How Barton-upon-Humber England Got Missionary Murderer
BARTON-UPON-HUMBER, ENGLAND -- An article in The Times of London last
week gives an account of how Robert Elmer Kleasen, once convicted and
newly accused of the 1974 murder of two LDS missionaries, was able to
not only enter the United Kingdom, but there amass a large weapons
cache under the noses of local police. Kleasen is currently facing an
extradition request from Travis County, Texas, which wants to try him
again in the 1974 murders. The extradition hearing is now scheduled
for later this month.
Kleasen is accused of the murder of Elder Mark Fischer and his
missionary companion, Elder Gary Darley, who disappeared after they
were scheduled to meet with Kleasen on October 28, 1974. The
missionaries were supposed to have dinner with Kleasen despite the
suggestion from a local bishop that they stay away from him.
Investigators later discovered that Kleasen had a very violent past,
including a shooting incident in New York state and firearms
Kleasen was convicted of Elder Fischer's murder in 1975 (he has never
been tried in the murder of Elder Darley), but after two years on
Texas' death row, an appeals court overturned Kleasen's conviction,
ruling that the search of his home was illegal and that key evidence
had to be excluded. New York prosecutors were able to convict Kleasen
of weapons charges and he spent 10 years in federal prison. He
disappeared after his release, eventually appearing in England, where
he was again arrested and convicted on weapons charges.
His reappearance in Britain led Austin prosecutors to review the
case, and they soon determined that DNA technology allows them to
reopen the case. Kleasen was then re-indicted and an extradition
request was sent to England in time to keep him from being released
from prison there.
But the investigation into Kleasen's time in England has brought to
light worrysome details about how a convicted murderer managed to
enter the country and then amass an arsenal of weapons in a quiet
Kleasen's entre into the United Kingdom originated even before he was
released from prison. While an inmate in New York state, he started a
pen-pal relationship with Marie Longley, the widow of a Humberside
police officer who sought a friend through the International
Penfriend Association after he first husband died, "They sent me a
list of 14 people, some men and some women," she later told the
Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph. "I wrote to them all. Bob's name was on
And Kleasen replied, starting a correspondence riddled with lies
about his past. Not only did he forget to mention the murders of the
two missionaries, he also claimed to be a prison employee instead of
an inmate, and when Longley believed him, he expanded his lies. By
the time he was through lying, he spoke six languages, had flown
combat missions over Korea and Vietnam, piloted U2 spyplanes and was
a hitman who had helped kill Che Guevara. He also said he had brought
actual U2 piolot Gary Powers back to the U.S. after he was shot down
and had won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Then, two years after he began writing, Kleasen wrote to say he
planned to visit. "It was supposed to be a holiday," says Carolyn
Longley, Marie's daughter-in-law. "But all these boxes full of his
things started arriving by post before he did. He said he would be
moving in 'to see if it worked out'. That lasted till he got locked
Apparently there on a regular tourist visa -- the kind that involve
no questions from British authorities, and Kleasen soon got permanent
residence by marrying Longley on January 11, 1991. Within days he had
a new, permanent visa, and Longley started a living nightmare that
included threats of violence from her new husband. He even pointed a
shotgun at her head once and threatened to kill her if she ever left
Kleasen turned his attention to a local duck hunting club,
Wildfowlers, and soon had permits to own guns. In spite of
threatening incidents against fellow Wildfowlers members, Kleasen
applied to Humberside Police for a gun dealer's license, and soon got
He then began using his wife's savings to buy an arsenal that
eventually included a Thompson sub-machine gun, a silenced .22 Ruger
pistol, and hundreds of rounds of home-made ammunition for his
weapons. "I can't understand how England let him do this," one U.S.
detective later, when Kleasen's whereabouts became known in the U.S.
But Barton Police Seargeant Peter Stevens explains, "the policy then
was not to check abroad for foreign nationals seeking gun
certificates. All they needed was a pair of referees and a clean
local record." The Humberside police even sent him a Christmas Card
in 1998, and one defense lawyer even argued that he was "effectively
called on to advise police" on how to use some weapons.
But Kleasen's lies eventually caught up to him. The members of
Wildfowlers were convinced he was a nut, and even thought about
kicking him out of the club. Instead they asked the son of one of the
members to search the Internet to see if Kleasen had won the
Congressional Medal of Honor. When Kleasen's name wasn't on the list
of medal winners, Wildfowlers contacted the police, and the
International police agency Interpol was asked to run a check on him.
The truth then came out, and Humberside Police knew of his record as
early as April 1999, but they delayed another year to make sure that
Kleasen was the same person as the Texas murderer. Finally, on April
19, 2000, Kleasen was jailed on firearms violations.
Marie Longley now says she feels safe again, "I'm safe now," she told
her daughter-in-law. "It's over."
Monster in our midst
London UK The Times 28Jan02 P2
By Giles Whittell
How did Robert Kleasen, a death row survivor and serial fantasist, manage to settle in a quiet English town and amass an arsenal of fearsome weapons? Giles Whittell investigates