Graham Frederick Young was born in Neasden, North London, on 7 September 1947, to Fred and Bessie Young. Unfortunately, his mother developed pleurisy during pregnancy, and died of tuberculosis three months after her son’s birth. Fred Young was devastated by her death, and the infant was put into the care of his aunt Winnie, while his elder sister, Winifred, was taken in by her grandparents.
The young Graham spent the first two years of his life with his aunt and her husband, Jack, and became very close to them. When his father remarried in 1950, and reunited the family again in St. Albans, with his new wife, Molly, Graham showed visible signs of distress at being separated from his aunt. He went on to become a rather peculiar child, solitary in his habits, and made no effort to socialise with others his own age.
When he was old enough to read, he favoured sensationalist non-fiction accounts of murders, and Dr. Crippen, the infamous poisoner, was a particular favourite. By the time he reached his teens he had developed an unhealthy fascination with Adolf Hitler, and took to wearing swastikas, extolling the virtues of a “misunderstood” Hitler to anyone who would listen. He also read widely on the occult, claiming knowledge of Wiccans and local covens, trying to involve local children in bizarre occult ceremonies, which involved sacrificing a cat on one occasion. The subsequent disappearance of a number of local cats, around the same time, may have pointed to a more regular occurrence of these sacrificial ceremonies.
Academically, his only interests were chemistry, forensic science and toxicology, but the limited school coverage of these subjects forced him to advance his studies through extra-curricular reading. His father encouraged him, buying Young a chemistry set, which absorbed his attention for hours at a time. By the age of 13, Young’s comprehensive knowledge of toxicology enabled him to convince local chemists that he was, in fact, 17, and he procured a dangerous quantity of the poisons antimony, digitalis and arsenic for ‘study’ purposes, as well as quantities of the heavy metal, thallium.
Keen to put his knowledge of poisons to the test, his first victim was fellow science pupil, Christopher Williams, who suffered an extended period of vomiting, painful cramps and headaches, due to the judicious administration, by Young, of a cocktail of poisons that left medical experts baffled. Williams was lucky to survive, probably because Young couldn’t fully satisfy his scientific curiosity: monitoring the illness of his victim when he was sick at home wasn’t feasible. So he decided to focus on a group to whom he had unlimited access: his own family.