Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Graham Young, the St. Albans Poisoner

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 Broadmoor's 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 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 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 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."

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 Young's 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 Young's 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 Young's 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, I'm going to kill one person for every year I've 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.

 

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