Charles Patrick Landon Hill was born in Cambridge, England, on May 22, 1947. His mother, Zita (Widdrington) Hill, who was British, was a dancer; his father, Landon, who was born in Oklahoma, was an Army Air Forces (and later Air Force) officer who was among the first people to enter the Dachau concentration camp in Germany after its liberation. His postwar postings included London and Wiesbaden, Germany, as well as Washington, San Antonio and Colorado Springs.
Charley, as he was known, graduated from the private St. Albans School in Washington and attended Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., before dropping out to join the Army, serving as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War. In 1971, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from George Washington University; he then attended Trinity College in Dublin on a Fulbright scholarship, taught remedial math at a school for two years in Belfast and studied theology at King’s College London in 1976.
Shortly after, Mr. Hill was hired by the Metropolitan Police, the formal name for Scotland Yard. He had already acquired a taste for the arts. His mother had taken him to galleries when he was living in Washington. During college, he avidly watched Kenneth Clark’s 13-part television series, “Civilization,” and attended symphony orchestra concerts.
“‘Civilization’ had a really profound impact on Dad,” Ms. Lannoy said by phone, “having come out of the jungles of Vietnam and all its horrors.”
During an early undercover operation in 1980 to recover a painting stolen by two veteran criminals who believed that it would finance their retirement, he posed as an art dealer and bluntly told them that it was a forgery and not worth much.
“It took them aback,” Mr. Hill told Garage, “but they were happy enough to pour cognac down my throat and took me back to Park Lane, where I was staying. They were soon raided by the Flying Squad from Scotland Yard.”