Last night, I watched the Timothy Evans section of the programme 'Executed' on ITV in England and it was frustratingly slick television mixed in with genuine grief and sadness from Evans's family at the event itself. A friend of mine who worked for a media company gave me the sound advice, 'don't ever believe what you see on TV', which doesn't mean that none of it is true but that it shouldn't be taken as literal truth and is all presented and edited to give a certain impression, usually a very simple one so that the viewers don't have to think too hard while watching.
Some of the programme was correct in that Evans's mother did shout that Christie was the murderer outside the courtroom during Evans's trial, and Evans did eventually accuse Christie of the murders of his wife and daughter. The ever-smiling Tim was part of his character but not the whole story, and Beryl seems to have been a nice person although fairly adept at handling herself in physical confrontations. It was interesting to see the original photos of the Evans family, and there's no reason to doubt that both parents doted on baby Geraldine, the most innocent victim in this sorry saga.
However, certain known facts were not mentioned or were misrepresented and other things simplified:
- Tim is portrayed as a harmless dimwit, fitting in nicely with the 'standard version' from Ludovic Kennedy's book. The files that were opened in the 1990s show this to be not the case, as he was a drinker who was seen with his arms round his wife's neck by one of the neighbours during an argument. The programme highlights his childlike nature and low mental age, but he was also able to hold down a job in the adult world and his mental age doesn't make it less likely that he was the killer, as it is a primitive, primal act.
-Basil Thorley, Beryl's brother, genuinely grieves his sister, but unlike how he is portrayed in the programme, he always thought Evans did it even when nobody else did, and chatted amiably with Christie outside the court during Evans's trial.
-There is no mention of the Evanses' frequent and often violent arguments, and a rather rosy picture is offered.
-Christie is portrayed in a simplistic way as aggressive and horrible. Again, part of this is true, and he was apparently rude to Evans's sisters when they came to inquire about the whereabouts of Tim and his wife and daughter, but Jonathan Oates's book offers a more rounded portrait of Christie, who was liked by many he came into contact with
-Only one of Evans's 4 official statements is mentioned, the one where he implicated Christie, whereas he confessed 3 times to killing his wife and baby.
-It is assumed that Evans' pardon in 1966 meant that he was officially an innocent man, whereas Judge Brabin's verdict was that he probably killed his wife but not his daughter.
-Basil Thorley says that Beryl had told him that Christie had 'interfered' with her and 'touched her up'. Why then would she agree to let him abort her baby?
The whole case is very sad and tragic, but my point as ever is to cut through the emotion and try to draw an accurate conclusion. The police probably were hasty in their original conclusions and keen to get the case put to bed quickly. John Eddowes theorised in his 1994 book that Christie could have been a police informant, which would explain his economic survival despite being frequently off work.
TV programmes exist to serve advertisers rather than viewers and so need to tow the establishment line. Of course, this case was different in that officialdom has 'officially' been found to have got it wrong, but once again an overly simplistic review of the facts is given, as befits the make up of mainstream programming.