Graham Young, Punk Poisoner
If Graham Young isn’t the youngest (pun) poisoner in Britain since 1885, then I don’t know who is. I’d love for you to email me to correct me. Graham was born September 7, 1947, to Margaret Young, but his mother developed pleurisy during pregnancy, and although the child was perfectly healthy, Margaret died of tuberculosis only three months after her son’s birth. Her husband Fred, a machine setter, 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. When he was two Graham’s father married again to Molly and the family was reunited with their new stepmother in a house on London’s North Circular Road.
Graham was a strange little lad from the time he was very young. When he was about 9 years old he became obsessed with chemicals of all sorts, including household stuff like his stepmother’s nail polish remover and perfumes, which he sniffed in an attempt to get high. Good thing bath salts weren’t in vogue then. 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, suffered vomiting, diarrhea and excruciating stomach pain. Before long her husband Fred, 44, also suffered with similar stomach cramps. Fred’s eldest daughter Winifred, 22, was violently ill on a couple of occasions that summer. Shortly afterwards, her brother Graham was violently sick at home.
It seemed as if the mystery bug had spread beyond their household when a couple of Graham’s school friends were off school, ill with similar painful symptoms. In November 1961 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 taken to hospital where doctors came to the conclusion that she had somehow been infected with the rare poison belladonna. Have you ever heard of belladonna? The “beautiful flower” is a nasty little plant that has seriously deadly consequences.
She told her father Fred, who developed a theory. 14-year-old Graham was crazy about chemistry for some years, and was banned from using chemicals in the house after abortive experiments set fire to furniture in his room. Could the boy have contaminated his family’s food? He confronted his son but Graham blamed Winifred, who he claimed had been using the family’s teacups to mix shampoo. Naturally shampoo would cause such a poisoned reaction. You know how lethal Herbal Essence can be.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 the aforementioned stepmother’s perfume and nail varnish remover to analyze its contents and sniff the vapors, he’d been obsessed with chemistry and poisons. If a member of the family took a headache tablet or some cough medicine, he took great pleasure in telling them the scientific names for all the ingredients, and seemed keen on telling them in detail what agonies would befall them if they took a very large dose. A touchingly concerned boy.
It’s perfectly normal for children to idolize certain individuals, be they famous sportsmen or celebrities. Graham Young chose unlikely figures as his boyhood role models. He voraciously read books about murderers such as Dr. Crippen, and he would pour 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. Those Satanists. They’re everywhere.
He was a solitary child, and surprisingly he had 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. It’s safe to say that one of the books Graham did not read was Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and be Very, Very Popular.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. 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. I like cats. Now I really dislike Graham Young.
Still, a boy’s got to have a hobby, so when Graham scraped through his “11 plus” exams which determined whether a child was academically minded or of a more practical bent, his father bought him a chemistry set as a reward. He wasn’t to know that by this stage of his son’s self-education, it was equivalent to giving a Cordon Bleu chef a couple of pots and a beginner’s cook book.Can’t you just picture the indulgent smile Graham gave his naive father? Graham already had the expertise of a chemistry post-graduate. Yet his do-it-yourself chemistry experiments were more extreme even for the most inquisitive schoolboy. He graduated from nail varnish remover to inhaling 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 extracted gunpowder from fireworks to make small bombs. He blew up his neighbour’s wall and a nearby hut, but escaped blame for the incidents. Not merely a chemistry genius but a Houdini as well. Impressive resume.
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 often told classmates how much he hated her. He would show them a small plasticine voodoo doll he carried around claiming it represented his stepmother. Later he told psychiatrists 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. Charming child.
Molly Young was not the first subject chosen for Graham’s first life-endangering “experiments” with poison. His interest in chemistry had helped him befriend a fellow science enthusiast, a boy named Christopher Williams, a neighbor of the Young family. The pair ate 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 didn’t know what to think, wondering whether this might simply be a case of childish play-acting. Doctors suggested that his symptoms, since they involved headaches and vomiting, were those of severe migraine. The possibility of one of his school friends poisoning him was far-fetched even if it had crossed their minds, since the Graham and Christopher were only 13 and not old enough to obtain poisons.
What they didn’t account for was the exceptional cunning of Christopher’s new friend. After talking knowledgeably about poisons and convincing two separate local chemists he was 17 and needed them for study, Graham obtained enough antimony, arsenic, digitalis and thallium to kill 300 people. He was relatively restrained in the doses he gave to Williams, and appeared to have a motive in some cases. 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. that’s one way to narrow dating competition. Even though the pair had once had a playground fight in which Young vowed “I’ll kill you for this,” Williams never suspected that his friend had anything to do with his illness. Graham did a good impression of concern, watched his friend’s extreme discomfort with great fascination, and expressing his sympathies.
Other pupils of the John Kelly Secondary School were more wary of the cold, eccentric Graham. They nicknamed him “the mad professor,” a label Young seemed to like. Clive Creager, a friend of William, recalled the macabre drawings Graham showed 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, Graham found his school friends unsatisfactory as human guinea pigs, since he couldn’t keep tabs on their symptoms once they were absent from school. He reserved his most dangerous experiments for a group of patients whose progress he could observe at closer quarters, naturally his family. When Molly woke up on Easter Saturday, 1962, her symptoms seemed different. Her neck felt stiff, and she had “pins and needles” in her hands and feet. She went out shopping, but returned before lunchtime. Her husband came home to find Graham staring out of the kitchen window, watching as his stepmother writhed in agony in the back garden. She died in hospital later that day.
Molly was cremated at Graham’s 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 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, enough to kill five or six people. Well, he had to be sure the dose was strong enough.
Graham’s second murder plot was well under way. Fred suffered attacks of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains now and again throughout Molly’s 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 couldn’t 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 son’s 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 Fred never said. Perhaps it was too awful to contemplate that his son was a murderer.
It fell to a more emotionally detached figure to finally raise the alarm. Graham’s school chemistry teacher, Geoffrey Hughes, had been uneasy about the extreme experiments Graham performed, and one night after school he searched the boy’s desk. After finding bottles of poisons, drawings of dying men, and essays about famous poisoners, he contacted the police. To try to ascertain his mental state, Graham 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 (often referring to it as “my little friend”), fell from his shirt pocket. Eventually he broke down and confessed, leading police to his several caches of poisons stashed in a hedge near his home, and in the same hut across the road where he once blew a hole 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.” Despite the fact that there was insufficient evidence to try the 14-year-old 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 Broadmoor’s youngest inmate since 1885.While on remand awaiting trial, he was already telling psychiatrists, “I miss my antimony. I miss the power it gives me.” Where there’s a will, though, there’s a way, and within a few weeks of his arrival at Broadmoor, a fellow prisoner named John Berridge died of cyanide poisoning. This was the same Berridge that Winifred says Graham complained about in letters, expressing irritation at his loud snoring in the communal dorms. The authorities were baffled as there was no cyanide to be found anywhere in the prison. Graham corrected them by explaining how cyanide could be extracted from laurel bush leaves of which there were copious amounts in adjoining fields. His confession was only one of many whenever someone dies in a mental institution, so the official verdict was suicide. Graham was born with a lucky clover … naturally, a plant.
On another occasion the staff’s coffee was found to contain harpic bleach from the toilets. From then on, staff would joke to inmates, “Unless you behave, I’ll let Graham make your coffee.” 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 Graham 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, as late as 1968 two whole packets of “sugar soap,” 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 Graham’s desire to convince authorities of his rehabilitation was disregarded. In Broadmoor the unwritten rules of prison life applied, which meant the fellow prisoners who discovered what had happened refused to inform on Graham but instead meted out their own physical punishment in private. This guy just kept slipping through the legal cracks, even when incarcerated.
Graham still pursued familiar interests. He grew a Hitler moustache and made hundreds of wooden swastikas to wear round his neck. These hardly appear to be the actions of a man being cured of whatever mental illness had afflicted his mind but Graham’s dimwitted doctors believed that in time he would grow out of these adolescent obsessions. Adolescent? Let’s see, thallium, cyanide and Hitler. Yep, sounds like normal adolescent obsessions to me. 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 Graham “is no longer obsessed with poisons, violence and mischief.” Naturally Graham was thrilled, and he sent his sister news of his impending release. “Your friendly neighborhood Frankenstein will soon be at liberty,” he joked. One of Graham’s nurses questioned the wisdom of letting this man walk the streets. Not long before his release he told her: “When I get out, I’m going to kill one person for every year I’ve spent in this place.” Incredibly, this comment never reached the ears of the relevant authorities, despite being taken down on file at the time. Broadmoor must be the most incompetent mental institution in all of England.
Friendly Neighborhood Storekeeper
Within a week of his release, Graham began training as a storekeeper in Slough, and moved into a hostel. Soon after his arrival, though, fellow hostel resident Trevor Sparkes, 34, experienced 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. Doctors couldn’t 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. Graham got a job as a store clerk at a photographic firm in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire. 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. Dr. Udwin, you silly quack.
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. He returned to his old family home in Neasden, introducing himself to neighbors he had known as a teenager. He made a point of visiting his old school headmaster. and seemed much keener to remind him of his notorious past crimes than to boast about his rehabilitation. As it turned out, the new recruit at John Hadland Ltd. had no need to avail himself of the toxic substances available on site. He had been to London armed with the same fake ID of “M.E. Evans” and bought a new batch of “antimony potassium tartrate“ 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 Graham 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. Two older members of staff, 59-year-old storeroom manager Bob Egle and 60-year-old stock supervisor Fred Biggs befriended Graham, lending him cigarettes and money for his bus fare. However Egle began to spend periods off work ill. Ron developed diarrhea, sharp stomach pains and a burning sensation in the throat after drinking a cup of tea fetched by Graham. Doctors could only suggest food poisoning or gastric flu. When he was well enough to return to work the symptoms promptly returned 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. However, the day after returning to work, Egle’s fingers went numb, and he couldn’t 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.” In an Academy Award performance Graham said to his colleagues, “It’s very sad 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.” In the weeks following Egle’s 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 Egle’s bizarre symptoms. Then in September 1971 Fred Biggs also began to suffer the same symptoms. Graham’s fellow storeroom worker Jethro Batt, 39, was made a cup of coffee by Graham one evening, but threw it away complaining it tasted bitter. “What’s the matter?” asked Young. “D’you think I’m 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.” Graham administered various doses of different poisons among his workmates to confuse doctors looking for a common cause of illness.
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 village’s children, it had certainly assumed a virulent new form. After briefly recovering from his first experience of Graham’s 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 Young Dr. Frankenstein’s liking. “‘F’ (Fred) is responding to treatment,” he wrote in his diary. “He is being obstinately difficult. If he survives a third week he will live. I am most annoyed.” Graham got his wish. On November 19 death finally came to Fred Biggs, as merciful release. Diana Smart confided in the firm’s Managing Director, Godfrey Foster, that she suspected Graham 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. She’s lucky her HR person wasn’t there. A bit racist you might say.
On the afternoon Fred Biggs’ death was announced, the firm’s 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 firm’s owner. He informed the police. It’s perhaps not so surprising that quacks, oops, doctors took a while to consider thallium poisoning as a cause of the outbreak, because until Graham used it, it had never been used as a poison in Britain. Death from gradual thallium poisoning is an agonizing affair, something which Graham knew only too well. As well as suffering excruciating stomach pains, violent sickness and diarrhea, patients often lose their hair and suffer thickening and scaliness of the skin. 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. It’s 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, it’s a long, slow method of murdering someone, of which any sadist (Graham perhaps?) would be proud.
Graham took 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 firm’s MD had alerted police, it didn’t 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 firm’s bosses that Graham was a convicted poisoner. Police immediately searched Graham’s 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 Graham 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 immediately knew what they wanted. He pointed the officers towards his son, and Winnie asked her nephew “Graham, what have you done?” “I don’t know what they are talking about, Auntie,” he replied. But as he was being led out, Fred heard him ask the officers, “Which one are you doing me for?” After they left, Fred gathered together Graham’s birth certificate and every other document relating to his son and tore them to shreds.
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 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,”. That didn’t mean that he wouldn’t 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. He’s entitled to his 15 minutes of fame too. Graham’s 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, Graham’s 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,” said Susan Nowak, who was in court to report on the trial for The Watford Observer. “but he also came across as incredibly creepy. You didn’t want to make eye contact with him because he just had this unnerving aura about him.” Graham enjoyed conveying 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. The glowering photograph came about by accident. Graham was scowling because he was cheated out of money by the coin-operated photo booth where the picture was taken. He should have poisoned the machine. It’s hard to believe Graham held out hope of being acquitted, but that doesn’t 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.” His confidence was based on the assumption that the prosecution wouldn’t be able to prove beyond doubt that only he could have administered the poisons. Since Bob Egle was cremated, he assumed proof of thallium poisoning would be impossible while he 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 misused them. As for the diary relating to the victim he claimed they were figments of his imagination on which he planned to base a novel. Even a confession couldn’t stand in his way. Despite having verbally admitted his crimes to police on his initial arrest he claimed in court he told police what they wanted to hear, in order to be allowed food and clothing. A freak, yes. A dummy, no.
He reckoned without advances in forensic science that had been made since 1962 when Molly Young’s cremation meant her murder could not be proved. Experts succeeded in finding traces of thallium in Bob Egle’s ashes, Fred Biggs” wife confirmed that he never used thallium on his garden, and as for that claim about the diary 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.”
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, there’s a terrible coldness inside me.“
His entries also revealed a plan to murder David Tilson in his hospital bed after Graham’s initial doses failed to finish him off 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. Tilson’s relatively late admission to hospital and subsequent month off recuperating saved his life. He made a full recovery. Adding all this evidence to the thallium and antimony found in his room, and a phial in Graham’s jacket he intended to use as his “exit dose” if he was caught, the prosecution had a strong case. Graham taunted police they could not convict him without demonstrating motive, but with such powerful evidence of murder they didn’t need to show a clear motive. In fact, motive is not a requirement in a felony murder. Graham 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 Graham’s background was revealed after the guilty verdict. There were gasps of disbelief when it was announced that Graham had done this thing before and was released from a secure mental institution mere months previously. “You looked at the jury,” stated 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 we’d let this maniac out onto the street?” “I don’t think he had any ill will towards the people he killed,” said Peter Goodman, Graham’s defense lawyer, “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.” A forensic scientist, perhaps.
Winifred Young wrote that people who said “Imagine if he’d walked into a crowded café!” missed the point about her brother’s motivation. Goodman responded, “My answer was ‘that would be no good to Graham”, 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 Graham 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 wouldn’t poison my lawyer.” That’s pretty much what he said to some of his victims, but I ate it anyway…” A brave man. Or perhaps merely stupid.
Ian Brady – Birds of a Feather
Graham served his sentence in the maximum security Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight. He lived in fear of being poisoned by fellow inmates. One person who made him feel relatively safe was the Moors Murderer Ian Brady. In 2001, Brady won a long battle to publish a book ‘the Gates Of Janus,” in which he offered his insider’s view on a number of serial killer cases. One of those chosen for this rare accolade was his revered friend Graham Young. The bisexual Brady sounded amorous when he gushed that Graham shared the “boyish good looks” of a mutual idol, Dr. Josef Mengele. He also reported that Graham was “genuinely asexual,” and suggested this was another example of him exercising power over ‘the herd.” “Power and death were his aphrodisiacs,” he asserted. Brady wrote that Graham 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? He sometimes grew a Hitler moustache,” Brady continued, “fastidiously trimming it with a razor until the skin around it was red raw and the prison staff had to stop him.” He played chess with Graham on a daily basis, with Graham favoring the black pieces, “likening their potency to the Nazi SS.” The pair bonded over their shared fascination with Nazi Germany. The serial killer perceived the only way Graham could distance himself from the banality of the herd was kill others. Of Graham’s flamboyant performance in court he wrote, he probably likened himself to Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, routing the allied prosecutors and dominating the proceedings at the Nuremberg trials.
The Moors Murderer reported the only music Graham liked was Jeff Wayne’s “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 fantasized that Graham 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?
Graham died in 1990, aged 42. The official diagnosis was a heart attack but many have their doubts. In ‘the Young Poisoner’s Handbook,” the movie made about the story in 1995, it’s suggested he killed himself by typically ingenious poisonous means. Others suspect fellow Parkhurst inmates. 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?” “I wonder if he tried to do the same poisoning tricks he pulled off in Broadmoor,” offered Peter Goodman, “only someone took offence this time.”
Whatever the cause of his death, Graham achieved 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 London’s Madam Tussaud’s 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 Britain’s most dangerous prisoners, usually those with mental problems. But in legal terms Graham was of sane mind when he committed his crimes. He was bad rather than mad.
‘There was obviously something not right in his head,” concluded Goodman. “I felt sorry for the guy.”
That’s considerably more than Graham Young felt for anyone.