maybe not. A young woman is found, very dead, but dressed in white linen, remarkably peaceful, surrounded by votive lights, and lying on a table in a Dead House – an ancient form of mortuary chapel attached to a medieval church. An autopsy concludes that she died, basically, from heart disease, as young as she was. While the local police are intent on wrapping the case up as unexplained, Fiona is struck by two irreconcilable facts. Why would a woman who has had, according to the autopsy, subtle – and expensive – cosmetic surgery, have stubbly unshaven legs?

The ensuing investigation romps along at great pace, as Fiona – teamed with a grumpy, phlegmatic Camarthen Detective Inspector – uncovers a terrifying conspiracy involving, among other things, Ukranian oligarchs, wild Welshmen who eat badgers, a secret tunnel under a Brecon hillside – and a community of distinctly unsaintly monks.

Just as in This Thing Of Darkness there was a terrifying passage where Fiona was hanging on for dear life to the a boat thrashing about in a storm, there is a section here which will be very hard going for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. Fiona and her temporary boss struggle through a tunnel system under a Welsh hillside, and I felt every second of it – the constriction, the inability to move more than a few inches, and the sheer terror of being in a virtual rock coffin.

Aside of creating a unique central character, Bingham writes like an angel. His descriptions of the Welsh countryside put you right there in the muddy field, with the smell of sheep, and the distant haze of smoke from a hard-scrabble hill farm chimney. Fans of Fiona Griffiths will know that she courts danger, gets herself into the most terrible scrapes, but will come out fighting like a five-foot-nothing whirling Dervish. Her boss says:

And well done, I suppose. I can’t think of any other officer of mine who’d have got themselves into that situation. But I can’t think of anyone who’d have got out of it either.”

I wrote, when reviewing an earlier Fiona Griffiths novel for another book site:

“In a lifetime of reading crime fiction I have never come across anyone quite like Fiona Griffiths …. Read this book. Enjoy every syllable.”

The publishers have used that quote on my edition of The Dead House, and I stand by every word. You won’t read a better book all year.

You can buy The Dead House from Harry Bingham’s Amazon page and check up on the previous adventures of Fiona Griffiths. Harry’s website is here.

JOINT JUDGMENT – A freebie!!

WEndy CartmellA FREE LUNCH? As in ‘no such thing as’? Normally, the old adage is pretty true, but it seems that you can feast your mind. if not your tummy, with a genuine free offer from author Wendy Cartmell (left). She is best known for her series of Sgt. Major Crane stories, featuring the gritty Military Policeman, but she has a more recent heroine, Emma Harrison. She is an Assistant Governor of Reading Young Offenders’ Institution, and while her charges are callow youths, they are well versed in all kinds of villainy, and the broken lives which have pitched them into the Institution have made some of them very damaged indeed.

In Joint Judgment, she faces a career-defining challenge as she strives to defuse a potentially catastrophic situation, as first the Institutes doctor is attacked and badly hurt, but then the Art Teacher is brutally killed. In order to prevent further bloodshed, she enlists the help of Sgt. Billy Williams, of the Special Investigations Branch of the Royal Military Police.

Joint Judgment

As far as I can see, there is absolutely no small print here, so let’s go ahead with the all important links. Firstly, why not pay a visit to Wendy’s publisher, Endeavour Press, and see what else they have been up to.

You can follow these links to get a Kindle version, or a PDF of Joint Judgment.

Thanks to Wendy Cartmell and Endeavour Press for their generosity. In return you might like to let the wider world know what you think of the book. You can do this by following this link to the book’s Amazon page. You can also take a look at Wendy’s website to read about her other books.


KIndleKINDLE ROUNDUP, JULY 25th 2016. It has to be said, for all that it’s a wonderful invention, and has revolutionised reading, The Kindle (other devices are available!) can provide a pitfall for the book reviewer. While a physical To Be Read pile is ever visible, and sits in the corner looking at you in an accusing fashion, the equivalent stack of books on the digital reader quietly goes away when the power is turned off. So, with apologies to the writers and publishers who have trusted me with their offspring, here is my first, but belated, look at some great titles.

Mercedes MarieMercedes Marie by Fusty Luggs
Of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper, the one who has intrigued writers and Ripperologists the most is Mary Jane – or Marie Jeannette – Kelly. She was the youngest of them, and despite there being no photograph of her in life, some people have imagined her as beautiful and vivacious, so unlike the poor broken down women whose deaths preceded hers. The author takes an imaginative and compelling look at how a beautiful girl from Limerick, with friends in high places, came to end her life as a butchered corpse in a Whitechapel hovel. The author? She lives in Wiltshire, England, and the name has an interesting definition in The Urban Dictionary. She has a blog, and can also be found on Twitter. You can get hold of a copy  from Amazon in the usual way.

No AccidentNo Accident by Robert Crouch
Both the author and his central character, Kent Fisher, are Environmental Health officers. You might not have put that occupation at the top of a list of those likely to become amateur sleuths, but when Fisher is called to the ironically named Tombstone Leisure Park to investigate a fatal accident, you will soon learn that his eagle eye for detail and his scientific training make him more than a match for those trying to hoodwink the police. You can read more about Robert Crouch on his website and by checking out his Twitter feed. Just for a change, here’s a link to Waterstones, who are selling Robert’s book in paperback, but the Kindle version is downloadable in the usual way.

Falling SunsFalling Suns by J.A. Corrigan
This dark tale about a mother seeking revenge for her murdered child is a police procedural with a difference. Rachel has left the police force, but when her young son goes missing, and then is found murdered, her life spirals into depression, and then shapes into white hot anger. Her cousin Michael is convicted of the little boy’s murder, but is declared insane, and is sent to a secure institution. Rachel resumes her police career, but when she learns that Michael is being considered for release, she is faced with a terrible dilemma. Should she move on with her life, or use her official know-how to exact a terrible revenge? The author was a physiotherapist before turning to writing full time, and her website is here. Falling Suns is her second novel, and  it’s currently in stock in print at Waterstone’s, and Foyles. You can get your Kindle version at Amazon.

The Woman In The WoodsThe Woman In The Woods by Louise Mullins
Domestic Noir is certainly ‘the new black’, and the psychological thrills and chills that lurk behind suburban net curtains are employed with great relish here. Rachel Harper is a reporter whose career is maybe not quite on the rocks, but is certainly stuck in the low-tide mud. When a local student goes missing, and then is found dead, Rachel senses the chance to revive her journalistic CV. Her search for the truth behind the young woman’s death takes her to places where preserving her life becomes a higher priority than enhancing her Linkedin profile. Louise Mullins is based in Bristol, is a clinical psychologist who works with serious offenders. She has written seven previous novels, about which there are more details on her website. Go to Amazon to buy the Kindle version of this novel.

Unquiet SoulsUnquiet Souls by Liz Mistry
This police procedural introduces us to DI Gus McGuire. Central to the case is the horribly topical crime of child trafficking, and McGuire’s investigations are triggered when the dead body of a prostitute is found. When terrified children are found locked away in an attic, McGuire links the two cases, and soon finds he has to hunt a resourceful and evil criminal – nicknamed The Matchmaker. The author has written very frankly in Female First about how she suffered from depression, and thus found the completion of this novel an uphill struggle. The book is released at the end of July. Check here for further details.



AUGUST, 1865. Queen Victoria was in the 28th year of her reign, but had become a virtual recluse after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Palmerston was Prime Minister, and the Salvation Army had been founded in Whitechapel. In America, the Civil War was over, but Lincoln was dead, and Andrew Johnson ruled in his stead.

On the evening of Monday 7th August, a man brought three children, aged six, eight and ten, to the Star Coffee House and Hotel, Red Lion Street, Holborn, London. He had previously arranged accommodation, saying that they would all shortly be leaving for Australia. On the Tuesday evening, he put the children to bed and left the hotel, stating that he world return shortly. On the Wednesday morning, neither the man nor the children came down for breakfast. Sensing that something was wrong, the hotel manager entered the rooms occupied by the children, and found a terrible sight. All three were quite dead, and there was no sign of the man.

Red Lion Street

The testimony of Dr George Harley, physician, (below right) was this:

George_Harley“On the 9th of August last I was requested by Dr. ROBERTS, of Lamb’s Conduit-street to visit Star’s Hotel, where, as he informed me, three children were supposed to have been murdered, and that in case of so serious a nature he deemed it advisable to have a second opinion. On the third floor, in the front room, No. 6 of the above-named hotel I saw two boys lying on their backs in bed quite dead. The younger of the two, ALEXANDER WHITE, aged eight was near the back, the elder, THOMAS WILLIAM WHITE, aged nine years, toward the front part of the bed. The bodies of both were cold and stiff, and although their countenances wore the placidity of slumber they nevertheless bore the pallor of death. The eyes were half open; the pupils semi-dilated. On turning down the bedclothes both bodies presented a mottled appearance, from the extreme lividity of some parts, the deadly pallor of others. The attitude of the youngest child was that of a comfortable repose. The head slightly inclined to the left side. The hands were folded upon the abdomen. The legs gently crossed. The fingers of the right hand still retained within them a penny-piece, which fell from their stiffened grasp while the body was being turned upon its side, with the view of detecting marks of violence.”

He continued:

Quote“In the back bedroom, No. 8, of the same floor lay the dead body of a somewhat emaciated but handsomely featured boy, HENRY WILLIAM WHITE, aged ten years. The attitude and complexion of this child closely resembled that of his brothers. His expression was calm, the eyelids were closed, the pupils were natural, the face was deadly pale. A small quantity of fluid had flowed from the mouth on to the collar of his shirt, and that part of the left cheek in contact with it was mottled red and purple. The legs and toes were slightly bent the hands partially closed, the nails and finger tips intensely livid. A spot of feculent matter soiled the sheet. The rigidity of death was well marked in every l imb, and livid discolorations in all the depending parts of the body. No marks of violence were observable, but a slight odor was perceptible about the mouth. The whole chamber had a peculiar ethereal smell.”
He concluded:

“I have to add that the history of the cases, the appearance and attitudes of the bodies after death, the result of the post mortem examinations, and the chemical analysis lead me to the conclusion that Henry William White, Thomas William White, and Alexander White died from the mortal effects of a poisonous dose of prussic acid.”

The three dead children were identified as Henry White, aged ten years,Thomas White, aged eight years and Alexander White, aged six years. The parenting of these three children had been bizarre, to say the least. Their father – or at least the man who accepted them as his own – had been married to the boys’ mother, and by an awful coincidence was a schoolmaster in Featherstone Buildings, only a stone’s throw from the hotel where they died.

 The boys’ mother had been living with a man called Ernest Southey, and the three lads had been passed backwards and forwards several times between Mr William Henry White and his wife. Finally, they had been ‘in the care’ of Southey and Mrs White, as it was put about that they intended to emigrate to Australia. Not only did Mr White’s description of Southey match that of the hotel staff, Southey was known to the police. Earlier in the year, Southey, who was, by occupation a billiard marker, had been involved in a strange case where Mrs White tried to inveigle money from a member of the aristocracy, and Southey had intervened on her behalf.

220px-GeorgeEdwardGrey01The Home Secretary, Sir George Grey (left), announced a £100 reward for the apprehension of Southey. It was to prove unnecessary. Having poisoned the three boys, the fugitive, who obviously subscribed to the old adage about sheep and lambs, had traveled down to the Kent seaside town of Ramsgate where, it transpired, his real wife and daughter lived. Having met them, and pleaded for their forgiveness for his long absence and neglect, he then shot them both dead with a pistol. He was caught red-handed, and gave himself up without a struggle.

At this point it became clear that Ernest Southey was none other than Stephen Forwood, his latest victims being Mary Ann Jemima Forward, and her daughter Emily. He was brought to the magistrate in Ramsgate, but then produced an astonishing document, apparently penned in the interval between his arrest and the court appearance. He proclaimed to the court;

“On Monday, the 7th instant, I took three children, whom I claim as mine by the strongest ties, to Starr’s Coffee-house, Red Lion-street, Holborn. I felt for these children all the affection a parent could feel. I had utterly worn out and exhausted every power of mind and body in my efforts to secure a home, training, and a future for those children, also the five persons I felt hopelessly dependent on me. I could struggle and bear up no longer, for the last support had been withdrawn from me. My sufferings were no longer supportable. My very last hope had perished by my bitter and painful experience of our present iniquitously-ineffective social justice, and for this I shall be Denialcharged with murder, for criminal murders as well in the truest, strongest sense of the charge. I deny and repudiate the charge, and charge it back on many who have by their gross and criminal neglect brought about this sad and fearful crisis. I charge back the guilt of these crimes on those high dignitaries of the State, the Church, and justice who have turned a deaf ear to my heartbroken appeals, who have refused me fellow help in all my frenzied efforts, my exhausted struggles; who have impiously denied the sacredness of human life, the mutual dependence of man, and the fundamental and sacred principles on which our social system is based. Foremost among these I charge the Hon. D. Lord Palmerston, the Attorney General, Sir George Grey, the Hon. Mr. Gladstone, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Ebury, Lord Townshend, Lord Elcho, Lord Brougham, Sir E. B Lytton, Mr Disraeli, Sir J. Packington, Earl Derby, Lord Stanley, Mr Crossley, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells. I Under all the terrible run of my life I have done for the best.”

BlackadderWhether the wretched man was exhibiting an early version of what we would come to know as The Blackadder Defence – wearing underpants on the head and sticking knitting needles up the nostrils, in the hope that he would be considered totally mad – we shall never know. Forward’s lawyer half-heartedly went for a plea of insanity, but his efforts were ignored.


The authorities in London wanted Forward returned to them, but the Kent police had him under lock and key, and they had no intention of letting him go. Regarding the murder of the boys, Forward’s trial produced evidence that Mrs White had grown tired of him, and he had threatened her with dire consequences should she not take him back. He was sentenced to death, and was eventually executed in January 1866. A local newspaper takes up the story.

On 11 January 1866, at the County Goal in Maidstone one of the most notorious murderers of Victorian Kent paid the final penalty for his crimes. This was Stephen Forwood (or Forwood) also known as Ernest Walter Southey. He was the last person to be publicly executed at Maidstone Goal (below)


A contemporary account tells us:

The morning of Thursday 11 January 1866, was very cold, a severe snow storm driven by a harsh wind prevailed and this kept the usual crowd that gathered for this occasion down to about 1500 persons. The execution was presided over by Mr. F Scudamore, the Under-Sheriff of the County of Kent accompanied by some of his officers.

Quote3Arriving at the Gaol just before midday they immediately went to the cell where Forward was held. The executioner was Calcraft who acted as executioner at Stafford and in the “Midland Counties”. The prisoner asked for permission to speak and “exclaimed in an audible voice”, ” I desire to say in the presence of you who are now assembled, and in the presence of Almighty God, into whose immediate presence I am now about to depart, that I die trusting only to the merits of the God-man Jesus Christ”.

The prisoner was now “pinioned” by Calcraft (above) and as he was lead to the scaffold he could be heard praying loudly. Just before he was placed on the drop he shook hands with Major Bannister, the Governor of the Gaol, and with the chaplain. To the chaplain he made his last request that when he was upon the scaffold the chaplain would only utter the following prayer” Lord, into thy hands we commend the soul of this our brother, for thou hast redeemed him. Oh Lord, thou God of Troth.”

Forward said that his reason for this request was that he wished to “concentrate the whole powers of his soul and spirit into one mighty act of volition, and render himself up to God in the words mentioned.” The request was granted and as the chaplain began to speak, the drop opened and Forward “ceased to exist”.

The Maidstone and Kentish Journal describes the scene so:

The scaffold was hung round with black cloth to such a height that when the drop fell only just the top of the convict’s head was visible to the crowd. The body, after hanging an hour, was cut down and a cast of the head taken. In the afternoon the body was buried within the precincts of the gaol.

Edwin Ruck, the Registrar for the East Maidstone District, registered the death on Saturday 13 January 1866. The informant being the Governor of the Gaol, Major C W Bannister, the cause of death was stated as “Hanging for Murder’.

We cannot know if Stephen Forwood’s piety on the scaffold stood him in any stead in the place where he was heading, but we can state that it did absolutely no good to the four children and the woman for whose deaths he was responsible. Of the London sites connected with the case little or nothing remains. Where The Star Coffee House and Hotel once stood, at 21 Red Lion Street, we now find a nondescript, but doubtlessly very expensive block of flats. The Featherstone Buildings, where William White taught his grammar lessons, was totally destroyed by German bombs during the Blitz.

Just as  tabloid newspapers, even in this digital age, still hope that a juicy headline will shift a few more copies, the ballad writers and hacks who turned out broadsides may have seen a temporary upsurge in sales, as they dramatised the terrible events of August 1865.



THE MONSTER’S DAUGHTER – Between the covers


MICHELLE PRETORIUS (above) is a South African writer who was born in Bloemfontein. She currently lives and works in Ohio. The Monster’s Daughter is her first novel.

Alet Berg has an uphill struggle to establish her credibility as a constable in the South African Police Service. Firstly, she is a woman, and the attitude of Alet’s male colleagues is no better than that of a dozen other police forces across the world. Secondly, she is smart and well educated, but has done herself few favours at the start of her career, and has been sent to the small town of Unie to redeem herself. Thirdly, and most troubling, she is the daughter of Adriaan Berg, a legendary strong man in the force from back in the days of apartheid and the struggle between the ANC and the white government.

Alet is called to a suspicious death out on the hill-top farm of a man called Terblanche. The corpse has been burned beyond recognition, and it is not clear if it is that of a man or a woman. Her partner is the inscrutable and rather prim Sergeant Mathebe, but neither of them can make – literally – head nor tail of the body, and it is removed to the morgue to await an autopsy.

Subsequently, Alet becomes involved in another sinister incident. While driving home one night, she pulls over to find a woman, near death, in a roadside pull-off. While tending to the woman, Alet is disturbed by a man who then attempts steals her car, but his escape is halted by Alet drawing her weapon and shooting at the car. The man, a petty criminal, is duly arrested, but there is no evidence to connect him to the injured woman, and Alet is suspended from duty pending further investigations.

The Monster's DaughterBy this time in the novel, you will have had one or two diversions from the more-or-less present day (2010). The Boer War and its aftermath clearly play an important part in the narrative, and we look on queasily as a number of teenagers from the Afrikaans population are taken from their families and used in some kind of genetic experiments by an English doctor. As the century grows older two children, Tessa and Ben, who are the results of these experiments, strike up a relationship, but they then go their different ways.

To say any more about how these apparently disparate story strands merge together would be irresponsible, both to the author and to you, the reader. Suffice to say that Michelle Pretorius takes a breathtaking risk in her plot. As experienced readers, both you and I will have read novels where such risks are taken but backfire spectacularly. This time, however, as Alet closes in on the truth about the lonely death on Terblanche’s hill farm, you will only be a couple of steps ahead of her, and her growing incredulity and ultimate acceptance of an astonishing truth is superbly described.

The tensions and contradictions of Modern South Africa are described in an unflinching fashion, but without preaching or moralising. The account of the country’s troubled past is secure and convincing. It is barely credible that this is a debut novel. The writing is spectacularly good; compassionate, evocative of time and place and, above all, totally credible. It is this which makes the author’s gamble pay off – in brilliant fashion. You may also realise, by the last page, that there is a telling ambiguity in the book’s title. If it is intentional, it is very, very clever. If it is mere chance, then it still works beautifully.

You can buy the book by following the link to Amazon, and learn more about the author from her webpage.

Go to the index of fullybooked to find more reviews, news and features.


THIS BEAUTY came all the way from the States, courtesy of FSB Associates and the publishers, Four B’s Publishing. Four B’s have a Facebook page, for those wishing to connect. Author Jack Bailey died in 2010, and to read more about his remarkable life, go to

Orchard book

So, to the book. The cover, front and back, are simple but elegant, with a definite feel of the early 20th century about them. The titular Harry Orchard was a real life character, the name being a pseudonym of Albert Edward Horsley (1866 – 1954) Horsley/Orchard was an enforcer for the militant Western Federation of Miners. He was renowned for intimidation and strong-arm tactics on behalf of the WFM, but he became notorious when he was convicted of the assassination of the former Governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg.  Orchard’s defence attorney was none other than Clarence Darrow, who would achieve celebrity as the defender in the Leopold/Loeb murder trial in 1924.


H_OrchardOrchard (right) had his mandatory death sentence commuted and he died in the state penitentiary in Boise, Idaho, on April 13, 1954, aged 88, over 48 years after his arrest. Jack Bailey’s novel is a fictionalised account of these momentous events, and will be  available on Amazon from 26th July. Bailey himself had a long and varied career. An Oregon native, Jack joined the Navy at 17, and served in WW II aboard the aircraft carrier Lexington, until she was sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea. He graduated from USC with a BA in English and then spent 16 years in aerospace during which time he wrote two novels loosely based on the industry.





Stop Press

I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED the first full length novel in Peter Bartram’s Crampton of The Chronicle series – Headline Murder. It was cleverly written, witty, and nostalgic without being mawkish. Now, Brighton’s most inquisitive reporter, Colin Crampton, returns for another 1960s mystery, and my long-suffering postman brought it to me this morning. It is due out on August 1st, and promises murder, two elderly lady twins locked in a life-long feud – and a stolen What The Butler Saw machine.

The full review of Stop Press Murder will be on here soon, but also look out for an article by Peter Bartram (pictured below) – on What The Butler Saw machines! You can buy Stop Press Murder from Amazon, and other booksellers.




HERE’S THE TALE OF A QUIET LAD from a village in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He had an IQ of 128, sang in the church choir, was a Boy Scout, and won a scholarship to Halifax Grammar school, where he excelled at mathematics. He volunteered to fight in 1916, served, perhaps not heroically, but survived long enough to be invalided out after a gas attack in 1918.

John Christie (001)John Reginald Halliday Christie (left) moved to London in the 1920s, and developed into a career criminal, albeit of a petty sort. He had married Ethel Simpson in 1928, but they became estranged. They were reconciled, and set up home in a threadbare flat at 10 Rillington Place, Ladbroke Grove. It seems that Christie ticked a depressingly recurrent box on the checklist of serial killers. He was impotent under normal sexual circumstances, but seemed able to perform, after a fashion, with prostitutes.

In 1943 Christie, who was sheltered to an extent by his role as a reservist policeman, began his murder spree. His first victim was an Austrian factory worker, and part-time prostitute, Ruth Fuerst. After strangling her during sex, Christie disposed of her body in his back garden, but only after hiding under the floorboards for a time. His next victim, in 1944, was a co-worker, Muriel Eady. She was killed, bizarrely, by a device Christie had fabricated to relieve, so he claimed, Eady’s bronchitis. Instead of breathing emollient Friars Balsam, the poor woman was inhaling carbon monoxide. She, too, was buried in the back garden.

Christie’s murderous adventures slowed down for a time, until 1949 brought the murders for which he became most notorious. He killed fellow lodgers Beryl Evans, and her baby daughter Geraldine. Due to a fatal combination of duplicity and police incompetence, Beryl’s husband, Timothy, was convicted of the murders and hanged in Pentonville prison on 9th March 1950 – by Albert Pierrepoint. Evans’ conviction was never formally quashed, but judges ruled in 2004 that “Evans did not murder either his wife or his child.”

In December 1952 Christie murdered his long-suffering wife, Ethel, and then sold her watch, wedding ring and furniture. With Ethel now unavoidably absent – in a conscious sense – from Rillington place, Christie’s vendetta against women intensified. Three more victims, Kathleen Maloney, Rita Nelson and Hectorina MacLennan were lured to the house of death, murdered, and disposed of in a half-hearted fashion.


Christie’s downfall came when he left the property, and another tenant tried to install kitchen shelves. The ghastly relics of Christie’s abominations were then, one by one, discovered. Below, a policeman stands guard in the unholy graveyard of 10 Rillington Place.

British Crime - Murder - 10 Rillington Place - London - 1953

Christie was arrested, charged, tried and, despite pleading insanity, was found guilty, condemned to death, and hanged in Pentonville by the ubiquitous Pierrepoint on 15th July 1953. What seems scarcely credible is that the seven decomposing bodies, over a period of ten years, attracted no interest. Dead bodies, so I am reliably informed, smell bad. What must the background ambience of the dismal little house in Rillington Place have been like, in order for the smells of mortality to remain un-noticed? Below are the seven known adult victims of John Reginald Halliday Christie. Missing are the 13 month-old child, Geraldine Evans and her father Timothy.


The scene of Christie’s atrocities, like other infamous sites such as Cromwell Street Gloucester and Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley, is long gone. For those who like to seek out such places, here are then and now maps.

NUmber 10

Blog at

Up ↑