Born in Scotland in 1924, serial killer Archibald Hall (who, inspired by an Alfred Hitchcock film, renamed himself Roy Fontaine) worked as a butler for several wealthy families in England in the 1970s. During the time of his employ, he killed a former lover, two of his employers, an accomplice and another man. He died in prison in 2002.
Roy Fontaine was born Archibald Hall in Glasgow in 1924. He started stealing when he was just 15 and received his first prison sentence at 17. At the same time a much older, divorced neighbor initiated him into sex and introduced him to a more sophisticated world and a taste for the high life.
Using the profits of his burglaries Hall moved to London. Hollywood and its stars fascinated him and, inspired by Joan Fontaine in Alfred Hitchcock's film Rebecca, Hall changed his name to Roy Fontaine.
Fontaine had a short-lived marriage, but was openly bisexual and embarked on a string of affairs with men. London's celebrity gay scene welcomed the handsome and charming Glaswegian with open arms and Fontaine claimed to have had sexual relationships with both Lord Boothby and playwright Terence Rattigan. In his memoirs he said that the great love of his life was a fellow con from Hull Prison named David Barnard who died in a car crash in 1974.
In between socializing with London's elite, Fontaine's con tricks and burglaries caught up with him and he spent more time in prison. During one lengthy sentence for theft he set about refining everything about his character so that he could pass without suspicion among the English aristocracy. He eradicated all trace of his Glaswegian accent, studied social etiquette and became a self-taught authority on antiques.
When he was released from prison in 1977 he found employment as a butler to Lady Margaret Hudson at Kirtleton House in Dumfriesshire and had an on-off relationship with a prostitute named Mary Coggle, also known as "Belfast Mary."
Claiming he wanted to go straight, Fontaine was in for a shock when an ex-cellmate from Hull Prison and former lover, David Wright, showed up at his work. Lady Hudson employed 30-year-old Wright as a gamekeeper and gardener around the stately home, but he stole some of her silver and threatened to tell her about Fontaine's past.
On a rabbit hunting expedition in July, Fontaine shot Wright in the back of the head and buried the body under boulders in a stream on the estate. With a newfound taste for blood Fontaine gave up the idea of living an honest life, and in November 1977 moved back to London. He acquired the position of butler to a wealthy antiques collector, and ex-Labor MP Walter Scott-Elliot and his wife Dorothy. Planning to extort them, he asked small time crook Michael Kitto for help.
While showing Kitto around the couple's home, Mrs. Scott-Elliot returned unexpectedly with her husband. The two men put their hand over her mouth and suffocated her with a pillow before she could raise the alarm. They then drugged her 82-year-old husband with whisky and sleeping pills.
Mary Coggle put on a wig and wore Mrs. Scott-Elliot's clothes. They put the dead woman's body in the trunk of a car and set off for the 400-mile journey to Scotland.
The trio buried Mrs. Scott-Elliot by the side of a quiet road in Braco, Perthshire. Still sedated, they beat her husband to death with a spade, and buried him in a remote spot near Glen Affric, Inverness.
The following day an argument broke out between the groups. Coggle wanted to keep Mrs. Scott-Elliot's mink coat, but the men wanted the evidence destroyed. Fontaine hit Coggle over the head with a poker and suffocated her with a plastic bag before dumping her in a stream in Dumfriesshire.
The two men headed for Fontaine's family home in Cumbria only to find Fontaine's brother Donald released from prison three days earlier. Donald was too interested in Fontaine's recent adventures, and with murder now second nature to him, Fontaine held a chloroformed rag over Donald's face and drowned him in a bath. A few days later the two murderers found themselves driving north to dispose of yet another body.
An antiques dealer in Newcastle became suspicious after two men offered him china and silverware well below its worth. He jotted down the number plate of the car the men were driving and alerted the police. The police found the car had been rented out to a Scott-Elliot and when they visited the Chelsea flat they found the walls spattered with blood and over 3,500 pounds worth of valuables missing.
Arrest and Trial
Mary Coggle's body had been found a month earlier on Christmas Day by a shepherd. Knowing that Coggle had once worked for Dorothy Scott-Elliot as a housekeeper and cook, detectives began to wonder if the two murders were connected. Was she the same woman wearing a mink coat that they knew had stayed at the Tilt Hotel in Blair Atholl, Scotland with three other men, one of them very elderly? Two days later the two younger men had returned to the hotel alone.
In January 1978, Fontaine and Kitto stopped at a hotel in North Berwick. The owner, Norman Wight, became suspicious of the two guests and called the police. During a routine check the police found Donald Hall's body.
Fontaine escaped out of a toilet window and got as far as Haddington before he was stopped at a police roadblock.
Following a failed suicide attempt on January 18, 1978 Fontaine helped the police search for Mr. Scott-Elliot's body on the Highlands. They found him, chewed by foxes near a rhododendron bush. Days later they dug up David Wright, and soon after that Mrs. Scott-Elliot was found face down in a roadside ditch, 100 miles from where her husband's corpse had been uncovered.
During the trial in Edinburgh in May 1978 Fontaine was described as a psychopath. Fontaine made a full confession to the five murders and British and Scottish courts sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was charged with four life sentences for four of the murders. The fifth case remains open.
Fontaine attempted suicide several times while he was in custody. In 1999 wrote his autobiography, A Perfect Gentlemen and said that there was "a side of me, when aroused, that is cold and completely heartless." He died in 2002 in Kingston Prison at age 78.
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