I am delighted to bring the Robert Mone trilogy featured this past week on TTCE to a close today. As listeners to the UK True Crime podcast will be aware, the case was the latest collaboration between TTCE and UK True Crime for the debut two-part episode, “A Life Of Violence” (episodes 39-40). If you haven’t already heard this gripping story, please take the time and head over to check them out. And also the other episodes, there are some really great featured cases. Links to the UK True Crime Podcast can be found at the footer of this post. Parts 1 and 2 can also be found in the TTCE archives.
The aftermath of the November 1976 escape from Carstairs was to yet have even more dramatic consequences, for if what hadn’t transpired already wasn’t horror enough – there was yet more horror to come. The name Mone wasn’t quite ready to be forgotten by the general public just yet.
Skip forward now to the very start of 1979, the 4th January. Detective Chief Inspector David Fotheringham of Dundee CID was making a routine paper sift through all the daily crime reports and missing persons reports that are of a routine passed on from the uniformed section that consider them for further action. One caught his eye especially – a report that detailed the disappearance of an elderly Dundee woman, 78-year-old Agnes Waugh, from her home in Kinghorne Road.
The report detailed how Miss Waugh had not been seen for six days, since she was seen at her home in Gray Memorial House on Kinghorne Road in Dundee’s Hilltown district on the afternoon of the 29th December. Gray Memorial House was at the time a block of flats on one side of an area of Hilltown known as the Law, or was more commonly known locally by the unenviable title of “no man’s land”. The letting regulations there stipulated that the flats in that block could only be rented to females, but the block was pretty open for the time and many people, both savoury and unsavoury, came and went and frequented it. Miss Waugh was well-known throughout the area, and was looked in on by other residents, who were alarmed to find her flat door open and the gas fire in the living room on full, but with no sign of Agnes anywhere. It was bitterly cold and there was snow on the ground. Due to her age, she was quite infirm, and it was thought at first that she may have wandered off and had an accident. But a check of local hospitals proved negative-and she was unlikely to have wandered far anyway.
DCI Fotheringham ordered a major hunt, sensing that something ominous had happened here. Both uniformed and plainclothes officers swamped the area, and every flat in the block was to be entered and searched, even if that meant forcing entry. One by one the flats were searched, and people were at home in most of the flats. They co-operated with officers, and were only too anxious to help. No sign of Agnes Waugh was found. The only flat that no one appeared to be at home in was one on the ground floor of the block at the rear, with curtains drawn on all windows. Late that afternoon, a detective went and forced the living room window to open the curtains and to gain access, and as soon as he had done so, the familiar nauseating smell emanating from the property told him that there was a body inside there. In the fading light, the policeman could just make out the outline of an arm hanging from a bed recess.
It was only when police entered the scene could they appreciate the full horror of what was before them. Laid out on the bed was the body of a young woman who showed signs of being severely beaten about the face and neck, and who had a stocking and an electric flex knotted tightly around her neck. Across from the bed, at either side of the fireplace in armchairs, were the bodies of two other women. Both were elderly, both again had been beaten about the face and neck, and both had stockings knotted tightly around their necks. Each of these women had also been bound to the chairs by polythene bags tied at their wrists and ankles, and all three women had clearly been dead for several days.
The women were quickly identified as the missing Agnes Waugh, 70-year-old Jane Simpson-who was the occupant of the flat, and the younger woman was identified as 29-year-old Catherine Millar, a newlywed of less than two weeks who was known to frequent the Hilltown area on drinking binges. Catherine was positively identified by her distraught husband, who had reported her missing when she failed to come home on 29th December, just a week after they had married.
Forensic experts confirmed that Catherine, Agnes and Jane had all been dead for several days, likely since 29th December when both Agnes and Catherine had been seen last. Cause of death was ruled to be strangulation, and a close examination of the bruising to the faces of each woman was to provide a vital piece of evidence, that would also prove later to be quite ironic. Each woman displayed wounds that were consistent with her killer having worn a prominent ring. Forensic scientists managed to make a cast and resin model of the wound imprint that could be used as a comparison if an arrest was made.
One of the largest murder hunts in Dundee police history got underway in the following days, and the press had a field day reporting on the hunt for the “Gray Memorial Strangler”. Everyone who had even the most tenuous connections with each woman was questioned, and every betting shop and public house in the area was visited by detectives. One of the first people to be interviewed was the nephew of Agnes Waugh – Robert Christopher “Sonny” Mone – the father of the (already) infamous Robert Mone Jr, who was by then serving a whole life sentence at Perth Prison.
“Sonny” Mone was a detested figure in his neighbourhood. It has already been stated how he was no stranger to abusing his family, particularly Robert Mone Jr, but his bullying and violent ways were not just kept within the confines of his family. He had a long criminal record that had begun as a small-time housebreaker and petty thug and had moved up to serious assaults. He was quick to violence, especially after drinking, so this was a regular occurrence as “Sonny” was a heavy drinker.
He was a small and slight man, but was a notorious nasty piece of work and didn’t care if he struck men or women. Part of his “tough guy” routine was to swagger about town with his thumbs stuck into the pockets of his trousers, picking fights with anybody – usually as is the style of bullies, with somebody smaller than him. He was also very fond of showing off the tattoos that he was covered in, with the initials IHS tattooed across his chest, which represented In His Service, a reference to the Devil. His pride and joy, however, were the letters TNT emblazoned on his penis. It was all part of his big act to try to pass himself off as a big shot amongst the Dundee criminal element and someone to be feared. Mone Sr also revelled in the notoriety of the unspeakable crimes that his son Robert had committed, and would regularly bend the ear of anybody he came across each night whilst out drinking in the city pubs. He spoke longingly of his pride and affection for his son, whom he referred to as “The Carstairs Killer”, and how much he wanted to be with him in prison. In fact, he had said words to the effect on the afternoon of the 29th December, the day Agnes was last seen. Sonny had been in the Vennel public house just around the corner from the scene of the triple murder, and had been a troublesome customer, drunk as usual and spoiling for a fight, threatening anybody who complained about his behaviour with violence. Throughout all his drunken ramblings, one message was clear: Mone was boasting that he would become more famous than his son.
Questioned by police concerning his movements that day, Mone admitted readily that he had been in the flat that afternoon with Jane Simpson, and another man, 22-year-old Stewart Hutton, who was known in the local community as “Billy Rebel” and who was a drinking acquaintance of Mone, Jane and Catherine. Mone claimed that the two men had taken a carry out of alcohol to the flat and had a drinking session until mid afternoon, when Mone had then left the flat to get fresh supplies. Hutton, when questioned, told the same story – except that he claimed it was he who had departed the flat to get more supplies of alcohol. In fact, Hutton had never returned to the flat, instead spending the money he had been given to get more alcohol in a betting shop. He claimed that he had a “strange feeling” about the atmosphere in the flat that day, and was not anxious to return, knowing Mone’s character when drinking. Police were able to corroborate Hutton’s story through checks at the betting shop, and he was also satisfactorily alibied for the remainder of the afternoon. Mone Sr was now the prime and obvious suspect – he was admittedly there at the crucial time, was known to be violent to women, and perhaps most importantly – he had boasted that he would be more famous than his son. Had he killed three women in some sick game of “anything you can do, I can do better”?
Mone Sr was questioned at length over several days, and although he never admitted the murders, he never denied them either. Instead, with his typical swagger he hinted that he knew more than he was saying and all he seemed to be concerned with was to talk about his infamous son. But even this came across as less of concern and fatherly love, and more of to bolster his own status as a hard man. He told one police officer:
“I don’t care for the fucking jungle outside no more. All I live for is to be in there with him. If I was there, I would see he gets everything that’s going – pills, booze, anything, the lot.”
Whilst he was being interviewed, detectives looked to see if he wore a ring with a prominent face, but he never did. But they still believed that they had their killer in front of them. And then they had a breakthrough. Enquiries revealed that Mone did indeed have a prominent ring, a silver band with a large jade stone. It had, ironically, belonged to his son – who had gifted it to his father when he was sent to Perth prison after the Carstairs breakout, as he was prohibited from wearing it after being transferred there. If detectives could find the ring, they could try to match it with the indentations on the victim’s faces. A search warrant detailing the description of the ring and its importance as evidence in the case was issued, and Mone’s house, his sister’s house, and even his estranged wife’s house in Glasgow were searched looking for it. However, it wasn’t found. During all this activity, Mone Sr went about his routine apparently unconcerned – he even took a trip to Perth Prison to visit his son who he was so obsessed with.
Although the evidence against Mone Sr was thin at best, an agreement between the police, the Dundee Procurator Fiscal and the Crown Counsel in Edinburgh was made that there was a borderline case. It was two weeks after the discovery of the murders, on 18th January 1979, that Crown prosecutors agreed an arrest warrant for Robert Christopher Mone Sr. It was decided that the public interest was so great, that an attempt had to be made to convict the prime suspect. The warrant was issued – and Mone Sr was arrested later that afternoon in the street near his home in Glen Prosen Terrace. When arrested, Mone was wearing the very ring that police had searched so long for.
In June 1979, Robert Christopher Mone Sr stood trial at the High Court in Dundee, charged with the murders of Agnes Waugh, Jane Simpson, and Catherine Millar, to which he pleaded not guilty. The lynchpin of the prosecution evidence was the ring that had been passed from killer son to father. The cast of the wound imprints that had been made at the time forensic scientists examined the bodies had been compared with the ring Mone had been wearing when arrested, and were found to match near perfectly. Crucially, traces of blood group A – the same as belonging to Agnes and Catherine were found on it also. And if this wasn’t persuasive enough, one of the trial witnesses was to produce a sensational moment that proved to be damning. Mone’s daughter, 15-year-old Rose-Ann, told the court that her father had loaned her the ring the previous year after she had expressed admiration for it, but had asked for it back after a short time. When asked why, she replied through tears:
“My dad said it was useful in a fight”.
It took just seventy-five minutes for a jury to decide Mone Sr’s guilt in the crimes he was accused of, and Mone was typically aggressive and cocky to the end. Passing the mandatory life sentence to him, Lord Robertson told the unflinching, unemotional Mone:
“You have been convicted of what I can only describe as a terrible crime. In view of the enormity of the crime, I shall make a recommendation that you serve a minimum of fifteen years”.
Mone replied; “Would you mind back dating it?”.
Cocky and aggressive to the last, he then struggled with the police constable taking him down to the cells, assaulting him and shouting “Get your hands off me”.
Sent to Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen, Mone was never to be with the son that he claimed alternately to love and miss, and then to want to gain one upmanship on. His prison life mirrored pretty much his outside life, as he was as detested inside prison as much as he had been outside. He intimidated the younger and smaller inmates with his physical fitness and bullying, regularly showing off by hanging by his feet from a beam ten feet above a concrete floor with his arms folded, and preying on those weaker than himself to satisfy his perverted sexual appetite. In 1983, just three and a half years into his life sentence, Robert Christopher Mone Sr was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate – who butchered him with two knives in an echo of the bloodshed his son had been a part of several years before. No one was particularly shocked that such a nasty piece of work met such a violent end, and even fewer people really cared. The inmate who killed him even described him as:
“Probably the most obnoxious person in the country”
With Robert Mone Sr dead, having arguably paid the ultimate price for his crimes, what happened to the other two main players in this entire drama, Thomas Mcculloch, and the person at the epicentre of it all, Robert Francis Mone Jr?
In 2002, new laws under the European Convention on Human Rights meant that the whole life sentences that were issued to Mone and Mcculloch in 1977 could be reviewed. Mone had the punishment element of his sentence set at twenty-five years, and Mcculloch’s was set at thirty years, and so both would have become eligible for possible parole by that time. By 2005, Mcculloch was still incarcerated, but was studying for a law degree and had become a trained counsellor helping other inmates with their personal issues. His prisoner category status was downgraded, and moves to begin preparing him for release were put into place. He was moved to HMP Castle Huntly, an open prison, and was allowed regular trips out, more than 100 unsupervised visits in total. He even managed to begin a relationship with a 48-year-old divorcee, Susan Perrie. But public feeling about the horrific crimes he had committed still runs high, and an attempt for a release into the community in 2010 stalled when attempts to rehouse him in Dumbarton were abandoned when locals threatened to lynch him after finding out the identity of their potential new resident. He was however, eventually released on life licence in 2011, going on to marry Susan Perrie and settling down to a new life in Dundee – much to the disgust of the families of his victims, opposition from senior government figures, and several scenes of angry public protest. The son of Nursing Officer Neil McClellan, who Mone and Mcculloch had butchered during their breakout from Carstairs echoed public opinion and the thoughts of the victim’s families: He said:
“Life should be life. He was sentenced to die in jail and I don’t see why that should have changed. He gets another chance, but there’s three people in the cemetery who won’t get that chance because of what they did”
Robert Mone Jr – the person who is at the centre of all the horror that has been described here, is still incarcerated to this day. He has become Scotland’s longest-serving prisoner, despite at one time looking like a release was on the cards for him. In fact, preparations for his release were being made from HMP Glenochil in 2011, even to the extent that he was allowed out on several day releases. But authorities held off on plans for his release after concerns were raised about his behaviour, and the possibility that he was using such releases to make outside preparations for yet another prison escape. It is fair to say that Mone has been involved in several incidents over the many years that he has been incarcerated now that would suggest that the distinction of being Scotland’s longest serving prisoner is a deserved moniker, with him still periodically appearing in the news even to this day. In 1981, his name was amongst those involved in a destructive rooftop protest at Perth Prison, and in 1995 Mone had six months added onto his life sentence for attacking a fellow prisoner with boiling water. He still maintains hope that he will be paroled and released on life licence, more so now that his partner in crime Mcculloch has now been freed. Mone has even changed his name to James Smith now as he believes that release is imminent for him, and reports of the inroads he is making from prison to convince a parole board that he is rehabilitated and ready to rejoin society are widespread.
But there are many who believe that Mone is still as evil to this day, and that life should mean life in his case. Extracts from letters to a penfriend were made public, in which he discusses his plans upon release – but never once mentions any regret or sorrow for the victims of his crimes, in fact even boasting of how up to 540 people were left traumatized b his crimes, and sickeningly awarding his victims points for their anguish. In 2015 Mone even went so far as to describe in his own words the events of the escape from Carstairs in 1976, in a series of letters to journalist David Leslie, which give a detailed recollection of the events of the Carstairs escape from Mone’s own perspective. These letters made it into a book entitled “Carstairs: Hospital For Horrors”, which is a highly recommended read and quite a unique insight not only into the workings of a high security hospital, but for a unique pov of events from the perpetrator’s perspective, as opposed to just a researched comprehensive account. But even in these letters, Mone is quick to pin the blame almost entirely upon Mcculloch, and paints a picture of himself being an accomplice only under duress. The name Robert Mone still to this day, nearly 50 years after he committed the horrific murder that introduced his name to the annals of infamy, creates widespread public fury and anger. Many believe that he will never be safe to be released, and even more believe that he deserves to languish in prison until the day he dies, paying for his horrific crimes. In 2007, one of the schoolgirls that Mone held at gunpoint the day that he murdered Nanette, Anne D’Arcy, spoke out about that afternoon, and her opinion of Mone. In an interview with a Scottish newspaper, she said:
“His face has always haunted me. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of him. The memory of him pressing the gun to my head flashes through my mind. He fired the gun, I heard him pull the trigger. I found out later the pin missed, and it didn’t fire a bullet. He didn’t think how he was destroying the lives of 14-year-old girls, he didn’t care. He should never, ever be released – it’s in him to kill again”.
Former nursing officer at Carstairs, the officer who found the mutilated bodies of Neil McLennan and Ian Simpson, John Hughes, said of Mone and Mcculloch:
“Mone is still feeding off the past. He remembers every tiny detail of that day. He gets pleasure from it. I haven’t forgotten that day because I was left traumatized. But Mone and McCulloch are like a couple of vultures feeding off the carcass of 1976. They will never change, ever. You cannot rehabilitate these people to go back among human beings. People like them cannot be cured’
The son of nursing officer Neil McClellan, murdered by Mone and Mcculloch in the Carstairs escape in 1976, gave his opinion of Mone. He said:
“I have lived with the consequences of what happened since 1976. It has completely altered the life my mother and I would have had. Mone is telling the story that he has been led along and that he was not the main player in this and is still inside. He has got to convince the parole board that he is safe to be released and that he is remorseful. But he is only sorry that he got caught”
Should Mone ever be released? Or does he still present as much of a danger to the public as he has for nearly 50 years?
The True Crime Enthusiast