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Authors: Roy Archibald Hall

The Wicked Mr Hall

BOOK: The Wicked Mr Hall
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M
y home is a top security prison twelve miles north of York. I have been here in HMP Full Sutton for the last twenty years. I will never be released. The last thing I will see will be the green-painted walls of a prison cell. I am now seventy-eight years old.

I have been called many things — ‘The Monster Butler’, ‘The Butler Who Served Death’, ‘The Ladies’ Man’. In truth I am none of these things. I am Roy Hall. Before I die I want to tell my story.

 

Roy Archibald Hall

I
have been a criminal all my life. At my peak, I was possibly the best jewel thief in Britain. My record for stealing jewels would stand with anyone’s. I have lived in some of the most beautiful homes imaginable. I have stayed in the best hotels, drunk the best wines and eaten the very best cuisine. But where is the life of luxury now? Now I look forward to the release of death.

I was born on 17 July 1924 in Glasgow, Scotland. My family lived in a terraced house at 15 Albert Road, Victoria Park, a poor working-class district in the west section of the city. Life was very hard in those days and poverty was all around us.

My earliest memories are of my mother dressing me for school – I must have been five or six and it would have been around 1930. Kneeling down in front of me she would vigorously rub Brylcreem into my hair before
brushing it backwards to keep it out of my eyes. Putting my arms in first, she would pull on my green school blazer with the gold braid edging. Then, in a ritual that was intimate but distasteful, she would wet her handkerchief and wipe away smudges of food from around my mouth. My mother, Marian, was a beautiful, spirited woman and we would remain close all of our lives.

In over fifty years of being in and out of prison I have met many criminals. Some were illiterate, or semi-literate, but crime was one of the few ways that they could make decent money. This was not the case for me. I enjoyed school and did well at my lessons – if I had wanted to, I could have succeeded in business. As a decent scholar, my schooldays passed by without incident. I rarely got into trouble, and my parents and teachers were pleased with my progress.

I met Anne Philips when I was fifteen. She owned the newsagent’s shop opposite our house, and she and my mother became friends. Anne was an elegant and attractive divorcee in her early thirties.

I started doing odd jobs for her in the shop – moving heavy stock, serving behind the counter. As the months went by, we became firm friends. I always thought of her in a special way – she had a slim figure, nice legs accentuated by high heels, and when she was close I was always aware of her perfume. At first we just made eye contact. She would catch me staring at her, but instead of just dismissing it, she looked back. That ‘look’ was like heaven, it excited me like nothing else. I would stand close to her whenever I got the chance and I noticed that when I did,
she didn’t move away. Just the opposite, in fact, she would lean into me as we talked. Talking was irrelevant, just an excuse to stand close together – so close that our bodies were almost touching and we were both aware of the energy.

It was on my sixteenth birthday, July 1940, ten months after the start of the Second World War, that the looking and leaning became something else. Anne took me out for a birthday dinner at an expensive Italian restaurant. She had been very attentive that day, very kind. I was wearing my first dinner jacket, which she had bought for me earlier. During the meal she smiled and touched my hand at any opportunity. She had the devil in her that night and was openly flirting with me. Between the first and second courses she dropped her napkin into my lap. As she retrieved it, her hand massaged my genitals and for a second she ‘held’ me. Finishing that meal is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever had to do. That ‘touch’ had broken down all barriers and later that night she took me into her bedroom, and into her bed. I’d had sex with girlfriends of my own age, but they were young, and I was young, and it was mainly a rushed, fumbling affair. Rushed and fumbling was not what an experienced woman like Anne wanted, nor was it, in the end, what she got. She encouraged me: ‘Take your time Archie, slow down, that’s better, that’s much better’. Before anything else, Anne would ask me to stroke her, kiss her, caress her. There was not one part of her body that did not feel my touch and my kiss. My friendly shopkeeper taught me how to please her, and ultimately how to please myself. I always
felt that it was she who guided me through that rocky passage from boyhood to man.

The next day, when I went home resplendent in my new dinner jacket, there was an almighty row. My father was a religious man, a member of the Scottish Presbyterian Church and, although he didn’t suspect anything untoward about me staying the night in Anne’s flat, he did see something wrong in my taking gifts from a divorcee twice my age. He insisted I take the jacket back. I was not to have it, people would talk. My mother thought I should keep it, what did it matter who gave it to me? We all argued. I insisted I was going to keep it, my father and neighbours could say what they liked. I remember that he was shouting in my face: as long as I lived under his roof, I would abide by his rules. Although not a fighter, I was never a ‘soft’ person. If my temper was ‘up’, people were better off leaving me be. In the midst of all the shouting, I must have picked up a kitchen knife. I know that I did, because one second I was standing there, my father shouting, and the next he had backed off. I had moved forward and the knife was held up against his face, I said to him: ‘I will keep it.’ After that he and I never argued; I kept the jacket and he never said boo to me again.

The thing about Anne was that she enjoyed life, she didn’t exist on the measly food rations that everyone else seemed to. She ate in expensive restaurants, she dressed in nice clothes. The war hardly seemed to touch her. Now that I was her lover, I also became her dining companion.

She taught me which knives to use, which spoons to
use. I was always asking questions, eager to learn. This woman taught me so much, she was my first worldly tutor, and I wanted to be like her. I wanted a life that wasn’t full of drudgery, boredom and hardship. I wanted a lifestyle like hers, only better.

As a shopkeeper Anne wasn’t very diligent and she would only do her accounts when she had to. She knew her business was healthy because the shop was always busy. I discovered her secret drawer by accident. I had been in the stockroom getting her something, and as I came back into the serving area, Anne’s back was to me. The till sat on the counter on top of a cloth, which overhung each side by a few inches. As I stood there, I watched her lift the cloth and open a hidden drawer and swiftly put some banknotes in. The drawer was closed in an instant, and the covering cloth put back into its previous position. At the very first opportunity, my hand was in that drawer. It was like finding a treasure trove – £10 notes, £5 notes! In those days £5 was a week’s wages for a working man.

Now that I knew of the drawer, I need never be poor again – it was like having my own little bank! When I needed money, I would just take a ten, or a five pound note. Poverty was most definitely not for me. With the money that I took from the shop, I bought myself better clothes, then I started visiting restaurants on my own. I would absorb everything around me.

People with money spoke differently and had an air of confidence. I watched and learned. I became confident, too. I became careful in my speech. If you speak well,
people assume that you are rich. If they assume you are rich, they treat you very well.

I liked the easy money I was making, but I had left school and I needed some stimulation, something to fill my time. I didn’t fancy the idea of getting some boring job earning less than I was stealing.

I didn’t really make a decision, I just became a thief.

During the daytime I would walk around and look. I was always fastidious, with an eye for detail. Naturally careful and cautious, I would check everything. During the war years burglar alarms were unheard of. Entering a shop or house through a window or door was not difficult. The only danger was if the property was occupied, or if you were seen. I would always make sure that neither happened to me. I started to learn what was to become my profession.

By the time my father was conscripted into the Army, I had settled into my new way of life.

I would find a target, watch it for a few days, note when it was empty and when it wasn’t and then under cover of darkness, I would rob it. In houses, I would steal only cash or small items of jewellery; in shops, cash or small items off the shelves. If I could gain entry through an unlocked door or window, I would. If at all possible I wouldn’t break in. That to me seemed stupid, an obvious way of drawing attention to the theft. I became quite good at picking locks.

My mother and father were a very odd match and I wouldn’t say that it was a good marriage. My father had worked for the Post Office for years, his job was to sort the mail. When I was sixteen he was forty-two. He hadn’t been
called up in the first batch of conscripts but, as he had military experience from the First World War, he was eventually told he must join. When his draft papers came, he left immediately for Catterick Army camp in Yorkshire.

My mother and I were to follow on as soon as we had tied up all the loose ends in Glasgow. Against my advice, and the advice of her friends, she sold our house and all its contents.

With the War now raging in Europe, there was a great deal of uncertainty in the air – none of us knew what our future might hold. German planes were blitzing all major cities and ports and I think for this reason my mother wanted the cash. After all, the house could be bombed, then we would have nothing. Packing all our personal belongings into two suitcases, we were given Army Rail Warrants, and left for Yorkshire.

Catterick was quite an exciting place to be, we were housed in the NCO Married Quarters of the camp. My father had been made a sergeant, he was kept very busy and we saw little of him. Too young to ‘join up’, I was offered the chance to continue my education at the camp. I turned down this offer, I had already decided how I would pass the time.

I became friendly with the Officers’ batmen, who were kind of military servants. Each batman was assigned an officer to look after and their duties were to iron their charges’ uniforms, polish their shoes and generally look after them and their families.

The batmen knew their officers’ timetables as it was part of their job. I was just a curious young lad, so it was natural
for me to ask questions. No one seemed to mind. I was careful in how I asked them though, but during the course of a conversation, I generally found out what I wanted to know – when they were in and when they were out.

Not terribly complex.

The only difference between Catterick and Glasgow was that in Catterick everyone was in uniform and it was smaller. My job stayed the same; when the officers were away I would rob them of cash and small jewels.

Unlike the location, my sex drive hadn’t changed. Now that Anne Philips was too far away, I became ‘friendly’ with a couple of young girls on the camp. I knew now how to make love and I was always asked back for more. This wasn’t much different to living in Glasgow!

It was on a day’s outing to York that I became aware that my mother was having an ‘affair’. I had gone to the cinema, and we had arranged to meet at a small tea shop in the city centre. As I stood and waited, a black saloon car being driven by one of the camp batmen drew up in front of me. In the back seat were Major Morris, my father’s Commanding Officer, and my mother. She kissed him intimately, before stepping out of the vehicle to greet me with a smile. We had tea and neither of us discussed the Major or the kiss.

She looked wonderfully happy and that was all I cared about.

* * *

During my daytime wanderings, I would stop and chat
with all manner of soldiers and knew most of their Christian names. The War fascinated me. Would we win? Would they win? The soldiers would give me small mementoes, mostly badges, or old discharged bullet shells, sometimes these were British and sometimes German. I collected whatever I could. In my bedroom I put up a large map of Europe and, using little flags that I’d scrounged from an office clerk, I charted all the battle positions – ours and theirs. The map was no secret, the more I added to it, the prouder I was to show it off. Some of the young lads who attended the camp school would gaze at it in awe.

I had been in Catterick for several months when, one evening at about tea time, two saloon cars drew up outside the house. Eight high-ranking officers, including Major Morris, got out of the cars and knocked on our front door. They had heard stories about my bedroom. At first I thought they were looking for stolen property. This didn’t worry me. Everything that I’d stolen that wasn’t cash was buried in a field outside the camp fences.

The officers solemnly trudged up the stairs to my bedroom. The map on the wall was taken down, all the German and Nazi memorabilia that I’d collected was gathered up. They asked me whether I was an admirer of Hitler. I told them that I thought he had done a good job in stabilizing the German economy, but that was all!

Two days later, my father was told that he was considered too old for the Armed Forces, and was to be discharged immediately. He and his family were to leave the camp. Before 1940 had become 1941 we found ourselves back in Glasgow, and homeless.

My father returned to his job at the Post Office, and we managed to rent rooms in a large house near the University. Due to the events at the camp, I thought it best to be seen to be doing something responsible, so I became an unpaid voluntary collector for the Red Cross.

Not getting paid for trudging the streets is one thing, not making any money while trudging the streets is quite another. The first time somebody pushed paper money into the sealed collection tin, I found it easy enough to extract it and put it into my own pocket. I decided that if the Red Cross kept the coins and I kept the banknotes, this would be an arrangement suitable to both parties.

Lady Pettigrew, the administrator who had hired me, had designated me a very poor working-class area. If I wanted to get more ‘paper money’, something would have to change. I decided to expand my area to include the wealthier Westmuir region, and in particular, to a luxury block of flats called Kelvin Court. This block housed some of the richest people in the city and they were very generous. Soon I was collecting so much that I had to take two tins out with me. This voluntary work wasn’t too bad at all – besides earning a decent wage at a job that left me my days free, I also had the added bonus of people viewing me as something of a philanthropist. Life at home settled down. My father seemed to have forgotten about his ignominious departure from the Army, and was back in the old routine at the Post Office. My mother was in the middle stages of pregnancy – a little keepsake from Major Morris, I think.

BOOK: The Wicked Mr Hall
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