Tuesday, July 13, 2010
“Death will be my release. Not until I am dead can I escape these walls. To anyone who thinks they have the capacity for murder, I urge you to think again. My life is an impoverished nightmare. Let it be a lesson to you.” – Archibald Hall
There is a certain degree of grace and elegance one looks for when hiring someone to clean and take care of their home. The professional resumé of a suitable butler usually speaks volumes of their work history, how well composed they might be, and why they are the correct candidate for a particular job. It is hard to imagine hiring a certifiably insane person, but without real references to call upon, it is entirely possible to employ someone who is mentally defective. A bit of charisma and cheery personality can get someone very far in life, especially if they are trying hard to impress. For a psychopath, it is nearly human nature to act in such a way. While imagining cutting off your head, they might be telling you about the way in which to wash a dish properly; on their face, a perfect grin.
The psychopath in Archibald Hall revealed its ugly face early at the age of sixteen. Seduced by a much older and wealthy woman, Hall was awestruck when his partner took him to expensive dinners, large public functions providing sweet and tangy wine, and hotel rooms big enough to hold several elephants. Taking in the decadence of fine living and the richness of a soft mattresses and even softer pillows, Archibald Hall realized that this was the life he wanted. If he had to become a waiter, bartender, or butler to attain his dream, he would willingly cross the ocean to do so. Having come from a poor, but decent hardworking family, Hall was not used to the beauty of a sparkling chandelier or glamorously decorated opera houses. What Hall soon understood while sipping pink wine at a gala was that what he wanted, others had. The only way to get what he wanted was to take from others.
The first of many cruel deeds Hall committed was cheating the Red Cross. Wandering the streets of Glasgow with two tins in his hands, he asked the public for money which would graciously be accepted by the Red Cross. Any donation was fine, but larger bills were preferred, Hall said in a perfectly empathetic tone. At the end of the day, the tins were emptied by Hall, who took all the large bills and left pennies for the Red Cross to collect. Hall came to grasp the fact that he could steal without conscious, especially from the truly needy. This realization moved Hall so greatly, he was willing to commit any crime as long as his sweaty palms were filled with the money he felt he had a right to.
Archibald Hall was a master of manipulation and greed, but had not yet become a fully successful criminal yet. He met his first brush with police at the age of nineteen while breaking into homes and dealing in petty theft. After his arrest, Hall was judged mentally unstable, sent twice to mental hospitals, escaping each time. One year later, he was told by a court of law and psychiatrists that he was a certifiably insane person, but this did not deter Hall, who still dreamed of gleaming champagne glasses and the undeniably haunting tunes echoing from opera houses. If he was to go back to that wealthy lifestyle, he had to find a way in, legally.
Throughout the 1940’s to the late 1970’s, Hall was in and out of jail for various crimes. Stealing was his favorite game, but he was not very good at it. He had tried his hand at forgery, breaking into little shops, and swiping jewels from the rich. He landed in jail for almost every crime. Turning from the seduced to the seducer, Hall sought wealth from both men and women, bedding them for the night and disappearing with their money before the sun came up. But the money was never enough to satisfy Hall with what he really wanted. He wanted to become a proper gentleman, evading police, attending fantastic parties and being part of affluent society.
By 1977, Hall wanted to go straight and earn his money from an actual employer. Inevitably drawn to wealth, Hall sought work as a butler in Scotland, believing this to be his way into a prosperous life. Dressed in a butler uniform, impeccably creased and well-groomed, Hall changed his name to Roy Fontaine and found domestic work at Lady Peggy Hudson’s home on Scotland’s border. Lady Hudson also employed a gardener for her large estate, a man named David Wright. Unbeknownst to Lady Hudson, her new butler, “Roy Fontaine” and David Wright had been prison cellmates together in previous years.
Hall and Wright were not only having a secret homosexual affair, they were also plotting against their employer. Tensions were thick between the two workers, for Wright was dead set on robbing the estate immediately. Hall was hesitant, telling Wright they should wait for a better time, perhaps when more money was coming into the household. Hall further tried explaining to Wright that they might have a better chance at getting more by finding out the combination to the safe hidden in Lady Hudson’s room. But Wright was greedy and impatient. Creeping into Hall’s room one night, Wright attempted to shoot Hall, but was too drunk that night and shot the pillow instead of Hall’s head.
The next afternoon, Wright and Hall reconciled and decided to go hunting for rabbits together. Hall, quickly understanding that living with Wright would mean constant worry, felt he had no choice but to kill his lover. Hall could be blackmailed by Wright with his fake name of Roy Fontaine, reveal Hall as the thief he was and always had been, expose the affair the two were having, or worse. Waiting until Wright’s gun was not loaded; Hall turned to his friend and shot him in the face. David Wright was buried under a pile of rocks near a stream and quickly forgotten.
A week passed before Lady Hudson received an unmarked letter in the post. Written anonymously, the letter stated that her butler was not actually Roy Fontaine, but Archibald Hall, a convicted criminal. The letter went on to describe in detail what Hall had been doing for nearly thirty years- stealing. Although never confirmed, Hall believed the letter was from David Wright, his last and final goodbye being exactly what Hall feared, exposure. Hall was at once dismissed.
It wasn’t long before Hall got another job as a butler in Chelsea, London. His employers were wealthy, but very old. His master, Walter Scott-Elliot, at 82, was so ill that he was constantly taking pills that made him sleepy and sometimes delusional. His wife Dorothy was also sickly, spending much time at nursing homes convalescing from various illnesses. Hall took advantage of Walter at every opportunity. Hall was in charge of paying the bills that came to the home, and Walter was only too happy to write out blank checks for Hall to take care of. Hall was only too happy to receive them as his own personal gift. Acquiring two accomplices, Mary Coggle and Michael Kitto, Hall devised a plan that would ensure wealth in his quality of life. Mary Coggle was a forger of credit cards, while Michael worked as a petty thief. To Hall, both of his friends would be invaluable to him as he slowly and surely stole the entire Scott-Elliot estate. But Hall was too hasty when it came to money.
On December 8, 1977, while Dorothy was away at a nursing home and Walter was passed out from sleeping pills, Hall snuck Kitto into the home to view the surroundings. Kitto was astounded at his partner’s find. Not only were the employers sick most of the time, they were old and Kitto estimated they wouldn’t be around much longer. Kitto hinted that Hall might even be mentioned in one of their wills, affording Hall the lifestyle he had been praying for (less the cost it would take for Kitto and Coggle to ultimately bring the estate down). Hall and Kitto prowled around the home for more than an hour before deciding to retire to Dorothy’s room.
Believing Dorothy would be gone for the next few days, Hall was surprised when Dorothy came home the next morning. She was shocked to find her butler and a stranger nude in her bed and immediately began screaming. Alarmed at the racket she was making, Hall smothered Dorothy with his hand and then suffocated her with a pillow. Walter, wakened from the screaming, wandered out of his room to investigate. He was met by a sweaty and panicked Hall, who assured Walter that Dorothy had had a bit of a nightmare. Walter, still sleep drugged, went back to his bed without the knowledge that his wife had just been murdered.
The next morning, Hall and Kitto hauled Dorothy into a hired car, her face covered with a pillowcase. To fool Walter, Mary Coggle donned a fur wrap belonging to Dorothy and sat in the backseat. Walter watched from the upstairs window as Hall climbed into the car carrying a large suitcase. Squinting, he saw his wife wearing her hat and her favorite fur. She was sitting behind the passenger’s seat. In the suitcase were all of Dorothy’s precious jewels, necklaces, and rings. Walter was given a sleeping pill and joined the party in car, believing his wife was sitting in the backseat behind him. The real Dorothy was laying face down in the trunk. Dorothy was dumped along the way, Hall explaining to Walter he was just getting rid of garbage.
Driving 200 miles to Scotland, they finally stopped near Glen Athol, a snowy and deserted little area. Walter protested as Hall got out of the car and came around to the passenger seat. Walter didn’t understand why they had stopped and why he was being pulled out of the car into the cold. Hall tied a scarf around Walter’s neck, tightening it slowly. Walter at first believed Hall was taking care of him by putting the scarf around him…. Until Hall continued to tighten and tighten. Walter then began struggling, and Hall barked out to Kitto to get the spade in the backseat. Hitting Walter over the head with the spade, Hall watched as the old man’s skull split wide open and rapidly began spurting out blood. They buried him in nearby bushes.
Hall, Coggle, and Kitto drove to a cottage in Carlisle, which Hall had rented a month prior. As the trio settled into the cottage, friendliness and camaraderie soon dissolved, turning into a huge shouting match ending in murder. Mary Coggle had grown attached to the mink fur she had been wearing all morning and wanted to keep it. Hall would not allow it, on the grounds that the fur could be identified by other persons. Coggle and Hall argued for a while until Kitto tried to intervene. Coggle tried attacking him, but was caught off guard by the hands of Hall pushing her to the floor. The good-natured and pleasant butler turned into the psychopath he had always been, struck Coggle over the head with a poker over and over until her face was a mess of blood and tissue. He then suffocated her with a throw pillow.
Not far from the cabin, Coggle was dumped in a stream. Hall and Kitto drove back to London intent on raiding the Scott-Elliot home for money and other goods. While they were looting, Donald, Hall’s brother 17 years his junior came knocking. Donald, upon hearing of his brother’s successful lifestyle, was curious exactly how rich his brother had become. Hall must have misunderstood Donald’s insinuation, for Donald had only heard that Hall was a butler for the wealthy. Hall thought Donald was after his newly acquired loot at the Chelsea home. Without thoroughly thinking at all, Hall and Kitto chloroformed Donald to death.
Hiring another car, Hall and Kitto put Donald in the car and drove back to Scotland. During this time, Mary Coggle’s body had been found on Christmas. People who had last seen Mary recalled her in the company of Archibald Hall and Michael Kitto, now well known burglars and thieves. Hall and Kitto attempted to rent a hotel in North Berwick, but the manager became suspicious of them and the rented car they were driving. As they were having dinner, police discovered the car they were driving bared false plates. Kitto was arrested at the restaurant and did not resist.
However, Hall escaped in a cab, but was apprehended at a road block near the hotel.
In police custody, Hall was informed that there was a dead body in the hired car. Before they could ask where it had come from and who it was, Hall asked for a glass of water. Finally realizing he had been caught and could not escape from the five murders he committed, he intended to kill himself with a pill in his rectum. He was quickly taken to a hospital where the pill was removed. Two days later, Hall tried to commit suicide again, but was unsuccessful.
Under interrogation, Hall and Kitto admitted their crimes and were tried both in England and Scotland, receiving life sentences each. Kitto had to serve a minimum of 15 years, but Hall had no opportunity for parole. While in jail, Hall confessed to more crimes, including 2 more killings. He said he killed an American helicopter pilot and a garage worker, but refused further details. Hall’s autobiography, called A Perfect Gentleman was published in 1999. Hall detailed his life, how he had been able to manipulate and use people, and how to become a perfect gentleman. The well-mannered, thoughtful, upright citizen, and murderer died in prison in 2002 at the age of 78.