Graham Frederick Young

From Academic Kids

Graham Frederick Young (September 7 1947 - August 1 1990) was a British serial killer who poisoned a total of three people to death: his stepmother, and then years later two work colleagues, Bob Eagle and Fred Biggs, as well as administering smaller doses to scores of others. He became fascinated with poisons and their effects on the human body (not to mention with Nazism) at a young age. In 1961 (at the age of 14) he started to test poisons out on his family, not in lethal doses, but enough to make them violently ill. He managed to purchase a large quantity of poison by frequently buying small amounts of antimony and digitalis, lying about his age and claiming that they were for science experiments at school.

Missing image
Graham Frederick Young. When the press asked for a photo, he insisted they use this photobooth shot where he looked 'particularly cold-eyed and sinister.'

In 1962 Young's stepmother Molly finally died of a lethal dose of poison. He also had been systematically poisoning his father, sister, and a school friend. Young's aunt Winnie had become suspicious of him because she was aware of his fascination with chemistry and poisons. He might have escaped suspicion if no one knew of his interests because he regularly suffered the same nausea and sicknesses as the rest of his family, often because he forgot which foods he had laced. He was sent to see a psychiatrist, who was concerned enough to recommend contacting the police. Young was arrested on May 23 1962 (at the age of 14). He confessed to the attempted murders of his father, sister, and friend. The remains of his stepmother could not be analysed as she had been cremated.

Young was sentenced to 15 years in Broadmoor Hospital, an institution for mentally unstable criminals. He was released after 9 years, when he was deemed "fully recovered". Young had put those years to good use, however, studying medical texts, improving his knowledge of the effects of poisons on the human body, and continuing his poisoning experiments, using fellow inmates and hospital staff as guinea pigs.

He managed to find a job in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire at a photographic supply store, after his release in 1971. His new employers received references from Broadmoor hospital but were inexplicably not informed of his past as a convicted poisoner. Soon after he began work, his foreman Bob Eagle grew violently ill and eventually died. Young had obligingly been making tea laced with poisons like antimony and thallium for his workmates. A sickness had swept through his workplace and, mistaken for a strange virus, was nicknamed the "Bovingdon Bug". Of course, all these cases of nausea and illness, sometimes severe enough to require hospitalisation, could be attributed to Young and his tea.

Young poisoned around 70 people during the next few months, none fatally. Bob Eagle's successor sickened soon after starting work there, but decided to quit. That decision probably saved his life. A few months after Bob Eagle's death, another of Young's workmates, Fred Biggs, grew ill and was admitted to the London National Hospital for Nervous Diseases. Unfortunately it was too late to save him, and after suffering in agony for several weeks, he became Young's third and final victim.

At this point, it was evident that a proper investigation into the sicknesses and deaths was necessary. Young asked the company doctor if the investigators why they had not considered thallium poisoning as a cause of the symptoms. He had also told one of his colleagues that his hobby was to study toxic chemicals. This man went to the police who immediately checked Young's background and were astounded to uncover his criminal record.

Young was arrested November 21 1971. Police found thallium in his pocket and antimony, thallium and aconitine in his flat. They also discovered a meticulously detailed diary that Young had kept, noting all the doses of poisons he had administered, their effects, and whether he was going to allow each person to live or die.

At his trial at St Albans Crown Court, which started June 19 1972, and lasted for ten days, Young pleaded not guilty, and explained the diary away as mere fantasy and something he was planning to base a novel on in the future. Unsurprisingly, in light of the evidence, Young was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison (not an institution for the criminally insane this time). He was dubbed The Teacup Poisoner, although he apparently wanted to be remembered as the World's poisoner.

Young died in his cell at Parkhurst prison at the age of 42 in 1990, the official cause of death was listed as a a heart attack but there is some conjecture that fellow prisoners were the culprits.

A film called The Young Poisoner's Handbook (1995) is loosely based on Young's life.

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