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James Roland ROBERTSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Police officer
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 28, 1950
Date of birth: 1917
Victim profile: Catherine McCluskey, 40 (his lover)
Method of murder: Run over with car repeatedly
Location: Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Barlinnie prison on December 15, 1950

It was early in the morning of 28th July 1950 when a taxi-driver driving along Prospecthill Road, Glasgow, noticed a bundle in the middle of the road. When he stopped to investigate he realised the bundle was in fact the body of a woman.

At first glance the police suspected that the woman was the victim of a hit-and-run incident but a post-mortem revealed injuries to the body that had probably occurred prior to death and that the victim had been run over repeatedly. The woman was identified as Catherine McCluskey.

The vehicle involved was found abandoned in a side street. It's owner was registered as James Robertson, who was a police officer. He was arrested and charged with murder. His said that he had found the car abandoned and on checking the records had discovered it had been stolen and decided to keep it. He also admitted knowing Catherine McCluskey and said that he was the father of her second child.

His story as to the events of that day were that he had been driving down Prospecthill Road when he spotted Mrs McCluskey and had stopped to speak to her. He said she had asked him for a lift but that he had refused because he was on duty. He had left her and driven away but had then changed his mind and stopping had reversed the car, he could not see her but then felt the car bump over something. He had in fact run her down. When he tried to move the car off her he found her body had become jammed under the vehicle and he had driven backwards and forwards until he had managed to get clear.

At his trial at Glasgow in November 1950 he chose to repeat his story from the witness box and it was quickly destroyed under cross-examination. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, being executed on 15th December 1950 at Barlinnie prison at the age of 33.



Mowed down and killed by policeman lover

By Reg McKay -

October 19, 2007

STEADY rainfall made the Glasgow street shimmer in the night. But there was no mistaking the crumpled bundle lying at the side of the road. It was a body.

It was on Prospecthill Road in the city's southside. A busy road these days, it would take seconds for a motorist to be forced to stop and, hopefully, summon help.

But it was 1950 and there weren't many cars about. Besides, folk then - as now - didn't like getting involved.

Two members of the public alerted the cops - anonymously by phone.

They probably thought that it was a drunk crashed out or maybe some guy who'd been giving a kicking - all as common sights on Glasgow streets in 1950 as they are now.

PC William Kevan was sent to check up. Little did he know that he was about to help make Scottish legal history.

A historical first that he and his colleagues would take pride in and feel shame over both at the same time.

Instantly, PC Kevan realised it wasn't a drunk or a man beaten up or even a man. It was a woman and he could see she was badly injured. Maybe even dead.

The ambulance arrived at speed and the paramedics confirmed PC Kevan's fears.

The woman was dead. Knocked over by a car most likely. But the beat bobby wasn't so sure. In a simple hit and run, there would have been one set of tyre marks at either side of the body. There were several.

And the woman had no identification on her. Nothing.

In those post-war years, people were still in the habit of carrying some form of ID. This was most unusual.

Glasgow Police had no option but to release information to the local papers appealing for anyone who might recognise the woman to come forward.

It didn't take long for a Mrs Johnston to get in touch with them.

On 28 July 1950, Mrs Johnston's friend, Catherine McCluskey, asked her to look after her young baby for the night.

Catherine was 40 years old, a single parent with two older children, both by different fathers.

At that time, people tended to look down on women on their own, especially if they were sexually active. They were seen as fallen women.

Mrs Johnston agreed to baby-sit the wee one but was worried, very worried. Catherine McCluskey hadn't turned up and wasn't at her home in 239 Nicholson Street.

Catherine McCluskey wasn't coming home ever again. She died on 28 July, lying on Prospecthill Road in the rain.

"Oh the poor woman," Mrs Johnston had sighed tearfully. "What a tragic accident."

The cops nodded in agreement and made her more tea. As she went to leave the police station, she stopped and turned.

"She was making a new life for herself, you know," she said. "Was going to settle down with a new man. The baby's daddy.

"A decent man with a good job, by all accounts. In fact, he's one of you lot."

What the cops already knew but had decided not to tell Mrs Johnston or any member of the public yet was that Catherine McCluskey's death was no accident. A post mortem had found that her legs weren't broken, most unusual when a pedestrian is knocked down.

There was only one explanation - she was already on the ground when the car ran over her. Worse than that, her internal injuries supported the views of PC Kevan. A car had run over her several times.

Her head and facial injuries were also more consistent with a beating than a car accident. It was murder all right.

The first person they had to track down, if only to rule out, was her lover. Mrs Johnston had never met the man and only knew his surname - Robertson.

There were a good few Robertsons in the City of Glasgow Police and the investigation team were facing a long slow job until they got a phone call from an alert desk sergeant at Orkney Street Police Station, Govan.

He had picked up on the unofficial grapevine - cops are some of the biggest gossips about - that the team were looking for a policeman by the name of Robertson.

HE suggested they start with a copper he knew, PC James Robertson, who was having marital problems and had been seeing someone else.

PC James Robertson denied knowing Catherine McCluskey but the interviewing cops were going to be thorough.

They chase husbands, wives and lovers in murder inquiries for one very good reason - too often they are the killers.

The thought that one of their own could be a murderer was too much to contemplate. So they'd be thorough, make sure they got the right man.

They found out that Robertson was out on the beat on the night at the time of the killing. When they interviewed Robertson's regular partner and partner that night, PC Dugald Moffat, the man's face went puce.

Moffat had been covering for Robertson for some time. He had a "bit on the side", a "fancy woman". Robertson's wife watched every move he made and it was difficult for him to see his lover.

While they were on quiet shifts,

Robertson would slip off to spend a couple of hours with her. That's exactly what had happened that night - 28 July. Robertson had gone off to see his woman around 11pm and turned up again at about 1am.

The period covering the death of Catherine McCluskey.

Robertson's beat on the night of 28 July was far from the scene of crime.

No bus driver had reported a cop on that route and it was too long to walk, commit murder and get back on shift in two hours. Maybe he had driven.

Robertson had an old Austin saloon car. The cops pulled that in for checks. It didn't take long to find what they were looking for.

A simple torch shone on the undercarriage revealed blood, fragments of flesh and clothes. The cops had their man.

Charged with murder, James Robertson denied all the charges. He did then admit to knowing Catherine McCluskey but not to having an affair with her or killing her.

He claimed he had sneaked off shift to see her that night and had hidden his car up a street near his beat just for that purpose.

When they met they argued fiercely, he claimed, and he had stormed off, jumping in the car and driving away at speed.

Feeling bad about the row. he had changed his mind, braked hard and reversed back to where Catherine was. He felt a bump. Getting out of the car, he saw he had driven over Catherine.

Driving off in a panic he had hidden his car in a side street and rejoined his partner as if nothing had happened

That was PC Robertson's defence when he turned up for trial at the High Court, Glasgow on November 6, 1950.

Scotland was appalled. The charges amounted to a terrible and brutal murder of a woman and the cops were accusing a cop.

But would there be justice?

At the end of the day, on the policeman and Catherine McCluskey, now dead, knew the truth of what happened that awful night.

Robertson's lawyer did a heroic job of defending him but he faced a difficult task.

The police gave evidence on his car. Not just the blood and flesh stuck to it but that it was stolen and had false number plates.

James Robertson was proven to be a thief and, more importantly, a liar. It took the jury an hour to find him guilty of beating Catherine unconscious then deliberately running over her again and again in his car.

On December 16, 1950, at Barlinnie Prison, Albert Pierrepoint made Scottish legal history when he hanged James Robertson.

Since records have been kept, PC James Robertson was the only serving policeman to be executed for a crime committed while on duty.

The cops had caught and punished one of their own. Justice was done that day.

Robertson said it was an accident, but he was proven to be a thief and - more importantly - a liar.



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