Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Graham Frederick Young

Mystery Illness

Map of England with North London locator
Map of England with North London locator
During the summer of 1961, a strange virus seemed to be spreading through a small family home in a northern suburb of London, England.
Since February, 37-year-old Molly Young had suffered vomiting, diarrhea and excruciating stomach pain, which she initially dismissed as bilious attacks. Before long her husband Fred, 44, was also suffering, with similar stomach cramps debilitating him for days at a time. Then Freds eldest daughter Winifred, 22, was violently ill on a couple of occasions that summer. Shortly afterwards, her brother Graham Young was violently sick at home.
It even seemed as if the mystery bug had spread beyond their household�- a couple of Grahams school friends had also been off school ill a couple of times with similar painful symptoms.
In November 1961 the plot thickened. Winifred Young was served a cup of tea by her brother one morning, but found its taste so sour she took only one mouthful before she threw it away. While on the train to work an hour later, she began to hallucinate, had to be helped out of the station and was eventually taken to hospital, where doctors came to the conclusion that she had somehow been infected with the rare poison belladonna. She told her father Fred, who developed a theory. His 14-year-old son Graham had been crazy about chemistry for some years, and had even been banned from using chemicals in the house after abortive experiments set fire to furniture in his room. Could the boy have inadvertently contaminated his familys food?
He confronted his son, but Graham blamed Winifred, who he claimed had been using the familys teacups to mix shampoo.
Unconvinced, Fred searched Grahams room, but found nothing incriminating. Nevertheless, he warned his son to be more careful in future when messing about with those bloody chemicals.
The family had been concerned about Graham for a while. He was just...different, utterly unlike other boys his age. Since the age of 9 or 10, when he started stealing his stepmother Mollys perfume and nail varnish remover to analyze its contents and sniff the vapors, hed been obsessed with chemistry and poisons. If a member of the family took a headache tablet or some cough medicine, he would take great pleasure in telling them the exact scientific names for all the ingredients, and seemed especially keen on telling them in detail what agonies would befall them if they took a very large dose.
Still, a boys got to have a hobby, so when Graham scraped through his 11 plus exams (which determined in those days whether a child would go to a grammar school for more academically minded children, or a secondary modern for those of a more practical bent), his father bought him a chemistry set as a reward. He wasnt to know that by this stage of his sons self-education, it was equivalent to giving a Cordon Bleu chef a couple of pots and a beginners cook book.
With the help of library books, Graham had already gained the expertise of a chemistry post-graduate. Yet his do-it-yourself chemistry experiments seemed to be a touch more extreme than you might expect even from the most inquisitive schoolboy. He had graduated from nail varnish remover to inhaling from a bottle of ether to get high. He carried a bottle of acid around with him which once burnt a hole in his school blazer. On other occasions he would extract gunpowder from fireworks to make small bombs. He blew up his neighbors wall and a nearby hut, but managed to escape blame for the incidents.
Although Fred Young had never been particularly close to his son, even he couldnt entertain the idea that his own flesh and blood could be deliberately poisoning the family.
If hed known how his wifes symptoms would suddenly worsen a few months later, he might have had second thoughts.

'The Mad Professor'

Graham Young was born September 7, 1947, to Margaret Young, but his mother had developed pleurisy during pregnancy, and although the child was perfectly healthy, Margaret died of tuberculosis only three months after her sons birth. Her husband Fred, a machine setter, was devastated by her death, and found it difficult to cope with bringing up his daughter Winifred, then aged 8, as well as the new baby. Graham went to live with his Aunt Winnie, who lived nearby, while his sister was taken in by her grandmother. Graham became very close to Winnie and her husband Jack, and hated any separation from them.
Then when he was two and a half Grahams father married again, to Molly, and the family was reunited with their new stepmother in a house on Londons busy North Circular Road.
Although we may speculate about the effect these early upheavals may have had on the boy, for reasons that are still fairly unfathomable, Graham Young soon showed signs that he was a very unusual child indeed.

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen
Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen
Its perfectly normal for children to idolize certain individuals, be they famous sportsmen or celebrities, or even older friends or family members. But Graham Young chose some unlikely figures as his boyhood role models. He voraciously read books about murderers such as Dr. Crippen, and he would pore over a book called Sixty Famous Trials, his favorite chapter of which told the story of William Palmer, the Victorian doctor who poisoned his wife and several others with antimony.
As well as these rather unsavory heroes, by the age of 12 the boy would tell anyone who would listen about his admiration for Adolf Hitler, and how the Nazi leader was a much maligned figure. Soon after that he began boasting about his interest in the occult, and claimed to be part of a local coven run by a man he had met in the local library.
Adolph Hitler
Adolph Hitler
He was a solitary child, with few friends. Most of his schoolmates kept their distance, finding him creepy, and teachers were hardly any keener on him, disturbed by his habit of wearing an old swastika badge to school, at a time when World War II was still all too fresh in the memory for many.He showed little interest in most school subjects, with the notable exception of chemistry, and particularly toxicology, or the study of poisons, for which he displayed a fascination bordering on obsession. That said, he was mainly self-taught, spending long hours in the library reading books on poisons and forensic science.
Those children who did briefly play with young Graham told of how he would try to get them to sniff ether with him, and also involve them in his occult ceremonies, on one occasion sacrificing a neighborhood cat. In fact around that time several such feline residents of the area went missing, suggesting this was by no means a unique incident.
Although Winifred Young writes in her book Obsessive Poisoner that Graham grew to enjoy a close and affectionate relationship with his stepmother, Molly, the boy himself often told classmates how much he hated her. He would show them a small plasticine voodoo doll he had made, full of pins, which he carried around claiming it represented his stepmother. Later he would tell psychiatrists that he often dreamed of how much happier his life might have been if only his real mother had lived. Part of this resentment may have simply been down to the fact that Molly was a strict parent to Graham, and after she confiscated a dead mouse he had poisoned, he drew a picture of a tombstone, on which were written the words In Hateful Memory of Molly Young, RIP. He then deliberately left it out where she would see it.
Yet Molly Young was not the first subject chosen for Grahams first life-endangering experiments with poison. His interest in chemistry had helped him befriend a fellow science enthusiast, a boy named Christopher Williams, who was also a neighbor of the Young family. The pair would often eat their packed lunches together at school, and sometimes swap sandwiches. Before long Williams began to suffer regular bouts of sickness, headaches and painful cramps. His mother didnt know what to think, wondering whether this might simply be a case of childish play-acting. Doctors could only suggest that his symptoms, since they involved headaches and vomiting, were those of severe migraine. The possibility of one of his school friends poisoning him would surely have seemed far-fetched even if it had crossed their minds, since the pair were only 13 and not old enough to obtain poisons.
What they didnt account for was the exceptional cunning of Christophers new friend. After talking knowledgeably about poisons and convincing two separate local chemists that he was aged 17 and needed them for study, Graham Young had obtained enough antimony, arsenic, digitalis and thallium to kill 300 people.
Still, he was relatively restrained in the doses he gave to Williams, and they even appeared to have a motive in some cases. For instance, on one occasion Williams told Young he was taking a girl they both liked out on a date to a TV show recording that Friday evening. Conveniently for Young, Williams was violently ill that day, and Graham went in his place. Still, even though the pair had once had a playground fight in which Young vowed Ill kill you for this, Williams never suspected that his friends obsession with poisons had anything to do with his recurring illness. Besides, Graham did a good impression of concern, and watched his friends extreme discomfort with great fascination, expressing his sympathies, while also predicting the likely next step his illness would take. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Other pupils of the John Kelly Secondary School were more wary of the cold, eccentric Young. They nicknamed him the mad professor, a label that was not intended to be affectionate, but which Young seemed to like. Clive Creager, a friend of William, recalled the macabre drawings Young would show him. "I would be hanging from some gallows over a vat of acid," he told Anthony Holden, author of The St. Albans Poisoner, with syringes marked poison sticking into me. He was evil and I was afraid of him."
Mercifully for the likes of Creager and Williams, though, Graham found his school friends ultimately unsatisfactory as human guinea pigs, since he couldnt keep tabs on their symptoms once they were absent from school due to illness. So he reserved his most daring and dangerous experiments for a group of patients whose progress he could observe at closer quarters�-- his own family.

A Death in the Family

Molly Youngs illness got progressively worse during the early months of 1962. She lost weight, suffered excruciating back ache, and her hair began to fall out. She also appeared to age noticeably, and Winifred Young later wrote, It was as if she was wasting away in front of our eyes.
When Molly Young woke up on Easter Saturday, 1962, however, her symptoms seemed different. Her neck felt stiff, and she had pins and needles in her hands and feet. Nevertheless she went out shopping, but returned before lunchtime, while Fred Young was out at the local pub. Her husband came home to find Graham staring out of the kitchen window, watching awestruck as his stepmother writhed in agony in the back garden. She died in hospital later that day.
Molly Young was cremated at Grahams suggestion, after the pathologist concluded that death was due to the prolapse of a bone at the top of her spinal column. This is a known symptom of long-term antimony poisoning, and yet no connection was made. The most popular conclusion among the family was that her injury was connected to a bus crash she had been involved in the previous year when she received a blow to the head. In fact it turned out that the problem with the spinal column was probably not the cause of death. Holden explains that Young changed his choice of poison because after more than a year of being regularly dosed Molly had actually developed a tolerance to antimony. On the evening before she died, he had spiked her evening meal with 20 grains of the colorless, odorless, tasteless heavy metal substance thallium. He rather overdid it�-- there was enough in there to kill five or six people.
Thallium in vials
Thallium in vials
Even after Mollys death, the Young familys mystery illness appeared to be spreading�- Grahams uncle John began to vomit copiously after the funeral. Must have been something he ate...such as the pre-spiked mustard pickle provided for the sandwiches, which only he ate.
By this time Youngs second major experiment cum murder plot was well under way. And this time the victim was actually his own flesh and blood.
Fred Young had suffered attacks of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains now and again throughout Mollys illness, but after her death the symptoms intensified to such a point that he became convinced he was about to die. When he was admitted to hospital Graham frequently visited him, and enthusiastically discussed his condition with doctors, who couldnt work out if it was arsenic or antimony poisoning. The latter was eventually diagnosed, and doctors estimated that one more dose could have killed him. Fred Young later reflected that his bouts of sickness always seemed to happen on a Monday, the day after Graham would accompany him to the local pub on Sundays.
While that thought only struck him after his sons arrest, during his time in hospital Fred told his daughter not to bring Graham to see him any more. If that betrays a suspicion on his part that his son was poisoning the family, the whole family and several of Grahams friends shared those fears, but just as before, the idea that a 14-year-old boy could be coldly attempting to torture and kill his own family seemed too horrendous to even contemplate, let alone voice in public.
It fell to a more emotionally detached figure to finally raise the alarm. Grahams school chemistry teacher, Geoffrey Hughes, had long been uneasy about the increasingly extreme experiments Young was insisting on performing, and one night after school he searched the boys desk. After finding bottles of poisons, drawings of dying men, and essays about famous poisoners, he contacted the police.
To try and ascertain his mental state, Young was sent for what he thought was a careers interview, wherein the interviewer (in reality a police psychiatrist) appealed to his vanity and persuaded him to talk at length about his expertise with poisons.
The careers officer reported his horrified findings, but when the police stepped in Graham denied everything, even when a phial of antimony which he carried around with him (often referring to it as my little friend), fell from his shirt pocket. Eventually, though, he broke down and confessed all, finally leading police to his several caches of poisons, stashed in a hedge near his home, and in the same hut across the road which he once blew a hole in with his gunpowder experiments.
"It grew on me like drug habit," he said of his murderous hobby, "except it was not me who was taking the drugs."

Broadmoor's Youngest Inmate

Broadmoor Maximum Security Hospital
Broadmoor Maximum Security Hospital
Despite the fact that there was insufficient evidence to try the 14-year-old Young for the murder of his step mother, he was convicted of poisoning his father, sister and friend Chris Williams, and the verdict found there was a lack of moral sense at the heart of his personality. These days we might be tempted to label such character traits as psychopathic. He was sent to Broadmoor maximum security hospital with an order that he was not to be released without the permission of the Home Secretary for 15 years. He would be Broadmoors youngest inmate since 1885.
Graham Young, as a youth, in court
Graham Young, as a youth, in court
While on remand awaiting trial, he was already telling psychiatrists, "I miss my antimony. I miss the power it gives me." Where theres a will, though, theres a way, and within a few weeks of his arrival at Broadmoor, a fellow prisoner named John Berridge had died of cyanide poisoning. This was the same Berridge that Winifred Young says Graham complained about in letters, expressing irritation at his loud snoring in the communal dorms. Nevertheless, the authorities were baffled, as there was no cyanide to be found anywhere in the prison. Young then corrected them, patiently explaining how cyanide could be extracted from laurel bush leaves, of which there were copious amounts in adjoining fields. But his confession was only one of many, as tends to be the case whenever someone dies in a mental institution, so the official verdict was suicide.On another occasion the staffs coffee was found to contain harpic bleach from the toilets. From then on, staff would joke to inmates, "Unless you behave, Ill let Graham make your coffee."

Wooden swastika necklace
Wooden swastika necklace
Meanwhile, Young was still pursuing familiar interests. According to the British crime monthly Murder Casebook, he grew a Hitler moustache and making hundreds of wooden swastikas to wear round his neck. These hardly appear to be the actions of a man anywhere near being cured of whatever mental illness had afflicted his young mind. But Graham Youngs doctors were confident that in time he would grow out of these adolescent obsessions.Their hopes appeared to have been fulfilled by the end of his fifth year inside, as he had become a model prisoner, and was moved into a less strict block with more freedoms. It was suggested to Young that he might one day be able to pursue a university degree if he got better, which appeared to convince him to go cold turkey on his toxicology addiction.
Despite this, it was later revealed by Broadmoor contemporaries of Young that as late as 1968, nearly six years into his sentence, two whole packets of sugar soap, a cleanser used to wash down the walls before painting, went missing, and the contents were later found in the communal tea urn. Potentially, no fewer than 97 people could have had their stomachs burnt out, and many might well have died. Clearly Youngs desire to convince the authorities of his rehabilitation was soon disregarded once he was presented with such a golden opportunity to poison those around him. In Broadmoor, however, the unwritten rules of prison life applied, which meant the fellow prisoners who discovered what had happened refused to inform on Young to the authorities, but instead meted out their own physical punishment in private.

Dr. Edgar Udwin
Dr. Edgar Udwin
In June 1970, after nearly eight years in Broadmoor, Dr. Edgar Udwin, the prison psychiatrist, wrote to the home secretary to recommend his release, announcing that Young "is no longer obsessed with poisons, violence and mischief."Young was thrilled, and Winifred Young tells of a letter he sent her breaking the news of his impending release. Your friendly neighborhood Frankenstein will soon be at liberty, he joked. One of Youngs nurses had cause to question the wisdom of letting this man walk the streets. Not long before his release he told her: "When I get out, Im going to kill one person for every year Ive spent in this place." Incredibly, this apparently sincere comment never reached the ears of the relevant authorities, despite being taken down on file at the time.

'Diabolical Pains'

For all his Frankenstein jokes, Winifred Young was delighted to hear of her brothers full recovery, and eagerly awaited his release from Broadmoor. She was happy to accept the authorities view that he had been cured, even if she later admitted there was an element of wishful thinking at work. Fred Young was less thrilled, however, still finding it hard to forgive his son for the death of his beloved wife, not to mention the permanent damage Graham had inflicted on him. So when Graham stepped out of the prison gates on February 4th 1971, he went to stay with Winifred and her new husband Dennis in Hemel Hempstead, 40 miles north-west of London. Despite their worries, their food remained uncontaminated, although Graham was still insistent on extolling the virtues of Adolf Hitler, and on this occasion ranted on about a final solution style approach to the troubles in Northern Ireland, which were reaching a peak around that time. Cured he may have been. A deeply odd individual he remained.
According to Winifred Young, one of the first things her now 23-year-old brother did on his release was to make a sentimental journey to the chemists where he had originally obtained his poisons. He proudly announced his identity to staff there, hoping his notoriety may have stood the test of time. He also returned to his old family home in Neasden, introducing himself to neighbors he had known as a teenager. He even visited his old school headmaster. Tellingly, he seemed much keener to remind them of his notorious past crimes than to boast about his rehabilitation.
Within a week of his release, Young began training as a storekeeper in Slough, and moved into a hostel nearby. Soon after his arrival, though, fellow hostel resident Trevor Sparkes, 34, began to experience sharp abdominal cramps and sickness. Graham suggested a glass of wine might help. That only seemed to make his symptoms get worse. His face swelled, and the vomiting increased, along with diarrhea and strange scrotal pains. Eventually Sparkes, an avid soccer player, was taken ill during a game when he seemed to lose control of his legs. Doctors couldnt find a satisfactory explanation, but he would continue feeling what he described as diabolical pains for years afterwards, and never played soccer again. Around the same time another man claimed to have had a drink with an intense young fellow obsessed with chemicals and poisons, and later committed suicide because of the incessant pain he experienced. Whether he was effectively Graham Youngs second (or even third, if we count the Broadmoor cyanide incident) victim will surely never be proved.
Shortly afterwards, Young got a job as a store clerk at a photographic firm in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, not far from his sisters home in Hemel Hempstead. When they asked for references, they were referred to the Broadmoor psychiatrist Dr Udwin, who wrote back assuring them that although Young had suffered a deepgoing personality disorder, he had now made an extremely full recovery. No mention of his erstwhile predilection for poisons, which might have been relevant considering highly toxic chemicals were used on the company premises.

The Bovingdon Bug

As it turned out, the new recruit at John Hadland Ltd. had no need to avail himself of the substances available on site. He had already been to London armed with the same fake ID of M.E. Evans that he had used as a teenager, and bought a new batch of antimony potassium tartrate (the full name by which he insisted on calling it) and thallium from a West End chemist. Within days of starting work at Bovingdon, the new boy happily accepted the job of making tea for his workmates.
The first colleague Young made friends with was 41-year-old Ron Hewitt, who was soon to leave the firm but had stayed on for a few weeks to show the new boy the ropes so he could take over his job.
Two older members of staff, 59-year-old storeroom manager Bob Egle and 60-year-old stock supervisor Fred Biggs, also befriended Young, lending him cigarettes and money for his bus fare. However, after a time Egle began to spend periods off work ill. Around the same time, Ron Hewitt developed diarrhea, sharp stomach pains and a burning sensation in the throat after drinking a cup of tea fetched by Young. The symptoms lasted a few days, but doctors could only suggest food poisoning or gastric flu. When he was well enough to return to work, though, the symptoms promptly returned, invariably after drinking tea. Over the next three weeks he suffered no fewer than twelve bouts of this mysterious illness.
After leaving the company Hewitt had no further symptoms, while Bob Egle also recovered after a holiday. However, the day after returning to work, Egles fingers went numb, and he couldnt move without agonizing pain. By the time he was taken to hospital, numbness had spread through his body until he was virtually paralyzed, and unable to speak. To the horror of his workmates, he died 10 days later, on July 7, 1971. The cause of death was officially bronchial pneumonia arising from an unusual type of polyneuritis known as the Guillan-Barre syndrome.
"Its very sad," said Graham to colleagues, that Bob should have come through the terrors of Dunkirk (a crucial battle of World War Two) only to fall victim to some strange virus." Such was Youngs very vocal concern, he was chosen to accompany the firms managing director to the cremation.
In the weeks following Egles death, the staff at Bovingdon tried to put the tragic incident behind them. Yet the rather work-shy young storeroom assistant insisted on continually musing about possible medical causes for Bob Egles bizarre symptoms. Then in September 1971 Fred Biggs also began to suffer the same symptoms. And he wasnt the only one.

Jethro Batt, victim & survivor
Jethro Batt, victim & survivor
Youngs fellow storeroom worker Jethro Batt, 39, was made a cup of coffee by Graham one evening, but threw it away complaining it tasted bitter. "Whats the matter?" asked Young. Dyou think Im trying to poison you?" 20 minutes later Batt vomited and felt intense pain in his legs. Fellow staff members Peter Buck and David Tilson also suffered. In the case of Batt and Tilson, their hair fell out, leaving the latter, as doctors described him, looking like a three-quarter plucked chicken. Young had administered various doses of different poisons among his workmates, designed to confuse doctors looking for a common cause of the complaints. These manifested themselves in a number of unlikely ways. A receptionist, Mrs. Diana Smart, complained of suffering from foul smelling feet for months, while Buck and Tilson were rendered impotent for some weeks after their initial illness. "I was going around with several girls at the time," Tilson later related in court, "and I became useless in bed."
Their ailments were put down to some kind of virus in the local area, which became known as the Bovingdon Bug. By unfortunate coincidence, a stomach bug had spread among the village children on a couple of occasions in the preceding months. Many workers speculated, just as the residents of Neasden had a decade before, that a contaminated water supply might be the cause. Others suspected radioactivity from experiments in a nearby airfield could be the culprit.
If this was the same virus that had spread among the villages children, it had certainly assumed a virulent new form. After briefly recovering from his first experience of Youngs unique approach to coffee-making, Jethro Batt fell ill again, and after a few days he was in such pain he later said he contemplated suicide. He remained in hospital for some weeks.
Fred Biggs condition was the worst of the new outbreak. His condition deteriorated to the point where his skin began to peel off, and the pain was such that he could not stand the weight of a bed sheet on his body.
Even that was not serious enough for Youngs liking, it appears. "F (Fred) is responding to treatment," he was later discovered to have written in his diary. "He is being obstinately difficult. If he survives a third week he will live. I am most annoyed."
Youngs pessimism was misplaced. On November 19 death finally came to Fred Biggs, as merciful release.

The Germ Carrier

By this time speculation as to what was causing the Bovingdon bug had understandably reached fever pitch. Winifred Young writes that Diana Smart even confided in the firms Managing Director, Godfrey Foster, that she suspected Graham Young was a germ carrier. Alas, the only suggestion she could make as to how he might have caught such germs was that he lived in a boarding house with a Pakistani family.
On the afternoon that Fred Biggs death was announced, the firms doctor gathered the staff to a meeting to reassure them that there was no evidence that any lack of hygiene on the company premises could have caused the deaths and illnesses. Yet one man wanted to know more. The doctor was surprised to find himself being grilled by the young store assistant, who asked several detailed questions as to why poisoning by the heavy metal thallium had been ruled out. The doctor was puzzled by his apparent in-depth knowledge of the subject, and told the firms owner. He in turn informed the police.
Its perhaps not so surprising that doctors took a while to consider thallium poisoning as a cause of the outbreak, because until Graham Young used it, it had never been used as a poison in Britain. Death from gradual thallium poisoning is an agonizing affair, something which Graham Young knew only too well. As well as suffering excruciating stomach pains, violent sickness and diarrhea, patients often lose their hair (as did Batt and Tilson, and Youngs stepmother Molly years before) and suffer thickening and scaliness of the skin. Later, degeneration of the nerve fibers sets in, along with weakness of the limbs leading to paralysis, and eventually delirium. The victim usually dies through not being able to breathe. Its almost worse if the sufferer survives, since the body gets rid of the thallium slowly, meaning days or weeks of agony. If the dose is repeated, it has the effect of being an accumulative poison which kills gradually over a week or two. All things considered, its a long, slow method of murdering someone, of which any sadist would be proud.
Graham Young may not have been a sadist in the conventional sense, but he did take great pleasure in following and noting down every last gruesome symptom each of his victims suffered, recording them each day in exercise books and plotting graphs to analyze their progress.
This almost fetishistic documentation proved his downfall. Once the firms MD had alerted police, it didnt take detectives long to work out that the illnesses had started shortly after a certain individual had joined the Bovingdon firm. A quick consultation from a couple of forensic scientists revealed the symptoms of the victims were consistent with thallium poisoning. They were also kind enough to finally inform the firms bosses that Graham Young was a convicted poisoner.
Police immediately searched Graham Youngs room in nearby Hemel Hempstead, where they were confronted with walls covered in pictures of Hitler and other Nazi leaders, accompanied by drawings of emaciated figures holding bottles marked poison, clutching their throats as their hair fell out. They also found bottles, phials and tubes lined along the window sill, and under his bed lay the incriminating diary, with a number of entries following the progress of his patients.
The day was Saturday, November 21, 1971, and Young was visiting his father Fred and Aunt Winnie in Sheerness, Kent, some eighty miles away. It was 11:30 at night when police knocked on the door, and Fred Young immediately knew what they wanted. He pointed the officers towards his son, and Winnie asked her nephew Graham, what have you done? I dont know what they are talking about, Auntie, he replied. But as he was being led out, Fred Young heard him ask the officers, Which one are you doing me for? After they had left, Fred gathered together Grahams birth certificate and every other document relating to his son, and tore them to shreds.

A Picture of Evil

Graham Young in police custody
Graham Young in police custody
Once in custody, Young admitted to the poisonings under interrogation, and even boasted of committing the perfect murder of his stepmother back in 1962, knowing he could still deny everything in court. He laughed mockingly when he was asked for a written statement admitting his guilt.
Yet for all his grotesque arrogance, he soon told police the charade is over," and was clearly resigned to his fate. That didnt mean, however, that he wouldnt have his day in court. He planned to wring every ounce of notoriety from the case, in pursuit of his ambition to become the most infamous poisoner of all time.
St. Albans Crown Court
St. Albans Crown Court
Graham Youngs trial took place at St. Albans Crown Court in June 1972. On the defense stand, he eloquently argued the toss with the prosecuting counsel, relishing the ultimate intellectual challenge of escaping justice.
"He was very proud of being the first person to use thallium in a poisoning case in Britain," remembers Peter Goodman, Youngs defense lawyer, "For him the whole thing was one big chemistry experiment, and I suppose the trial was an experiment in seeing if he could use his knowledge to argue his way out of it.
"He was clearly a very intelligent fellow," says Susan Nowak, who was in court to report on the trial for The Watford Observer. "but he also came across as incredibly creepy. You didnt want to make eye contact with him because he just had this unnerving aura about him."

Graham Young media photo
Graham Young media photo
Young clearly enjoyed conveying such a chilling impression. When the press asked for a picture of the defendant, he insisted they use one in which he looked particularly cold-eyed and sinister. As it happened, the glowering photograph actually came about by accident. Holden explains that Young was scowling because he thought he had been cheated out of some money by the coin-operated photo booth where the picture was taken.
Its hard to believe that Young seriously held out much hope of being acquitted, but that doesnt account for the supreme arrogance of a man who regarded himself as far more intelligent than virtually everyone he encountered. While awaiting trial he wrote to his cousin Sandra insisting I stand a good chance of acquittal, for the prosecution case has a number of inherent weaknesses. A strong point in my favor is that I am NOT guilty of the charges.
Youngs initial confidence was based on the assumption that the prosecution wouldnt be able to prove beyond doubt that only he could have administered the poisons. Since Bob Egle had been cremated, he assumed proof of thallium poisoning would be impossible, while he had made a point of offering Fred Biggs some thallium grains to help him kill bugs in his garden, knowing he could later claim that Biggs had misused them. As for the diary relating to the victims, he claimed they were figments of his imagination on which he planned to base a novel. Even a confession couldnt stand in his way. Despite having verbally admitted his crimes to police on his initial arrest, he claimed in court that he had simply told police what he thought they wanted to hear, in order to be allowed food and clothing.
He reckoned without advances in forensic science that had been made since 1962 when Molly Youngs cremation meant her murder could not be proved. Experts succeeded in finding traces of thallium in Bob Egles ashes, Fred Biggs wife confirmed that he never used Youngs thallium on his garden, and as for that claim about the diary, once read out in court, the diary entries sounded distinctly non-fictional. Excerpts included the following:
F (Fred) is now seriously ill. He has developed paralysis and blindness. Even if the blindness is reverse, organic brain disease would render him a husk. From my point of view his death would be a relief. It would remove one more casualty from an already crowded field of battle.
On Diana Smart: Di irritated me yesterday, so I packed her off home with a dose of illness."
On an unidentified delivery driver: "In a way it seems a shame to condemn such a likeable man to such a horrible end, but I have made my decision."
Luckily for the driver concerned, there wasnt a delivery that week...
His entries also revealed a plan to murder David Tilson in his hospital bed, after Youngs initial doses had failed to finish him off. Young intended to visit Tilson and offer him a swig from a hip flask of brandy, which he knew Tilson would probably accept but also not tell the nurses about, since drinking was against hospital rules. Needless to say the patient would have found himself intoxicated in more lethal ways than he expected. Tilsons relatively late admission to hospital, and subsequent month off recuperating, apparently saved his life. He eventually made a full recovery.
Adding all this evidence to the thallium and antimony found in Youngs room, and a phial in Youngs jacket which he had intended to use as his exit dose if he was caught, the prosecution had a strong case. Young had taunted police that they could not convict him without demonstrating a motive, but with such powerful evidence of murder, they didnt need to show a clear motive.
Young was convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, and two counts of administering poison. He was sentenced to four counts of life imprisonment alongside two five-year sentences, and although he had told warders he would break his own neck on the dock railings if convicted, he failed to live up to his promise.
There was still a sensation in the courtroom, however, when Youngs background was revealed after the guilty verdict. There were gasps of disbelief when it was announced that Young had done this kind of thing before, and had been released from a secure mental institution mere months previously.
"You looked at the jury," remembers Susan Nowak, "and the blood drained from their faces when they heard about his previous convictions. The verdict had not been a foregone conclusion, and they were probably thinking what if wed let this maniac out onto the street?"

How Could They Let This Happen?

The jury at St. Albans crown court added a rider after Young was sentenced, calling for an urgent official review of the UK laws covering the sale of poisons. It was the least they could do considering the circumstances of the case, and the British newspapers wasted no time in expressing their outrage, alongside reports of the cases more salacious details. How, they asked, could a convicted poisoner be freed from a high security prison despite evidence of his continuing obsession with poison and murder, and also still easily obtain poisons, and be recommended for work within easy access of dangerous chemicals, without his employers even being informed of his criminal record and the nature of his convictions?
Within an hour of the verdict, the home secretary, Reginald Maudling, announced that two separate inquiries had been set up into the control, treatment and supervision of mentally ill prisoners. The inquiries led to tightening of the laws on monitoring mentally ill offenders after release.
Its easy to be wise in hindsight. The fact of the matter is that Graham Young was a one-off, an exceptionally rare criminal whose crimes were pretty much unprecedented, if not in terms of method, then certainly in motive, since almost uniquely among poisoners, Young appeared to be driven simply by misguided scientific obsession, married to a total absence of empathy with the rest of humanity.
"I dont think he had any ill will towards the people he killed, says Peter Goodman, he just had no morals. The reason he poisoned those closest to him was simply because he could closely observe the symptoms. He was a deranged scientist essentially."
Winifred Young wrote that people who said Imagine if hed walked into a crowded caf�! missed the point about her brothers motivation.
My answer was that would be no good to Graham...cause in such circumstances Graham would never be able to observe the effect of the poison. The person or persons poisoned would simply get up from the table and walk out, and Graham would never see them again�- and that would be no good to him...he wanted to study the effects; to watch how poison worked, as though he were merely carrying out a clinical experiment.
Still, at least some people were served food and drink by Young and survived without any ill effects. Goodman remembers one occasion when he went to see his charge in prison. "He offered me a piece of cake. I hesitated, and he said Come on, I wouldnt poison my lawyer. Thats pretty much what he said to some of his victims, but I ate it anyway..."
A brave man.


Parkhurst prison
Parkhurst prison
Graham Young served his sentence in the maximum security Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight, where he died in 1990, aged 42. The official diagnosis was a heart attack, but many have their doubts. In the Young Poisoners Handbook, the movie made about the story in 1995, its suggested he killed himself by typically ingenious poisonous means. Others suspect fellow Parkhurst inmates.

Video cover: The Young Poisoner's Handbook
Video cover: The Young Poisoner's Handbook
"I wonder if he tried to do the same poisoning tricks he pulled off in Broadmoor," offers Peter Goodman, "only someone took offence this time."Anthony Holden, author of the book The St. Albans Poisoner, backs up that theory, asking "Who in his right mind...would want to spend an indefinite period incarcerated with a man who could extract poison from a stone�- or in this case, perhaps, iron bars�- in order to kill some time by doing just that to his everyday companions?"

St. Alban's Poisoner in wax
St. Alban's Poisoner in wax
Whatever the cause of his death, Young would appear to have achieved a degree of the immortality he craved. He would often ask people if they thought he would ever have the honor of having a waxwork made of him and installed in the Chamber of Horrors in Londons Madam Tussauds museum. He dreamed of taking his place in there alongside one of his heroes, Dr. Crippen. His wish was finally granted a few years later.
Parkhurst prison is reserved for Britains most dangerous prisoners, usually those with mental problems. But in legal terms Young was of sane mind when he committed his crimes. He was bad rather than mad.
There was obviously something not right in his head, concludes Goodman. "I felt sorry for the guy."
By all accounts, thats considerably more than Graham Young ever felt for anyone.
When asked if he felt remorse, he replied, "No, that would be hypocritical. What I feel is in the emptiness of my soul."
Winifred Young remembers telling him he should get out more, and try and make more friends.
No, he said, Nothing like that can help. You see, theres a terrible coldness inside me.

Ian Brady and Graham Young - A Meeting of Minds

Ian Brady
Ian Brady
Due to the notoriety of his case, Graham Young lived in constant fear of being poisoned by fellow inmates while in Parkhurst. But one person in whose company he felt relatively safe was the Moors Murderer Ian Brady. In 2001, Brady won a long battle for the right to publish a book the Gates Of Janus, in which he offers his insiders view on a number of serial killer cases. One of those chosen for this rare accolade was his old friend Graham Young.
Gates of Janus
"Gates of Janus"
"He sometimes grew a Hitler moustache," remembers Brady, "fastidiously trimming it with a razor until the skin around it was red raw and the prison staff had to stop him."He tells of playing Chess with Young on a daily basis, with Young favoring the black pieces, likening their potency to the Nazi SS. Brady claims he always beat him.
The pair bonded over their shared fascination with Nazi Germany.

Dr. Josef Mengele
Dr. Josef Mengele
The bisexual Brady even sounds positively amorous when he describes how Young shared the boyish good looks of a mutual idol, Dr. Josef Mengele.However, he also reports that Young was genuinely asexual, and suggests that this was another example of him exercising power over the herd. "Power and death were his aphrodisiacs," he asserts.
Brady suggests Young was, like him, something of a Nietzschian in outlook, obsessed with proving himself superior to the common herd.
Am I a unique individual or simply a common insect? Do I possess the courage to act autonomously, against man and god?
The serial killer unfortunately perceives that the only real way to distance himself from the banality and senility of the herd is to exercise free will of the most extreme kind by killing others.
Of Youngs flamboyant performance in court he writes:

Hermann Goering
Hermann Goering
He probably likened himself to Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, routing the allied prosecutors and dominating the proceedings at the Nuremberg trials.Or could that simply be Bradys warped and rather ludicrous fantasy?
He viewed his destiny in Wagnerian terms and would sit in his miserable, almost bare cell as though it were the Berlin Bunker, listening rapturously to Gotterdammerung, a doomed figure with his grandiose dreams in ruins. When depressed...he had the dejected stoop of Hitler in his final days.
Bear in mind while reading this that Brady would probably find parallels with Hitler and Nazi Germany in an episode of The Waltons.
The Moors Murderer reports that the only music Young liked were Jeff Waynes War Of The Worlds and Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles, and he would amuse himself by reading obituaries of the great and the good in The Times of a morning. He also fantasizes that Young killed himself.
Possibly he commended the poisoned chalice to his own lips, in a final gesture of triumphant contempt.
Or could it have been a final gesture of wanting to kill himself?
He concludes the chapter by pointing out that Grahams relatively modest use of thallium was nothing compared to its usage during the first gulf war, in which American forces bombarded the enemy with thallium-tipped shells.
Had Graham lived to see it, this would have brought a cynical smile to his thin pale lips, and a mischievous sparkle to his dark eyes.
Finally, Brady concludes, in all seriousness, "It was difficult not to empathies with Graham Young."
Okay, time for your medication, Mister Brady.

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