This week on TTCE, I am delighted to release part by part the latest collaboration between TTCE and the UK True Crime Podcast, for the latest 2 part episode of this great podcast, Episode 39 – A Life Of Violence. Full links to part 1 of this podcast case can be found at the footnote of this post – please take the time to check out this, and all of the other episodes featured so far.
Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton are all familiar names, not just to a student of true crime, but for anyone who picks up a newspaper. Some of the most infamous criminals who have committed some of the UK’s most infamous crimes either reside or have resided within their walls, for example The Yorkshire Ripper, The Hull Arsonist Bruce Lee and the killer nurse Beverly Allitt are names familiar with the “Big 3” secure hospitals that cover England and Wales. For Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, the main psychiatric care facility is the State Hospital located near the village of Carstairs in South Lanarkshire, more commonly known as Carstairs Hospital. It provides care and treatment for patients requiring high security hospital detention, with around 700 staff accommodating around 140 patients. A new security wing is being built at the site now at a cost of £60m, and as with other secure hospitals, Carstairs has a deafening alarm system that is based on a World War 2 air raid siren. Should a patient escape, a deafening two-tone alarm that reaches as far as neighbouring villages and towns will sound. On the third Thursday of each month, the alarm and all clear siren is tested, and locals living near have become accustomed to the three 30 second blasts that signal the all clear. The need for a warning alarm is bolstered from the memory of actions, more than forty years ago now, from the most infamous patient that has resided to date at Carstairs hospital, Robert Francis Mone. The name Mone is infamous throughout Scottish criminal history – it will forever relate to eight brutal and bloody deaths in total, a bloody and infamous escape from a high secure unit, and a macabre case of “one upmanship” between a father and son.
Robert Francis Mone Jr was born in Dundee in June 1948. A child of above average intelligence, Mone was a lonely introvert who didn’t find it easy to make friends, and thus found relationships awkward. He had a few girlfriends through adolescence, but none of these relationships lasted more than a few weeks. His family life did nothing to aid in this, as his mother deserted the family when Robert was very young. He was regularly beaten by his drunken and bullying father Robert “Sonny” Mone Sr, and from the age of twelve was sexually abused by a middle-aged neighbour. Mone’s schooling record was appalling, where despite his intelligence he massively underachieved. At St John’s RC Secondary School, where Mone attended for three years from 1959, he was assessed as “virtually unteachable”, with one teacher going so far as to say “it was like having a live hand grenade in the classroom”. Mone hated the school, and was eventually expelled in 1962. A period in an approved school in London followed, after which an increasingly disturbed Mone decided to have one last attempt to do something worthwhile with his life, and enlisted in the Army at age 18.
Mone enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, and was soon posted to Germany with his unit. Whilst in Germany, Mone began to drink heavily as was the culture within the armed services at the time. By his own account, he was also ostracised by the rest of his unit when he was asked to sign statements that would have resulted in the court-martial and discharge of two soldiers of superior rank, and agreed to do so believing that he was doing the right thing. As a result, he was shunned by the rest of his unit in distrust, and was on more than one occasion physically threatened with harm. It is known that Mone at this time filled in an application to be able to carry a personal firearm, as was a serviceman’s right at the time – but discontinued when he found out that any weapon would have to be kept in an armoury under lock and key. Mone claimed that this was for his own protection, but subsequent events would cast doubt on this. When the unit was being sent to Libya in late October 1967, Mone was told that instead of travelling with them, he was being sent back to the UK to undergo further training before attachment to a different unit. Angry at the way he perceived he had been treated and let down by the Army, by the time he arrived back in London Mone had no intentions of returning to the Army. Upon arrival, he made a beeline for a gunsmiths just off Praed Street, where he bought a single barreled 12 gauge Spanish made shotgun, and then went AWOL.
Mone turned up back in Dundee in the last week of October, where he descended into a cycle of heavy drinking, often having a bottle of vodka at breakfast time. His days would be spent between visiting cinemas and cafes, where he would while away the time between the pubs being open. He spent some of the time staying at his grandmother’s house, after a furious drunken row with his abusive father – in which Mone JR threatened him at gunpoint – caused him to leave his parent’s house. The rest of the week was spent sleeping rough. Mone had also visited several doctors’ surgeries throughout Dundee that week, claiming to feel severe depression. As a result, he managed to attain a substantial quantity of prescription medication, albeit mostly painkillers.
On Halloween 1967, Mone checked into the former Mather’s Hotel in Dundee’s Whitehall Crescent, and after spending a while drinking alone in his meagre room, decided to attempt suicide by overdosing on the medication he had managed to amass. It was perhaps unsurprising that Mone, who had a history of being an underachiever and was in his own view a complete failure, even managed to do this wrong – instead just making himself violently ill. The attempt bungled, Mone carried on on his spiral of heavy drinking, brooding, and getting angrier. By the next morning, 01 November, Mone had sufficiently recovered enough to find himself in Dundee’s White Horse Inn, on Harefield Road opposite St Johns RC Secondary School – the place that Mone had been expelled from only a few years before, the place that he hated because of the disciplinarians he perceived were there. According to Mone, he came to the decision that afternoon to get a taxi back to the hotel, gather his things, and return to the Army to face whatever punishment may be coming his way. He stepped out of the pub on that cold, miserable afternoon, and then got soaked to the skin looking around for a taxi. It was then that he stopped and stared at the lights of St Johns school opposite. His rage built when he thought of how much he had hated the place and been unhappy there, and coupled with his bitterness at how he perceived that the Army had treated him, the alcohol he had consumed, and his ever-present anger and depression, all meant that Mone was a short fuse. When no taxi was to be found, this was the trigger to him exploding.
Mone dejectedly walked back to the Mathers Hotel, and returned to St John’s School a short time later dressed in his Gordon Highlander’s Private uniform. He also carried with him his shotgun. Mone suddenly ran across the road and burst into the school, not knowing where he was going but making his way to the top floor of an annexe. The first classroom he entered was empty, but the second was the needlework room – and this had a class in it. Thirteen girls were listening intently to teacher Nanette Hanson, when their afternoon needlework lesson was interrupted by a stranger with a gun. Nanette was Yorkshire born and was relatively new to the school, having only moved up to Scotland just six months before in the spring of 1967 following her marriage to her husband Guy, a carpet designer in a local factory. In that short time, she had become well liked by staff and pupils alike at the school, perhaps due to being the relatively young age of twenty-six and to her dedication to her job.
But that afternoon, Nanette was confronted with something unexpected, unbelievable and completely out of the norm. A stranger dressed as a soldier had walked into her classroom carrying a shotgun under his arm. The room was silent, then after a few seconds one of the pupils laughed, thinking that someone was playing some sort of bizarre joke. It wasn’t. Mone responded to this laughter by firing into a glass door, injuring another teacher who tried to intervene and, admitting years later, feeling powerful for the first time in his life. He then began to shout and swear at the frightened and screaming girls, ordering themselves to use their sewing tables to barricade the door to the room. He then sat on the teacher’s desk issuing instructions. Mone took ammunition from his pockets and lined it up on the desk, telling the frightened pupils that he would blow their heads off. He then asked each person their age, and when Nanette replied that she was 26, Mone replied:
“You’re just a pensioner”
He then wrenched her glasses off her face and crushed them underneath his boot. When the scared pupils cried too loudly, the shotgun was placed to their heads to silence them through fear. Ordering everyone into a small changing room annexe of the classroom, a wild-eyed Mone strode about, gloating that he had come to the school to gain revenge that day for his expulsion some years before – and especially against one of the Marist Brothers that Mone believed had been the worst disciplinarian during his time there. Throughout all of this, Nanette remained calm, speaking softly to the young man with the gun and trying to reason with him to let the pupils go, and just to keep her as a hostage before anyone else was hurt.
Within minutes of the shot, police had converged on the school as a state of emergency had been declared at St John’s School after the teacher who had been injured when the glass door had been blasted out had sounded the alarm. Whilst the other thousand plus pupils were evacuated from the school, three police officers approached the upper floor corridor – but were shot at by a deranged Mone, who shouted that he would turn the gun on the hostages. Leading a 14-year-old girl to the door with the gun to her head, an increasingly aggressive Mone showed the police that he was serious in his threats. Back in the classroom, Mone called three of the girls out into the classroom, where he sexually molested two of them. The other, he sexually assaulted, threatening to blow her head off if she didn’t comply.
“I will count to three, and shoot you if you’ve not taken them down” – Robert Mone to victim
One of the other girls was then inexplicably released. Mone then claimed that the only person he would talk to was an old girlfriend, Marion Young, who he had met four years previously at a youth club. Police quickly found Marion, who was training to be a student nurse, and she agreed to negotiate with Mone without hesitation. Just seventy-five minutes after Mone had entered the school, Marion was face to face talking to the young man she now hardly recognised. Mone had eagerly awaited her arrival, washing his face and hair in one of the classroom sinks and then sat singing to himself whilst police conveyed her to the school. When she arrived, Mone’s first words to her were:
“You thought you were being a brave little girl? How did you know I wouldn’t blow your head off?”
Bravely, both Marion and Nanette then spent the next few minutes talking gently to Mone, trying to defuse the situation and to convince him that the hostages needed to be released. He seemed almost disinterested, and Nanette went and led the girl pupils to the door, where they were let into the corridor and once clear, all ran faster than they ever had before to safety. Nanette was not allowed to leave with them however, with Mone saying:
“Not you – you’re not going. I want you here”
Mone then placed the shotgun down onto the desk, and asked for a cigarette from Nanette. When Marion attempted to pick up the shotgun, thinking Mone was distracted, he knocked her to the floor. He then began ranting and aiming the weapon at different parts of the room and each of his captives in turn, all the while asking:
“Do you think I can do it? Do you want to be a saint?”
Mone then instructed Nanette to ensure all the curtains in the room were tightly closed, fearful that a police sniper may have him in his sights. As Nanette shut the last curtain that remained open in the room, Mone took aim and shot her in the back from a distance of just seven feet, watching fascinated as she slowly dropped to the floor. Although not killed outright, Nanette’s injuries were massive. Her spinal cord had been near destroyed, and had she lived, would have been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Despite the efforts of Marion using her nursing skills to try to save her life, Nanette looked close to death. She pleaded with Mone to allow Nanette to be taken to hospital, and Mone told her dismissively that she could do what she wanted. Police outside in the corridor made the decision to allow ambulance men in after hearing Marion call for help, and they were allowed in without any conditions. Indeed, Mone seemed to have lost interest in the entire situation by this time. He sat quietly on the desk with the shotgun on the floor at his feet, alternately singing and laughing in a world of his own as an unconscious Nanette was stretchered out of the classroom and to the Dundee Royal Infirmary. Mone didn’t even seem to notice when she was taken and offered no resistance when police burst in and handcuffed him. He didn’t even seem to care.
The pupils who had been held hostage were all taken to Dundee Royal Infirmary for an examination, and fortunately, aside from shock and a few minor cuts and scrapes, all were otherwise physically unharmed. Sadly, they were to learn that their teacher, who had bravely tried to protect them all and who had remained calm and collected throughout the siege, had died at the same hospital whilst they were still there. Nanette had never regained consciousness, and had died with her grieving husband Guy at her bedside. Tragically, it was also revealed later that Nanette had been in the early stages of pregnancy with her first child when Mone had shot her dead. Mone was taken from the school to a secure facility, where he spent the next couple of months being examined by psychiatrists. It was abundantly clear that Mone did not care what happened to him from that point onwards. Psychiatrists diagnosed schizophrenia that had developed insidiously over a couple of years, and reported that Mone was thus insane and unfit to plead. On 23rd January 1968, in a hearing that lasted just 18 minutes in total, Robert Francis Mone Jr appeared at the High Court in Dundee and was ordered to be detained without limit of time at Carstairs Hospital by Mr Justice Lord Thomson. Mone simply smiled as he looked up and responded:
“Good for you”.
The two young women who had ensured the safe release of the pupils of St John’s School were commended with a Queen’s honour, with Marion Young being awarded the George Medal, and Nanette Hanson posthumously receiving the Albert Medal for extraordinary bravery. At a packed funeral attended by more than 300 mourners, tribute was paid to Nanette as “a heroine, a martyr who died for those children”. It is touching and perhaps fitting that from the day Nanette died she was ensured to never be forgotten, as still to this day, 1st November is marked at St John’s High School with a special mass in memoriam to Nanette. Meanwhile, the young man who had caused such devastation and trauma, that was a different story. Those involved in the classroom that day, after a while learnt to live with the memories and trauma of what had happened, and pushed the name Mone to the back of their minds as much as possible.
And for a few years, in the back of people’s minds is where Robert Mone stayed. In fact, it was more than eight years before the name Robert Mone exploded into the forefront of people’s minds again.
To be continued…..
The True Crime Enthusiast