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St. Alban Poisoner Graham Young
It might not be a good idea to buy your kid a chemistry set. In the case of teenager Graham Young, it was tantamount to giving matches to an arsonist. Since the age of nine he had been obsessed with the subject and most notably, poisons. By the age of 14 he had learned about everything there was to know on the topic by reading every book he could find on the subject. It was later to spell death for his step-mother, Molly, two others and the attempted poisoning of over seventy others, including his father, sister and a friend.
Graham Fredrick Young was born in September of 1947 in Neasdon, Greater London. He was different from other kids. He was a child prodigy with a chemistry set who would sit alone in his room experimenting with chemicals.
It all started when his father gave his 14 year old son a chemistry set as a reward for academic achievement in school during the early 1960s. Not long after his parents suddenly began to vomit and experience severe stomach cramps. And so did their eldest daughter and a couple of Graham’s school friends. Eventually, his father began to suspect Graham had something to do with it. He confronted his son, but Graham claimed his older sister, Winifred, had been using the family’s teacups to mix shampoo. Unconvinced, he searched Graham’s room, but found nothing.
Almost every child has had some hero they idolized. That’s perfectly normal. But, Graham chose some very unlikely candidates to be his role models…people such as Adolph Hitler and well known serial killers. He also became enthralled with the occult and even took to wearing an old swastika badge to school. Needless to say, Young Graham had few friends growing up. Those who knew him told of how he would try and involve them in his occult ceremonies, on at one occasion he sacrificed a neighborhood cat.
Although many classmates had nicknamed him “the mad professor,” he did have one boy he considered a friend, a fellow chemistry enthusiast by the name of Christopher Williams. The pair often ate lunch together at school. When Christopher began having bouts of sickness, headaches and painful cramps he was taken to a doctor. The possibility of poisoning never occurred to physicians since the symptoms were common for many illnesses. Besides Graham was only thirteen and it would have been impossible for him to purchase poisons.
However, Graham wasn’t your ordinary kid. He was extremely cunning and had convinced several local chemists he was seventeen and needed them for class projects. In his room were enough antimony, arsenic, digitalis and thallium to kill 300 people.
Graham soon came to realize experimenting on kids at school had one major drawback. When they became sick they had to stay home out of school. That was no way to conduct an experiment...he couldn’t observe the effects of his concoctions. Therefore, his family became human guinea pigs.
Even after Molly’s death, the mystery illness plaguing the Young family kept spreading. Graham’s father, Fred and his Uncle John began to vomiting and having stomach problems. Fred had been having these symptoms off and on throughout Molly’s illness, but now the pains were so intense he felt he was going to die.
When he was admitted to the hospital, doctors narrowed the diagnosis down to either arsenic or antimony poisoning. It was the latter and doctors said one more dose more than likely would have killed him. Fred later recalled his bouts of sickness always happened the day after Graham accompanied him to a local pub on Sundays. He began putting two and two together. But, it was Graham’s chemistry teacher, Geoffrey Hughes, who first discovered what was going on.
Hughes had become suspicious due to the inordinate amount of experiments he had been conducting recently and decided to search his desk. After finding bottles of poisons, drawings of dying men, and essays about famous poisoners, he contacted the authorities..
Despite the fact that there was insufficient evidence to try Graham for the murder of his step mother, he was convicted of poisoning his father, sister and friend Chris Williams. He was sent to Broadmoor maximum security hospital with an order not to be released for 15 years without express permission.
But, even these measures weren’t enough to keep Graham from harming others. When inmate John Berridge died of cyanide poisoning the authorities were at a loss to explain how it could have happened since there was no cyanide on the premises. The intellectual snob, Graham, quickly begged to differ explaining how cyanide could be extracted from laurel bush leaves, which could be found in abundance around the institution. Although he had confessed, officials assumed it was just the ravings of a man and the incident was ruled a suicide. After all, it was a mental institution.
Meanwhile, Graham grew a Hitler mustache and made wooden swastikas to wear around his neck…hardly the actions of a man anywhere near being cured of mental illness. But Graham’s doctors felt they were merely adolescent obsessions, which he would soon outgrow.
After about five years he had convinced his keepers he was a model prisoner, and was transferred to a block with more freedoms. But, nearly six years into his sentence, cleanser was found in the communal tea urn. Graham’s hopes to convince authorities he had been rehabilitated were dashed. And now he had to deal with fellow prisoners who were convinced he was the one who had done it.
In 1970, after nearly eight years in Broadmoor, Dr. Edgar Udwin, the prison psychiatrist, recommended his release, announcing he "is no longer obsessed with poisons, violence and mischief." Not all on the hospital staff agreed. Graham had told a nurse "When I get out, I’m going to kill one person for every year I’ve spent in this place." Despite the comment being noted on file at the time it was never brought to the attention of those who released him in February 1971.
Within a week Graham began training as a storekeeper in the nearby community of Slough and rented a place in a hostel. moved into a nearby hostel. Shortly afterwards, another resident, 34 year old soccer player Trevor Sparkes, began experiencing sharp abdominal cramps and sickness. Eventually Sparke’s took ill during a game and was never able to play again. Around the same time another man later committed suicide because of the excruciating pain he experienced.
Graham soon moved on to a job as a clerk at a photographic firm in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire. When they asked for references, Graham gave them Dr. Udwin’s name, who assured them although Young had suffered “a deep going personality disorder,” he had made a full recovery. No mention of his obsession for poisons were made, despite the fact highly toxic chemicals were used at the company.
Within days of starting work Graham enthusiastically undertook the task of making tea for his fellow employees. It wasn’t long before two workers, 59 year old Bob Egle, and 60 year old Fred Biggs, started becoming ill. After returning to work following a holiday Egle’s fingers went numb, and he was admitted to a hospital. He died 10 days later and was cremated.
In September 1971 Biggs began suffering the same symptoms, along with several others. Their ailments were blamed on some kind of virus which became known as “the Bovingdon Bug.”
Going back to his teens, Graham had been keeping a diary of his “experiments” which would later convict him. Concerning Bigg’s he had written "…Fred is responding to treatment. He is being obstinately difficult. If he survives a third week he will live. I am most annoyed." Grahams displeasure over the situation ceased on November 19 when Fred Biggs died.
It took a while, but eventually doctors determined Bigg’s death was due to thallium poisoning and the police were alerted. Detectives quickly put the pieces of the puzzle together. All incidents had begun after Graham had joined the Bovingdon firm.
Police immediately searched Young’s room where they found walls covered with pictures of Hitler and an assortment of chemicals and poisons. Under his bed was the “smoking gun,” his diary.
Late Saturday night, November 21, 1971, police knocked on Fred Young’s door. Fred immediately knew who they had come for. After the police had left with Graham in tow, Fred took Graham’s birth certificate and every other document relating to his son and tore them to shreds.
Graham Young’s trial took place at St. Albans Crown Court in June 1972. He was convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, and two counts of administering poison. He was sentenced to four counts of life imprisonment and two five-year sentences.
Young died while serving his sentence in Parkhurst prison on August 1st 1990 at the age of 42. Death was ruled as a heart attack, but many believe only his fellow inmates know the truth