Friday, May 28, 2021

The Butler Did It


The Killer Butler has a very nice ring to it, summoning up all sorts of images of Jeeves with an AK 47 or Mr Hudson with a candlestick in the library, pre afternoon cucumber sandwiches.

It would seem that in the case of Archibald Thomson Hall, the butler did do it. He was a really nasty man.

He was born in Glasgow in June 1924 and at the time of his death, of a stroke in 2002 aged 78, he had been one of Britain’s longest serving prisoners on a full life tariff.

From 1977 to 1978 he killed 5 people before being caught in January of 78.

 Hall, charming and suave, moved in high circles. 

Hall’s criminal career began early, robbery and housebreaking from the age of 15.  He was a good looking, charismatic individual and he played on this. He was bisexual, seducing  men and women,  stealing from those he encountered around the gay scene in London. And in those days, it was still illegal to be homosexual in the UK so he would be moving in very covert circles.

He funded his trip to London by selling jewellery he had stolen in Scotland. These exploits landed him in jail for a sustained period of time which was really the making of him as a career criminal. He softened his Glasgow accent, he studied antiques, he learned good manners, and he studied how to behave amongst the aristocracy. He changed his name to Roy Fontaine, which he thought that a slightly better ring to it.

During this time, he married and divorced, he worked honestly as a butler, a job he was good at. Before long, the lure of his old life became too strong and he starting stealing jewellery again, selling it for profit.

 In ‘75 he was released from yet another spell in prison and returned to Scotland and started working as a butler to the dowager widow of Sir Austin Hudson, baronet and ex Tory MP.  She went by the name of Peggy. It’s said that his intention was to work there for a while and then rob her of every valuable she had. He actually got to like her, and he enjoyed his job, maybe if it wasn’t for an acquaintance from his last wee spell in jail turning up on the doorstep, things might have stayed that way.

David Wright was given a job as a gamekeeper on the same estate and he then stole some of her ladyship’s jewellery. He threatened Hall that he’d tell the lady of Hall's past if he blagged to the police.

Hall took Wright on a Hunting trip and shot him. He buried him in the grounds of the house, after this he left that job and started working for a Labour MP and his Missus, back in London. Elderly Walter Scott-Elliot had come from a family of wealthy Scottish landowners and Hall had his usual in mind; work for a while then relieve the family of their valuables without their knowledge.  Mrs Scott-Elliot, 60- year-old Dorothy, walked in on Hall as he was discussing his plans with his accomplice Michael Kitto.



Kitto suffocated Dorothy then and there, by putting a cushion over her mouth and suffocating her. They drugged Walter, put them both in the boot of the car and drove north to Scotland. Burying one of them in Perthshire and the other in Inverness shire ( generally up north where there are very few folk about).

A maid Mary Coggle had assisted the two men in their escape and she too was then murdered with a poker and her body left in a stream in Dumfriesshire (down south in the west on the border with England)  But Mary had become too fond of the fine clothes and jewellery she had stolen, and sealed her fate when she refused to dump a fur coat, a fur coat that would have drawn just a wee bit too much attention.

Her body was found on Christmas day 1977 quickly found by a shepherd and his dog.

Hall had a half-brother Donald ( a convicted paedophile, there was no love lost between them) and when Donald turned up at Hall’s house in Cumbria,  they had a little drink in the evening. Hall talked about a new way of tying up somebody that the victim couldn’t get out of, Donald offered to try to get out of the bonds just to prove his brother wrong. So Hall tied him up, chloroformed him and then drowned him in the bath.

Hall and Kitto seemed to have thing about driving to Scotland to dump the bodies of their victims. Hall took a look at the reg plate of the car Kitto had stolen  for them and saw it had three 9s. He considered that very unlucky and asked Kitto to change the plate. This meant the plate and the disc did not match.

The weather was fierce snowy, so they pulled in to stay in a hotel in North Berwick overnight and the hotel owner was suspicious about their slightly odd behaviour; they had parked the car a little distance from the hotel. He thought this was because they were going to do a runner in the morning without paying the bill. He called the police, just as a precaution and the boys in blue clocked immediately that the plate and disc did not match.

The cop shop was 200 yards away, so they drove the car up and found Donald’s body in the boot

Kitto was arrested immediately but Hall, crafty and bright, made his way out the toilet window only to be picked up much later at a roadblock closer to the border.

Then it all began to unravel. Links made between Hall’s car, a suspicious antiques dealer then to the Scott Elliot’s address which was found to have been robbed of all valuables, blood in the car etc etc. Then the odd concept that four people booked into a hotel, four people went out,  and only two returned.  Mr Scott- Elliot and Miss Coggle never came back. Mrs Scott- Elliot’s body was kept in the car overnight.


There’s a famous black and white photograph of Hall surrounded by police, all standing in deep snow revealing the whereabouts of the three buried victims.

Hall was tried both north and sound of the border, the English courts gave him the life tariff so he served his term there. It was recommended that he was never released

It was fortunate the Kitto ever got to trial (he was sent down for a no-recommended minimum sentence in Scotland) as he was next on Hall's hit list.

In 1995 Hall asked for the right to die. He was refused.

 He died in 2002.

 It would make a good film and Malcolm McDowell/ Peter Bellwood/ Gary Old man were involved in the project but it failed to get funding and was cancelled. It was going to be called Monster Butler.



  1. He seemed to have no redeeming features whatsoever. If we wrote him, he'd be called a "stereotype bad guy," and unbelievable...

  2. It so hard to find good staff these days.