John Reginald Halliday Christie was born in Yorkshire in 1898, and grew up in a household largely dominated by his martinet father and over-protective mother and sisters, with the result that he grew up to be a sexually dysfunctional, control-obsessed hypochondriac, with an inherent dislike of women.
He left school aged 15 and during WW1 he served as a signalman. He was involved in a mustard gas attack that he claims blinded him temporarily, and caused hysterical muteness that lasted over three years, although some believe that this loss of speech was simply a means to gain attention. His earlier sexual dysfunction and control issues precluded any normal sexual relations, and he started to frequent prostitutes from the age of nineteen.
This muteness did not, however, prevent his marriage, in 1920, to Ethel Simpson Waddington, but his sexual difficulties remained; his visits to prostitutes continued regularly beyond his wedding day.
Christie, who had become a postman, was sent to prison for three months for stealing postal orders, and two years later he was put on probation for violent behaviour. He also left Ethel around this time, and moved to London, leaving her to support herself in Sheffield.
By 29 he was back in prison on theft charges, and he spent 9 months incarcerated before moving in with a prostitute, then a further 6 months inside for assaulting her. He was also suspected of other assaults on women, but no charges were brought. A further spell in prison for car theft followed, after which he asked estranged wife Ethel to come and live with him in London, which she did in 1933. The visits to prostitutes to relieve his violent sexual urges continued, which by now also included elements of necrophilia, and these urges intensified over the next decade.
Christie and Ethel moved to 10 Rillington Place in 1938.