Archibald Hall


Archibald Hall

Archibald Hall

Archibald Hall (a.k.a. Roy Fontaine, born Glasgow, Scotland, 17 June 1924; died Portsmouth, England, 16 September 2002) was a British serial killer and thief. 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.

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Crime from the start

Hall began stealing at the age of 15, and soon progressed to burglary. After realising he was bisexual, he infiltrated the gay scene in London where he moved on the strength of his criminal profits. He served his first jail sentence after trying in London to sell jewellery he had stolen in Scotland. During his stretch, he learnt more about etiquette and the aristocracy while also dulling his Scottish accent with elocution lessons and studying antiques.

Upon his release he began using the name Roy Fontaine – as a homage to actress Joan Fontaine, of whom he was a fan – and working as a butler, occasionally returning to prison for sentences incurred after more pilfering of jewels. He got married and divorced during this time.

From thief to killer

In 1975, Hall was released from prison and went back to Scotland. He began working as butler to Margaret 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 and a former lover, 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.

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 his hand over her mouth and suffocated her.

They then drugged her husband and drove them both up to Scotland, helped by a local prostitute and acquaintance, Mary Coggles. Mrs Scott-Elliot was buried in Braco, Perthshire, then they strangled and beat her sedated husband and buried him in woods near Tomich, Invernesshire.

Their next victim was Coggles, who had taken to wearing Mrs Scott-Elliot’s expensive clothes and jewellery and was drawing too much attention to herself. After she refused to dispose of the fur coat, which was potentially incriminating evidence, Hall and Kitto killed her and left her body in a barn in Middlebie, Dumfriesshire, where she was discovered on Christmas Day 1977 by a shepherd.

The final victim of the pair was Hall’s half-brother Donald, a pædophile just out of prison whom Hall hated. Hall and Kitto found him at Hall’s holiday home in Cumbria, and Hall chloroformed him before drowning him in the bath. The abortive effort to dispose of this body led to Hall and Kitto’s downfall.

Arrest

Hall and Kitto put the body in the boot of the car and again drove to Scotland to carry out another burial. However, the wintry weather made driving hazardous, and so on reaching North Berwick in East Lothian, they decided to check into a hotel overnight in order 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 searched Hall’s car and found the corpse.

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 upon Tyne, 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 Coggles, 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 Mr 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

Hall was convicted at courts in London and Edinburgh of four murders – the murder of Mrs Scott-Elliot was ordered to lie on file – and sentenced to life imprisonment. In Scotland, it was recommended that he served 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 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.

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.

References

Further reading

  • Hall, Roy Archibald (2002). To Kill and Kill Again: The Chilling True Confessions of a Serial Killer. John Blake. ISBN 1857825551. 

Persondata
NAME Hall, Archibald
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Fontaine, Roy (pseudonym)
SHORT DESCRIPTION Serial killer
DATE OF BIRTH 17 June 1924
PLACE OF BIRTH Glasgow, Scotland
DATE OF DEATH 16 September 2002
PLACE OF DEATH Portsmouth, England

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