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 neighbour 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. He 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 socialising with London’s elite his con tricks or burglaries would catch up with him and he’d spend 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 amongst 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 called Mary Coggle, also known as 'Belfast Mary'.
1924 - Roy Fontaine born1977 - Released from prison and finds work for Lady Margaret HudsonNovember 1977 - Fontaine begins working for Walter Scott-Elliot and his wife Dorothy1997 - Killings take placeJanuary 1978 - Fontaine and Kitto stay at a hotel in North Berwick. Owner calls police18 January 1978 - Fontaine's failed suicide bidMay 1978 - Fontaine trial in Edinburgh1999 - Fontaine writes autobiography2002 - Fontaine dies in Kingston Prison, Portsmouth aged 78
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 worth of valuables missing.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 18 January 1978 Fontaine helped the police search for Mr Scott-Elliot’s body on the Highlands. They found him, chewed by foxes amongst 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.
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. 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 new found 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 antique collector and ex-Labour MP Walter Scott-Elliot and his wife Dorothy. Planning to extort them he asked small time crook Michael Kitto to help.While showing Kitto round 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 boot of a car and set off for the 400-mile journey to Scotland. They 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 three of them. Coggle wanted to keep Mrs Scott-Elliot’s mink coat, but the men wanted the evidence destroyed. So 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.
Fontaine attempted suicide several times whilst he was in custody and in 1999 wrote his autobiography 'A Perfect Gentleman' and said that there was “a side of me, when aroused, that is cold and completely heartless”. He died in 2002 in Kingston Prison in Portsmouth, aged 78.
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 given four life sentences for four of the murders. The fifth case remains open.