Hertfordshire Police Historical Society
This Week In History
Friday 23rd June 1939
Hertford Mercury and Reformer
£2OO WORTH OF CAR PARTS STOLEN
The premises of Shelford & Crowe. Motor Engineers, High Street. Stevenage, were broken into during Tuesday night and new car parts valued at over £2OO were stolen from the stores. Money was also missing from a till. Everything was left in perfect order and the intruders locked the door before leaving. The doors of the tyre store had been forced and a number of tyres were stolen. Several cars in the garage appeared to have been tampered with.
Student Fined. At Hatfield Police Court on Monday Montgomery C. Hart, aged 19, a student, of Haddon Court, Hatfield, was summoned for driving a motor cycle when not licensed to do so at Hatfield on May 6. The summons was dismissed on payment of costs mounting to 4/-. Hart said he sent the application on the same day and thought that vehicle could be ridden after he had done that. He was not resident of this country and was not familiar with the laws.
On the Great North Road. Hatfield, on Monday a collision occurred between a motor car driven by Lawrence Parkin, of Manor Road. Barnet, and a motor van owned by Messrs. Holliers of Hatfield, and driven by Edgar Cadwallader, of the Dairy, North Mymms. Both vehicles were damaged, but there were no personal injuries.
Late Mr. F. R. Butler ‘s Will. Mr. Frederick Robert Butler, motor engineer and dealer, of 33 Letchworth Road, Baldock, who died at the end of April, left property of the gross value of £12,592 5s. Id. with net personality £7,691 17s. 9d.
Caravan Dweller’s Death, A caravan dweller, Mrs. Sarah Harris, a widow, aged 77, who was taking part in a fair at Baldock during the week-end, died suddenly in her caravan on Sunday night. The facts were reported to the Coroner, who decided that an inquest was unnecessary, a doctor certifying that death was due to natural causes. Mrs. Harris was well-known in Baldock, Stevenage, and district as the proprietress of various fairground amusements.
Fire Call. Baldock Fire Brigade were called on Monday to a fire at Partridge Hall, Ashwell, occupied by Mr. John Cheetham. Woodwork surrounding a fireplace in the kitchen caught alight, but the flames were extinguished by some workmen before the arrival of the Brigade. Little damage was caused.
THEFT FROM STEVENAGE HOUSE £4OO WORTH OF JEWELLERY MISSING AFTER SUNDAY AFTERNOON ‘VISIT’
Jewellery valued at about £450 was stolen from Eastlea, Hitchin Road, Stevenage, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Wilkinson, which was broken into during Sunday afternoon. The theft is believed to have taken place between 3 p.m. and 3.30 p.m., when the members of the family and also the maid, who is on holiday, were out. Dr. D. Swain saw a car standing outside the premises, but paid no particular attention to the fact. Entrance to the house was apparently made by means of a disused pantry window which was found to have been opened. On returning home the occupants found that the front and back doors were open. A search of the house was made and it was found that jewellery, including other valuable articles, kept in a jewel case in the bedroom were missing. The intruders did their work carefully and, apart from the open doors, there was little sign of their visit, the rooms being left in good order. The whole of the missing property is insured.
19th June 1987
Bank terror raid
Armed raiders threatened to shoot a terrified customer in the head and “blow away” a young cashier when they stormed a North Watford bank on Wednesday morning, and, as the two gunmen helped themselves to £3,800 in cash from the tills, frightened staff and public were forced to lie flat on the floor. The robbery happened at 9.50 a.m. at the St. Albans Road branch of the Midland Bank. One of the robbers joined a queue before pulling out a sawn-off shotgun and pointing it at a man’s head. The other raider kept guard on the door armed with a silver handgun. After the raid, police think they probably jumped into a car and drove off along St. Albans Road.
June 19, 1987
A Securicor guard was shot in the groin and a woman held hostage by a pistol wielding robber in a daring £50,000 raid in Watford this week, the third armed robbery in the town in six days. The gunman snatched the cash from an armoured van outside the National Westminster Bank in St. Albans Road, North Watford, on Tuesday lunchtime. Customers watched in horror as the raider followed the unsuspecting guard and his female colleague into the bank and, without uttering a word, fired a revolver into his groin. The robber grabbed the female guard and frogmarched her outside to the armoured van at gunpoint. A third guard inside the van was told to hand over the cash or the woman would die. The robber was handed two pouches containing £50,000 before dashing to a getaway car in Bushey Mill Lane.
23rd June 1972
Extracts from what the prosecution called a “chilling” and “callous” document of death were read to a jury when the murder trial of the 24-year-old foreman, Graham Young, accused of poisoning eight people, opened at St. Albans Crown Court this week. Seven of the people poisoned worked with him, said prosecuting counsel, who added that the poison victims appeared to have been used as “human guinea pigs” by accused.
Young was born in Neasden in Middlesex. His mother died a few months after his birth. He was sent by his father to live with an uncle and aunt, while his older sister went to live with grandparents. A few years later he was separated from his aunt and uncle in order to live with his father and new stepmother. He was fascinated from an early age by poisons and their effects. In 1959 Young passed his eleven plus, and went to Grammar School.
In 1961, he started to test poisons (including antimony) on his family, enough to make them violently ill. Beginning in February, his stepmother, 37-year-old Molly Young had suffered vomiting, diarrhoea and excruciating stomach pain, which she initially dismissed as bilious attacks. Before long his father Fred, 44, was also suffering, with similar stomach cramps debilitating him for days at a time. Then Young’s sister was violently ill on a couple of occasions that summer. Shortly afterwards, Young himself was violently sick at home. It even seemed as if the mystery bug had spread beyond their household: a couple of Young’s school friends had also been off school ill a couple of times with similar painful symptoms.
In November 1961, Winifred Young was served a cup of tea by her brother one morning, but found its taste so sour she took only one mouthful before she threw it away. While on the train to work an hour later, she began to hallucinate, had to be helped out of the station and was eventually taken to hospital, where doctors came to the conclusion that she had somehow been exposed to the poisonous Atropa belladonna. Fred Young confronted his son, but Graham blamed Winifred, whom he claimed had been using the family’s teacups to mix shampoo. Unconvinced, Fred searched Graham’s room, but found nothing incriminating. Nevertheless, he warned his son to be more careful in future when “messing about with those bloody chemicals”.
On Easter Saturday, 21 April 1962, Young’s stepmother, Molly, died from poisoning and shortly afterwards his father became seriously ill and was taken to hospital where he was told that he was suffering from antimony poisoning and one more dose would have killed him. Young’s aunt, who knew of his fascination with chemistry and poisons, became suspicious, as did his science teacher (Mr Hughes) who discovered several bottles of poison in Young’s desk and spoke to the school’s headmaster about his concerns. Young was sent to a psychiatrist, who recommended contacting the police. Young was arrested on 23 May 1962 and confessed to the attempted murders of his father, sister, and friend. The remains of his stepmother could not be analysed because she had been cremated which was suggested by Graham, and at the time her death was not treated as suspicious but rather as the result of complications from injuries sustained in a traffic accident.
Young was detained under the Mental Health Act in Broadmoor Hospital, an institution for patients with mental disorders who have committed offences, after having been assessed by two psychiatrists prior to his trial and diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder, and also schizophrenia (classed under the law then as psychopathic disorder as it was linked to abnormal violence). He was Broadmoor’s youngest inmate since 1885.
Young was released after nine years, deemed “fully recovered”.
After release from hospital in February 1971, he began work as a quartermaster at John Hadland Laboratories in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, near his sister’s home in Hemel Hempstead. The company manufactured thallium bromide-iodide infrared lenses, which were used in military equipment. However, no thallium was stored on site, and Young obtained his supplies of the poison from a London chemist. His employers received references as part of Young’s rehabilitation from Broadmoor, but were not informed of his past as a convicted poisoner. Young’s probation officer never visited Young’s home or place of work (official Report into the Young case, 1973). Soon after he began work, his foreman, Bob Egle, grew ill and died. Young had been making tea laced with poisons for his colleagues. A sickness swept through his workplace and, mistaken for a virus, was nicknamed the Bovingdon Bug. These cases of nausea and illness, sometimes severe enough to require hospitalisation, were later attributed to Young and his tea.
Young poisoned about seven people during the next few months, none fatally. Egle’s successor sickened soon after starting work there, but decided to quit. A few months after Egle’s death, another of Young’s workmates, Fred Biggs, grew ill and was admitted to London National Hospital for Nervous Diseases (now part of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery). It was too late and after suffering agony for several weeks, he became Young’s fourth and final victim.
At this point, it was evident that an investigation was necessary. Young asked the company doctor if the investigators had considered thallium poisoning. He also told a colleague that his hobby was the study of toxic chemicals. Young’s colleague went to the police, who uncovered Young’s criminal record. Young was arrested in Sheerness, Kent, on 21 November 1971. Police found thallium in his pocket and antimony, thallium and aconitine in his home. They also discovered a detailed diary that Young had kept, noting the doses 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 on 19 June 1972 and lasted for ten days, Young pleaded not guilty, and claimed the diary was a fantasy for a novel. Young was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was dubbed “The Teacup Poisoner”.
Young died in his cell at Parkhurst prison on the evening of 1 August 1990, one month before his 43rd birthday. The cause of death was listed as myocardial infarction at an inquest, after a post-mortem.