The Chilling Story Of ‘Teacup Poisoner’ Graham Young And His Lethal Chemistry Experiments

Published November 30, 2022
Updated November 9, 2023

One of the most calculating serial killers in British history, Graham Young started poisoning his victims when he was just 14 years old and kept a meticulous diary of his crimes.

Graham Young

Getty ImagesA 1971 police photo of Graham Young, the “Teacup Poisoner.”

Graham Young could have just been a kid who loved science. But his chemistry set would actually prove to be a lethal tool in the arsenal of a depraved serial killer, earning him the nickname “Teacup Poisoner” — and eventually life in prison.

Graham Young’s Rough Upbringing And Early Obsession With Chemistry

Graham Young was born in North London, England, on September 7, 1947, and didn’t have the easiest start in childhood. He

When he was a baby, Young’s mother Bessie died of tuberculosis. Too distraught to care for his son, Young’s father, Fred, sent the child to live with his aunt Winnie. Young grew attached to his aunt over the next two years and when he went to live with his father after he remarried in 1950, Graham suffered severe separation anxiety.

He neglected his peers and took up solitary hobbies. These included a particular fascination with chemistry and toxicology. They also included reading about notorious murderers.

Not seeing any warning signs, Frank encouraged Graham Young’s penchant for science by buying him a chemistry set. He would spend hours with it, and pupils at his school even took to calling him the “mad professor.” Young became so well versed in the ins and outs of toxicology that he was able to acquire large quantities of poisonous chemicals at the age of 13 by convincing professional chemists he was older and that the use was for study purposes.

That’s when Graham Young began testing his knowledge of poisons — using real people as his subjects.

He would serve tea laced with poisonous concoctions to his family and schoolmates. In 1961, his stepmother Molly started developing bad stomach cramps. Young’s father and older sister began to suffer similar pains soon after. Then, a classmate named Christopher Williams developed similar symptoms.

Graham Young As A Boy

FacebookAn undated photo of Graham Young as a young boy, growing up in Middlesex, England.

But nobody suspected that Graham Young had anything to do with the mysterious illnesses. They assumed it was some kind of contagious stomach bug.

Graham Young’s Science Experiments Turn Lethal

Matters took a turn when Graham Young’s sister, Winifred, once again became extremely ill while on her way to work. She was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered belladonna, the ancient extract of deadly nightshade, in her system.

Meanwhile, Young’s behavior had gotten progressively more bizarre. He idolized Adolf Hitler and started wearing a swastika. One of his science experiments also blew up in the kitchen of the family home.

On April 21, 1962, Molly Young was rushed to the hospital in excruciating pain. She died later that night. It was found out later on that Young had slowly been poisoning his stepmother’s tea with antimony, to which she developed a tolerance. The night before her death, he switched to thallium in order to quicken the process. However, Molly was cremated, thus her remains couldn’t be analyzed — and Young remained on his dark path.

But Young’s aunt – the one he had lived with as a young child – knew about his fascination was poison and became suspicious. She had him sent to a psychiatrist who recommended calling the police.

On May 23, 1962, Graham Young was arrested. He confessed to the murder of his stepmom as well as the poisoning of his other family members. But due to the stepmother’s cremation, there was no evidence to substantiate Young’s confession and he wasn’t charged with the murder. Instead, he was placed in the Broadmoor maximum security hospital.

Graham Young’s Release And ‘Second Chance’

At age 14, Young was Broadmoor’s youngest inmate. By June 1970, his doctors at the hospital deemed him “cured.” Shockingly, Young informed a psychiatric nurse upon his release that he was planning on killing one person for each year he had been in Broadmoor, according to an article in Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health. The comment was recorded in his file but, stunningly, didn’t affect the decision to let him free.

Once released, what else would Young do but work at a laboratory that manufactured infrared lenses for military equipment made from thallium?

John Hadland Labs

YouTubeJohn Hadland Laboratories

He went to work at John Hadland Laboratories, where his employers were aware of his psychiatric stay but didn’t know the reason behind it or his criminal history, for that matter. As such, when Young offered to make coffee and tea for his coworkers, they merely viewed it as a kind gesture.

Soon, sickness swept through the lab. Young’s colleagues chalked it up to a bug going around, as without the knowledge of his disturbing history, they had no reason to suspect that their kind coworker who always offered them beverages was actually poisoning them.

It was only when an employee named Bob Egle died that suspicion began to arise yet again. Egle had gotten better when he was home, only to get sick again when he returned to work. He then became completely debilitated before dying on July 7, 1971.

A second death, that of 60-year-old Fred Biggs, occurred soon after. By this point, nearly 70 employees had experienced similar symptoms of the two men who died. Suspicions began to arise yet again.

Ultimately, it was Graham Young’s own zealousness that did him in. Young asked the staff doctor why thallium poisoning wasn’t being considered a cause since it was used on site. Surprised and concerned by Young’s in-depth knowledge of toxicology, the doctor reported the exchange to the management who then alerted the police.

An investigative team found Young’s diary, in which he described with scientific detachment the experiments of how he poisoned his co-workers. They also found thallium in his pockets.

Young was sentenced to life in prison in June 1972. In 1990, he was found dead in his cell, with the official cause of death recorded as a heart attack. But speculation remains that, tired of life in prison, he conducted one final scientific experiment on himself.

But Young’s story didn’t die with him. Instead, his life and deadly work inspired the blackly comic 1995 film The Young Poisoner’s Handbook — and he even got his own waxwork for a time at Madame Tussauds’ Chamber of Horrors in London.

After learning about Graham Young, the “Teacup Poisoner” serial killer, read about Richard Speck, the man who killed eight in one night. Then learn about Robert Hansen, the Alaskan serial killer who hunted his victims like animals.

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City who holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College and hosts a podcast for Puna Press.
Erik Hawkins
Erik Hawkins studied English and film at Keene State College in NH and has taught English as a Second Language stateside and in South America. He has done award-winning work as a reporter and editor on crime, local government, and national politics for almost 10 years, and most recently produced true crime content for NBC's Oxygen network.
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Goldfarb, Kara. "The Chilling Story Of ‘Teacup Poisoner’ Graham Young And His Lethal Chemistry Experiments.", November 30, 2022, Accessed June 21, 2024.