A to Z Challenge: Y (serial killers)

Graham Young — Teacup Poisoner

Fast Facts:

  • Born in 1947, died in 1990 in England
  • He poisoned many people, killing 3 due to his fascination with toxicology
  • Poisoning everyone in his workplace led to an investigation and his above average knowledge of poisons was suspicious
  • He was charged with 2 counts of murder, 2 of attempted murder and 2 of administrating poison
  • He was found guilty and sentenced to 4 life sentences

Graham Young’s mother died of tuberculosis a few months after his birth. Devastated, his father placed him in the care of his aunt and his sister placed with their grandparents. Young became very close to his aunt and uncle and when, two years later, his father remarried and brought the family back together Young was distressed at being separated from them.

When Young learnt to read he preferred the books about murderers, especially the notorious poisoner, Dr Crippen and Hitler.  He became interested in toxicology and so his father bought him a chemistry set. At 13 he convinced pharmacists his was 17 and obtained poisons such as arsenic.

His first victim was a fellow student who he fed a cocktail of poisons and made very ill. He couldn’t monitor the result of his poisoning so focused on his family as he could see how the poisons worked. His family began to show signs of occasional poisoning and his father thought he was being careless with his chemistry kit, however he denied it. As Young also suffered his father believed him. It’s not certain whether Young was careless with his poison, wanted to test it on himself or did it to avoid detection.

Young’s stepmother became the focus of his ministrations, becoming sicker and sicker until she died. After her death Young continued his poisoning, with reports there people ill even at his stepmother’s funeral. Next he focused on his father who was lucky to survive. Young’s high school chemistry teacher contacted police after finding poisons in Young’s desk.

After his arrest at the age of 14, Young confessed to poisoning his father, sister and school friend, however he wasn’t charged with the murder of his mother as no evidence remained. He was committed to the Broadmoor maximum security hospital for 15 years. Within weeks he poisoned a fellow inmate with cyanide, although his confession wasn’t believed. He continued to poison staff and inmates drinks and reading widely about poisons. Eventually he was declared cured and released.

Anyone who got close to Young was used for experimentation with poisons. He found a job and began to poison his co-workers, with his boss eventually dying. So many people at his work were ill water contamination and radiation leakage were considered. A second employee died in agony raising concern with the company as 70 employees had shown symptoms. Young challenged the on-site doctor, questioning why thallium hadn’t been considered. His high-level knowledge raised suspicions and the doctor passed his concerns to the police. Forensic investigations revealed thallium poisoning and Young was arrested.

Young was charged with 2 counts of murder, 2 of attempted murder and 2 of administrating poison. He was found guilty and sentenced to 4 life sentences and sent to Parkhurst prison.

As a result of this case, the public sale of poisons were reviewed and reforms made in the way mentally unstable prisoners were monitored after their release.

18 comments on “A to Z Challenge: Y (serial killers)

  1. I suspect someone like this man could have concocted a perfectly usable poison from ingredients easily found in his kitchen or laundry, no matter what the laws were about poison. Imagine – he kept right on doing it in prison! Even “Auntie Thally”, Caroline Grills, stopped poisoning people once she hit Long Bay Jail. (I met a lady who worked there as a nurse when Grills was there and described her as “such a sweet woman!” I bet she would have thought twice before joining her for afternoon tea)

    • I can’t understand how someone in a maximum security ward for being a poisoner wouldn’t be believed when confessing to further poisonings! And then he was released…Mind boggles.

  2. One of the killers on my fiction learned his craft by reading about serial killers. Too bad I didn’t know about your AtoZ when I wrote the book!

    • I hope I haven’t educated anyone on how to be a serial killer! Thanks for putting that scary thought out there, Jacqui.

    • I agree, Dena. If you saw him at a dinner party you wouldn’t want to be seated next to him (probably a good thing!).

  3. Oh, my goodness! It’s as if he didn’t even care that everywhere he went, people got sick or died from poisoning and the trail was obvious after a while. And his own arrogance got him caught: he couldn’t stand not showing off his knowledge.

    Wow. Just wow.

    • It’s as if his study of “science” mattered above all else and the trail of sick and dead behind him were just collateral in his quest for knowledge. If he’d put his obviously high IQ for toxicology for good he might have helped discover cures for lots of things.

  4. Well, he certainly tipped his hand, didn’t he? It’s a wonder that he was ever declared “cured” and released! And equally amazing that he only killed 3, because it sounds like everyone was fair game.

    • I think there must have been a lot of people who were very grateful they were only ill and not dead!

  5. Good grief! How did he manage to get ahold of poison in a maximum security hospital?

  6. You’d’ve thought they would have been concerned at how interested in poisons he was. Sometimes people can be too trusting.

  7. He was poisoning his inmates, and yet he was still set free. I hope mistakes like that don’t happen nowadays.

    You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift

    • I really hope they don’t do that these days, although you still hear of nasty people being released and committing the same horrid thing within days.

  8. I’ve seen a tv show about this chap – he was one weird man. I suppose we can only imagine how he really saw the world.
    https://tashasthinkings.blogspot.com/ – Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters

    • Such a shame a brilliant mind being used for evil instead of good. I imagine the documentary would have been interesting.

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