Tuesday 10 September 2019

Dear Readers, 

I am delighted to share that the podcast series Unheard: The Fred and Rose West Tapes by groundbreaking author Howard Sounes is available now across all podcast platforms. With the authors own tapes on the case, interview firsts with those involved and never before published material. The first episode features Heather West. 

Friday 7 September 2018

Dear Reader, 

I am thrilled to share with you the memoir of Mae West, the eldest surviving daughter of Fred and Rosemary West. Love as Always, Mum xxx, is a powerful testimony. Beautifully written and deeply moving. It tells of the terrible abuse she suffered at the hands of the Wests. The profound loss of her beloved sister, Heather. The horror of discovering the appalling crimes of her parents and the fallout. And how she built a life for herself. This is her journey. This is her story. Available to buy now.  

Friday 30 March 2018

Dear Reader,

I am delighted to share my feature article for Real Crime magazine (issue 27) Death in the Family. The article tells the story of Heather West with an exclusive Q & A with author and journalist Howard Sounes who broke the case and wrote Fred & Rose. Available to buy now

Deadly Pursuits - The Life and Crimes of Graham Young

The extraordinary story of the brilliant young man whose knowledge of poisons was so advanced that he could he have become one of Britain's leading experts in the field. Instead, he used his knowledge to embark on a murderous career, earning himself the title, 'Teacup Poisoner'. On June 29, 1972, he received four life sentences at St Albans Crown Court. He said nothing as the judge sentenced him. Downstairs, he turned to his sister and aunt and said: “Forget all about me. I'm sorry for all the trouble I have caused you.” His name was Graham Young.

Every Boy Should Have a Hobby 

Graham Frederick Young was born in Neasden, North West London on September 7, 1947, to Fred Young, a machine setter, and his wife Margaret. His mother developed pleurisy during pregnancy and died of tuberculosis. “Graham did not have the easiest of starts in life. His mother died twelve weeks after the birth, which meant that Young's father fostered him out to an aunt," says, Professor David Wilson. His elder sister, 8-year-old Winifred, was taken in by her grandparents. Young spent the first two years of his life with his aunt Winnie and uncle Jack. Graham grew close to his aunt and in 1950, his father remarried and he went back to live with them in a house on the North Circular Road. His new wife was a younger woman named Molly. According to Professor Wilson: “Young and the stepmother were almost at loggerheads immediately” and he seemed to bear some antagonism toward her.

He was an unusual, solitary child. Since the age of nine or ten, Graham Young had been stealing his stepmother's perfume and nail varnish to analyze its composition and sniff the vapours. When he passed his 11-plus, Fred Young bought his son a chemistry set as a reward. By then he had graduated from nail varnish remover to inhaling from a bottle of ether to get high. Young began carrying a bottle of acid around with him at school and managed to burn a hole in his blazer. He extracted gunpowder from fireworks and blew up a neighbours wall and a nearby hut. He fostered an interest in taboo subjects from an early age, poring over books like Sixty Famous Trials, of which his favourite chapter was about Victorian poisoner, William Palmer. He also regarded Dr Crippen as a role model and openly read Mein Kamf. By the age of 12, Young was extolling the virtues of Adolf Hitler and how he was “misunderstood” to whoever would listen.

Graham Young had few friends at John Kelly Secondary School and his habit of wearing an old swastika badge did not endear him to his contemporaries. Although he was a bright boy, his only interests were chemistry, forensic science and toxicology. “He was dangerous. He was evil and I was afraid of him” recalls his friend and classmate Clive Creager. Graham developed an interest in the occult and claimed to be part of a coven run by a man he had met at the local library. He would attempt to get his friends to smoke ether with him and to participate in occult ceremonies, sacrificing a cat on one occasion. The disappearance of several cats at this time suggests that it was a regular occurrence. Graham was a “very clever boy” according to Anthony Holden, author of The St. Albans Poisoner. He “was clearly educating himself into an expert chemist”. Young was unusually bright in an uncommon way. “Here we have a boy who almost from the start is isolated, is lonely, is obsessed with poisons and crucially obsessed with Nazism, “ says Professor Wilson “It was almost as if the writing was on the wall from Graham Young, from a very early age”.

Graham Young's interest in chemistry led him to befriend another science enthusiast named Christopher Williams. Young genuinely liked the boy and the two often ate their packed lunches together, occasionally swapping sandwiches. Graham began slipping antimony into the boys sandwiches. Williams was off school for days with a mystery ailment which doctors deemed to be a virus or bug. He suffered extended periods of vomiting, painful cramps and headaches. All this time, Young would keep meticulous notes. One day the boys visited London Zoo and Graham gave his friend some lemonade laced with antimony. Christopher Williams survived, only because Young was not able to monitor his victim when he was sick at home. Both boys were thirteen-years-old. Nobody would have suspected poison.

Crime author Agatha Christie published her book Pale Horse, around the time of Graham Young's first bout of poisoning. In the book, thallium is administered by the killer and this evidently inspired the boy. Using the fake ID of M.E. Evans, Young was able to convince two chemists that he was aged seventeen and that he needed them for “study”. He was able to cloak his murderous intentions beneath a veil of charm and maturity. He procured enough antimony, arsenic, digitalis and thallium to kill 300 people.

Tea Time

Graham Young now turned his attention to his family and concentrated on his 37-year-old stepmother Molly, whom he had hated since the age of three. She had destroyed his toy train set - for reasons that remain unclear. Young took pleasure in watching his stepmother in constant ill health, knowing full well that he was responsible. He enjoyed the control he had over others. “Through poisoning his family, he is able to establish that control,” says Professor David Wilson. In the early part of 1961, Graham Young was conducting a long-term experiment. He put antimony in the Sunday joint and watched what it did to his father, stepmother, and sister. Molly suffered vomiting, diarrhea, and intense stomach pain, which she initially dismissed as attacks of biliousness. Fred Young, 44, began suffering similar symptom for days at a time and that summer, 22-year-old Winifred Young was violently ill on a couple of occasions.

In November 1961, Winifred Young was served a cup of tea by her brother but threw it away after only a sip because it tasted sour. An hour later, she began to hallucinate on a train and had to be escorted off. Winifred was taken to hospital where the doctors concluded that she had been poisoned by belladonna. Meanwhile, the protagonist continued to make notes in his diary. Fred Young only suspected that his son contaminated the kitchen utensils he borrowed for his school experiments. He confronted Graham. But he only blamed his sister, claiming that she had been mixing shampoo in the family's teacups. Fred Young found nothing incriminating in his son's room and warned him to be more careful when messing about with “those bloody chemicals".

In the early months of 1962, Molly Young's condition deteriorated. She lost weight, suffered agonising backache, and her hair began to fall out. After a year of poisoning his stepmother with antimony, Graham Young spiked her evening meal with 20 grains of thallium which was enough to kill five or six people. The following day, Easter Saturday, Molly Young awoke with different symptoms. Her neck was stiff and she experienced pins and needles in her hands and feet. Molly went shopping but returned before lunchtime, while her husband was out at a local public house. Fred Young returned home to find his wife writhing in agony in the garden. Fred Young noticed his son staring intently from the kitchen window at the scene. Molly was admitted to hospital but the doctors could not fathom her symptoms. Her last words were simply that she just wanted to go home and make her family dinner. Just hours later, Molly Young was dead. A postmortem concluded that she had died from a collapsed bone in the spine, incurred from a car accident a year earlier. Molly was cremated at Graham's suggestion. After the funeral, Graham's uncle John began vomiting violently after eating mustard pickle sandwiches, spiked by his nephew.

Meanwhile, Fred Young had suffered permanent damage to his liver. So far, Graham had shown little remorse for his stepmother or the plight of his father. His sister Winifred had also been damaged by the poisoning. Young began placing larger and larger amounts of antimony in his father's food and drink. Fred Young had already begun to suffer similar symptoms to his deceased second wife, and was rushed to hospital where his son coolly observed him and continued to make notes. This time, the doctors diagnosed him as suffering from arsenic poisoning. “How ridiculous, not being able to tell the difference between arsenic and antimony poisoning” Graham responded disdainfully. When the boy began lecturing the doctors on which poison might be responsible, his father cried: “Get that boy away from me!”

Graham Young's chemistry teacher Geoffrey Hughes had his own suspicions about the eccentric teenager. He searched the boy's desk and found bottles of poisons, drawings of dying men, and essays about famous poisoners. Hughes duly contacted the police. Young was sent for what he believed to be a careers interview, but the interviewer was, in fact, a police psychiatrist who reported what the boy said to him. The police were waiting for Graham when he arrived home from school on the afternoon of 2 May 1962. They searched his pockets but found nothing. When Graham was asked to remove his shirt three small bottles dropped out. They contained antimony and Young was taken into custody where he made a boastful confession. They were his exit dose for which to commit suicide if he was ever caught. Young was arrested for attempted murder. At first, Graham denied everything, but broke down and confessed to poisoning his father and sister and his best friend at school. Molly Young had been cremated, so "It grew on me like a drug habit, except it was not me who was taking the drugs." Graham Young said. "I miss my antimony. I miss the power it gives me," he informed the psychiatrists, while on remand awaiting trial. Graham Young was fourteen-years and ten-months-old.

The trial began on 6, July 1962 at the Old Bailey. Graham Young entered a plea of not guilty and he was vigorously defended by Jean Southworth who likened him to "a drug addict, to be pitied for his obsession”. Psychiatrist and senior medical officer at Ashworth, Dr. Christopher Fysh gave a more convincing account and he was supported by consultant Dr. Donald Blair “I would say he (Young) was prepared to take the risk of killing to gratify his interest in poisons. He is obsessed by the sense of power they gave him. I fear he will do it again”. But his prophetic words would not be heeded. Both specialists concluded that Graham Young was a dangerous psychopath. He was found guilty. Because of his age, the judge decided to send Young to a mental hospital for the criminally insane. He was sentenced to be detained at Broadmoor maximum security hospital in Crowthorne, Berkshire with an order that he was not to be released without the permission of the Home Secretary for 15 years.

The Victorian Asylum 

Graham Young was the youngest person to be committed to Broadmoor, since 1885. At Broadmoor, he did not come under the prison system so was not restricted. “He lived very much in a fantasy world at first … All he would talk about were his poisons” a nurse at the hospital recalled. One of his inmates was a man named John Berridge. Graham wrote letters to his sister, expressing irritation at his loud snoring in the communal dormitory. Within months of Young arriving at Broadmoor, John Berridge was dead of cyanide poisoning. Young was said to have extracted the poison from laurel bushes in the hospital yard. But his confession was not taken seriously, and Berridge's death was recorded as suicide. On another occasion, staff's coffee was found to contain Harpic bleach, and from then on they would joke to inmates:"Unless you behave, I'll let Graham make your coffee”. Graham grew a Hitler mustache and made hundreds of wooden swastikas to wear around his neck. Young used the library for research; studying poisons and general medicine. He read William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Dennis Wheatley's series of disquieting novels on the occult and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Young deduced that if he was ever to leave Broadmoor, he would have to change his behaviour. By the end of his fifth year at Broadmoor, he had become the model patient and convinced Dr. Edgar Udwin who was responsible for his rehabilitation that he was a reformed man. Despite this, two whole packets of sugar soap went missing at Broadmoor in 1968. The contents were later found in the communal tea urn. Nevertheless, Graham Young had seemingly transformed himself into the model patient and in June 1970, after nearly eight years in Broadmoor. Dr. Udwin reported to the Home Office that Young had experienced “profound changes”. He "is no longer obsessed with poisons, violence and mischief.” announced Dr. Udwin.

On 16 June 1970, Graham wrote to tell his sister Winifred that the “estimable Edgar" – referring to Dr Udwin - hoped to discharge him later that year. He was granted home visits and spent a week with his sister Winifred who was now married to Dennis Shannon and had a little boy. “Guess what, your friendly Frankenstein is coming to stay with you next week,” he wrote to her, in an infamous letter. The week passed uneventfully enough and Graham even expressed remorse for what he had done in a reflective moment. Graham Young hoodwinked Dr. Unwin into believing he was now fit to return to society and was certified as “cured”. He celebrated by making a chilling threat to a psychiatric nurse: “When I get out, I'm going to kill one person for every year I've spent in here”. Although the comment was recorded on his file, nobody paid it any heed. Graham Young has since been diagnosed as having a schizoid obsessive personality.

Angel of Death 

Graham Young was twenty-three years old when he walked free from Broadmoor on 4, February 1971. Winifred Young was more forgiving than her father, and he went to stay with and her new husband Dennis in Hemel Hempstead. Upon his release, Graham visited the scenes of his crimes and made a sentimental journey to the chemists where he had originally procured his poisons. He took pleasure in the reaction of his old neighbours. Within a week of his release, he began training as a storekeeper in Slough and moved into a hostel nearby. 34-year-old Trevor Sparkes was a fellow hostel resident. He was soon exhibiting the familiar symptoms of Young's former victims. Graham helpfully suggested that a glass of wine might help, but the man's condition only worsened. Trevor Sparkes was an avid football player, and was taken ill when his legs gave way at a match. He never played football again and would experience “diabolical pains” for years to come. Around the same time, another man claimed to have had a drink with a man who fitted Graham Young's description. He later committed suicide after experiencing excruciating pain. No connection to Young was made at the time.
Shortly after, Graham found a job as a storekeeper with John Hadland's Ltd, a photographic instrument firm in Bovington, Hertfordshire. He started his new job on 10 May 1971.

“When Graham arrived, it was understood that he had come from some rehabilitation as a result of a mental breakdown. He didn't strike one as exceptional. He was very dark, somewhat glum, very articulate, clearly very intelligent and obviously conveyed through one means or another knowledge of chemistry and we, those who were curious, asked him what he had done in the past and he said well I was actually a failed chemistry student or a pharmacist” recalls former co-worker Anthony Oldham “I do remember colleagues saying one day as we were discussing him generally, just don't get him on the subject of Hitler and the Nazis because it's a favourite topic and he'll be off on one basically and we did smile about it and keep well clear of that”.

Graham Young was good-looking and slightly built, with dark brown hair and piercing eyes. He had a peculiarly formal, deferential mode of speech and in many of his photographs appears brooding and intense. The most famous image, which he chose as a media photo at his trial, shows a glowering Young staring at the camera. According to author Anthony Holden, Graham Young was scowling because he thought he had been cheated out of some money by the coin-operated photo booth where the picture was taken.

Within days of Young's arrival at Hadland's, people began to fall ill. “People were taking time off, either one or two days or whatever and then things started to get more serious” says Anthony Oldhams, a work colleague at Hadland's “I remember when I was in one of the buildings looking out, and somebody came rushing out of the doors and was violently ill on the grass outside which, looking back on it at the time, we thought there's something extraordinary going there”

41-year-old Ronald Hewitt was about to leave the firm but stayed on a few weeks to train the new boy. 59-year-old foreman Bob Eagle and 60-year-old Fred Biggs also befriended the young man, lending him cigarettes and money for his bus fare. Eagle was soon taken ill, suffering from diarrhea, nausea, extreme backache and numbness in the tips of his fingers. Over a period of two months, Eagle was constantly admitted to a hospital, where doctors failed to diagnose his condition. And when he returned to work, Bob Eagle confided in his friend Graham Young. “Eagle was very ill, I think it was probably the thallium, very horrible effect on him in terms of sensitivity of his skin, giving him violent hallucinations” recalls Anthony Oldhams “he was having nightmares out of hell with this”
On 7 July 1971, eight days after being admitted, Bob Eagle died in St Albans hospital. The cause of death was attributed to broncho-pneumonia and polyneuritis. "Its very sad, that Bob should have come through the terrors of Dunkirk only to fall victim to some strange virus” declared Graham Young. He even visited Eagle's widow and convinced her that cremation was the best option these days. The company director chose Young to accompany him to the funeral on behalf of the company because he and Eagle had been friends. “So Graham sat in the crematorium, watching the evidence literally go up in smoke,” says Anthony Holden, author of The St Albans Poisoner.

Graham Young targeted ten of his work colleagues at Hadland's. Ronald Hewitt had begun suffering from similar symptoms to Bob Eagle. Over the next three weeks, he suffered no fewer than twelve bouts of this mysterious illness. Hewitt left the firm eight days after Bob Eagle's death. In September 1971, 60-year-old Fred Tipps fell ill at Hadland's suffering from similar symptoms to Bob Eagle and Ronald Hewitt. Also that month, an import-export manager named Peter Bock fell ill after drinking tea with Graham Young. The following month, David Tilson, a clerk, Jethro Bart, a storeman also fell foul of what was coming to be known as the “Bovington bug”. Both men grew worse and Tilson began to lose his hair. Diana Smart developed stomach cramps, nausea, and other symptoms. Two months after Eagle's death, Young turned his attention to the store manager, Fred Biggs. He had been working at Hadland's for four years and had become friendly with Graham Young. He soon began to suffer symptoms similar to the victims. Jethro Batt, 39, was a fellow storeroom worker. One evening, Young made him a cup of coffee but Batt threw it away complaining it tasted bitter. "What's the matter? D'you think I'm trying to poison you?” asked Graham Young. Twenty minutes later Jethro Batt vomited and felt intense pain in his legs.

"F (Fred) is responding to treatment," Graham wrote in his diary. "He is being obstinately difficult. If he survives a third week he will live. I am most annoyed." On 19, November 1971, Fred Biggs succumbed to his illness. On the one hand, Young presented himself as a friendly work colleague, on the other, he administered poisons to his work colleagues and kept meticulous notes in his diary. Graham Young coolly observed these people suffering at his hands. He was cold and calculated killer who remained detached from his handiwork.

A medical inquiry was held into the working conditions at the firm and a meeting ensued with the entire workforce in the canteen. Dr. Arthur Anderson, who led the investigation, made himself available for questioning. He was bombarded by one particular employee. “Graham Young then piped up and started asking questions, and they were very technical terms he was using” remembers Anthony Oldham “I suppose in a sense we weren't so surprised because of this past experience he had” The suspicions of the management were aroused. “Young says too much and reveals this knowledge of poisons, indeed he suggests to the authorities, have you considered thallium poisoning and it is that over-eagerness to be part of the story, to be at the forefront of what is happening that leads to Young being arrested,” says Professor David Wilson. The management at Hadland's decided to look into Young's past and discovered that he had been released from Broadmoor the year before after being committed for poisoning his family.

Graham Young was arrested at Alma Road, in Sheerness, Kent, at 11.30 pm on Saturday, November 21, 1971. He was spending the weekend with his father and aunt and was making a sandwich at the time. “Which one are you doing me for?” Graham Young asked as he was led away. His room at the hostel in Hemel Hempstead was searched. They found his walls decorated with pictures of Hitler and other Nazi leaders, and unsettling drawings of emaciated figures holding bottles marked poison, clutching their throats as their hair fell out. Bottles, vials and tubes were lined along the window sill. Under his bed, they discovered the incriminating diary, loftily titled 'A Student's and Officer's Casebook'. Tests were carried out on the organs of Ben Biggs and the ashes of Robert Eagle, revealing that Biggs had ingested over 100 grams of thallium tartrate. 1 gram of the poison could be fatal. Graham Young was rearrested less than a year after leaving Broadmoor. He confessed to poisoning six people, two of whom had died. “I could have killed them all if I wished, as I did Bob Eagle and Ben Biggs, but I allowed them to live” he declared. Young seemed resigned to his fate but he laughed mockingly when asked to make a written statement.

The Teacup Poisoner

On 17 June 1972, Graham Young stood trial at St Albans Crown Court, charged with the murder of Bob Eagle and Ben Biggs and several counts of attempted murder. He was delighted at the media hype that surrounded his trial and attempted to unnerve the jury by appearing sinister. But he was less than enamoured with the sobriquet the 'Teacup Poisoner,' which he felt belittled his skill and knowledge. He thought 'World Poisoner' more appropriate.“His demeanor was very arrogant, detached. Like one of those dictators who doesn't recognise the court. He sent me notes across the court that said, 'make me so famous that I wind up in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds. I want to go down in history as a really famous murderer” recalls Anthony Holden, who was present at the trial. "He was very proud of being the first person to use thallium in a poisoning case in Britain," Young's defence lawyer Peter Goodman, remembers, "For him the whole thing was one big chemistry experiment, and I suppose the trial was an experiment in seeing if he could use his knowledge to argue his way out of it”.

The defense called one witness, Graham Young, and he remained cool under questioning. Young pleaded not guilty, and it was evident that he was having the time of his life at the trial. "He was clearly a very intelligent fellow, but he also came across as incredibly creepy. You didn't want to make eye contact with him because he just had this unnerving aura about him," says Susan Nowak, who was in court to report on the trial for The Watford Observer. Young's diary would prove to be the most damaging evidence against him. Incriminating extracts of his diary were read out in court:
'F (Fred) is now seriously ill. He has developed paralysis and blindness. Even if the blindness is reversed, organic brain disease would render him a husk. From my point of view, his death would be a relief. It would remove one more casualty from an already crowded field of battle'.

Graham Young continued to protest his innocence and asserted that the diary was an “exposition of a theory I outlined, somewhat fancifully, for my own amusement”. He had no idea how the body of Bob Eagle and the ashes of Ben Biggs came to carry doses of thallium. “Your expressions of regret at Mr Biggs's death were pure hypocrisy?” John Leonard QC, prosecuting, said: “His death satisfied you.” “No. I can see very little satisfaction to be derived from a death like that” Graham Young replied. On Thursday, 29 June 1972, Graham Young was found guilty of murdering Bob Eagle and Fred Biggs, and the attempted murder of Jethro Batt and David Tilson and of poisoning Ron Hewitt and Diana Smart. He was acquitted of poisoning Peter Buck and Trevor Sparkes. There was a sensation when young's past convictions were revealed."You looked at the jury, and the blood drained from their faces when they heard about his previous convictions. The verdict had not been a foregone conclusion, and they were probably thinking what if we'd let this maniac out onto the street?” remembers Susan Nowak. Asked if he felt any remorse, Graham Young replied: “What I feel is the emptiness of my soul”. He made no reaction as he was sentenced to life imprisonment by Justice Eveleigh. Downstairs he asked to see his Aunt Winnie and sister Winifred. “Forget all about me” he told them “I'm sorry for all the trouble I have caused you”.

Kindred Spirits

Graham Young was sent to Parkhurst maximum security prison, on the Isle of Wight. A few years later, he got his wish when his waxwork joined Dr Crippn in Madame Tussauds Chamber of Horrors in London. At Parkhurst, Young was befriended by Moors murderer Ian Brady. They bonded over a shared fascination with Nazism and were kindred spirits in this respect. Brady and Young played chess every day, with Young favouring the black pieces and beating Brady every time. "He sometimes grew a Hitler mustache, fastidiously trimming it with a razor until the skin around it was red raw and the prison staff had to stop him.” Ian Brady remembered later in his book. He was clearly infatuated with the good-looking young man, likening him to the “Angel of Death”, Josef Mengele. Brady perceived Young to be genuinely asexual and suggested that this was another example of him exercising power over the herd."Power and death were his aphrodisiacs," he asserted. According to Brady, the only music Young liked were Jeff Waynes War Of The Worlds and Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles, and he would amuse himself by reading the obituaries in The Times. "It was difficult not to empathise with Graham Young." Ian Brady pronounced.

“I wouldn't even sit on a table with him in case he'd dusted it with something” remembers Bobby Cummines who served time with him “that's how dangerous he was”. Other inmates feared Graham Young. “He made the Krays or any of your bad men look like amateur street fighters” adds
Cummines. Not even the prison vicar would meet up with him and the prison guards did not feel safe around him. Young became completely isolated in prison.

It transpired that while he was at Parkhurst, Graham Young was approached by cosmetics companies keen to enlist his knowledge of chemicals to enhance their products. “He could have been a force for forensic investigation, on the right side of the law” believes author Anthony Holden “But he had this deadness to normal human interaction. He had no compunction, no remorse, no guilt about inflicting terrible pain and some cases death”

On the evening of 1, August 1990, wardens making a routine visit to Graham Young's cell, found him lying crumpled on the floor. He was rushed to the prison hospital but was found to have died of a heart attack. He was 42.

According to Bobby Cummines, some prison officers were alleged to have said that prisoners had murdered Young. While there were prisoners who said that it was the prison officers who did it. The likely method being poisoning. "I wonder if he tried to do the same poisoning tricks he pulled off in Broadmoor, only someone took offense this time,” suggests Peter Goodman. "Who in his right mind...would want to spend an indefinite period incarcerated with a man who could extract poison from a stone - or in this case, perhaps, iron bars - in order to kill some time by doing just that to his everyday companions?" says Anthony Holden.

But it is probable that Graham Young took his own life. It is a view held by Professor David Wilson and even Ian Brady. “He was somebody who recognised that the rest of his own life was going to be spent behind bars and took the ultimate form of power and control over his own life by gaining access to whatever poison he was able to find. Poisons that he would be able to kill himself with” says Professor David Wilson.

Peter Goodman offers a unique view of Graham Young. He was driven by a misguided scientific obsession, coupled with a total absence of empathy for others. "I don't think he had any ill will towards the people he killed, he just had no morals. The reason he poisoned those closest to him was simply that he could closely observe the symptoms. He was a deranged scientist essentially." says Goodman. It is now believed, that Graham Young was on the autistic spectrum.

In 1995, a motion picture loosely based on Graham Young's life was released in movie theatres worldwide, The Young Poisoner's Handbook was a black comedy directed by Benjamin Ross, and starring Tobias Arnold in the leading role. In November 2005 a 16-year old Japanese schoolgirl was arrested for poisoning her mother with thallium. She claimed to be fascinated by Graham Young after seeing the 1995 motion picture. She kept an online blog, similar to Graham Young's diary, recording dosage and reactions. Her mother remains in a coma.

Monday 22 May 2017


Blackboard (by BitBit87 deviantart.com)

When Darkness Falls
In the year 1964 when the Beatles released Can't Buy Me Love and two men were the last to be executed in England, Walter Banister was sent to the country. His mother was ill again and his father thought it would be a good idea.
Oakley was a quaint little village and aunt Beryl and uncle Reg were kindly and obliging hosts. They owned the post office and lived beside it in a modest house. They had never had children of their own and had always had affection for their bright nephew. The thirteen-year-old boy settled in quickly and made a new best friend in Peter Price. His parents owned the fish and chip shop and they lived above it. The two boys hit it off immediately.
Walter Banister was a pretty youth with a mop of brown hair and steel blue eyes. He had a lurid imagination and a morbid fascination with vampires and werewolves and a penchant for scaring his schoolmates with stories of the undead. Now he faced the prospect of spending the summer in a little village he knew nothing about and he wasn't very happy about it. The village sounded like it was full of another kind of living dead.
Everyone in Oakley seemed to welcome Banister. Everyone it seemed except the strange woman who owned the little pie shop at the end of the street. She appeared to regard the boy with disdain and Walter Banister had taken a violent dislike to her the moment he first saw her.
Ada Winson had a face like thunder as she stood glaring at him from inside her pie shop. She had dark hair scraped in a bun, pointy features, black eyes and a pinched mouth. All she needed was a broom stick to complete the picture. Her cold eyes seemed to bore holes into his soul. 

"Witch and a bitch" Banister muttered under his breath. 
Walter often caught her staring impassively at him from her shop. Aunt Beryl pronounced Mrs Winson's pies as “the best in all of England”. And they certainly looked enticing. There were endless rows of glistening pies, pasties and sausage rolls gleaming in the light. You could only what lay within that golden pastry. Ada Winson was a widow and lived alone in a small cottage. Her husband Arnold had been dead for ten years.
She came home to find her husband with his head in the stove” Peter Price informed Walter one day “But I bet she killed him and put the old man in one of her pies”
Banister shuddered.

Then the boy laughed but Walter did not join him.
Apparently there had been a spate of unexplained deaths over the years and none of the cases had ever been solved. Peter Price calculated that the deaths had occurred since the opening of Mrs. Winson's shop.

"I bet that old cow did it" Peter Price retorted. 
Every time Walter walked by the shop he wondered what lurked within the pies and pasties. At night he dreamt that Mrs Winson was digging up bodies in the graveyard and putting them in her pies.
One day Walter came home to find Mrs Winson in the kitchen with his aunt and uncle. He froze at the door.
Look what Mrs Winson has bought us!” aunt Beryl cried with obvious delight, motioning to the pie on the table.
Mrs Winson smiled thinly at the boy. She was stick thin and very pale. 
Come in and say hello to the nice lady” uncle Reg said and beckoned him.
But Walter suddenly felt sick was fright and pelted out.
That evening Banister scooped his piece of the pie into a handkerchief and threw it out in the bin.
Three days later Walter observed from his bedroom window as Mrs Winson opened shop early one morning. A small bird suddenly dropped from the tree and lay dying on the pavement. Banister watched as Mrs Winson pondered the wounded creature for several moments. Then she took a brick and crushed the felled bird. Walter fell back from the window in horror.
A couple of weeks later Walter and Peter decided to buy a bag of sweets so Price put his bicycle against the wall outside Mrs. Winson's shop. Within minutes the widow appeared like a black crow.
Would you kindly remove that from there” Mrs Winson snapped.
It's a free country!” Peter Price retorted.
“Horrible boy. Do as I say!”
Peter Price blew her a giant raspberry.
Get away with you. You wicked little boy!”
She was hovering over them with a menacing look in her eyes as if she was about to strike. Both boys stepped back in fright and Peter Price begrudgingly complied.
For the remainder of the summer Banister deliberately avoided Mrs. Winson.
Three weeks before he was due to return home, Peter Price suddenly vanished. Walter was horrified and joined the search party as villagers joined forces to look for the missing teenage boy. But there was no trace of Peter Price. His parents were absolutely devastated and clung to each other for comfort.
It was highly suspicious and Walter Banister was convinced that Mrs. Winson must be involved. Peter Price had always said she was a murderess and a cannibal. One afternoon Bannister entered her shop determined to confront her.
Mrs Winson emerged from the shadows looking paler and thinner than ever. Her eyes were black as coal. 
Welcome, Walter” Mrs Winson cried. She grinned showing sharp white teeth. “Would you like one of my pies? I have one especially for you”
What happened to Peter?” Walter demanded with as much bravado as he could muster. He was shaking with fright but determined not to show it.
I only wish I knew” Mrs Winson replied
It's you!”
You killed him and -”
Put him in one of my pies?”
Mrs Winson threw back her head and laughed. It echoed all around them. Walter Banister suddenly felt ashamed of himself. She was standing very close to him now. Her teeth were very sharp and her nails were long. 
What a vivid imagination you have” Mrs Winson said. She took a pie and presented it to him. “Here, take a bite”
Mrs Winson moved in very close now.
Don't be afraid, I'm not going to eat you”
Walter Banister tossed the pie out of her hand.
You evil bitch!”
Then he ran out of the shop as her laughter echoed everywhere and seemed to reverberate as if it were coming out of the bowels of hell itself. 

Walter was pale shaking with fright and when they asked him what was the matter, he could not answer. He slept fitfully that night and jumped up in bed, convinced that Mrs Winson had entered his room and was hovering over his bed. 
Two days later Walter Banister watched from the back of the car as it pulled out of the village at Mrs Winson in her shop. She had a strange smile on her thin face.
Walter Banister never found out what had happened to his friend but five days after his return to Camden Town a pie was delivered to the house with the name “Peter” etched in puff pastry on top.
Strangled Light (by Temeroli deviantart.com)

Tuesday 2 May 2017

A Message For You

Dear Reader,

Firstly, I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you for reading my work and posting such lovely messages.

I am sure you'll be pleased to know that I am working on my first book which is gradually unfolding. It will be a book of five short stories with the life of Heather West at the very heart of the book. Each story deals with very powerful themes and the reader will go on a journey with the characters featured. 

Thank you for joining me here and I look forward to exploring characters and their story with you in my book.

In the meantime, do take a look at The Needle Pulls The Thread and enjoy it again.

I hope to post something new soon.

Love and Peace to you on your journey.


Tuesday 21 June 2016

Missing Heather

The Angel Born Of Demons 

In February 1994, the remains of a young girl were unearthed in the back garden of an unprepossessing house in Gloucester, England. She had been missing for seven years and in the intervening years she had not been forgotten. Her siblings had been searching for their eldest sister since she left home eight days after finishing high school. It was as if she had vanished off the face of the earth.

Her name was Heather Ann West.

The missing teenager had endured relentless abuse for much of her young life. She was a strong willed and independent girl. Although she was very much afraid of her parents as one school friend later recalled, she had bravely defied them.

In early interviews with the police, the Wests spoke disparagingly about their missing daughter. Rosemary West showed little maternal concern for the whereabouts of her first born child. She hadn't reported the girl as missing and seemed indifferent to her plight. Rosemary painted a negative picture of Heather. "She was a stubborn girl, you ask the rest of the family..." Rosemary declared. The very qualities the Wests found unacceptable in their daughter would have been nurtured by other parents. Rosemary intimated that her daughter had lesbian inclinations. She was herself actively bisexual and her antipathy towards her daughter in this respect is frankly bizarre. What Rosemary West neglected to say was that Heather was at odds with her over her lifestyle. The unhappy girl had committed the unpardonable sin of letting a few facts slip about it at school.

It never occurred to the Wests that Heather might be psychologically and emotionally damaged by the abuse they inflicted on her. It is clear that Heather was deeply unhappy in the last years of her life.

The Wests were obsessed with Heather being a lesbian. When Rosemary West was pressed further, she explained that when Heather was at junior school she always knew what type of knickers the female teachers were wearing. She also recalled how her daughter had absconded from a field trip because she didn't like the male teachers and how she threatened to put a brick over a boy's head if he ever attempted sexual advances. Apparently this convinced Rosemary West that her sixteen-year-old daughter was a lesbian.

Frederick West echoed his wife in the conviction that Heather was a lesbian, yet he also portrayed her as a Lolita. On his arrest he informed the police officers that Heather liked to wear low cut tops and never wore knickers. It was all a pack of lies. As far as the Wests were concerned, Heather had to be lesbian if she rejected her father. He had frequently touched and fondled her, even wrestling her to the floor and became violent when she resisted.

Mae spoke of how wary Heather was of men. She couldn't stand to be in the same room as them. Hardly surprising considering that the only men she had ever known had taken advantage of her and abused her. Yet we know that Heather developed a crush on one of her male teachers at high school. It must have been intense because Frederick West was later called to the headmasters office to discuss it.

Heather West, aged eight. 
What is interesting about Frederick and Rosemary West is how distorted their view of their daughter was. In hindsight, their remarks are very telling. There was clearly antipathy towards her. They spoke so negatively about their missing daughter that it must have jarred. Later when Frederick West confessed to the murder of his daughter, he did so in a flat monotone which appalled those who listened.

Frederick had allegedly declared that he had made his children and could do what he liked with them. He also believed that it was a father's duty to take their virginity and that their first child should be his.

Heather did everything in her power to repel her father. And as his insistence on raping her intensified, so did the fight to resist.

Heather had committed the unforgivable sin of speaking to outsiders about what was going on at
home. And as a result her parents kept a strict eye on her in the final weeks of her life. It is unlikely that she knew about the murderous career of her parents. But she was an intelligent and perceptive girl and may have suspected they were capable of anything. She was determined to leave home as soon as the opportunity arose.

In the last few years of her life, Heather was having nightmares. As her sixteenth birthday approached she became convinced that "something terrible" was going to happen to her.

Frederick West was the jocular, odd-job man with an unrelenting work ethic. He was short with simian features, startling blue eyes and bushy black hair. West was swarthy and crudely good-looking. He had suffered three serious accidents resulting in head injuries which drastically altered his personality. West was obsessed with sex. He may have been initiated by his mother who dominated him. At the age of eight, he was taught how to have sex with a sheep by his father.

Rosemary West was the unstable prostitute who had been sexually precocious from an early age. She claimed to have been raped while still a young girl and regularly slept with her violent paranoid schizophrenic father. She initiated both her brothers and may have been sleeping with her grandfather. In the hands of Frederick West, she expanded her repertoire and acquired a taste for well endowed West Indian men.  Rosemary West may have incurred brain damage due to the ECT (Electro Convulsive Treatment) administered to her depressive mother while she was still in the womb. Certainly, she displayed disturbed behaviour as a child and her fits of intense rage as an adult were abnormal.

Both Frederick and Rosemary had a taste for kinky sex. They were already damaged when they eventually came together. It was the perfect storm. Two severely dysfunctional people coming together. In the early days of their relationship, Frederick was the master and Rosemary the servant. But she superseded him and became the dominant force. She was the one most likely to lose her temper and become violent.

By the time they were married, Frederick had already murdered his first wife Catherine Costello and possibly others, and Rosemary had almost certainly murdered Costello's daughter Charmaine. Nobody knows for sure what happened to eight-year-old Charmaine West but she almost certainly died at the hands of Rosemary West. Her pitiful remains were recovered in 1994.

Frederick and Rosemary West were to have eight children; two of which were fathered by a West Indian client of Rosemary's. Heather was born in October, 1970, and the Wests called her their "love child". After Heather, came Mae (she was born May but changed it) and Stephen West. There was only eighteen months between Heather and Mae, and they shared a bond.

The Wests moved to 25 Cromwell Street while Heather was still a toddler. It was a three-storey townhouse in Gloucester and would be split into two with lodgers inhabiting the top half and the West family living beneath. There was a special room where Rosemary conducted her business. Occasionally the children lived in the cellar which would later became notorious as the Wests torture chamber.

Life at 25 Cromwell Street was a nightmare for the West children. It was likened by Heather's best friend to living in a prison camp. The children were never allowed out and were expected to do most of the house work.The disciplining of the West children was nothing short of sadism. They were often beaten as punishment. Punched, kicked, slapped and even stabbed  Frederick wired the house so he could listen to his wife having sex with her clients and eavesdrop on conversations. He bore holes into walls and doors so he could observe his wife having sex and spy on Heather and her sister Mae dressing and undressing.  As the girls reached puberty his insistence on molesting them increased.

Anne Marie was the daughter of Frederick West and his Scottish first wife Catherine Costello. She was a gentle young girl who had been sexually abused by West and her stepmother Rosemary from the age of eight. At fifteen she was pregnant with her fathers child but was forced to have an abortion after the baby was found to be growing in the Fallopian tubes. Anne Marie had been initiated into prostitution from an early age and was expected to perform with her stepmother. She later escaped Cromwell Street in the dead of night. Her evidence would later be crucial in convicting Rosemary West.

After Anne Marie left 25 Cromwell Street, Frederick and Rosemary West turned their attentions to Heather. But she was not as submissive as Anne Marie had been and openly argued with her parents. Heather and her sister fought off their father but only one of them would survive. In 2011, Mae revealed that she and Heather had always planned to escape together.

Heather was an exemplary pupil at high school but years of abuse at the hands of her parents had taken its toll. Christopher Davis later married Anne Marie, and he recalled how withdrawn Heather had became. She had always been quiet, but now she hardly spoke at all. She sat around the house deep in thought. She became a recluse and spent more and more time alone. Heather later confided in Christopher Davis that her dream was to live in the Forest of Dean. She longed to be in the outdoors, among the sanctity of nature away from other people. Mae remembered how Heather never wore shoes and went everywhere barefoot.

Heather had learned to displace herself from the claustrophobic world she inhabited. Not just because of her temperament, but because it was part of her coping mechanism.

In the spring of 1987, Heather was an exceptionally pretty, raven-haired sixteen-year-old. She had become infatuated with one of her male teachers. One of her school friend's recalled that Heather was more sexually aware than other girls. Nobody suspected that she was being abused. Nobody investigated why the studious girl refused to shower after sports, often getting detention as a result. Had they investigated further, they might have seen the bruises and weal marks on her body. By the time 25 Cromwell Street yielded it's horrific secrets, Heather was already gone.

Anne Marie suspected that Heather was ashamed of the lifestyle at Cromwell Street and had made her feelings known. Rosemary West later asserted that Heather disliked her because of all her other men. In the final year of high school, word got round about the peculiar lifestyle at 25 Cromwell Street. Heather, perhaps unwisely, let a few facts slip. And there were still more shocks in store for the unhappy girl. She learned that the father of a school friend was also the father of two of her sisters. Frederick West had always explained away his mixed-race children as a throw back to his fictitious gypsy past. The revelation upset Heather immensely and she confronted the girl who in turn went to her parents It culminated in a showdown between the West Indian and the Wests which resulted in Heather receiving a terrible beating. She had become a liability.

Of the West children, Heather was the one who most resembled her mother. She was known as a tough girl at high school and nobody messed with her. But she was also a sensitive and perceptive girl who had been abused for most of her life. Her school friends later recalled Heather being particularly unhappy towards the end of term. By the time she sat her final year exams, she had already formed a plan. It was written in code across her exercise books - FODIWL. The code was cracked after she died - Forest of Dean I will live. It had been her long held dream to live by nature in the Forest of Dean where nobody could harm her. There she would be free.

25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester 

With just weeks to go before she graduated from high school, Heather broke down one afternoon and opened up to her best friend. She said her father cane into her room at night and raped her. She said he was beating her and that her mother said she was a "little bitch" and deserved it. Denise Harrison had seen the bruises and weal marks on her body, and she urged Heather to go back to school and tell the teachers. Harrison told her parents what Heather had confided in her but they dismissed it. They couldn't accept it. They graduated shortly after, and Denise never saw Heather again.

Heather passed all her exams but never lived to receive the results. It was eight days after she left high school that she disappeared.

On the 17 June, 1987, Heather attended the party of her half-sister Anne Marie's daughter. But it was evident to everyone that she was not herself.  It was also clear that there was friction between Heather and her parents. She would not socialise and stayed at the bottom of the garden. Anne Marie noticed how Frederick and Rosemary would not leave the girl alone. It was two days later that Heather vanished.

Heather had been pinning her hopes on a job as a chalet cleaner at a Butlins holiday camp in Torquay Her spirits lifted at the prospect of escaping 25 Cromwell Street. "To be honest I felt sorry for her, because it was the first time she'd shown any interest in anything since she left school" Rosemary West later claimed. Her uncle observed how happy Heather suddenly seemed. But it was not to be.

The night before Heather was due to leave for Devon, a woman called at 9.30 pm to inform her that the holiday camp job had been canceled. Heather was completely devastated and went to bed sobbing. She cried all through the night. Mae shared a bedroom with her. She had never seen her sister like this before - she had always been such a strong girl. Heather's dreams had been shattered.

The following day, 19 June 1987, was the day Heather disappeared. It was raining hard and Frederick West was unable to work outside. Heather was alone in the house with Frederick and Rosemary West. Nobody living knows what happened to her that day. Only Rosemary West. And she isn't talking. The date is corroborated by Mae and Stephen West. Mae remembered seeing Heather before she left for school that morning. She can't remember what her last words to Heather were, but she distinctly remembers what she was wearing and how desolate she looked. Both Stephen and Mae recall coming home from school around 5 p.m and finding Heather gone.

Heather was not forgotten in the ensuing years. She was spoken of frequently in the house. Her absence was noted. The three elder West children had always had each other and now one of them was missing. Mae took Heather's absence particularly hard. Both she and Stephen searched diligently for their sister but to no avail. Anne Marie  even made a trip to the Butlins holiday camp in Torquay to find her. But nobody had ever heard of Heather.  All the while Frederick West had been regaling them with stories about Heather. He had seen her in various destinations and spoken to her and Rosemary even informed the West family that Heather contacted them if she felt like it. But it was all a pack of lies.

John Bennett believes that Frederick and Rosemary West had made a pact on their last night together. On their arrest, their stories followed each other closely. And over time there would be variations on a theme. Heather had left home to go and work in a holiday camp. She had left with a lesbian in a mini. There had been a "hell of a row" and she had left home. Rosemary gave her £600 to start a new life. Rosemary gave her a good hiding. Rosemary was out shopping when it happened. Heather had been sneering at Frederick. He had not meant to kill her. She had been giving the children LSD. She was a lesbian. She dug her own grave.

Later when Frederick West confessed to murdering Heather, he gave an unconvincing account of her final moments. He claimed that there had been an altercation in the hallway of 25 Cromwell Street. Heather defied him and as a result he strangled her. The ludicrous exchange was somehow supposed to justify his actions. It cannot wholly be true. Howard Sounes suggests in his book Fred & Rose, that an argument ensued between Heather and her parents which quickly spiraled out of control. Frederick spoke with little emotion. He went into lurid detail about how he dismembered her body which sickened those who heard it.

Frederick was adamant that his wife was not present at Heather's murder and knew nothing about it. Apparently she was on a three hour shopping expedition when her daughter died. He also claimed that his daughter had not been sexually assaulted before she died.

When Heather's remains were eventually unearthed, two lengths of chord were also recovered. They were fifteen and twenty-two inches long. There was no clothing suggesting that Heather was naked when she was buried.  All of which points to Heather having been subjected to some kind of sexual act, bondage or sex game. Carpet fibers embedded in the chord and what remained of her hair give credence to this theory. Somebody held Heather down while she was being tied up.

Heather's remains showed clear signs of mutilation. There were missing bones. Part of Frederick West's modus operandi was the mutation of his victims bodies. And this bears all the hallmarks of his handiwork.

Fredrick West's confession.
It was estimated that Heather died around 9.30 a.m in the hallway of 25 Cromwell Street. She was dismembered in a frenzy. And her remains were left overnight in a dustbin beneath the stairs. Shortly after, Frederick West enlisted the help of his son Stephen to dig a hole in the back garden for a pond. Unbeknownst to the boy, he had dug the grave for his own sister. The hole was filled up and a patio laid over it and the Wests celebrated with a barbecue supper over the spot where Heather was buried.

I believe that Heather died that rainy morning in June because she resisted her parents that one last time. She was sexually assaulted and put up a fight and that was why she was murdered. We cannot know if it was premeditated or not. But I believe Heather was brave to the very last moment. 

Five years later, Frederick would repeatedly rape another of his daughters and during the course of one of the ordeals, he put his hands around her throat. The act clearly excited him, but the girl thought she was going to die. 

In 2005, Barry West gave an account of Heather's death for a tabloid newspaper. In it he claimed that he witnessed Heather's murder through a crack in a door. Heather had returned home in the early hours of the morning and been set upon by her parents. Frederick raped her and after Heather refused a sexual act Rosemary instigated her death. The account is not corroborated by what has already been established about Heather's death and it did not form key evidence. There are also troublesome details. For instance, if Heather was murdered on the morning of the 19 June 1987, seven-year-old Barry West would have been at school.

There is no circumstantial evidence to place Rosemary West at the scene, yet the logistics of the undertaking suggest that it could not have been carried out alone. Frederick West's insistence that she was absent cannot be wholly true. Even if she hadn't been present or had a hand in it, she certainly knew about it. Considering the kind of relationship Frederick and Rosemary West had, it seems absurd that he would have kept the murder of his daughter a secret. The idea that Frederick West murdered and dismembered his daughter within three or four hours is utterly ridiculous, as John Bennett concluded.

It's more likely that Rosemary West knew full well what had happened to her first born child and that she and her husband had concocted a story together. They agreed that he would take the can. This is a belief held by John Bennett.

One of the reasons suggested for Heather's murder, might have been fear of what she would say once she left 25 Cromwell Street. She had already committed the cardinal sin of speaking to outsiders about the goings on at home. And Heather was a spirited girl with a mind of her own.

By the time Rosemary West was bought to trial, her husband was already dead. He had asphyxiated himself in his cell. None of the jury were convinced by Rosemary West's declaration that she had loved her daughter "very, very, very much". Her antipathy towards Heather was never far away. She hadn't bothered to report her missing and had shown little regard for her whereabouts. She had spoken disparagingly about her and had allegedly told a neighbour that she didn't care whether Heather was alive or dead.  The jury were unanimous in finding Rosemary West guilty. The judge recommended that she never be released.

Heather's funeral took place on Tuesday, 19 December 1995 at St. Michael's parish church at Tinturn, on the Gwent border with Gloucestershire in the Forest of Dean. It was the area that Heather had loved. Her young life was interrupted the morning she died at the hands of her wicked parents. Heather West was a courageous girl who stood up to them. She was brave to the very last moment.

It had taken seven years, but in the end it was as if Heather had reached from beyond the grave to bring down her evil parents.

Heather West will never be forgotten.

There is hope (by Bolognist deviantart.com)