Originally from a working-class family in Wolverhampton, England, Glover was convicted of many petty crimes dating back to 1947 for stealing clothing and handbags. He left school at 14. He was later thrown out of the British army when these crimes were discovered. Later, he emigrated to Australia in 1956 or 1957 with no qualifications where he first lived in Melbourne. He had a troubled relationship with older women in his life, especially his mother Freda (who had had several husbands and many boyfriends), and after 1968, his mother-in-law when he married Gay Rolls and moved into his parents-in-law's house in Mosman, Sydney.
Before John Glover began his killings in the late 1980s, he was a volunteer at the Senior Citizens Society, and was considered among his friends a friendly and trustworthy man. He was married with two daughters, and lived a contented lifestyle in Mosman. Glover worked as a sales representative for the Four'N Twenty meat pie company.
Glover's mother moved to Australia in 1976; she died of breast cancer in 1989. Later that year, Glover was diagnosed with breast cancer. Glover separated from his wife, who took their daughters to New Zealand.
Shortly after emigrating from England to Australia, Glover was convicted on two counts of larceny in Victoria, and a stealing charge in New South Wales.
In 1962, he was convicted on two counts of assaulting women in Melbourne, two counts of indecent assault, one of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and another four counts of larceny. He was sentenced to a three-year good-behaviour bond.
There is no proof of Glover killing before 1989, when he was 56. At this stage, he had been married for 20 years with children, and his wife had no knowledge of his previous offences. Glover admitted to the killings when confronted with the police evidence. He denied responsibility for other crimes in which he was a prime suspect, including the bashing murder of 78-year-old artist Florence Broadhurst in her Paddington studio in 1977. A number of years after his conviction, Glover admitted that he never worried about who his victims were, or why he killed them. He said he wanted to stop killing, but couldn't. After each murder, he apparently went about his normal life.
On 11 January 1989, 84-year-old Margaret Todhunter was walking down Hale Road, Mosman, where she was seen by Glover. After parking his car, he walked up to the victim. He punched Todhunter in the face, and stole the contents of her purse including $209. Glover then went to the Mosman RSL club where he spent Mrs Todhunter's money. Investigating police concluded the crime was a mugging and held little hope of finding the perpetrator.
On 1 March 1989, as Glover left the Mosman RSL in Military Rd, he saw 82-year-old Gwendoline Mitchelhill walking down the street. Glover returned to his car and put a hammer under his belt. He followed Mitchelhill to the entry foyer of her Military Road apartment building. As she went to open the front door, he hit her with the hammer on the back of her head. He then continued to strike her about the head and body; several of her ribs were broken. Glover fled the scene, taking her purse containing $100. Mitchelhill was still alive when she was found by two schoolboys, but died shortly after the police and ambulance arrived. The police had no eyewitnesses or leads and there was nothing concrete to link this attack with the previous attack on Margaret Todhunter. There was no forensic evidence either, as good-intentioned neighbours, believing she had merely fallen, had washed the crime scene. The police assumed that it was another mugging gone wrong.
On 9 May 1989, Glover was walking along Military Road when he saw 84-year-old Lady Ashton, widow of artist Will Ashton, walking towards him. She was on her way home to nearby Raglan Street. Glover put on a pair of gloves and followed her into the foyer of her apartment, where he attacked her with his hammer. He then threw her to the ground and dragged her into a rubbish bin alcove where he repeatedly hit her head on the pavement. Glover recalled that she had almost overpowered him, until he fell on top of her and started to hit her head on the pavement. After she was knocked unconscious, John Glover removed her pantyhose and strangled her. He placed Lady Ashton's walking stick and shoes at her feet. He then left with her purse containing $100. Glover headed for the Mosman RSL, where he commented to staff that he hoped the sirens outside weren't because of another mugging gone wrong.
The police found Lady Ashton lying face down diagonally across the concrete floor of the small bin alcove. There was a pool of blood around her head. The pantyhose were strung so tightly around her neck that it cut through the skin. Her bare legs were crossed and her arms were placed by her sides. She had a thin trickle of blood running out of her mouth. At this point, the police concluded they were facing a serial killer. To date all three victims were wealthy elderly women, from the same suburb, and were all assaulted or killed in the same manner before being robbed of their handbags.
A post-mortem was carried out and no sign of semen was found. The ligature mark around her neck measured nine centimetres. She had bruises on her nose and temple, on her neck, and both her eyelids. At some stage during the struggle, she bit her lips, causing damage to the inner lining of her mouth. There was a wound on her cheek, which was an open cut that had a small, semi-circular abrasion which was a few centimetres away from it. The examiner noted the victim's diamond ring was still present, suggesting that she had not been killed for money.
On 6 June 1989, Glover molested 77-year-old Marjorie Moseley at the Wesley Gardens Retirement Home in Belrose. The victim reported to hospital staff and police that a man had put his hand under her night gown, but that she could not remember what the man looked like.
On 24 June 1989, Glover visited the Caroline Chisholm Nursing Home in Lane Cove where he lifted the dress of an elderly patient and fondled her buttocks. In a neighbouring room, he slid his hand down the front of another patient's nightdress and stroked her breasts. The woman cried out for help and Glover was briefly questioned by staff at the hospital before leaving.
On 8 August 1989, Glover assaulted the elderly Effie Carnie in a back street of Lindfield, on Sydney's upper North Shore.
On 6 October, Glover pretended to be a doctor and ran his hand up the dress of Phyllis McNeil, a patient at the Wybenia Nursing Home in the lower North Shore suburb of Neutral Bay. Glover left when the blind McNeil called for help. At the time, Glover was apparently never suspected of, or identified as being responsible for the molestations.
On 18 October 1989, Glover followed 86-year-old widow Doris Cox along Spit Road, Mosman to her retirement village. In the secluded stairwell at the front of the house, he attacked her, ramming her face into a brick wall where she fell. Although she survived the assault, she was not able to provide a clear description or recollection of events – probably due to her dementia. According to her, the attacker was a young man, possibly a teenager or skateboarder. She provided police with an identikit drawing, but again, the scene was washed down by neighbours before investigators arrived.
On 2 November 1989, Glover approached 78-year-old Lane Cove resident Dorothy Beencke while she was walking home in a quiet backstreet, just off Longueville Road, Lane Cove (about 10 kilometres from Mosman). Glover then engaged her in conversation, and offered to carry her groceries home for her. Beencke invited him inside her house for a cup of tea. Glover declined the tea, but on the return down the laneway to the main street, he passed another old woman and then assaulted her from behind.
The victim this time was 85-year-old widow Margaret Pahud (also on her way home from grocery shopping), and the police were certain this was the work of the "granny killer". She was hit on the back of the head with a blunt instrument, and when she collapsed, he struck her again on the side of the head. Glover rearranged her clothing, shoes, and walking stick, took her handbag and left. Again, nobody saw the attack but within a few minutes, her body was found by a young schoolgirl who at first thought the body was a pile of clothing dumped in the laneway. Neighbours yet again washed down the crime scene. As the police and ambulance were on their way, Glover rummaged through the contents of Pahud's purse on the grounds of a nearby golf club. He then headed off to the Mosman RSL Club to again spend $300 he had stolen from Pahud.
Within 24 hours of the Pahud murder, on 3 November 81-year-old Olive Cleveland became the fourth woman killed by the now so-called "granny killer". Glover struck up a conversation with Cleveland while she was sitting on a bench just outside the Wesley Gardens Retirement Village where she lived in the suburb of Belrose. When Olive became uncomfortable, she got up and proceeded to walk to the main building, Glover seized her from behind and forced her down a ramp into a secluded side lane. Here, he hit her and repeatedly pushed her head into the concrete before he removed her pantyhose and tied them tightly around her neck. Once again, Glover rearranged her clothing, shoes, and walking stick, then left taking money ($60) from her handbag. Once again, the old woman's injuries were initially attributed to a heavy fall and the crime scene was yet again washed down. There were no eyewitnesses. Shortly afterwards, the state government doubled the reward to $200,000.
On 23 November 1989, Glover was sitting in the Buena Vista Hotel in Middle Head Road, Mosman when he saw 93-year-old widow Muriel Falconer walking opposite the hotel (returning home with her shopping). Glover returned to his car (parked opposite the police station), to retrieve his hammer and gloves. He followed Falconer to the exterior of her home in Muston Street. He quietly moved up behind her while the partially deaf and blind Falconer opened her front door. He put his hand around her mouth to silence her, before repeatedly hitting her around the head and neck with his hammer. When she fell to the floor, Glover began to remove Falconer's pantyhose. As he did this, she began to regain consciousness and cried for help. This prompted Glover to hit her multiple times with the hammer until she finally passed out. He removed her undergarments and used them to strangle her. He searched her purse and the rest of her house for valuables before leaving with $100, again after rearranging her shoes. The following afternoon, the body was discovered by a neighbour, who entered using a spare key. The crime scene was left undisturbed and investigators were able to collect forensic evidence, including bloody shoeprints. A neighbour described a suspect as middle-aged, portly, and grey-haired. The reward was increased to $250,000 by Christmas.
On 11 January 1990, Glover visited the Greenwich Hospital in River Road, Greenwich, on his pie sales round. He was in his work uniform and carried a clipboard, and entered the hospital's palliative care ward where there were four elderly and ill women, including 82-year-old advanced cancer patient Daisy Roberts. Glover asked if she was losing any body heat, he then pulled up her night gown and touched her in an indecent manner. Roberts panicked and called for help, upon which a nurse found Glover in the ward. When confronted, Glover ran from the ward and the nurse was able to record his car's registration number, and notified police.
The hospital staff were able to identify and name Glover, as he was known from doing his pie rounds. A week later, the police returned with a photograph of Glover, which both the nurse and Roberts positively identified. Although this was a significant breakthrough, the hospital assaults were not linked to the murders, nor reported to the murder task force for three weeks. Detectives from Chatswood police station contacted and confirmed Glover's name via his employers. Detectives contacted Glover and requested he attend an interview at the station the following day. When Glover failed to appear, the police rang his home and were informed by his wife that he had attempted suicide by overdose and was recovering at the Royal North Shore Hospital. Police went to the hospital to see Glover but he declined to be interviewed – although, he did permit them to take a photograph. Staff at the hospital handed police a suicide note that was written by Glover, in the middle of the page on Four'N Twenty Pies business paper, that contained the words "no more grannies ... grannies" and "Essie [Glover's mother-in-law] started it".
It was two weeks before the suicide note and photo were passed onto the task force (now numbering some 70 members), whereupon detectives believed immediately that Glover was the killer, although they had no evidence. The head of the detective task force said,
Glover was interviewed over the nursing home assaults and denied all accusations. Police had limited evidence and decided not to question him over the murders, which would have let Glover know of the police suspicions. Glover was put under constant police surveillance including, at one stage, with an automatic tracking device. To make sure that he wasn't being followed, Glover would drive around the block more than once, or drive the wrong way up one-way streets.
On 19 March 1990, Glover killed his sixth and final victim in Mosman. She was 60-year-old divorcee Joan Sinclair from Beauty Point, with whom Glover had a platonic relationship. By this stage, police had Glover under constant surveillance and watched as Sinclair let Glover into her home at approximately 10 a.m. By 1 p.m. there was no sign of Glover or movement within the house. Police and the surveillance team, became concerned at about 5 p.m. and got permission to enter the house at 6 p.m. Two uniformed police knocked on the front door (ostensibly to check on barking dogs) to no answer, and, when looking through the rear glass door, saw a hammer lying in a pool of dry blood on a mat. Four detectives searched the house and found Sinclair's battered head wrapped in a bundle of blood-soaked towels. She was naked from the waist down and her pantyhose were tied around her neck. Her genitals were damaged but Glover would later deny raping her. After finding Sinclair's body, they then searched the house for Glover who was found unconscious in the filled bathtub.
Glover later told police he murdered Joan Sinclair and explained they had been having a relationship for some time. He said that he beat her about the head with his hammer, removed her pantyhose, and strangled her with them. Glover rolled the body onto a mat; wrapped four towels around her extensive head wounds to stem the flow of blood, then dragged her body across the room, leaving a trail of blood. He then ran the bath, swallowed a handful of Valium with a bottle of Vat 69, slashed his left wrist and lay in the tub to die.
At the trial, commencing 28 March 1990, Glover pleaded not guilty to his crimes on the grounds of diminished responsibility. A psychiatrist said Glover had built up hostility and aggression since his childhood against his mother and then against his mother-in-law, who was said to "trigger" him. When she died, he had to take out his aggression on someone else. The psychiatrist who studied the case also added that this was a very unusual case because there are very few serial killers, and most of them are mentally ill, and/or have an organic disease of the brain; Glover was sane at the time of the murders, but a psychiatrist at the trial, John Shand, said Glover had a severe personality disorder.
The Crown prosecutor maintained that Glover was well aware of his actions. When he killed, he was also planning what to do with the victim's money, and also took time to clean the hammer with acid. Glover was impotent and had no interest in sex. So tying the pantyhose so tightly around his victim's neck was to make sure they were dead, at the same time trying to trick the police into thinking that this was the work of a sexually-motivated killer.
Glover was addicted to poker machines, and the easiest way for him to get more money was to steal. After the guilty verdict was delivered, Justice Wood stated that he was dealing with an extremely dangerous prisoner:
Days before Glover finally committed suicide, he handed his last outside visitor a sketch of a park. Glover pointed out two pine trees. In the middle of the right pine tree, the number "nine" could be seen between leaves and branches. The number nine is said to either represent the total number of murders or the number of unsolved murders committed by Glover.
Unsolved murders that may have been committed by Glover include:
- Emmie May Anderson, 78, East Melbourne (19 October 1961)
- Irene Kiddle, 61, St Kilda (22 March 1963)
- Elsie Boyes, 63, Prahran (3 June 1967)
- Christina Yankos, 63, Albert Park (9 April 1968)
- Florence Broadhurst, 78, Paddington (16 October 1977)
- Josephine McDonald, 72, Ettalong (29 August 1984)
- Wanda Amundsen, 83, Umina (21 November 1986)
Glover's serial murders was the focus of the Crime Investigation Australia series 1 episode "No More Grannies / The Granny Killer, and of the series 2 episode of Forensic Investigators entitled "Granny Killer".