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
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 - DailyRecord.co.uk
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.