Archibald Hall

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For other people of the same name, see Arch Hall (disambiguation).
Archibald Thomson Hall
Archibald Hall portrait.jpg
Born 17 June 1924
Glasgow, Scotland
Died 16 September 2002(2002-09-16) (aged 78)
Kingston Prison, Portsmouth, England
Cause of death
Stroke
Other names Roy Fontaine
Killer Butler
Monster Butler
Criminal penalty
Life Imprisonment
Conviction(s) Murder
Killings
Victims 5
Span of killings
1977–1978
Country United Kingdom
Date apprehended
16 January 1978

Archibald Thomson Hall (a.k.a. Roy Fontaine; 17 June 1924 – 16 September 2002) was a British serial killer and thief. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he became known as the Killer Butler or the Monster Butler after committing crimes while working in service to members of the British aristocracy. Until his death, he was the oldest person serving a whole life tariff in prison.[1]

Crime from the start[edit]

Hall's criminal career began as a thief at the age of 15. He soon progressed to burglary. Capitalizing on his bisexuality, he then infiltrated the gay scene in London, after moving there with profits of his criminal ventures. He served his first jail sentence for attempting to sell in London jewellery he had stolen in Scotland. During his stretch, he studied antiques and learned the etiquette of the aristocracy, as well as taking elocution lessons to soften his Scottish accent.

Upon his release he began using the name Roy Fontaine – a homage to actress Joan Fontaine – and working as a butler, occasionally returning to prison for further jewel thefts. He married and divorced during this time.

From thief to killer[edit]

In 1975, Hall was released from prison and went back to Scotland. He began working as butler to Peggy Hudson, a dowager who lived at Kirtleton House, Dumfriesshire. Hall initially had ideas to steal her valuables but he never carried them out when he realised that he liked both his job and employer too much.

When David Wright, an acquaintance from his last prison term, was also given a job on the estate as a gamekeeper in 1977, the two had an altercation after Wright stole some of Lady Hudson's jewellery and threatened to tell her about Hall's own criminal past if he reported him.[2]

Hall took Wright on a rabbit hunt in a trick attempt at coming to an amicable solution. Once out in the fields, he shot Wright dead and buried him next to the stream in the Kirtleton House grounds.

Hall quit his job immediately – much to Lady Hudson's apparent disappointment – and moved back to London where he combined more thieving and racketeering with working as a butler to the 82-year-old Walter Scott-Elliot, and his 60-year-old wife Dorothy. Scott-Elliot, who had been Labour Member of Parliament for Accrington from 1945 to 1950, was rich and from an aristocratic Scottish background. Hall's plan was to rob them of their money and retire, but in the end he killed them both after Mrs Scott-Elliot walked in on Hall and an accomplice, Michael Kitto, as they were discussing their plans. Kitto immediately put a pillow over her mouth and suffocated her. They then drugged her husband and drove them both up to Scotland, helped by the Scott-Elliots' housekeeper Mary Coggle.[3] Dorothy was buried in Braco, Perthshire, then they strangled and beat her sedated husband with a shovel and buried him in woods near Tomich, Invernesshire.[4]

Their next victim was Coggle, who had taken to wearing Dorothy's expensive clothes and jewellery and was drawing too much attention to herself.[5] After she refused to dispose of the fur coat, which was potentially incriminating evidence, Hall and Kitto killed her with a poker and left her body in a stream near Middlebie, Dumfriesshire, where she was discovered on 25 December 1977 by a shepherd.

The final victim of the pair was Hall's half-brother Donald, a paedophile just out of prison whom Hall hated. Hall and Kitto found him at Hall's holiday home in Cumbria, they told Donald that their next robbery was going to be a tie-up job and tricked him into letting them practice on him. Once tied up, Hall used chloroform to incapacitate Donald before drowning him in the bath. The abortive effort to dispose of his body led to Hall and Kitto's downfall.[6]

Arrest[edit]

Hall and Kitto put the body in the boot of a car and again drove to Scotland to carry out another burial. However, Hall had made Kitto replace the number plate which contained three "9"s because he believed it was unlucky: this meant the tax disc and the number plate did not match. The wintry weather made driving hazardous, and so on reaching North Berwick in East Lothian, they decided to check into a hotel overnight to lessen their chances of being in an accident.

However, the shifty movements of Hall and Kitto made the hotelier suspicious and, worried about whether he would be paid for their stay, he called the police as a precaution. When they arrived, they realised the tax disc and number plate did not match and took Kitto and Hall in for questioning. They then took the car to the police station where they made the grisly discovery of Donald's body in the boot.

Kitto was arrested but Hall escaped through a lavatory window. He was captured at a police roadblock in nearby Haddington.

The police then made a connection between Hall's car and the registration number of a vehicle noted by a suspicious antiques dealer in Newcastle under Lyme, to whom two men had offered silver and china at a price well below its true value. The police traced the car to the Scott-Elliots' address in London and found the apartment robbed of many valuables and spattered with blood. This also linked with the murder of Coggle, whose body had already been found and who had been previously registered as a housekeeper for the Scott-Elliots. The police had evidence that three men (including a drugged Scott-Elliot) and a woman had stayed at a Scottish hotel for one night, but the following night only two men – Hall and Kitto – returned.

Hall tried and failed to commit suicide while in custody, before revealing the whereabouts of the three buried victims. In deep snow and bitter temperatures, and with the media watching, police teams dug up the bodies of David Wright and Walter and Dorothy Scott-Elliot. They charged Hall and Kitto with five murders.

Imprisonment and death[edit]

Hall was convicted at courts in London and Edinburgh of four murders – the murder of Dorothy Scott-Elliot was ordered to lie on file – and sentenced to life imprisonment. In Scotland, it was recommended that he serve a minimum of 15 years and in England the judge handed down a recommendation that he never be released.

Kitto was given life imprisonment for three murders, with no recommended minimum in Scotland and a 15-year minimum in England. Police said in evidence that Kitto was, in a perverted way, fortunate to be able to go on trial, as Hall was planning to kill him too.

Successive Home Secretaries put Hall on the list of dangerous prisoners who should serve a whole life tariff, which unlike some criminals on the list, did not alter Hall's prison status at all, as it reciprocated the tariff set by one of his judges. When politically set tariffs were declared illegal by the law lords and the European Court of Human Rights, Hall's status as a prisoner unlikely to be released never changed, despite being the oldest prisoner on the publicised list. In 1995, the Observer newspaper published a letter from Hall in which he requested the right to die. He made numerous suicide attempts which were all unsuccessful.

Hall published his autobiography, A Perfect Gentleman, in 1999. He died of a stroke in Kingston Prison, Portsmouth, in 2002[7] at the age of 78. By this date, he was one of the oldest of more than 70,000 prisoners in British prisons, and the oldest to be serving a whole life tariff.

Film[edit]

In 2005, British actor Malcolm McDowell and Hollywood screenwriter Peter Bellwood announced that they were seeking a director and funding for a film based on Hall's life. In 2011, Malcolm McDowell stated the film was currently being made and would be named Monster Butler. The film is currently cancelled, due to lack of budget, until further notice.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Serial killing butler dies in prison aged 78". News.Scotsman.com. 31 October 2002. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "ARCHIBALD HALL & MICHAEL KITTO". Murder.UK. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Killer given 'rest of natural life' sentence". The Times (London). 2 November 1978. p. 6. 
  4. ^ "The monster butler who served up murder". The Scotsman. 2 December 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Murderous Butler". Watford Observer. 
  6. ^ "The monster butler who served up murder". The Scotsman. 2 December 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]