Graham Young was an unusual boy. Infinitely fascinated with chemistry, he devoted large amounts of his early life pouring over thick medical textbooks, educating himself on the properties of various chemical compounds. What stood Graham out from his peers more than his intellect was that his obsession with chemistry revolved almost solely around the usage of various poisons. Curiosity has always been inherently dangerous and this is infinitely more true in the case of Graham Young, when theory turned to practice.
Holden, A. (1974). The St Albans Poisoner. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, UK.
Wilson, C. (1974). Murder in Mind: Issue 30. Marshall Cavendish Paperworks Limited, London, UK.
Trestrail, J H. (2000). Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys. Humana Press, Totowa, NJ.
Harris, P. (1962) ‘Fantastic Mind Of A 14 year Old Poisoner’, Daily Mirror, 6 July, p.3
Laxton, E. (1972) ‘The Poison Boy At Large’, Daily Mirror, June 30, p.13-15
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Graham Young: The Tea Boy
Graham Young was an unusual boy. Infinitely fascinated with chemistry, he devoted large amounts of his early life pouring over thick medical textbooks, educating himself on the properties of various chemical compounds. What stood Graham out from his peers more than his intellect was that his obsession with chemistry revolved almost solely around the usage of various poisons. Curiosity has always been inherently dangerous and this is infinitely more true in the case of Graham Young, when theory turned to practice. This is Dark histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
Poison & Its Many Uses
As ancient as humankind itself, poisons have been used for millennia and second only to a trusty sharpened tool, are among the oldest methods devised to cause and quicken death. Quickly morphing from an aid in hunting, to a tool for murder, the origins of poisons used in homicides is impossible to track. In ancient peoples, secretive details on the acquisition, preparation and administration would almost certainly have led to a certain level of power gained over fellow members of their tribal societies. Shamanistic individuals were born and inner circles of the dark secrets to an invisible killer were formed, passing down knowledge through generations. Documentation as far back as the Sumerians in 2500 BCE show a society that worshipped “Gula”, a female deity of noxious poisons, followed by the Egyptians whose kings both studied and succumbed to the effects of poison. The Veda, Indias earliest records of civilisation include medical literature that formed the foundation of Indian medical tradition. An entire chapter exists within devote to toxicology, giving advice to physicians on poisons, including instruction to feed suspected food to animals.
“It is necessary for the practitioner to have knowledge of the symptoms of the different poisons and their antidotes, as the enemies of the Raja, bad women and ungrateful servants sometimes mix poison with food.”
The Greeks bought into poisons in big way, with Medea, the Priestess of Hecate using poisons, whilst Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, who allegedly poisoned Alexanders rivals during his ascension to the throne. Socrates was executed using Hemlock as a poison, mixed into a lethal drink, whilst the Court of Areopagus, one of the most esteemed judicial councils in all of Athenian democracy, was assigned to process trials for cases that included poisoning. As times moved forwards, so to did the tradition of poison and Emperor Nero of the Romans employed a woman named Locusta as his personal poisoner, assisting him in the assassination of his brother, mother and a handful of wives. Poisoning using Wolfsbane was so common an affair that the emperor Trajan banned the growing of the plant in domestic gardens in an effort to stem the growing use of poisons for nefarious deeds and in 82 BC, the first laws were drafted against the use of poisons in cases of murder.
The Middle Ages saw the rise of the Italian poisoners and a real Golden Age spawn the people of the renaissance. Murder by poison became so prevalent in political circles, that the concept of a natural death in the highest echelons of society became a dark joke. The Borgias family, whose many esteemed members included Popes, politicians and the inspiration for Machiavli’s ’The Prince’, were well known Arsenic poisoners, murdering their political rivals as they vied for power. In common usage, women began using poisons to dispose of their unwanted husbands, either to put an end to their tyrannical personalities, or to expedite their inheritance. Medicine women, like the renowned Guilia Tofana, who taught, supplied and spread the use of poison to the wives are credited with aiding and abetting murders that number into the hundreds, if not thousands.
A second golden age came with he dawn of the Victorians. As procurement became more accessible and the life of the common man more valuable with the invention of Life Insurance, poison became a subtle, often untraceable method to carry out an unsavoury business, many of the most famous poisoners, who carried out their work in order to kill systematically, now have names firmly rooted into popular folklore and legend. In 1910, just as this Golden Age of poison was coming to an end, Dr Crippen was hanged for his role, after poisoning his wife and dismembering her body. As forensic science evolved throughout the 20th Century, one might assume that poison as a tool in murder might have fallen by the wayside, losing one of it’s key qualities as a stealth weapon, but that is not entirely the case. Despite being more traceable now than ever, poisons continue to fascinate, fear and in some cases, seduce with their power to plot, scheme and murder in such detached and clandestine ways, removing the natural barriers of more physical means. They are a great leveller, shifting power as the promise stokes fear and the practice meters out silent, often slow and almost always, painful death. And still the fascination continues today, with the invention of the Dark Web, poisons were quick to be included amongst the list of questionable items readily for sale.
One individual who took an unhealthy interest in poisons was a young man named Graham Young, who took a hobbyist interest in chemistry and turned it into a psychopathic career of human experimentation.
The Early Days of Graham Young
Graham Young was born in Neasdon Hospital, North London on the 7th September, 1947. He was the second child in his family, Winnifred, his elder sister was born 8 years prior in 1939. His Father, Frederick Young was a charge-hand Machine setter in a clockmaking factory, whilst his Mother, Margaret Young, looked after Winnifred. Just three months after the birth of Graham, however, she passed away on the 23rd December after suffering from Spinal Tuberculosis. She died following complications, when an abscess grew out of control at the base of her spine. His wife death struck hard at Fred and following her death, he suffered a complete breakdown, leading to Graham and Winnifred being cared for by relatives who lived close by. Winnifred went to live with her Grandmother, whilst Graham went to live with his Aunt and Uncle, Winnie and Jack and his cousin Sandra, born a few years previous, on the far North-Western boundary of London. The situation might have been difficult for Graham, but at such a young age, he took the change in his stride, eventually growing to be very close with his surrogate family. He played happily with his older cousin and called his stand-in parents Aunty Patty and Daddy Jack.
In 1950, three years after Margarets death, Fred, still now only age 33, met a young Irish woman in his local pub, where she played the accordion, named Molly. They became close friends, discovering that they worked for the same company and by April 1, were married. Fred had recently moved in with his mother and Winnifred, but now sought to bring the Young family back together. He sold his house and bought Aunt Winnie and Uncle Jacks house on North Circular Road, where Graham had spent the previous three years with his adoptive parents. He now found himself under the same roof, but his parent figures removed, instead replaced by his birth father and his new step mum. Graham would later point to this upheaval as the beginning of the bitterness he felt for his step mum, who was a strict, straight woman, happy to exercise discipline on her new children. At five years old, Graham began attending Braintcroft School where he was seen as an average student, though his mathematical ability left something to be desired. Instead, Graham preferred the written word to figures and sums. He visited the library with his sister and tore voraciously through books. Though he was seen as shy, he would take part happily in the school plays, but never really made any close friends amongst his classmates. Instead, he could often be found in the park chatting to pensioners who sat perched, unmoving on the public benches throughout the day.
Whilst his relationship with his step mother was rocky at times, it was positively stone cold with his father, who always treated him with an unemotional distance. Their relationship was often described as ‘formal’, and his Uncle, who was close friends with Fred, often theorised that Grahams father blamed Graham in some way for his mothers early death.
When he was aged nine, things started to go slightly off the rails for Graham. His step mother had gone through his school jacket pocket during the laundry and discovered that he had stolen a small vial of acid, stashing it in his pocket and subsequently burning a small hole in the material. It was around this time too, that she noticed her nail varnish and perfume bottles going missing. These all could easily have been seen as innocent and in the case of the nail varnish and perfume, circumstantial, but when she found a small bottle of Ether in his pockets, she confronted her son, who told her simply that he enjoyed sniffing it. When she enquired where both the Acid and the Ether had come from, he explained matter fo factly, that he had stolen them from the bins outside of the local chemist. Naturally, Molly began to feel some concern for her son and so, after speaking with Fred, the pair decided to pay closer interest in his hobbies. They soon found that outside of making model planes, his primary hobby was visiting the library and taking out books, spending the vast majority of his time reading. For most parents, this would come as some relief, however, the books that Graham was choosing to read, were perhaps not quite the material that most would expect for a nine year old. The subjects were diverse and complicated, but mainly on Medical Science, Crime, Black Magic and the occult and as a final whammy, Nazism. Molly visited the library to request they pay more mind to the books that Graham was boring, however, the librarian assured Mrs Young that young boys were often interested in Militarism. Graham took this interest a little further than most, however, and when he found a swastika badge, he took to wearing it pinned proudly to his chest. This time, Fred approached his son to explain to him that the badge was inappropriate, but young Graham, whom Fred had no doubt hoped was being naively insensitive, debated the positive points of the Nazi war policies. With his parents taking an interest in his books, Graham would frequently tell them all about the history of the second world war, with a particular focus on the Third Reich.
At eleven years old, Graham took his Elevel Plus exams, a series of tests that signal the end of Junior Education and pave the way for a students future. Upon successfully completing this landmark, Fred bought Graham a Chemistry Set in celebration, chasing to attempt to foster Grahams interest in science rather than push against it. Chemistry was, after all, a potentially good career for a young man with a working class upbringing. This indulgence did not go amiss and Graham instantly set about creating experiments in his bedroom, poisoning mice. After he started attending John Kelly Secondary School in Willesden, he took one of the mice home from science class to perform a forensic autopsy, however, Molly quickly put a stop to the proceedings, demanding he throw the dead creature away. The next morning, she woke to find a sketch drawn by Graham left on he kitchen table of a headstone, with the inscription “In hateful memory, Molly Young RIP” and a week later, she found a small wax doll in his pockets, stuck with pins. At school, he was performing in much the same way as he had throughout his Junior education. He was seen by most teachers as an average student, though he was excelling in science, where he was quickly put into the “A Stream”, a now defunct term, that was essentially a class reserved for the most promising children in each subject. One big change had taken place though. For the first time in his life, Graham had made friends his own age. Chris Williams and Clive Creager were two other boys from the Science A Stream and Graham enjoyed their company. They never challenged him during his long diatribes about Medical Science and The Nazis during lunch break and called him “The Mad Proffessor”, which he liked.
Whilst his medical interests continued to seem strange to his parents, however, they did seem equally impressive. Graham had by now adopted a party trick, taking it upon himself to diagnose illnesses for family and friends, suggest courses of medications and explaining possible side effects, which whilst unusual, did have its uses. All the time he spoke to them on their aches and pains, he would use long, archaic medical terminology and over-explain origins, going off on indecipherable tangents. In 1960, at the age of 12, one of Grahams favourite books was published, “Poisoner in the Dock: 12 Studies in Poisoning”, by John Rowland. It was a compendium of famous poisoners and the details of their cases, his particular favourite being that of Dr Edward William Pritchard who had poisoned his Wife and Mother-in-Law in 1865, with Antimony Potassium Nitrate. This compound sparked a specific interest in Graham that burned within him, eventually. Leading him to walking into a chemist in Neasden in order to purchase his own. At the age of 13, he was far under the legal age for purchasing restricted poisons and Reis, the chemists owner questioned him heavily on the substances intended purpose. Graham had expected this difficulty, however, and prepared well, launching into an enthusiastic explanation fo the experiments he had designed which called for the chemicals use. By the time he was done, Reis sold him 25g of Antimony, pushing the register over the counter for Graham to sign, which he did with the name M. E. Evans, and giving a false address. When the police asked him later why he had sold the poison to a boy clearly so under age, he confessed,
“I was convinced by his knowledge that he was older than he appeared.”
The first purchase of such a dangerous poison opened up a whole new world for Graham, who soon after took a job mopping the floor in a local cafe, spending his wages on more and more chemical supplies from Reis, all the time carrying around the initial bottle of antimony in his pocket, calling it his “special friend” and telling his schoolfriend Creager and Williams that he wanted to become a famous poisoner. The pair just assumed it was all part of Grahams dark humour. In fact, they dismissed these grand announcements by Graham with such ease, that despite Graham openly talking about poisons and their effects at every opportunity, they both overlooked the events the would follow to an unbelievable degree.
At school, the relationship with his two friends had grown a little less stable. Chris Williams had started to hang out with a different boy and when Graham noticed the two walking together at lunch, he grew angry towards Williams, challenging him to a fight. Graham, slightly out of shape and relatively weak, promptly got opened up by Williams, the fight ending before it had started, with graham sitting in the dirt, humiliated. The following Monday, one week later, Williams was sent home from school after vomiting violently and though his recovery was relatively quick, he soon fell ill again, just days after his return. He had not paid it any mind at the time, but on both occasions, he had skipped school dinner at lunch and instead shared Grahams sandwiches, which he had gladly offered up to his dear friend. These bouts of illness continued throughout the school year and all the time, Graham offered up medical advice gladly to his ailing friend. On a trip to London Zoo in the spring of 1961, Graham even offered Williams a bottle of lemonade that he told him he had treated with a “special powder” which would, Graham assured him, help to settle his troubled stomach. By the same afternoon, Williams was hunched over, throwing up outside the tube station and had to spend the next few days back in bed again, recovering from the mystery reoccurring bug. He had visited the doctors on several occasions, but nothing the doctors prescribed seemed to do much good and eventually, after being forwarded to the hospital for further, advanced testing, he was diagnosed with Migraines and his parents were advised to take him to see a psychiatrist.
1961 had been a difficult year for Graham at home. His Step-Mum had gone through his room and found his stash of Antimony and so, Graham knew that he could no longer story his poisons in the house. He took to spending his time reading in the park and holing up in his “laboratory”, a small shed on an allotment nearby. His recent experiments had been in bomb making, which were essentially glorified fireworks. Graham would buy regular fireworks, tear them apart and repackage them into ever larger configurations until one day, he had a small accident which blew up half the shed, including much of his poison stash. The police were called and investigated the scene, but never linked it to Graham and though they found traces of the poisons, put them down to being used agriculturally as pesticides. Restocking was another problem. When Molly had found the Antimony in his room, she had taken it upon herself to visit Reis’s chemist and explain that graham was only 13 years old and he should no longer sell poisons to him. With his story blown, Graham could no longer buy his supplies with ease, however, it was a problem easily solved. He simply found a new chemist, ran by Edgar Davies and bought from there instead, using exactly the same tactic as he had with Reis to convince him he was of age. He used the same false name of M. E. Evans and the same false address once again and happily walked out of the chemist carrying his new stock of deadly chemicals.
As the winter of 1961 blew in across London, the Young family fell ill to what was assumed to be a stomach bug. Molly, Fred and Winnie all came down with illness though seemed to recover quickly enough, except Molly, whose suffering was more prolonged than the rest of the family. Even Graham fell ill at one point, throwing up on the doorstep of his Aunt and Uncles house. Throughout his step-mothers illness, Graham collected her medications from he chemist and helped in its administering, as well as suggesting various remedies which might perk her up. September saw his 14th birthday, which he celebrated by poisoning his sisters morning tea with Deadly Nightshade Extract. Winnifred had been sent home from work after falling ill and visited the hospital where doctors scratched their heads, explaining that she seemed to be suffering from the symptoms of Belladonna poisoning. As the inter drew colder, Molly Youngs condition continued to descend, whilst those around her began to worry. She was 38 years old, but she looked far beyond her years. Winnifred described her as “wasting away before our eyes.” This decline continued for months and by April of 1962, she was admitted to Willesden Hospital with severe body pains and numb limbs. On the evening of 21st April, she passed away in a hospital bed, with a pathologist signing her death certificate with the prolapse of her cervical disc. Graham himself pointed out that this did not account for her symptoms, whilst consoling his father. He heavily recommended that Molly be cremated, which his father apathetically arranged for the 26th April. As it turned out, Graham had been feeding Molly small doses of Antimony for over a year, he had intentionally kept the dosage low to maintain a contact sickness without killing her, however, he had fed her so much, that she had built up an immunity. Graham had, in fact, figured this out and so, he administered a fatal dose of Thallium, concluding his experiment. He used enough Thallium in this final dosage to kill 12 people. During the wake of his step-mothers funeral, his uncle John fell ill after eating one fo the sandwiches from the Buffett. Graham apparently, just couldn’t help himself.
Once more Fred Young found himself a widow and once again, he took the situation hard. On Sundays he would visit the pub, taking Graham with him and consoling himself in a few beers. His hangovers were incredibly violent considering he only drank a few ales, but he didn’t give it much thought, even after they had gotten so bad, he had to visit the hospital as the pains in his stomach were so severe. During his stay, doctors tested him for both Antimony and Thallium poisoning, but found no traces of either, which Graham was fairly shocked by. He took it upon himself to explain to doctors how one could distinguish between the two poisons effects and how to properly test for them.
Not everyone surrounding graham were quite so naive as to the uncanny coincidence that seemed to surround Graham. Wherever he was, it seemed, people always fell ill. His Aunt Winnie confronted Graham outright, asking if he was poisoning his family, though he flatly denied it. William Creager, his school friend which he had been poisoning for over a year was too suspicious. He was finally putting two and two together and told his parents of his suspicions, who agreed, but were concerned that they couldn’t raise them to he police without any evidence. It wasn’t until the following week, in the spring of 1962, that grahams science teacher, who had noticed Graham bringing poisons into the schools lab to analyse, decided to check through his desk, where he discovered a scribbled medley of poems in his notebook, all written as odes to various poisons, along with drawing of poisoners and essays on Dr Crippen. This would likely alarm any teacher by itself, however, it was the presence of actual poison, stored in vials in his school desk that sealed the deal. He visited the headmaster, explain gin al that he had found and both visited a local doctor, explaining the illnesses that surrounded Graham and his family. The three men were, by now, incredibly suspicious and convinced that Graham had been involved in something very dark indeed, but with no evidence, felt they were hopelessly drawn into a dead end. Working together, they devised a plan to attempt to eek out information from Graham himself and set up a mock careers interview for him. The careers officer that met with Graham was a psychiatrist that they had briefed previously. Straight out of the gate, the careers officer asked Graham what his interests were and when he enthusiastically replied, speaking about chemistry, the officer appealed to his ego, by suggesting he might be a fit candidate for university. Graham continued on, reassuring the officer that he indeed was bright enough and expelled a huge volley of information on poisons and their uses. Hearing enough, Mr Hughes, the science teacher and the schools headmaster instantly went to the police. Their earlier concerns for lack of evidence need not have concerned them, as the story appealed to the police, who went to Grahams home and raided his room. Inside, they found a stash of poisons including Antimony, Thallium, Digitalis, Ionine, Atropine and Barium Chloride. That evening, they caught up with Graham at hi sAunts house, where they promptly arrested him on suspicion of “malicious administration of poisons” and took him to nearby Harlesdon police station.
Graham was an easy suspect and quickly gave a full, written confession, at least, as full as he felt was appropriate,
“I have been interested in poisons, their properties and effects since I was about eleven. I tried out one fo them on ym friend Chris Williams. I gave him two or three grains at school. I think it was probably on a cream biscuit or cake. He was sick after taking it. Later, I gave him other doses, always on food.
After that I started experimenting at home by putting sometimes one and sometimes three grains fo poison on prepared foods which my mother, father and sister would eat. I must have eaten some of the poisons myself occasionally because I became sick as well. After eating the food, all of my family were sick. By September of last yer this had become an obsession with me and I continued to give my family small doses of Antimony Tartrate on prepared foods. One morning at the end of November I was getting ready to go to school when I saw my sisters cup of tea on the dresser. I put on-tenth of a grain of Belladonna in the milk and left for school. That night my mother told me my sister had been ill during the day. She told me what the symptoms were and I knew it was the effect of the Belladonna. I gave some of the remainder to Williams.
On occasions I have also put Antimony Tartrate Solution or Powder on foods at home which my mother and father have taken. My mother lost weight all the time through it and I stopped giving it to her about February of this year. After my mother died on 21 Aprilthis year I started putting poisons at home in milk and water and food. As a result my father became ill and was taken to hospital. I then realised how ill he was. I cannot think of anyone else I have given poison to.
I knew that the doses I was giving were not fatal, but I knew I was doing wrong. It grew on me like a drug habit, except it was not me who was taking the drugs. I realise how stupid I have been with these poisons. I knew this all along, but I could not stop it.”
Grahams confession had some glaring holes, but he was right about one thing, his father had really been critically ill in hospital. In fact, Grahams arrest essentially saved his life, as doctors later found out that he was a single dose away from death. After his confession, Graham was officially charged with poisoning Fred Young, Winnifred Young and his friend Chris Williams. Amazingly, this news came as a shock to most of his family, who said that whilst they had harboured some suspicion towards graham, they just couldn’t bring themselves to believe a 13 or 14 year old could poison his own family. Whilst incarcerated awaiting trial, he undertook a psychological evaluation, which concluded that he lacked “moral sense.”, during the examination, he told the psychiatrist that he missed his Antimony and the power it gave him.
Grahams trial was quick, he pleaded guilty on all counts and as such, much of the trial concerned itself with exactly what to do with the young man. The entire report of his medical examination was read out as evidence, whilst the prosecution attempted to build a case to have him inprisoned in a maximum security hospital,
“He is obviously highly intelligent, but his emotional responses are slow and he has never exhibited the slightest distress in relating the instances of poisoning. Indeed, he seemed to experience emotional satisfaction in doing so, and particularly in revealing his intimate knowledge of the toxicology of the various drugs concerned. His attitude to the whole matter was unrealistic and he did not seem to be able to appreciate that he had indulged in acts for which he deserved any serious reprehension.
He told me of his great interest in drugs and their poisonous effects, but was unable to reveal any reason for such interest. He said he had no grievances against any of his relatives or his friend, and indeed thought he loved them quite well. It just seemed that they were the nearest people to hand for his purpose.
There is no doubt in ym mind that this youth is at present a very serious danger to other people. His intense obsession and almost exclusive interest in drugs and their poisoning effect I snot likely to change, and he could well repeat his cool, calm, calculating administration of these poisons at any time.”
The court did mention his mothers death, but, to grahams satisfaction, mistakenly said they found no reason to believe Graham had a hand in her death, which was due to natural causes. The defence plea even included the fact that he had never administered a fatal dose, despite having the means to do so, should allow him some leniency in his sentencing. Finally, it was decided that he should serve a fifteen year sentence in Broadmoor, a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. The trial had been swift and the fuss minimal, a fact that had not gone unnoticed by Graham, who would be sure to correct this in due-time.
Despite it’s high walls and domineering silhouette, Broadmoor is assuredly a purpose built hospital rather than prison. Opening in 1863 as the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, it’s colourful existence has seen the hospital serve as a Victorian Lunatic Asylum, a Prisoner of War camp for mentally ill German soldiers during the first world war, finally morphing into its form as a hospital for mentally ill offenders in 1948, which saw its administration taken over by the Department of Health, rather than the Home Office. During the time of graham Youngs stay as a patient in Broadmoor, which, for the record, is an important distinction often forgotten by the media, that the inhabitants were indeed classed as patients, rather than prisoners, Broadmoor was one of three such institutions in England, with accommodation for 450 patients, 65% of which were sent there after conviction. 25% of the patients were boarded at Broadmoor with charges, but considered unfit to plead, whilst the remaining 10% were admitted from conventional mental institutions after they had showed violent tendencies. Unfortunately for graham, he found himself housed in a Broadmoor that was shockingly overcrowded, home to around 750 patients, rather than the 450 it had official capacity for. Beds were led tin corridors and day rooms, staff rooms and wards were used as overflow canteens, whilst there was only 8 psychiatrists charged with handling every case for each patient. A 1968 report of the hospital summarised the conditions inside the walls as “Frightful”. Graham, however, had it quite easy. Due to both his age and his deemed level of danger, he was put up in a private room in the reception block containing a bed, screwed to the floor, and a small window with heavy iron bars. The hospital had a strict daily regime, waking the patients at 7am with lights out at 8pm. Graham was allowed seven family visits per month, though he certainly received nowhere near that number, his father had more or less disowned his son by now, suffering as he was from permanent liver damage due to the poison. As part of his treatment, the doctors attempted to find Graham a personal tutor, recognising his intelligence and willingness to learn, however, after great pains to find someone for him, he finally turned the offer down, instead stating that he would be better of learning by himself by reading books from the library. During the early days in Broadmoor, one of the nurses commented on his behaviour,
“He lived very much in a fantasy world at first… All he would talk about were his poisons.”
Within a month of his arrival, another patient, John Burridge who had been convicted of shooting both of his parents, died from cyanide poisoning. Baffled as to how anyone in Broadmoor might have gotten hold of Cyanide, the investigation eventually found that the farm next door had an entire field of Laurel bushes, the leaves and seeds of the fruit of which are cyanogenic. There was enough growing that a chemist with the knowledge to extract the poison could have killed the entire population of the hospital. Graham himself was quick to confess to the murder, as were several other inmates, though in the end, the case was shelved, left open and unsolved.Feeling his room was in need of sprucing up, graham decorated the walls with photographs of Nazi leaders and Nazi emblems. He painted skull and crossbones on his tea set and rather unbelievably, borrowed books from the library on toxicology and the Third Reich. His notoriety spread throughout the hospital quickly, which ended in the vast majority of patients taking a disliking towards him. Graham was relatively okay with this as a result, content to get along by himself, quietly reading and ignoring those around him.
His care regimen revolved centrally around group therapy, which he quickly shunned and sedatives. His father signed documents permitting the hospital to conduct electro-convulsive therapy, however, there appears no evidence that they used it. In July of 1963, almost a year into his stay at Broadmoor, he wrote a letter to his school friend Chris Williams that described his time in the hospital,
“I hope that you are keeping well, just a few lines to let you know how I am getting on.
It is not too bad a place here. The food is pretty good, and there are things to occupy me some of the time. There is a television to watch at night, and the wireless to listen to during the day. There us also billiards and snooker etc.
We can go down to the cricket field to watch the hospital playing an outside (or inside) team. I don’t usually go down though.
My doctor told me that I will not have to do the fifteen years here. He has told me that if my progress continues I will be out in about six years. This is still a long time but it is not half as long as fifteen years is it?”
The doctors that Graham referred to were Dr Edgar Udwin and Dr Patrick McGrath. Dr McGrath was in fact, the head of the entire hospital and as such, had a hand in every case, however, he took a special interest in graham Young. Although there were two more incidents involving Graham, the first a hashed attempt at poisoning the large communal vat of tea with sugar soap and the second an attempt at poisoning tea with Harpic cleaner, Graham soon cottoned on the the fact that if he was to get out as early as his doctors had suggested, he needed to start behaving himself and dealing in his impulsive need to poison the hospital. He began settling down, getting involved in the community and applying for jobs at the Police Forensic Labs, though. His applications were swiftly rejected. On the other hand, he decided to become a fully paid up member of the National Front, an openly Neo-facist political party founded in 1967. He applied for early release twice, in both 1965 and 1966, but was rejected, however, by 1970, his good behaviour had seen him rise to the status of star patient and model member of the Broadmoor community. Dr Udwin, taken in by Grahams abrupt about face, recommended him personally for release, writing that,
“He is no longer obsessed with poisons, violence and mischief. And he is no longer a danger to others.”
As a preliminary experiment, he was allowed a weekend staying with his sister in October of 1970, hough upon discovering the doctors plan, Winnie herself expressed concern. She met with the doctors, who reassured her that graham was a changed man, completely reformed, which settled her nerves somewhat. The weekend was a shining success and graham spent the three days at his sisters house with her husband and newborn daughter, visiting the pub and enjoying the new surroundings. That Christmas saw the experiment repeated and once again succeed, reassuring all involve that Graham was indeed, ready for release. In February of 1971, his release forms were signed on three conditions, that he must reside at a fixed address, that he must undergo supervision from a probation officer and he must regularly attend a psychiatric out-patient clinic. On Thursday 4th February 1971, 9 years after his trial, Graham Young stepped out of Broadmoor a free man, deemed by the hospital doctors as “Fully recovered.” A prognosis which would prove to be fatefully naive.
The Tea Boy
Upon his release, Graham first visited his sisters house in Hemel Hempstead, 25 miles South-East of London. She had not been given any prior warning of Grahams release, but nevertheless, she took him in, allowing him to stay with her family. They quickly found out that grahams new tirade was against the IRA, a group which he insisted should be dealt with the same way the Nazis dealt with Warsaw. Innocents may die in the process, he conceded, but at least the IRA would be dealt with. In much the same way he would pace around lecturing his family on the Third Reich, he now did the same thing with this new political obsession. The living situation with his sister was fine, but Graham, far from becoming institutionalised, craved his independence. He took it upon himself to seek out new accommodation, taking a bed in a hostel in Cippenham, West of London whilst signing up with the employment exchange in order to try and find himself a job. Whilst attending the training centre, he made friends with Trevor Sparkes, a fellow attendee at the exchange who lived nearby to Grahams hostel. Soon after the pair began hanging out, Trevor began falling ill, suffering severe abdominal pains and vomiting. Graham suggested he drink wine to help, happily offering him a glass from his own bottle. As Trevors mystery illness continued without improvement, he was eventually hospitalised and diagnosed with some sort of muscle strain. In April 1971, much to Sparkes luck, Graham applied for a job in Bovingdon, Kent, nearby his sisters house. The position as in the storehouse of John Hadland Ltd., an optical and photographic instruments manufacturer, on his application he wrote,
“I previously studied chemistry, organic and inorganic, pharmacology and toxicology over the last ten years, and I therefore have some knowledge of chemicals and their usage.”
It was a little misleading, but probably more upfront than most might include. In his interview, he told the interviewer that he had spent the past ten years recovering from a mental breakdown after the sudden death of his mother in a car accident. In celebration for the strides he was making in society as a free man, he popped into a chemists on the way home to purchase a vial of Antimony, though he was initially denied the sale, due to lack of authorisation. He returned a week later with a forged letter on printed, headed notepaper from Bedford College in London, this time securing the right to buy the poison. He signed the register with the trusty name he had always used, M. E. Evans and left the shop with a new “little friend.”
His interview had gone well, but not quite as well as Graham had presumed however. The interviewer held some reserve as to grahams condition and so wrote to Doctor Udwin to confirm his recovery from mental breakdown. Doctor Udwin was more than happy to oblige, recommending him for work enthusiastically,
“This man has suffered a deep-going personality disorder which necessitated his hospitalisation throughout the whole of his adolescence. He, has, however, made an extremely full recovery and is now entirely fir for discharge, his sole disability now being the need to catch up on his lost time.”
It was enough for Hadlands, who wrote to graham, confirming the offer of a position to work in their storeroom. Graham temporarily moved in with his sister again, but after his first day at work on Monday 10th May, he quickly found himself a small rented room in a private tenancy. In typical fashion, he pasted up pictures fNazi leaders on the walls and once more began collecting bottles of poison on his windowsill. At work, he seemed to get on well with everyone and even met a kindred spirit in Martin Hancock who shared his love of chemistry. He worked closely with a man named Ron Hewitt, Frederick Biggs and Bob Egle. Egle was a veteran of Dunkirk and Graham enjoyed listening to his war stories. Given his low rung on the ladder and newest member of staff in the storeroom, one of his duties assigned was to collect the tea and coffee from the tea trolly that came round the factory during break times. The trolley was left at the end of the corridor from the storeroom and Graham would walk down, collect the mugs on a tray and return to everyone with their break time drink. On June 3rd, less than a month from his start date, Bob Egle was ent home from work ill and a week later, Ron Hewitt was also taken ill. both quickly recovered, putting it down to food poisoning and returned to work after a few days rest. Egle, however, couldn’t seem to fully recover, and fell to new bouts of sickness, eventually after his hair began falling out, he was admitted to hospital with numbness of the limbs, unable to support himself. On the 7th July, he died in hospital diagnosed with Broncho-Pneumonia. Graham attended the funeral with his boss, and on the way, discussed Egles illness in depth, convinced that it wasn’t Broncho-Pneumonia at all. It was all a different language to Hadland, but he was impressed by Grahams apparent medical knowledge all the same.
Within weeks, Frederick Biggs too fell ill, along with Peter Buck and David Tilson, two men from the Import/Export department. Panic began to bubble up in the factory as people saw people drop like flies around them. One of the most commonly blamed culprits was a stomach virus, nicknamed the Bovingdon Bug. On one Friday evening, Graham found himself working late in the storeroom alone with Jethro batt, who was working overtime, but had promised to drive Graham home. Graham offered to make the coffee for their break and sure enough, Batt soon after was struck down sick. Talk began moving away from the Bovingdon Bug, however, when the sufferers hair began falling out. Diane Smart, the secretary was sent home ill after she had noticed and gleefully pointed out that Graham seemed to be the only member of the storeroom to have avoided the virus. Rumours flew through the factory of water contamination or of radiation poisoning from recent work in the unit opposite. In an effort to stem the panic and the incessant rumours destroying morale, Hadland called in Dr Robert Hynd, the local Medical officer to give the place a full sweep and investigate. He did his best, but in the end wa able to offer no explanation. On Friday the 19th November, the panic became more pronounced after the death of Fred Biggs, following his hospitalisation. Dr Hynd returned and called a meeting to inform the workers on the situation as he had found it during his investigation. There was, he said, three possible causes for the illnesses, it could be either radioactive poisoning or heavy metal poisoning, and though Thallium is used in optics, there was none currently stored on the premises allowing him to confidently rule out these first two, finally, he said, it must surely be the infamous Bovingdon bug. The staff were not entirely happy about this conclusion, not least Graham Young. Graham questioned the doctor openly, wanting to know why heavy metal poisoning had been so quickly ruled out and suggested that with the symptoms suffered appeared to be showing, it seemed a likely cause. He spoke at length and with such knowledge, that the doctor hung back after the meeting was dismissed to question him. Both Doctor Hynd and John Hadland had found Grahams enthusiasm at the meeting remarkably suspicious but decided they had no real reason to suspect Graham of anything, and therefore thought they should drop the matter. Something didn’t sit quite right with Hadland though. Maybe it was Diane Smarts observation that Graham was the only member of the storeroom staff to have not come down ill, or maybe it was just putting two and two together, but he took it upon himself to contact his solicitor to ask for advise on what he should do. He then contacted the local police, who sent a selection of staff names to Scotland Yard for background checks including that of Graham Young. The checks all came back blank, however, though by now, Hadland was not happy to forget his gut feeling. He asked the police to double check Grahams name, which they did and soon discovered he had been a patient in Broadmoor for carrying out several poisons. On the evening of 21st November, police officers were dispatched from Hemel Hempstead to track down Graham and though the wasn’t at home when they turned up at his rented property, they let themselves into his room. What they found inside was quite a shock. With the freedom and independence of his own room, Graham had decorated the walls full of Nazi Militaria, along with sketches of skulls and crossbones and people screaming in pain, holding hair in their hands. On the shelves and windowsills they found a sample tube containing 17.81mg of Thallium Acetate, a sample tube with 415mg of a mix of Thallium and Aspirin and a bottle containing 32.33g of Antimony, 2000x the amount required for a fatal dose. In his jacket pocket they found a further, small vial of Thallium Acetate, enough for a fatal dose. Under the bed they found a notebook marked “A Student and Officers Casebook”, which upon opening it, was a diary written by Graham, that appeared to detail his various poisonings at the optics factory. Through either laziness, or a remarkable display of foresight, Graham had named his victims only by a single initial,
I feel rather ashamed of my action in harming J. I think he is a really nice fellow, and the nearest to a friend that I have at hadland’s. I have faith he will recover.”
I have administered a fatal dose of the special compound to F, and anticipate a report on his progress on Monday.”
News from other fronts… F is now seriously ill. he is unconscious, and has developed paralysis and blindness. It is likely that he will decline in the next few days, it will be a merciful release for him, as if he should survive he will be permanently impaired. Even if the blindness is reversed, organic brain disease would render him a husk. It is better that he should die. From my point of view his death would be a relief. It would remove one more casualty from what is rapidly becoming a crowded field of battle.”
“D’s loss of hair is almost total. The hospital feels it might be due to poison. I must watch the situation very carefully. If it looks like I will be detected then I shall have to destroy myself. The events of the next few days will prove decisive. They will point either to my continuation to live or my destruction by my own hand. If I were detected, I would have to follow the maxim: Those who live by the sword die by the sword.”
The latest news from the hospital is that F is responding to treatment. He is being obstinately difficult. If he survives a third week he will live. That could be inconvenient. I am most annoyed. He is surviving far too long for my peace of mind.”
F it turned out, was Frederick Biggs, who died three days after this last entry. Detective Superintendent Harvey sat in the Station reading the bizarre dark, attempting to correlate names with initials, waiting for Graham to be tracked down. As it happened, Graham was visiting his father and when the police knocked not he door to enquire after his whereabouts, he gladly stepped aside to reveal Graham in the kitchen. As he was taken out to the squad car, he asked the arresting officer, “Which one are you doing me for?” He was taken to Sheerness station where he was collected by Chief Inspector Kirkpatrick and taken back to Hemel Hempstead station. During he journey, Graham spoke openly with Kirkpatrick about the poisonings, intentionally keeping exact details vague, knowing that everything he told him would be useless as evidence. When he was asked for more details on his victims, he told the officer,
“The whole story is too terrible, you would be disgusted and amazed.”
The pair arrived back at Hemel Hempstead station at almost 7am, by which time Harvey had read the entire diary and now wanted answers from Graham on who the initials were. Graham insisted however, that the whole thing was merely a work of fiction. He pressed the police that he had no motive and that no one even knew the names of the poisons he was supposed to have used. The next evening, however, Graham began to open up, he told the questioning officers of his mothers murder and boasted how he had gotten away with the perfect crime. He told them of Sparkes poisoning directly after his release from Broadmoor and of his colleagues at Hadlands. When asked for his motive, he told them,
“I suppose I had ceased to see them as people – or, more correctly, a part of me had. They become guinea pigs.”
When they asked him if he would write and sign a written statement of guilt, he simply laughed at the officers and refused. The following day, he was charged with the murder of Biggs, though in fact, they had no decisive evidence to pin him to the crime. They were working on it though, ordering both the exhumation of Robert Egles ashes and for the both the ashes and internal organs of Biggs to be sent to the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis. 10 days later, the results were returned, confirming that traces of Thallium were found throughout Biggs digestive organs, as well as in his muscle and bone matter samples. In Egles ashes, 9mg of Thallium was found to remain, leading to police charging Young with a second murder. On the 4th December, he was further charged with GBH by the administration of poison on Diane Smart, Peter Buck Ronald Hewitt and Trevor Sparkes and he was transferred to Brixton prison where he was kept in the sick wing to keep him away from other prisoners due to the threat he caused other prisoners, to await his trial. This time, Graham Young was quite sure he would cause more of a fuss and garner far more attention than his previous trial.
Following his arrest, the press were happily metering out Youngs famous poisoner fantasy, calling him Doctor Death, The Poison Boy and likening him to Adolf Hitler, who they called as his idol. Interviews from Chris Williams, his first victim and school friend, gave further grisly details, much of which wasn’t true at all. Still, it appeased Graham, who had chosen the photograph of himself that he wanted the papers to run with their stories. In his first trial, he had pleaded guilty, leading to the whole thing being wrapped up instantly. This time, he aimed to draw it out as long as possible. In a letter to his sister, he pressed his innocence, calling the whole thing an “Unfortunate episode.”
“I do not know what you have been told of this affair, but it appears that the family have already tried and judged it. I need hardly add that this is a trifle distressing.”
His trial open-end on the 19th July, and Graham immediately pleaded not guilty on all counts against him. Much to his satisfaction, his diary was read out in full during the mornings proceedings, which the press immediately jumped on, calling it the “Diary of Death”. For the benefit of the jury, Graham continued to insist that it was nothing more than a work of fiction that he had written, based on a poisoner who had decided to murder his work colleagues. “I am interested in developing my somewhat stilted style as a narrative writer.”, he told the courtroom. The diary had two pages torn out and when questioned what they were, he told them he was unhappy with his writing style and thus, had made many mistakes in earlier drafts. He said that he was a stockpiler, hoarding poisons, but not having any intent to use them and of how his interests, which he likened to those of a collector, were being used against him by the prosecution. When asked about his conversations with police, where he had admitted guilt, he told them that had given the police a plausible set of answers in trade for food, sleep and clothing. His demeanour in the dock was the whole time, cool and calm, projecting an air of indifference and almost inconvenience. When the prosecution asked him why he was so calm, he responded,
“I do not feel particularly calm, Mr Leonard, but I am not a person who manifests a great amount of emotion.”
His performance, however, was fooling no one. On the 29th July, after being excused for only an hour, the jury returned. Guilty verdict on all counts, except those against Sparkes and Buck, which they thought had insufficiently clear evidence. Graham Young was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was immediately transferred to Parkhurst Maximum Security prison on the Isle of Wight. In a final act, he assured the courtroom that prison would be a much better place for him than a return to Broadmoor.
Graham Young served eighteen years of his life sentence before being found dead in his cell on 1st August, 1990. His cause of death was found to be a heart attack, though he had at the relatively young age of 42, two weeks before his 43rd birthday. Naturally, suspicions of suicide were immediately launched, however, natural causes were officially recorded, though his file remains open. Following his second guilty verdict, the Young case prompted an inquiry into the system of care, treatments and releasing of mentally ill offenders which saw the expansion of secure mental health hospitals throughout the country.
Whilst there is nothing mysterious about the case of Graham Young, it is remarkable in his cool and calculated demeanour throughout, along with the dedication to carry out poisonings from such an early age. In retrospect, it seems remarkable that he was able to fool so many people throughout his career as a poisoner, either in their failings to link Graham to the mysterious illnesses that so many around him were suffering or in his act to the doctors of Broadmoor, who were convinced of his immaculate recovery. In a later interview, Mr Foster, the man who had interviewed him for his job at Hadlands, remarked after the fact that,
“The only strange thing about him was that he seemed to be content with a job that would provide little exercise for his apparent intellect.”
One of the only people who seemed to be able to see through Grahams outward demeanour was, ironically, Dr Fysh, one of the first doctors to examine him during his first trial. From the very outset, Dr Fysh insisted that graham was dangerous and would be intent on returning to his poisoning behaviours as soon as he possibly could. Upon hearing about Grahams second bout of poisonings, he said simply,
“I’m not surprised. I am no prophet, but I thought he would remain a permanent danger to the public for the remainder of his life.”