The postman who was a serial killer

Few people would think that this could be so. Yet John Reginald Halliday Christie of 10 Rillington Place, one of the twentieth century’s most notorious serial killers had worked for the Post Office on two occasions.

The first instance was shortly after he returned to his home town of Halifax after military service in the First World War. On 10 January 1921, Christie was enrolled as a temporary postman there, and was paid £2 18s 2d per week. His life took a turn for the worse on Tuesday 5 April 1921, when he appeared at Halifax Magistrates’ Court. Detective Inspector Sykes provided evidence to the effect that on 20 February, two postal orders had been stolen.

Convictions and dismissals of Post Office employees, 1916-1922. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/160)

Convictions and dismissals of Post Office employees, 1916-1922. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/160)

Questions had arisen because letters were going missing from Halifax Post Office and a Mr Drennan had been called upon to make enquiries. On 4 April he had found a letter in a public lavatory at Crossley Street, Halifax. This was a letter which Christie should have delivered. Drennan then followed Christie home and had a detective search him. He found four postal orders on his person. He also found several other postal orders, together with cheques and dividends at the house. They totalled several hundred pounds, including a £100 Bank of England warrant, cheques to the value of £600 and money orders worth £14 10s.

The defence rested on the prisoner’s previously exemplary character. The verdict, though, was that Christie was guilty and he was sentenced to three months in prison at Manchester. It is uncertain why he committed these crimes because he did not need the money; yet ex-servicemen with good war records had been known to go off the rails when their lives were no longer governed by external discipline.

Two decades later, just after another World War, on 21 May 1946 he rejoined the Post Office. He was employed as a Grade 2 clerk in the Post Office Savings Bank at Blythe Road, Shepherd’s Bush.

Exterior of the Post Office Savings Bank, Blythe Road, Shepherd’s Bush (POST 118/248)

Exterior of the Post Office Savings Bank, Blythe Road, Shepherd’s Bush (POST 118/248)

In August 1947 he was employed as a clerk at the Post Office Savings Bank at Kew and was in the First Aid party there.

Post Office Savings Bank, clerks at work (POST 118/269)

Post Office Savings Bank, clerks at work (POST 118/269)

His job at the Post Office came to an end on 4 April 1950, twenty nine years to the day he had left it previously. Christie claimed he had been ill, and off work and that on his return he was escorted from the premises by two investigating officers. It is often asserted that his employers discovered that, at the trial of Timothy Evans in January 1950, where Christie was the key Crown witness, he had a criminal record, as disclosed by the defence. Yet the dismissal book in the Post Office archives enigmatically states that the reason for his dismissal was ‘changes affecting the character’.

Convictions and Dismissals of Post Office Employees, 1949-1951. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/170)

Convictions and Dismissals of Post Office Employees, 1949-1951. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/170)

Three years later, Christie’s murders were revealed and he was hanged for murder. Ironically the investigating officer at the Post Office in 1950 was a man with the surname Death.

– Jonathan Oates, author of the upcoming book John Christie of Rillington Place: Biography of a Serial Killer, published by Pen and Sword, 2012.

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