Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Macabre Nightmare at a French Chateau

Broke and Desperate?

No one interviewed for the article that lived near the Halls in France, including Sourdin, claimed to know of any financial problems Mr. Hall might have had, either in France or in England. In the local townspeople's eyes, the Halls were in for the long haul to convert the chateau grounds into a golf vacation complex.

Pierre Sourdain
Pierre Sourdain

However, Mr. Sourdin conceded that Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall's estate was a work in progress when queried about complaints from guests who had rented out some of the houses on the estate. "I think that the guests showed up before the renovations were finished," he said. "But when I go on vacation and I don't like the place I rent, I go elsewhere."

But in the town from which the family came in Holmfirth, England, reports surfaced that said Mr. Hall had "fled" the English town in 1998, leaving behind enormous debts.

A person familiar with Mr. Hall's dealings in Holmfirth said the local bank had repossessed Hall's house just before the family moved to France. The source said it would be difficult to find people to go on record to comment on what he said were Mr. Hall's "scams" for fear of reprisals if or when he got out of prison for the death of his wife. "People are going to be scared that someone will bang on their doors in the middle of the night. He hung around with heavy people," the source said. "But it will be a shame if French authorities do not find out what kind of man he really is, either."

According to a report in the local newspaper The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Mr. Hall left behind a string of debts and was a well-known con man. Mr. Hall reportedly told a bank that he had invented a building material and received a loan for several hundred thousand dollars with which to start a business to sell the material. However, the loan was never paid back, the newspaper reported.

Robert Hall
Robert Hall

Citing local townspeople, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner also reported a long list of other wrongdoings Mr. Hall had allegedly committed, including illegally operating a retail outlet and threatening someone with a baseball bat.

The owner of J W Kaye Ironmongers, a hardware store in Holmfirth, Dave Earnshaw, told truTV that Mr. Hall was part con man, part feckless businessman. "He was a very amiable sort of bloke, to be truthful. He could sell smoke to the Eskimos if he wanted," Mr. Earnshaw said. "My personal opinion is that he got himself into a cul-de-sac and couldn't get himself out of it. Some of his projects worked, and some of them didn't, and there were more projects that didn't work than did."

Mr. Earnshaw also alleged Mr. Hall owed him money.

"He didn't owe me a huge amount that rocked the boat, but it was annoying at the time because he just disappeared to France," Mr. Earnshaw said.

Mr. Hall had had a reputation in Holmfirth similar to that he acquired in Le Chatellier as someone who was usually calm and collected, despite any allegedly shady business dealings. Mr. Hall had been known to drink, yet he had never appeared to be visibly intoxicated.

"He was a calm sort of bloke," Mr. Earnshaw said. "I knew he liked to drink, but I never once saw him drunk."

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