Best Known For
Graham Young is best known as the Teacup Poisoner, responsible for the killing of at least three people in England.
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So he decided to focus on a group to whom he had unlimited access—his own family.
When the family began to show intermittent signs of poisoning during the early part of 1961, Young's father initially suspected that Young might be inadvertently harming the family by the careless use of his chemistry set at home, but Young denied the accusation. The potential for deliberate poisoning was never considered,
especially as Young had also been ill on a number of occasions. It remains unclear whether this was by design (to avoid detection), thorough scientific interest in his own reaction, or just carelessness of exactly which teacups he had poisoned.
When Young's elder sister, Winifred, was found by doctors to have been poisoned by belladonna in November 1961, Young's father again suspected him, but took no action. Molly Young, his stepmother, became the concerted focus of Young's attentions, gradually becoming more ill until finally, on April 21, 1962, she was found by her husband writhing in agony, in the back garden of their home, with Young looking on in fascination. She was rushed to hospital, where she died later that night. Her cause of death was determined as a prolapse of a spinal bone and she was cremated (not surprisingly at Young's suggestion), with no further action taken at the time. It was later discovered that she had developed a tolerance to the antimony with which Young was slowly poisoning her, and he switched to thallium the night before her death to speed up the process. There were even reports of further nausea and vomiting attacks at her funeral: clearly the death of his stepmother had not dulled Young's scientific curiosity.
Following Molly's death, Fred Young's attacks of vomiting and cramping became more frequent and increasingly severe, and he was also admitted to hospital, where he was diagnosed with antimony poisoning. He was lucky to have survived his son's experimentation, but could not countenance his son's responsibility: that role fell to Young's school chemistry teacher, who contacted the police when he discovered poisons, and copious material about poisoners, in Young's school desk.
Young was sent to a police psychiatrist, where his encyclopedic knowledge of poisons soon became apparent, and Young was arrested on May 23, 1962. He admitted poisoning of his father, sister, and school friend, Williams, but no murder charges were brought against him for the murder of his stepmother, as any evidence had been destroyed at the time of her cremation. Still only 14, he was committed to Broadmoor maximum security hospital, the youngest inmate since 1885, for a minimum period of 15 years.
Incarceration barely dampened his enthusiasm for experimentation, and within weeks the death of an inmate, John Berridge, by cyanide poisoning, had prison authorities baffled. Young claimed to have extracted cyanide from laurel bush leaves, but his confession was not taken seriously, and Berridge's death was recorded as suicide. On other occasions staff and inmates' drinks were found to have been tampered with, including the introduction of an abrasive sodium compound, commonly called sugar soap, used for preparing painted walls, into a tea urn that could have caused mass poisoning had it not been discovered.
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