True Grue: Archibald “Mad Dog” McCafferty
Welcome to “True Grue,” a weekly article that dives into real life, harrowing horrors. For the interest of good taste, this graphic feature aims not to be exploitative, but rather informative, and rest assured, there are many different territories that will be strictly off-limits. But for those with a hungry mind and a strong stomach, read on at your own discretion…
In this strange reality we live in, there seems to be a neverending list of motivations for which people use to kill. Outside of crimes of passion and legitimate accidents, people have used texts, scriptures, philosophies, misinformation and even a threat to complacency to take the lives of others. In the case of serial killers, there always seems to be something stranger about the catalysts for their crimes. While many have attributed God, demons and even neighborhood pets to inspire them to commit murder, this week’s real life horror finds its incentive in truly terrifying territory.
From a young age, Archibald McCafferty was troubled, as his behavior following his emigration from Scotland to Australia was incredibly volatile. In fact, by the time he was 24, he had been in and out of jail several times, five of which at juvenile institutions, and had thirty-five convictions for an assortment of crimes. While none of his crimes had been violent in nature, aside from assault charges from his fistfights with arresting officers, McCafferty had a very dark side to him, having strangled animals in the past to experience the sensation of doing so.
At the age of 22, McCafferty entered a tumultuous marriage with Janice Redington, with whom he’d regularly resort to violence against, prompting several stays at various mental institutions. During this time, McCafferty became an alcoholic and binge drug abuser, all while Janice was pregnant with their first child, Craig. When the baby was only six weeks old, Janice fell asleep and rolled over on Craig while breastfeeding him in bed, accidentally suffocating him. While the coroner exonerated Janice of responsibility in the matter, McCafferty thought differently.
The death of his son spurred McCafferty to another institutional stay, which he eschewed in exchange for “self-medication.” McCafferty soon began covering his body with misogynistic and anarchic tattoos, with the exception of a single spot reserved for the memory of his son. Soon, McCafferty’s behavior started becoming even more erratic, threatening his wife and her family with bricks through their windows and assembling a violent gang of misguided youths.
On August 24th, 1973, McCafferty and his gang targeted a local World War II veteran, George Anson, outside of his favorite bar, with the intention of assault and robbery. In the midst of the assault, McCafferty (who had been high on angel dust) believed he had heard his son’s voice call out to him, repeatedly saying, “Kill seven.” McCafferty then stabbed Anson to death, much to the shock of his gang members, who had all fallen under his violent spell. McCafferty then earned the nickname “Mad Dog,” and as his hallucinations and voices melded with reality, McCafferty believed that by murdering seven people, his son would be resurrected from the grave.
Three days later, McCafferty asked his gang to kidnap a victim and bring him to his son’s grave, as his hallucinations were strongest when at the cemetery. Two of his gang members, Julie Todd and Mick Meredith, kidnapped 42-year-old Ronald Cox at gunpoint after he’d picked them up on the particularly rainy night as they were hitchhiking. McCafferty and Meredith shot Cox in the back of the head in front of the gravesite, yet it wasn’t enough. Later that night, McCafferty killed driving instructor Evangelos Kollias, and then came up with a grand scheme to complete his plan.
Using a car he stole for Kollias, McCafferty had planned to drive to his former home, kill his ex-wife and her parents, and frame a Rick Webster, a gang member who had protested McCafferty’s murder of Anson. Kollias’s car didn’t have enough fuel to put the plan into action immediately, and when Webster caught wind of McCafferty’s plan, the former went to the police. When McCafferty planned to kill Webster at his place of work, detectives swarmed McCafferty as well as co-conspirators Mick Meredith and Richard Whittington, who all had loaded weapons on the scene. McCafferty quickly confessed to the murders and further elaborated on his crimes, lamenting that he never had the chance to kill his wife.
During his opening statements, the Australian press became fascinated with McCafferty, who silenced the courtroom by threatening to kill one of his co-defendant’s legal counsels. In further proceedings, McCafferty was given a high dosage of sedatives as to limit his outbursts, and yet he somehow maintained a rapport with court reporters and the fellow accused. When he took the stand, McCafferty recounted his hallucinations for the captivated courtroom, but assured the judge that he would, in fact, kill again to bring his son back to life. McCafferty and each of his co-defendants were found guilty, with McCafferty being sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
From there, McCafferty was regarded as one of the worst prisoners in Australia, organizing escape attempts, putting together “murder squads” to target the remaining four victims on his list, dealing heroin behind bars and starting fights in every prison to which he was transferred . When the eligibility of parole became a possibility, McCafferty drastically changed his lifestyle and became a model citizen, working outside of the prison as much as possible while bonding with his estranged brother.
In1997, McCafferty was granted parole, but under one condition: he was to be deported back to his birthplace, Scotland, where he’s remained a free man ever since. McCafferty has not killed again since his release, despite the occasional run-in with the law. You can see low-res pictures of two crime scenes below, as well as a shot of McCafferty in Scotland as of 2012.