NOT so law-abiding police officer James Robertson features in the latest of our special series on Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes.

A total of 10 judicial executions by hanging took place at HMP Barlinnie between 1946 and 1960, replacing the gallows at Duke Street Prison. This was before the death penalty was eventually abolished in the UK in 1969. All the executions took place at 8am. The public executioners during that time were Thomas Pierrepoint, Albert Pierrepoint and Harry Allen. The remains of all executed prisoners were the property of the state. They were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the prison. During renovations at the prison in 1997, Barlinnie's gallows cell, which was built into D-hall, was finally demolished and the remains of all the executed prisoners were exhumed for reburial elsewhere on the grounds. This is the story of James Robertson who was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on December 16, 1950, several years after the three death penalty sentences given to John Lyon, Patrick Carraher and John Caldwell in 1946. Robertson's death was just months after Paul Christopher Harris, who was executed the same year.

THE involvement of a city bobby in a unmarried mother's murder made for one of the most scandalous High Court trials the people of 1950s Glasgow had ever witnessed.

Evening Times:

Clever Police Constable (PC) James Robertson, above, horrific crime might have gone undetected had it not been for one of his eagled-eyed colleagues.

It also appeared that as details of this case emerged in court, PC Robertson was on the wrong side of the law.

The murder unfolded when police were called to the scene of what they had thought was a road traffic accident just after midnight on July 28, 1950.

A taxi driver who was travelling along Prospecthill Road in Toryglen raised the alarm when he found the body of a woman lying on the roadway.

That taxi driver John Kennedy said: "I slowed up and saw the lady lying, and thought perhaps she was drunk or perhaps she had been knocked down."

PC William Kevan, of the Traffic Department, however, grew suspicious when he examined the scene of the apparent 'road accident'.

The woman's injuries were consistent with a vehicle having gone over her. The driver appeared to have then reversed to go over her again.

CID were called to the crime scene, and it was there that PC Kevan convinced them that the woman, Catherine McCluskey, had in fact been murdered.

The victim, 40, lived in the Gorbals' Nicholson Street, and was the mother of two children. It also transpired that there was a connection between the woman and PC Robertson. The cop, 33, was a beat officer in the Cumberland Street area of the Gorbals where she lived. The pair had a relationship despite PC Robertson being a family man.

With PC Robertson's association with his victim established, the vehicle he used to travel to work was impounded.

It was also soon discovered that the car had been stolen and fitted with false number plates.

Evening Times:

Forensic expert Dr John Glaister then examined the car and discovered traces of McCluskey's hair on the underside of the vehicle.

PC Robertson was charged with murder. His charge stated that he struck McCluskey on the head with a rubber truncheon and that he drove a motor car carrying false registration plates over her, causing her death.

He also faced additional charges of housebreaking and theft. He was accused of breaking into a premises on Cumberland Street and stealing a car from West Campbell Street months prior to the murder.

The interest in this trial was so huge that there was a queue outside the court, often hours before proceedings began. The Evening Times reported: "More than half an hour before the trial began in North Court in the Justiciary Buildings was packed to capacity, and a queue assembled outside. The queue numbered about 100 people, who had no hope of getting into court."

With more details of the relationship between the pair emerging in court, it is easy to understand why the people of 1950s Glasgow were glued to this case.

One interesting witness was the victim's sister Elizabeth McCluskey who told the court she had no idea who had fathered the children of her unmarried sibling.

She told the court that she had asked her sister the intentions of the youngest child's father. In court, Elizabeth said: "She (her sister) told me that he could not do anything as he was a married man and she had found out too late."

After a trial lasting seven days, the jury took just 64 minutes to find PC Robertson guilty of murder and the other charges on November 13, 1950. He betrayed little emotion as sentence was passed.

On December 16, 1950, months after PC Robertson ran over his unmarried lover, he paid the ultimate price of death.

A notice was pinned on the gates of Barlinnie confirming the execution at 8.13am.

Evening Times:

A lasting tribute to the case is featured in the Scottish Police Museum on Bell Street, which recognises that even law enforcers have to accept one of their own can do wrong.

  • Tomorrow, murder on the dancefloor as we reveal how killer James Smith ended up on the gallows of Barlinnie.

In case you missed it: 

Hanged at Barlinnie: Govan man took the fall for murder, saving his brother​

Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes: Carntyne cop killer John Caldwell​

Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes: the 'Fiend of the Gorbals' Patrick Carraher​

Hanged at Barlinnie: The men who were executed and their crimes: Govanhill 'Crosbie' gang member John Lyon​

Hanged at Barlinnie: Bloody history of Glasgow's killers who walked to the gallows