23 JUNE 1961, Page 9

Evans: A Step Forward


ITtook eighteen years to clear the name of Oscar Slater; and the way things are going at the moment it looks as though it is going to take about the same time to clear the name of Timothy Evans. By this I do not mean that last Thursday's debate in the House of Commons did not take the matter any further. On the contrary, it took it a great deal further than most people realise. It is true that the Government did not take the opportunity offered it to order a fresh inquiry and so bring all argument to an end; but it is also true that it admitted what no British Government in modern times has ever before admitted, that we may have hanged an innocent man. 'It may be said and it may be true,' said Mr. Butler, 'that if the facts as they are now known had been known in 1950 the jury would not have found that the case against Evans had been proved beyond all reasonable doubt. I am saying that deliberately and with authority.' Admittedly this was not going any further than what Lord Birkett had said nor what any sane man or woman knows; but it was a far cry from Sir David Maxwell Fyfe's cheerful defence in 1953 of Mr. Scott Henderson's conclusions that there were `no grounds' for thinking that justice had miscarried and 'no doubts' that Evans' was guilty as charged.

Yet although the Government was prepared to admit a mistake may have been made, it was not, it seemed, prepared to do anything about it. Mr. Butler had been asked to do one of three things, and he could not, he said, do any of them. He could not grant a free pardon, because that required certainty of innocence, which was an impossibility in this case. He could not grant a new inquiry, because that would not prove Evans's innocence (the corollary of this, of course, is that the Scott Henderson In- quiry could not and did not prove his guilt); and he could not authorise the handing-over of Evans's remains to his mother, because that would require legislation which he was not prepared to recommend in view of the 'doubts' about Evans's innocence or guilt. In other words, he

could not make amends, because there were doubts, and he would not set up an inquiry which might dispel those doubts. As I listened to all this, I wondered what on earth Mr. Butler would have done if Evans had been still alive after eleven years of false imprisonment. Pro- duced exactly the same arguments, I suppose, and then said that nothing could be done. Or would he?

Now Mr. Butler gave two main reasons why

he was not disposed to take any further action. The first was because of his own 'doubts' as to Evans's innocence, and the second was because he did not consider that my book' Ten Rillington Place had added 'any significant new facts.' Taking the first point first, I was interested to know the nature of Mr. Butler's doubts, and was absolutely astonished when he said this: There are many people who . . . feel that there is no reason to doubt the correctness of his conviction for the murder of his child. I must say that . . . I have the greatest difficulty in not having some wonder and doubts on this matter, but the evidence seems to point really quite strongly to that conclusion. [My italics.]

Now this is simply not true. The evidence does

not point really quite strongly to that conclusion. The only evidence--the only evidence—that points to that conclusion is Evans's 'confession' to the Notting Hill police, which has been shown to be false in many details. Apart from this, there is not a single scrap of evidence againit him as regards the child, and a great deal of evidence to show that he did not know the child was dead until told so by the police. Indeed, it is as certain as anything can be that if Mr. Justice Lewis had ruled that the evidence re- garding the death of the mother was inad- missible, then the charge against Evans of murdering the child would have foundered for very lack of evidence. Why, therefore, should Mr. Butler mislead the House and the country by saying that the evidence points really quite strongly to Evans having murdered his child, especially as in the same breath he himself con-

fesses to having wonder and doubts on the matter?

Concerning new evidence, no Member on either side of the House seemed to appreciate that, between the publication of the Scott Hen- derson Report and my book, there has accumu- lated a considerable body of new, or, as Mr.

Butler prefers to call it, newly-published, evi- dence; i.e., evidence that was not produced at Evans's trial and not dealt with by Mr. Scott Henderson. Mr. Michael Eddowes produced some of it. Mr. Peter Baker of the Daily Mirror produced some of it, Miss Tennyson Jesse .pro- duced some of it and I have produced some of it. Each new book has assimilated the in- formation of previous ones. so that many people, on reading my hook, have been under the im- pression that they have known everything that was in it all along. If, however, they will refer back to what was publicly known at the time of the Scott Henderson Report, they will find

(Continued on page 912) that they knew very little. If they doubt this, let them imagine their reactions to the Scott Hen- derson Report if it were newly presented to them today. It might, I suggest, turn even such hardened stomachs as those of Sir Hugh Lucas- Tooth, MP, and Mr. T. L. Iremonger, MP. And if, as Mr. Butler claims, the evidence today is no more than what it was eight years ago, why did he admit that we may have hanged an inno- cent man, while his predecessor, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, did not so admit? What else but new evidence has led the Government to shift its viewpoint?

Mr. Butler dealt very frankly with my own newly-published points of evidence, but not, I think, very convincingly. He said that the evi- dence I had unearthed about Dr. Teare was 'no additional evidence.' This, the reader may remember, was Evans's solicitors' brief to coun- sel which stated that Itt the magistrate's court Dr. Teare had said that there might have been an attempt at sexual penetration on the body of Mrs. Evans after death. Dr. Teare has re- cently denied he could have said this, but how, as Mr. Abse, MP, pointed out, could Evans's solicitors have written this unless Dr. Teare had said it? Was this just another of the numerous fantastic coincidences in the case? My own view of this mystery is that Dr. Teare did in fact say what he is said to have said, but during the years that elapsed before he had to refresh his memory on the case, he both forgot what he said and the reasons why he said it. As Mr. Butler himself truly remarked, witnesses' memories do get dimmed and confused by the passage of time. (This, however, is one of the matters that a new inquiry might have cleared up.) As for other new points of evidence in the Spectator of April 28, it might be simplest to print Mr. Butler's criticisms of them as he de- livered them, and then add my own comments.

Mr. Kennedy . . . refers, first, to two matters: Evans's low intelligence and the fact that Christie assumed a bogus medical know- ledge. I have nothing to add with regard to the first point because that has been taken into account and has been analysed by all concerned with the case.

This refers to my saying that the prison medi- cal authorities had found that Evans had an IQ of 68, the mental age of a ten-and-a-half- year-old and the vocabulary of a fourteen-year- old. I suggested that it is only in the light of these hitherto unpublished facts about Evans's mental capacities that his so-called 'confession' to the Notting Hill police becomes understand- able. These facts were not produced at Evans's trial, and there is no evidence that Mr. Scott Henderson either analysed them or took them into account.

The second point does not help to throw much light on what happened in this particular case, particularly in the light of Dr. Teare's evidence.

My second point was that there are now five separate pieces of evidence to show that Christie assumed a bogus medical knowledge in order to be alone with his victims. If these pieces of evidence were all found to be true (which an inquiry might have found out), they would sub- stantiate Evans's claim that Christie had (un- truthfully) told him that he was going to abort and later had aborted his wife. They would show proof of what the, law calls system—a familiar pattern repeating itself, and could not, therefore, be said not to throw light on the case. In this connection Dr. Teare's evidence. is totally irrelevant.

Four of Mr. Kennedy's nine points relate to discrepancies and untruths in the many state- ments made by Christie to the police and in the course of his evidence at the trial of Evans. I have made careful comparison and examina- tion of these statements, and although they may have some evidential value, it is surely not right to imply, as Mr. Kennedy does, that Christie would have had no need to lie if he was inno- cent. Christie was mentally abnormal and• was much given to lying, as was shown at his trial.

This statement gives the impression that

Christie was in the habit of lying for the sake of lying. There is not a scrap of evidence to justify this assumption. Indeed, an exhaustive reading of all of Christie's declarations shows that he always lied for one of two reasons, either to boost his self-esteem or to avoid incriminating himself. He lied in his statements to the police and he lied throughout his evidence at Evans's trial. I say again with emphasis that it is per- fectly right to assume that Christie would have had no need to lie if he was innocent.

Three of Mr. Kennedy's points concern the conflicting statements that were made regarding the activities of the men who were working in the house during the week of the murders, and the origin of the timber that was used to conceal the bodies. These matters have already been mentioned by hon. Members and I have in- quired very closely into each of these points and 1 have considered whether, individually or collectively, they allow any useful deductions to be drawn, or suggest any further lines of inquiry which would be likely to be produc- tive. I am forced to the conclusion that they do not.

My main points here were: (a) the previously unpublished first statements of the workmen, which showed beyond a doubt that the bodies could not have been in the wash- house when Evans claimed to have put them there; (b) a description, given to me personally by one of the workmen, of how the police got hold of them again and by very dubious`methods per- suaded them to make second contradictory state- ments; (c) the previously unpublished statement of Mrs. Christie that the timber concealing the bodies belonged to her and Christie; and (d) the previously unpublished statement of Christie's in which he lied about the times the workmen were on the premises. I would submit to Mr. Butler, therefore, that in concluding that no useful deductions can' be drawn from these matters, he is himself usurping the functions of the fresh inquiry which I have repeatedly asked him to set up.

And there, as they say, the matter rests for the time being. But it will not rest for long. We may not have won the war, but in getting the Government to admit that a man may have been wrongly hanged, we have won a battle. The war will go on, for five, ten, fifteen years, until vic- tory is won. The trouble is that Evans's mother, who is now over sixty, may not live long enough to see it.